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#2 Debate Redux

In General LSU, Rankings Commentary on September 27, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Note after UW-Stanford: The last time the Huskies defeated a top 10 team was in 2009 over USC, just a couple of weeks after losing to LSU.

I’m glad I post things in places where I get some feedback. It reminds me that the opinions of even dedicated sports fans don’t always take into account hard facts but rely in large part on perceptions.

I didn’t have anything special to post this week in addition to my rankings blog and my update to the LSU/Auburn series, so I’ll talk a little more about the change at #2 in the major polls.

Again, let me reiterate that I’m not upset with people having seen the Auburn game or having seen how close the Auburn game was having less confidence in LSU. But I am annoyed with not looking at all the facts and being consistent.

Oregon deserves to be #2, the logic goes, because they beat Arizona. Arizona is good because they were ranked. (this leaves out that Arizona was ranked because they beat Oklahoma St., which was ranked because they were good last year… might as well rank LSU higher for beating Oregon last year, but I digress.)

LSU beat Auburn, who had two prior losses (by 7 on a neutral field against Clemson and by 18 @ Mississippi St.) and was not ranked. LSU does not have a good schedule, people claim, because the week before Auburn, they played Idaho and in the following week, they play Towson.

I think this analysis is extraordinarily flimsy, but it seems enough for a lot of people.

The schedule portion is the most problematic, so I’ll address that first. I ask this. Which of the following is more difficult to navigate undefeated?

Schedule A
North Texas
Washington
Idaho
@Auburn

Schedule B
Arkansas St.
Fresno St.
Tennessee Tech
Arizona

Schedule A belongs to LSU. I don’t think it’s even close. And that’s without mentioning that North Texas seems to be a not-terrible team this year since Kansas St. (which won @Oklahoma by 5 and beat Miami by 39) only beat the Mean Green Eagles by 14 in Manhattan. It’s also without mentioning that Arizona needed overtime to beat Toledo in Week 1 before beating Oklahoma St. in Week 2.

LSU’s next opponent, as mentioned, is Towson. That’s not intended to be a fierce competition and I don’t expect it will be, but why punish LSU after 4 weeks for its Week 5 opponent? Oregon’s next opponent is Washington St., which just lost to Colorado at home. I still don’t think Oregon has a better schedule after 5 weeks, but I do admit reasonable minds can differ on this.

Before anyone accuses me of quibbling with the below, those who moved LSU down are already quibbling by complaining about the close score against Auburn, so we might as well take a closer look at the other major-conference game LSU played and the sole major-conference game Oregon played.

Except for taking over after LSU fumbled the opening kickoff (this exchange netting the Huskies’ only points of the game), Washington did not go past the LSU 46 until mid-way through the third quarter when the score was already 27-3 LSU.

Contrast that with Arizona/Oregon. Oregon didn’t take a 3-possession lead until mid-way through the third quarter, 21-0. That the Ducks then went on to score 4 more touchdowns isn’t that impressive to me. But OK, 27-3 and 21-0 at similar points in the game isn’t a big difference. I mentioned Washington’s drive progression for a reason though, so let’s talk about the opportunities Arizona had had by that point. In the first quarter, the Wildcats had the ball at the Oregon 4 (went over on downs), the Oregon 18 (interception), and the Oregon 2 (went over on downs). Those were the only 3 first-quarter possessions for Arizona. Three possessions in a row in the red zone in one quarter is generally pretty good, especially when your opponent only scores 13 in the whole first half. Not in this case, but it’s not sufficient evidence we should be wowed by Oregon’s defense (which gave up 34 to Arkansas St. and 25 to Fresno St.) as well as its offense. In the first two possessions of the second quarter, Arizona had two more opportunities, with the ball at the Oregon 13 (blocked field goal) and the Oregon 30 (fumble). At the time or that fumble, the Ducks had only scored 7 points (in the drive that immediately succeeded the interception mentioned earlier).

So even if Arizona is a little better than Washington (which is not in line with pre-season projections), I still give LSU a little more credit for the way they won their game against a Pac-12 team. Auburn isn’t having a good season, but at this point, I’m still going to regard them as better (especially at home) than Fresno St. or any Oregon opponent who wasn’t Arizona (especially since all were home games for Oregon).

Just to refresh people’s recollections, last year Auburn was 8-5 (losses @Clemson, @Arkansas, @LSU, @Georgia, @Alabama), Washington was 7-6 (losses to the top 3 Pac-12 teams as well as @Nebraska, @Oregon St., and to Baylor in the bowl game), and Arizona was 4-8 (wins against Northern Arizona, UCLA, ULL, and @Arizona St.)

After Week 6, LSU will have played Washington, @ Auburn, and @ Florida. Oregon will have played Fresno St. (I’m guessing they’re better than WSU, which just lost at home to Colorado), Arizona, and Washington. I’m really going to be annoyed if at that point I hear Oregon has had the better schedule so far.

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Week 4 Commentary and Top 25

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 24, 2012 at 6:48 PM

Alabama stays #1 and seems to have widened the gap over the competition.

Some may have expected LSU to continue the dominance it had shown in earlier games, the closest of which was the Tigers’ 41-14 win over North Texas in Week 1.

Although a win by a touchdown or so would have been preferable, I didn’t expect it to be an easy win at all. This was an SEC road game for the Tigers of LSU (in a pretty intense series of late at that), and wins at Auburn don’t come easy in these situations. As good of a program as LSU has had the last 12 years or so, it has not won by more than 5 points (which occurred in 2008, the 5-7 year that ended the Tuberville era) at Auburn since 1998 despite going to Auburn every other year since then. The prior instance of an LSU win of more than 5 points at Auburn was 25 years before that.

LSU wasn’t completely inept on offense, it just couldn’t turn field position into points or turn gaining a decent number of yards into first downs very reliably. LSU had 15 first downs to Auburn’s 9 and 351 total yards to Auburn’s 183. Auburn was 2/12 on third downs while LSU was 6/18. LSU was penalized about twice as much and had one fewer turnover, but Auburn’s third turnover was on the last play, so that wasn’t really a determining factor.

Both turnovers by the Bayou Bengals were fumbles by Zach Mettenberger (one of them with an assist from the center) in the first quarter. The first was when LSU had the ball at the Auburn 2. LSU kicked the ball at 4th and 2 or fewer four times, one field goal (which was good) and three punts.

I understand that there are normal fluctuations of a few points in the polls and either LSU will be undefeated and get a bit more support or will have a loss and will have to climb back up anyway, but I’m really annoyed that Oregon has been put ahead of LSU. I can understand if someone wants to say Auburn hasn’t started well, and some teams that clearly aren’t top teams have done better against them (though not at Auburn). That’s if you’re consistent about applying that standard and you’ll punish Stanford, for instance, for only beating San Jose St. by 3. Few are consistent though.

As an aside, that’s one reason I don’t have the Cardinal ahead of USC. USC had the somewhat shaky game against Syracuse, but it was much better than Stanford/SJSU, and at least the Trojans were impressive against somewhat of a lightweight at home. Another reason is the USC/Stanford game was at Stanford. Also, there seems to be something unique about the combination of the two teams that favors Stanford that might not indicate, for example, that Stanford would beat Oregon but USC wouldn’t.

I wonder if many pollsters who moved the Ducks ahead of LSU even bothered to look to find out Oregon scored 21 of its points in the fourth quarter and 36 of its points in the second half. I wonder how many of them realize that Arizona really should have been ahead at halftime after it had the ball at the Oregon 4, the Oregon 18, and the Oregon 2 on consecutive drives in the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Wildcats had the ball at the Oregon 13 on one drive and at the Oregon 30 on another.

I guess we’ll have to hope the Washington Huskies can do more with their opportunities than Arizona did and this will make LSU (who beat Washington, 41-3) look better, but that would require that the pollsters remember. I’m not betting on it.

This is only an anecdotal example of the problem, but I do take some comfort in the notion that pretty soon their opinions will just be advisory. It’s just too bad that there it still really matters this season and next what the pollsters (officially just those in the coaches’ and Harris polls, though both are influenced by the AP) believe.

If LSU wins easily at Florida in a couple of weeks, that might trump the Oregon situation. There is a lot left to play out of course.

I kept Georgia at #3. They beat Vandy pretty easily, and I don’t think Vandy threw away opportunities the way Arizona did. I don’t see any basis to move them down. I realize my top 3 is all SEC, but it’s not my fault Oklahoma and USC lost instead of two SEC teams. The other USC is actually below where they started the season due to struggling against that Vanderbilt team I mentioned. South Carolina is behind Oregon, so it’s not like I’m averse to moving Oregon ahead of an SEC team if warranted.

As for my #5, I had Oklahoma #2 going in, and Kansas St. beat them and also beat the tar out of Miami. They had a somewhat close game against North Texas, but as I mentioned, North Texas had done the best against LSU going into last week, better than a Washington team that was getting serious top-25 consideration did. I put Oklahoma below Stanford and USC because Oklahoma didn’t do very well in its opener against UTEP (which doesn’t seem like a much different team than they usually are) or beat anyone that seems good. But I’m still allowing for some traces of preseason bias to creep in.

#6 Florida St. finally beat someone, so I didn’t feel a need to hold them back as much this time around. I’m still skeptical though.

Everyone else pretty much moved up in order until we get to the bottom. Michigan didn’t move all the way out like their in-state rivals did because they put up a better fight against Notre Dame. I’m still not thinking this is a good year for Boise St., which only beat BYU 7-6, so that home win doesn’t redeem Sparty in my opinion. This is Michigan’s second loss of course, but I think all but about 13 teams (or fewer) would lose to Notre Dame and Alabama.

I’m less comfortable keeping Nebraska in now that UCLA lost (at home, where the Bruins had beaten Nebraska), and Florida seems to be improving, so this helps Tennessee not to look as bad.

I didn’t think Louisville appeared to be a top-25 team going in, and they have not done anything to convince me they should be one, especially not beating North Carolina by 5 (at home) and FIU by 7 (on the road).

Rutgers is undefeated, but I’m still waiting to be impressed there as well. There are FCS teams who can beat Tulane by 12 (Tulane’s other two games thus far are a 35-point loss to Tulsa and a 39-point loss to Ole Miss). ULM also won at Arkansas, and that was after falling behind when Arkansas still had a good quarterback. Rutgers also beat South Florida by 10 (I’m ignoring the FCS win over Howard), but Ball St. beat the Bulls by 4, so that’s not too impressive either.

Top 25

rank / team / prior
1 Alabama 1
2 LSU 2
3 Georgia 4
4 Oregon 5
5 Kansas St. 6
6 Florida St. 12
7 S Carolina 7
8 W Virginia 9
9 USC 10
10 Stanford 11
11 Oklahoma 3
12 TCU 13
13 Texas 14
14 Florida 15
15 Notre Dame 16
16 Oregon St. 17
17 Cincinnati 18
18 Wisconsin 19
19 Miss. St. 20
20 Clemson 21
21 Baylor 22
22 Ohio St. 23
23 Michigan 8
24 UCLA 24
25 Tennessee —

Out of rankings:
(25) Nebraska

Prior rankings:
Preseason
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3

LSU sets record in regular-season non-conference win streak

In College Football, General LSU, History on September 22, 2012 at 2:23 AM

Intro and more on ASU (2005)

I wanted to write blogs on two separate occasions, but my work week did not allow me that.

If you want to see my top 25, please click here.

I’m not one of those “homer” types who likes to dwell on how great my team is, but I am impressed with the fact that LSU hasn’t lost a regular-season non-conference game since opening the 2002 season with a road loss to Virginia Tech (then ranked #16). The streak of 40 wins in such games broke the mark completed by Kansas St. in 2003.

Although there are certainly more daunting non-conference schedules around, LSU has put forth a serious effort to have at least one non-conference opponent that at appears to be formidable on paper every year.

The other record is more of a “personal best” as LSU has won 20 consecutive home games since the 13-3 loss to Tim Tebow’s #1 Gators in 2009. This is the only time in its history that LSU has won so many consecutive home games.

I wanted to go through them and talk in detail about some of the close calls and big games (some of which were not so close) during the longer streak.

This piece at “Nola.com” covers several of them, but I’ll mention a few more:

Nola.com includes this game, but I had mentioned the win over Arizona St. immediately after Katrina in my (LSU vs.) Pac-10 blog last week. I talked to an Arizona St. fan (I guess) in the comments on a site where I post my blogs. His memory was a bit different from mine, but I’ll just give the hard numbers I posted. I did subsequently realize that the list of scores on ESPN were not completely correct (they indicated a 7-0 LSU lead in the first quarter when in fact the first quarter was scoreless and ASU scored first), so I’ll post the corrected information of course…

other person: I don’t want to sound like sour grapes, but here is the full story of the LSU/ASU game. Yes the game was moved here (I live in the Phoenix area), but only after ASU agreed to let SEC officials call the game. It was not exactly a back and forth game, ASU (I believe) was ahead 31-17 going into the 4th quarter. Then all the phantom calls against ASU started occurring, and I mean a slew of them. Was the game fixed by the refs? I sure believe it was. By the way, I was there…

Me:

LSU was penalized 11 times for 100 yards while ASU was penalized 6 times for 31 yards.

I watched the game. Calls went both ways. Being there in person means you’re less likely to know what the correct calls were.
7-7 tie in second quarter, 10-7 ASU at halftime, 21-17 LSU with 13 minutes left, then two more lead changes as mentioned. I call that back and forth.

Actually I forgot a couple. Let me start over: 7-7 tie in second quarter, 10-7 ASU at halftime, 21-17 LSU with 13 minutes left, 24-21 ASU with 11 minutes left, 28-24 LSU with 8 minutes left, 31-28 ASU with 4 minutes left, then LSU scored the winning touchdown with about a minute left. The largest lead of the game was 10 (ASU 17-7).

2002 to early 2008

The other 2002 non-conference games weren’t anything special as LSU defeated the Citadel, Miami U. (that’s in Ohio), and UL-Lafayette.

Then in 2003, the closest thing to a seemingly tough game was LSU’s trip to Tucson, where many a Pac-10 team has struggled. But LSU, which went on to win the BCS championship, destroyed the Wildcats, 59-13. The Tigers also defeated Western Illinois, UL-Monroe, and Louisiana Tech that season.

In 2004, the highlight of the non-conference schedule was the first game of the season against Oregon St. This one did not disappoint as the Tigers came away with a home win, 22-21 in overtime. This was also mentioned in detail both by Nola.com and in my Pac-10 blog. Also in 2004 was one of two close calls against Troy during the streak, with the Tigers winning this one, 24-20. Troy actually led with two minutes and 18 seconds left, when Marcus Randall threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to David Jones that turned out to be the game-winner. 2004 was only an 11-game regular season, so the only other game was a win over Arkansas St., the only breather of the three, 53-3.

2005 of course started with another Pac-10 team, Arizona St., as mentioned. The other two wins (another 11-game regular season) were Appalachian St. and North Texas. With the postponement of North Texas from Week 1, these two games turned out to be a welcomed breather between overtime wins over Auburn and Alabama on LSU’s way to the SEC title game in Les Miles’ first season. The Mountaineers (who I believe took the place of Virginia Tech when the Hokies delayed the second leg of the home and home) kept the LSU offense in check for a while but it was hard for them to make much of a game of it when the LSU defense shut them out, 24-0. The North Texas game wasn’t remotely interesting, however, 56-3.

In 2006, LSU had already had the second leg of the Arizona home and home scheduled (which they would win easily) and when a 12th game was added, the Tigers arranged this with the Fresno St. squad that had given USC all it could handle in Los Angeles the year before. Fresno St. had a reversal of fortune that season, however, so LSU won what in hindsight should have been an automatic win anyway. LSU also defeated Tulane and UL-Lafayette that season. Except for Fresno St. (a 32-point win), LSU won each of the other non-conference games that regular season by 42 points apiece.

2007 featured the long-awaited second leg of the Virginia Tech home and home, but the Hokies looked much like one of the also-rans in 2006 in a 48-7 loss in the second game of the year. LSU also had wins of 40+ points over Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech. The Tigers would have the most trouble in the only non-conference road game of the season, against Tulane in the Superdome. The Green Wave only trailed 10-9 at halftime, but the speed/talent gap was too much in the second half, as LSU would win, 34-9.

In 2008, LSU would start off with easy wins over Appalachian St. and North Texas in what turned out to be a very difficult transition year in which the Tigers lost 5 games and were only 5-3 at home. It was nearly 4-4 though.

Troy 2008

After LSU suffered a heart-breaking overtime loss to then-#1 Alabama, Troy came to town to play a game that had been postponed due to Hurricane Gustav. Troy and LSU both entered the game at 6-3, but Troy apparently had a lot of confidence from being 4-1 in conference and LSU obviously wasn’t doing very well in the SEC.

The end of the first half had really exemplified the first three quarters of the game and much of the Tigers’ season that year. Troy took a manageable 17-3 lead in the early part of the second quarter, but then (in a situation that Tigers fans can hardly avoid recalling upon hearing his name), Jarrett Lee threw a touchdown to the wrong team with just under 7 minutes left in the half. LSU had a chance to get within 18 with a 43-yard field-goal attempt as the half ended, but the snap was dropped, and the score remained 24-3.

The Trojans led, 31-3, late in the third quarter. The already-dispirited crowd had left the stadium nearly empty, but the Tigers wouldn’t go down without a fight.

When LSU finally scored (on a Jordan Jefferson run) with about 90 seconds left in the third quarter, it had been about 35 minutes that the Tigers had been held scoreless. LSU had to know it had a chance just a few minutes later when after beginning at their own 14, the Tigers had a 6-yard run. Then, consecutive completions of 9, 33, 5, and 33 yards brought the Tigers to within 14 with 14 minutes to play. Les Miles would later take the blame for not allowing LSU to air it out more, although that had been problematic in a number of SEC games.

Troy would not manage another first down until its final drive. This gave LSU good field position. In the next possession, the Tigers took over at the 40 and Lee threw four more completions in consecutive plays to give LSU a first-and-goal, and the Tigers would run it into the end zone. Barely a minute later, Chad Jones intercepted a pass by the Troy quarterback to give LSU another short field. This resulted in a field goal, narrowing the deficit to just 4 points.

In its next possession, LSU took over at midfield and couldn’t do a thing on offense. But the Troy return man fumbled a short punt of only 30 yards, and LSU recovered. After a false start, the LSU offense returned to its early-4th-quarter form and finally took its first lead with a touchdown. The extra point was missed, but it wouldn’t matter as Troy once again did nothing on offense, and LSU took over at the Troy 34. Except for one yard, Charles Scott almost ran the ball in himself as LSU went up by 9 to all but seal the game for LSU with 1:40 to go.

2009 to present

I had written in detail about some other major games, but the hours I spent on that were wasted with a computer malfunction. I saved the document several times since an auto-save a few hours ago, but somehow the auto-saved version became the document, so it’s all gone except for what you see above and what’s in my head.

The other major game I wanted to draw attention to was the North Carolina game to begin the 2010 season. This was almost the opposite of the Troy game as LSU led 30-10 at halftime but stopped scoring and (after they should have been able to run out the clock) gave UNC chances to win from the 6-yard-line in the final moments. The play-by-play and game stats can be found here. UNC quarterback T. J. Yates threw for almost 100 more yards than LSU had as a team running and passing, but this is deceptive because of LSU’s special teams play in that game. Also, a passing offense generally has to come up with more yards to just keep pace with a good rushing offense. North Carolina’s only lead was 10-7, and that’s when a couple of key fumbles took place (one of them led directly to a safety), and LSU special teams set up a couple of one-play touchdown drives. Granted, they were good long plays in their own right, but it’s easier to score from the 50 than from your own 10. North Carolina had its own long one-play drive, a 97-yard touchdown pass.

I just don’t have the energy at this point to give a decent game story and highlight the major plays and players all over again. I wanted to get this out before the new playing week began.

There were also close but less-than-thrilling contests against Louisiana Tech in 2009 and West Virginia in 2010.

The Louisiana Tech game wasn’t too special. Derek Dooley’s Bulldogs, despite struggling that season, led LSU 13-10 at the half but could only come with a single field goal in the second half in a 24-16 loss. Tech did win some battles on the stat sheet: total yards (322-246), passing yards (144-105), rushing yards (178-141), first downs (23-15), and time of possession (36:20 to 23:40). LSU had only two third-down conversions (and was 0-1 on fourth down), but faced half as many third downs as Tech had. The Bulldogs were 3-4 on fourth down. Tech was penalized for 30 more yards. Neither team turned the ball over. The game was unspectacular enough on offense to lose Jarrett Lee his job as starting quarterback until the Oregon game last year.

West Virginia (back to 2010) only had one drive on the LSU side of the field in the last 22 minutes of that six-point game, and that one drive resulted in a missed 48-yard field goal attempt. After LSU had taken a 17-0 lead, the Mountaineers did get within 3 in the early third quarter with a 15-yard touchdown drive (resulting from a Jordan Jefferson interception), but WVU didn’t touch the ball the last 7 minutes in the third quarter. In the two drives after the missed field goal (in the third-to-last drive of the game), the Mountaineers netted only 6 yards combined, and in one of those possessions, LSU was penalized 5 yards for an illegal substitution. The ‘eers had 58 rushing yards on the game, about twice as many as UNC had had against the Tigers earlier that season.

Last season, of course, LSU beat West Virginia again (by 26 in Morgantown) after beating Oregon by 13 in Jerry World. The Oregon game wasn’t really that close (LSU led by 20 on two separate occasions in the fourth quarter after leading by 17 after 3 quarters). Oregon only led for about 5 minutes in the whole game, and WVU never led. The best the Mountaineers did was get within 6 late in the third quarter, but 16 seconds later, Mo Claiborne ran back the kickoff to put LSU back up 13. LSU would score 17 total unanswered to end the game. Both the Ducks and the Mountaineers would go on to win BCS bowls, but you wouldn’t have known it by those performances, not that the Tigers didn’t deserve a bit of credit.

Nothing to write home about schedule-wise this year. Washington may turn out to be a decent team. As indicated by some of these results, one can lose to LSU by significant margins and still turn out to be very good later on. Then the Idaho game will only be remembered for setting the record really. Of course, neither game was interesting by any rate. North Texas was the opener, that’s about all I have to say for that.

Future games

I’m not expecting too much drama from the Towson game next week, although another FCS team, McNeese St., gave LSU problems in what turned out to be a 22-point Tiger win in 2010.

The Tigers plan to welcome TCU to Tiger Stadium next season, scheduled for September 7, so that might be the next time the streak is put in serious jeopardy. The only game scheduled for 2014 so far is Georgia Southern, and then in 2015, LSU will play Arizona St. in the home and home that was supposed to start in 2005. It ended up being a single charity game thanks to Hurricane Katrina. Other future regular-season non-conference opponents scheduled are, tentatively (such arrangements of course get canceled with much less than 6 years’ notice), North Carolina St. and Oklahoma.

Week 3 Top 25

In College Football, Rankings on September 22, 2012 at 2:00 AM

rank / team / prior
1 Alabama 1
2 LSU 2
3 Oklahoma 3
4 Georgia 5
5 Oregon 6
6 Kansas St. 7
7 S Carolina 8
8 Michigan 9
9 W Virginia 10
10 USC 4
11 Stanford —
12 Florida St. 11
13 TCU 12
14 Texas 16
15 Florida 21
16 Notre Dame 19
17 Oregon St. —
18 Cincinnati 20
19 Wisconsin —
20 Miss. St. 14
21 Clemson 15
22 Baylor 22
23 Ohio St. 18
24 UCLA 24
25 Nebraska 25

Out of rankings:
(13) Mich St., (17) Va. Tech, (23) Tennessee

LSU vs. the Pac-12

In College Football, General LSU, History, Rivalry on September 14, 2012 at 4:04 PM

Most of the following is adapted from a blog originally published on TSN on September 13, 2009. When details of a recent LSU season are not mentioned, this is because LSU played multiple Pac-10/current Pac-12 opponents in a season (1976, 1977, 1979, and 1984). In 2013, I discovered box scores and detailed game results for old LSU games, so I added summaries of those for a few select close games.

I’ll start with Washington since that’s the team LSU played last week, then I’ll go in alphabetical order for the Pac-10 teams, followed by the new Pac-12 teams. Washington was the seventh game against a Pac-10/Pac-12 team for LSU in the past 10 seasons (2003 to present). All of them were the first major-conference opponent of the respective seasons for LSU. The game last week was only the third between the Huskies and Tigers.

In the first meeting, LSU’s second home game in 1983, LSU broke a record for attendance at Tiger Stadium and beat the 9th-ranked Huskies, 40-14. LSU would only win 2 subsequent games on the season, finishing 4-7. That season, combined with a 1-3 end to the previous season, cost head coach Jerry Stovall his job. Washington finished 8-4.

Many of you probably remember the second meeting between the two, in 2009. LSU was ranked #11 going in, so many found the final score underwhelming in light of the Huskies’ 0-12 season the year before. Meanwhile, LSU had its most losses since 2002 in the prior year. The Tigers only won by 8, but it was only that close because Washington had scored as time expired. There was also a point earlier in the fourth quarter where the Huskies closed to within 8 with a field goal. Washington’s game-ending touchdown had been the first since its opening drive.

Washington would lose three subsequent games by even fewer points (one of those in OT) and would barely miss bowl-eligibility after a 5-7 campaign. LSU would finish 9-4 (only one game better than 2008) after losing to Penn St. in the CapitalOne Bowl.

Arizona

LSU is 3-0 against Arizona. The first game, in 1984 (see USC for more details on that season) was close, with LSU winning 27-26. Arizona would finish 7-4 but failed to make a bowl game. It wasn’t quite as exciting as the score indicated. LSU scored twice in 1:40 to take the lead 27-20 in the third quarter, the second score by Dalton Hilliard (who rushed for 145 yards in the game) with about 10 minutes left in the quarter. The Wildcats kicked one field goad (a 50-yarder) later in the third quarter and, strangely, another on fourth and five in the fourth quarter with about 3 minutes left. Arizona did get the ball back (after electing NOT to try an on-sides kick), but they went nowhere and turned the ball over on downs. The Tigers easily outpaced the Wildcats in first downs and total yards on the game.

LSU blew out Arizona in both games in the last decade, with LSU winning 59-13 in Tucson in 2003 and 45-3 in Baton Rouge in 2006. The 2003 game was the first time LSU had played a Pac-10 team since 1984, when the Tigers played Arizona and USC in consecutive weeks. LSU would win the BCS national championship in 2003 and the Sugar Bowl in 2006 (finishing 11-2 after 7 straight victories to close out the year). Arizona finished 2-10 in 2003 and 6-6 in 2006.

Arizona St.

The only game against Arizona St. was in 2005. Some call it the Katrina Game. LSU’s original opening-game opponent that year was North Texas, whom the Tigers played on schedule this season after another hurricane passed through Louisiana almost 7 years to the day. In 2005, however, that game was canceled in anticipation. ASU was supposed to have been the first game of a home and home in Baton Rouge, but with the LSU campus playing a large role in shelter and triage in the week after Katrina (the game was less than two weeks afterward), it was moved to Tempe, and Arizona St. donated the profits to hurricane relief, so it didn’t count toward the home and home, which was moved to 2015-16. 2015 is the next game LSU is scheduled to play against a Pac-12 opponent.

LSU (led by JaMarcus Russell and Joseph Addai) won an exciting back-and-forth game, 35-31, after Early Doucet scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 39-yard pass with 1:13 left in the game. Sam Keller of ASU threw 4 touchdowns in the loss. Arizona St. out-gained LSU 560-434, but the Tigers (in the first game with Les Miles at the helm) converted all three fourth-down-conversion attempts and blocked a field goal, returning it for a touchdown. 28 of the Tigers’ points were scored in the fourth quarter.

Oregon

Before the game last year, LSU was 2-1 against Oregon, all in Baton Rouge, but that series was last played in 1977, which LSU won 56-17 (Oregon would finish 2-9). The two teams traded wins in the 1930s.

Last year was a match-up of preseason top-5 teams and neither one was a dud. LSU didn’t show up well in the BCS Championship game, but that was after an impressive 13-0 showing in prior games. After following the LSU game with a 9-game winning streak, Oregon’s only other loss last season was to USC by three points. The Ducks went on to win the Rose Bowl.

As to the actual game action, LSU had the opening score (a field goal) after only a 12-yard drive. The Tigers continued to struggled on offense, but Tyran Matthieu provided the Tigers’ first touchdown to put them on top 9-6. Oregon had taken a 13-9 lead with 5 minutes to go in the first half, but then the Tigers scored 24 consecutive points. LSU led 16-13 at halftime and 30-13 after 3 quarters. 13 points (the final margin) is the closest the Ducks would get in the 4th quarter.

Oregon St.

LSU beat Oregon St. all four times, all in Baton Rouge. Two of the games were close: 1981 and 2004.

In 1981, LSU won 27-24. After 50 minutes or so of a somewhat conventional defensive game where no team scored more than 10 consecutive points, the two teams were tied at 17. Then LSU recovered a Beaver fumble at the OSU 37. This resulted in a short field goal with 6:13 remaining. Oregon St. was undaunted and drove 78 yards in five plays to take a 24-20 lead. As we might say now, they scored too soon. The Tigers were more methodical but did not face a third down until a 3rd and 1 at the OSU 2. LSU scored on that play, leaving the Beavers with just 55 seconds on the clock. After four quick downs, the Tigers got the ball back and ran out the clock. That season, LSU finished 3-7-1, its worst season since 1956. The Tigers would not do so poorly again for another 11 years. Oregon St. had won in Week 1 of that season but would not win again, finishing 1-10.

Winning LSU teams beat similarly bad Oregon St. teams in both 1976 and 1982.

In 2004, Oregon St. was the first team to visit Tiger Stadium after the Tigers won their first national championship since 1958. But the Beavers got the crowd out of it early– shutting out the Tigers in the first half, 9-0–and led by 8 after three quarters. The reason they didn’t lead by 9 after the teams exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter is the same reason they didn’t lead by 10 to begin with: Alexis Serna missed the extra point. LSU tied the game in the fourth quarter with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. So it went to overtime, when the two teams exchanged touchdowns, and surprise, Serna missed yet another extra point, and LSU won, 22-21. The game wasn’t without blown opportunities for LSU though, which included having the ball at the Oregon St. 2 late in the fourth quarter and failing to score. LSU would finish Nick Saban’s final season at 9-3, and Oregon St. would finish 7-5.

Stanford

LSU played Stanford in 1977, losing the Sun Bowl, 24-14. It was LSU’s first bowl game in four seasons and Stanford’s first bowl game since the 1971 season. The Tigers were shut out in the second half after leading 14-10 at halftime. Both teams had entered the game at 8-3. Stanford had a winning season every year from 1968 to 1978. The game took place during a relative lull in LSU’s successes. Although they had their share of winning seasons, LSU lost at least three games every year from 1973 to 1984, the longest such time period since World War II.

USC

Finally, LSU and USC played a home and home in 1979 and 1984. The road team won both games. LSU would only finish 7-5 in legendary coach Charles McClendon’s (137-59-7 in 18 seasons) last season in 1979. USC entered the game on an 11-game winning streak after sharing the national title with Alabama in 1978 and was still ranked #1. They won 17-12. LSU’s rank actually improved from 20th to 17th the next week despite the loss. USC went 28-0-2 between Oct. 14, 1978 and Nov. 15, 1980. (The tie in 1979 kept USC from repeating, and Alabama would finish undefeated.)

In 1984, LSU beat 15th-ranked USC on the road 23-3. That was the fifth game LSU played against a Pac-10 team in four seasons. LSU lost only one SEC game that year, 16-14 on the road against Mississippi St., but lost to Notre Dame at home and lost to Nebraska in that Sugar Bowl. USC, which did not lose again until 7 weeks later, would beat Ohio St. in the Rose Bowl, finishing 9-3.

Colorado

The first meeting was in the Orange Bowl after the 1961 season. Colorado had finished the Big 8 undefeated but was not in the national-championship race due to a loss to Utah.

LSU had also finished undefeated in the SEC but had a non-conference loss to Rice to open the year. The Tigers went to the Orange Bowl rather than the Sugar Bowl because Alabama also finished undefeated in the SEC. The Tide just didn’t have any other losses. Impressively, Alabama didn’t allow any opponent to score more than 7 points. So LSU likely would not have won a national championship anyway, at least not without going through the Tide to do it.

Even though LSU beat the Buffaloes, 25-7, they lost a spot in the final rankings to Texas (I suppose because the Longhorns beat Rice and Arkansas, who acquitted itself well in losing the Sugar Bowl) and finished 4th.

Unfortunately, the quality of the games in the LSU-CU series went downhill from there.

Both would have respectable teams in 1971 but lost two games apiece outside of the contest instead of 1. Colorado beat AP #9 LSU in the first game of the season, 31-21, in Tiger Stadium. I tried to find more details about this game, but I was unsuccessful.

Colorado would play LSU four more times, between 1973 to 1980, inclusive, but had losing seasons all four times. The most interesting was in 1980 when LSU only prevailed by 3 points. The Tigers roared out to a 20-0 lead in the second quarter, but the Buffaloes hung around. After Colorado touchdowns in the second, third, and fourth quarters, the game was tied with under three minutes left. LSU then punted, giving the Buffs a chance to win or tie in the final 80 seconds. They did neither, as on first down the Colorado QB nearly threw a touchdown pass to the wrong team. The Tigers then fumbled on their first down but recovered and eventually kicked a 17-yard field goal. That was no guarantee, as each team had missed an extra point earlier in the game. Colorado would finish 1-10, and LSU would finish 7-4 (when such teams couldn’t count on going to bowl games). The one team Colorado did beat that year was Iowa St., who themselves finished with a winning record.

The prior year, 1979, LSU was similarly above average, and Colorado was almost as bad (finishing 3-8), but LSU had won, 44-0. The 1979 game ironically was the only one played in Boulder.

The 1973 game was unremarkable all around as LSU won 17-6. LSU would finish 9-3 and Colorado 5-6 (after a 4-game losing streak to end the season). Colorado finished the same in 1974 but lost 42-14 to an LSU team that would finish 5-5-1.

Utah

LSU played Utah during the same decade as the regular-season match-ups that LSU had with Colorado. Utah finished 1-10 in 1974 and lost to LSU, 35-10. Utah finished 3-8 in 1976 and lost to LSU (who would finish 6-4-1), 35-7. The only thing odd was that second game was played after the respective rivalry games as kind of a post-Thanksgiving bowl game. Neither played in an actual bowl game of course. Both of these games were played in Tiger Stadium.

Total

LSU has won 12 consecutive games played against the former Pac-10, dating back to the 1981 win over Oregon St., and is 15-3 overall.

If we add in the new Pac-12 teams, LSU has won 13 straight going back to 1980 (Colorado) and is 22-4 overall. The losses took place in 1932 (Oregon), 1971 (Colorado), 1977 (Stanford), and 1979 (USC).

I mentioned 2003 as the beginning of the recent spate of Pac-10/Pac-12 games. Incidentally, LSU hasn’t lost a regular-season game to any other team outside of the SEC during that time either.

Week 2 Top 25 and Commentary

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 12, 2012 at 5:52 PM

I thought I would give a few reactions and explain a couple of things this week now that we are starting to have just a little bit of context.

Obviously week 1 was half of the season so far, but now that prior opponents also have another game under their belts, there is more reason to reward and punish teams based on Week 1, so some of the rankings are partly a result of improved perspective.

I have moved a couple of teams as a result of close games, which I think is appropriate this early. Last week, I took out Wisconsin and Stanford. I definitely feel vindicated about Wisconsin. I don’t know about Stanford, but I guess we’ll see this week against USC.

Speaking of the Trojans, they didn’t look too good against the Orange of Syracuse, but I’m not seeing anything too troubling yet. Northwestern may well be a decent team, and they’re 2-0. They beat the Orange by a single point in Week 1, followed by defeating Vanderbilt by 10. Northwestern did better against Vandy than did South Carolina, although the Gamecocks played the Commodores in Nashville. Not that that’s the most intimidating place in the SEC (or even the Northern SEC East).

I moved South Carolina down a single spot, but I will keep an eye on both USC’s and also on Vandy, Syracuse, and Northwestern.

Going back to the top, now that LSU beat Washington just as easily as they did North Texas, I think that provides enough information to knock Oklahoma down a spot for the UTEP game (17-point win in Week 1). Even if UTEP and Washington are equal (a dubious proposition), I’m comfortable giving LSU the edge for #2 this week.

Kansas St. benefited for taking a chance scheduling and still beating the tar out of the team (the Miami Hurricanes). This is an instance of giving the benefit of the doubt to an impressive score against a historically strong program, although that won’t (and shouldn’t) carry any weight later. Last year, Miami finished 6-6, beating Ohio St. and just barely losing to Kansas St. Also, the ’Canes appeared to improve in Week 1 by beating Boston College, to whom they’d lost in their prior game back in November. Nos. 8-12 certainly hadn’t done anything to justify continuing to rank them ahead of K-State.

Why did I put Mississippi St. roughly where Kansas St. used to be? Well, they played Auburn and beat them more easily than Clemson had. Rather than baselessly concluding Auburn is bad, I thought the solution was to move Mississippi St. up. They both get credit for having played what appeared to be a decent team going in but not so much that the move ahead of the teams I liked enough going in to put them higher than Clemson. I didn’t want to knock Michigan St. down either, although I don’t think Boise St. will have a good season by their standards.

I don’t have to explain why Arkansas is no longer ranked. As for ULM, they were on their way to losing and got breaks with a couple of injuries. They took advantage and that’s nice, but would you really rather your team have to beat them or a team I did rank?

Why did I just take out Oklahoma St. and not rank Arizona. Simple. Arizona had to go to OT to beat Toledo in Week 1. Maybe Oklahoma St.’s losses, at least at this point, have made them not deserving of a spot instead of the game making Arizona deserving of one.

I don’t know if Nebraska going to the Rose Bowl and losing is so bad until we have more information about UCLA. Knocking them down 11 spots seems sufficient. USM was a decent team last year too, and Nebraska beat them by 29 in Week 1. Also, UCLA did a good job by dominating Rice on the road on the first Thursday of the season. I’m not saying Rice is good, but a more mediocre team could have struggled more in that situation. There was a bad stretch on defense in the Rice game (17 points given up in 8 minutes, with a turnover given up by the UCLA punt-receiving team), but I think that by itself isn’t cause for alarm enough not to rank the Bruins after the win in Week 2. UCLA is two games above .500 for the first time since Oct. 2009.

The new Nos. 17-23 got the two-spot bumps for Arkansas and Oklahoma St. getting out of the way. Notre Dame’s win over Purdue wasn’t impressive, but just like my policy with similar teams, I’m not going to conclude a close result is a negative just yet. I was tempted to move Florida up even more for going to A&M and winning, but since that was close too, I thought it was more fair not to. For all we know, Purdue may be better than A&M is.

Texas was between Clemson and Virginia Tech, and I just didn’t see a reason to change this.

Rankings:
rank / team / prior
1 Alabama 1
2 LSU 3
3 Oklahoma 2
4 USC 4
5 Georgia 5
6 Oregon 6
7 Kansas St. 13
8 S Carolina 7
9 Michigan 8
10 W Virginia 10
11 Florida St. 11
12 TCU 12
13 Mich St. 15
14 Miss. St. —
15 Clemson 16
16 Texas 17
17 Va. Tech 19
18 Ohio St. 20
19 Notre Dame 21
20 Cincinnati 22
21 Florida 23
22 Baylor 24
23 Tennessee 25
24 UCLA —
25 Nebraska 14

Out of rankings:
(9) Arkansas, (18) Okie St.

Week 1 Top 25

In College Football, Me, Rankings on September 5, 2012 at 8:09 PM

I was spending some time with family, so I didn’t get to see much of the actual games, but here are my rankings anyway. I did get to see my first live game in 13 years. It wasn’t much of a game, but the L.A. Coliseum alone was worth the trip.

rank / team / prior
1 Alabama 1
2 Oklahoma 2
3 LSU 3
4 USC 4
5 Georgia 5
6 Oregon 7
7 S Carolina 6
8 Michigan 8
9 Arkansas 9
10 W Virginia 10
11 Florida St. 11
12 TCU 13
13 Kansas St. 14
14 Nebraska 15
15 Mich St. 12
16 Clemson 16
17 Texas 17
18 Okie St. 18
19 Va. Tech 19
20 Ohio St. 21
21 Notre Dame 24
22 Cincinnati 25
23 Florida 22
24 Baylor —
25 Tennessee —

Out of rankings: (21) Stanford, (23) Wisconsin