Whew…it has taken a while for the past weekend to digest. Never in my wildest dreams growing up a Tiger fan did I think I would witness LSU playing in three title games within a 10 year span. Yet, that is where these special Tigers of 2011 have landed…13-0, SEC champs knocking on the door of another BCS championship.
To go along with the SEC Championship, Les Miles was named the AP SEC Coach of the year and Tyrann Mathieu was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year (to go along with his Heisman nomination). The Tigers have also set several school records this season. The 2011 LSU Tigers set a record for conference wins (8), wins against top 25 teams (8), wins by double digits (12), 40+ point games (9), and wins (13). When the Tigers close out the season with a win in New Orleans, it will surely put an exclamation point on one of the most impressive seasons ever by a college football team.
13-0. I believe that is my favorite part about this season. It is also my wife and kids’ favorite because there was never an angry Sunday. All college football fans know those Sundays. They are full of fuming, aggravation and general dischord over your team’s loss on Saturday. Those Sundays generally make a fan unbearable and rather unpleasant to be around. Not so this season for my family and the families of LSU fans everywhere.
A 13-0 regular season is also a testament to how strong the SEC West has become. LSU is the third different SEC West team to pull off the feat in as many years. Bama did it in 2008 and 2009, Auburn in 2010 and LSU in 2011. In the arms race that is the balance of power in the SEC, the West has solidified its position for years to come. There is nothing currently that would indicate otherwise, especially when considering the blow outs in the past three SEC championship games. Combined scores for the past three, 130-40. Think about it…the best from the East is only averaging 13 PPG against the West’s 43 PPG. That’s a lot of ground to make up in recruiting and coaching.
Speaking of SEC Championship games…
It was a bit alarming to see LSU sleepwalk through the first 15-20 minutes. Whether it was the general apathy for this year’s game by the media and the BCS or LSU believing it could turn it on whenever and still win, the LSU coaching staff should have had the Tigers ready to hit the wall from the opening kick-off. A lot of credit also has to be given to Mark Richt and his team. The Bulldogs took the fight to LSU early and often. If it weren’t for some horrible drops, the complexion of the first half could have been dramatically different.
Luckily, Tyrann Mathieu woke up LSU from its little Tiger snooze and LSU responded by doing what it does best…squeezing the life from their opponents with an unyielding defense and a relentless rushing attack. LSU simply eroded the Bulldogs with wave after wave of fresh talent. As I have said before, Les Miles has enough quality depth on his football team to play for 16 quarters, not just 4.
Moving on to the BCS…
Obviously, I have a dog in this fight and you know where my loyalties lay. I am 100 percent certain LSU wins this game. The Tigers did enough to force critical mistakes by the Tide and its coaches in Tuscaloosa. This go around, LSU is in Death Valley South. If you thought 100,000 people in Bryant Denny was loud, you should hear 50,000 plus LSU fans in the Superdome. LSU will enjoy a distinct home field advantage in New Orleans. Jordan Jefferson will start the whole game. Say what you will, but if Jordan had gotten the three possessions that Lee fell apart in, the first game of the century could have been much different. Half of Bama’s points came off of Lee’s turnovers. Jefferson protected the ball and led the Tigers to almost 150 yards rushing and a victory against the Tide. This go around, the Tigers have one more beast to throw at the Tide. Kenny Hilliard is 5’11 and 240 lbs. Kenny Hilliard is built to run into defenses like Alabama’s. Kenny Hilliard is now ready for primetime. What’s new for Bama this time?