Thursday, July 31, 2008

LSU: If we would have only...

2006 at Auburn

LSU fans may not want to admit it, but they should consider themselves fortunate. They have two BCS titles with a combined three losses, while Auburn’s lone campaign for perfection wasn’t enough to even let them play for the title. LSU needed Oklahoma to knock off Missouri and for West Virginia to choke on the last weekend of 2007 so they could fall bassackwards into the BCS title game. That game, coincidentally, was in New Orleans. New Orleans happened to be the site of their first BCS title game as well, and was also the site of their other two BCS non-title bowl games.

On the other hand, the Bengal Tigers were dangerously close to being crowing BCS champs for the 3rd time in five years after they pounded Ohio State this past January. They somehow only managed 3 points in an early September loss to Auburn in 2006, and in hindsight, this cost them a shot at the 2006 national championship.

Auburn survived the 7-3 slugfest, almost inexplicably. They were outgained 311-182, and Brandon Cox only threw for 110 yards, 0 TD, and 1 INT. LSU had five drives inside Auburn territory that were fruitless. Maybe it was all those rushing yards Auburn piled up, as they outgained LSU 72-42 in that category.

There aren’t many big plays to discuss because, well, the score was 7-3. What LSU fans will remember – and still argue about – were the calls. And while it may be a stretch to simply write them off as “bad calls,” it would be equally hard to describe the officiating as consistent.

The biggest one came on their next-to-last drive of the game. With less than three minutes to go in the game, Auburn was flagged for pass interference on a fourth down pass to the goal line. After some discussion, it was waived because Auburn’s Eric Brock deflected the pass before it reached the receiver. This caused LSU’s drive to stall at the Auburn 31. LSU eventually got the ball back, but we all remember the game saving tackle Brock made at the 4 yard line as time expired.

The call itself was fair enough, and could have gone either way. However, a similar pass interference call against LSU stood earlier in the game when LSU actually intercepted the pass before it made it to the Auburn receiver. There was also a questionable no-call on an LSU incomplete pass to the end zone just before halftime. And to top it off, there were two separate catch-then-fumble calls went Auburn’s way.

Whether LSU lost because of the refs or their anemic offense, they lost more than just the game. Losing that game eventually kept them out of the SEC Championship game, where they would have played Florida for the right to destroy Ohio State in the BCS title game. Despite LSU’s October loss at Gainesville, they would have been just as much in the hunt for the BCS #2 spot as one-loss Florida was heading into the game in Atlanta.

And even though the Gators got the best of LSU at the swamp, there was no way they wanted to have to do it again. First, it’s just tough to beat a talented team twice in a row. Second, and more importantly, nobody wants to have to deal with Les Miles twice in year. Chances are whatever crazy move that didn’t work the first time would have worked to perfection the second time around. It’s just a numbers thing. Its not that Miles is a better coach than Urban Meyer. He’s just a loaded gun that seems to be at his best against your team.

As it stood, LSU stayed home when Arkansas played the Gators in Atlanta. LSU also had to watch Florida punish the Buckeyes in Tempe from home. The week before the SEC title game, LSU let Arkansas know who still ruled the West. Their fans chanted “B-C-S, B-C-S” in Little Rock at the end of the game just to remind them. The same LSU fans gave a little “S-E-C, S-E-C” chant for the overrated bunch from Indiana after the Sugar Bowl beatdown a month later. Still, the boasting would have been much sweeter if it were about the national title rather than the Sugar Bowl.

Maybe its fitting Auburn was the team that didn’t let LSU get a crack at another 1-loss national title.