I confess that I had a pit in my stomach going in to the Arkansas game. The Hogs always seem to give LSU trouble at the end of the year. Arkansas had beaten LSU three out of the last four times we played them, and before kickoff I felt like anything could happen. When Arkansas went up 14-0 in the second quarter, I thought, “Here we go again.”
But the Tigers proved to have more character than I had faith. For the next three quarters, the Tigers put on a clinic and outscored the Hogs 41-3. They did it by establishing the run. LSU won this game in the trenches. LSU’s offensive line completely wore down Arkansas’ defense, and by the middle of the third quarter we were running the ball at will. Arkansas was on its heels, and there was nothing that they could do about it.
In the fourth quarter after the game was already well in hand, Les Miles did something that infuriated Bobby Petrino. Instead of keeping the ball on the ground and running the clock out, Miles kept his offense on the field and threw the ball down field. It was obvious that Miles wanted to run up the score. Petrino was visibly upset and gave a cold greeting to Miles at midfield after the game was over.
I don’t think Petrino had any reason to be upset with Miles over this. Style-points count in the BCS calculation, and Miles was simply trying to put his team in the best place possible to compete for the national championship. Besides, Petrino would have done the same thing if the shoe were on the other foot. In fact, Petrino has done the same thing this year in numerous games, and he didn’t have anything at stake like LSU did today. If Petrino thinks that LSU put too many points on the board then he should field a team that can stop it from happening.
So what next? I predict that Alabama will crush Auburn in the Iron Bowl today. I also predict that LSU will beat Georgia handily in the SEC championship game next week. That means that LSU will most likely face Alabama in the national title game.
It will be tough to beat Bama twice in one season, but I think LSU will do it. Here’s why.
1. LSU has already beaten Alabama once at Alabama’s home field, and I expect LSU to perform better on a neutral field in their home state. If you don’t believe me, it might be helpful to take a look at how LSU has performed in past bowl games in the Superdome.
2. LSU played Bama very conservatively on November 5 and somehow still pulled out the win. Dont look for conservativism in a rematch. The Mad Hatter will pull out all the stops for the national title game.
3. LSU’s quarterback situation was still being sorted out in the Alabama game, but that will not be the case in a rematch. Jarrett Lee is no longer the starter. He can pass, but he can’t run. Jordan Jefferson can run and pass, and he is playing much better than he did in the first meeting when he wasn’t the starter. I expect LSU’s offense to perform at a higher level on January 6.
4. Bama and their fans in the media still think they lost on November 5 because of missed field goals and an interception. They still view the loss as self-destruction and not as an LSU victory. LSU players are feeding off of that disrespect, and will show up with something to prove. The Tigers will be fired up for this game.
For these reasons, I give LSU the advantage.
I said this after the Ole Miss game last week, and I will say it again now. LSU is poised to become one of the most (if not the most) dominant team in the history of NCAA football. If they win out, here’s what they will have achieved. They will be 14-0, and 9 of those wins will have been against ranked opponents: Alabama (#2), Alabama (#2), Oregon (#3), Arkansas (#3), Georgia (#13), West Virginia (#16), Florida (#17), Auburn (#20), and Mississippi State (#25). There’s not another team in the country that plays a schedule this tough and wins all the games. Yet LSU has done it. It is for this reason that LSU will take home a share of the national title, even if they don’t win the BCS game. But that is a consolation prize that the Tigers will not settle for. Look for a Tiger win on January 6.