Posts Tagged ‘LSU’
It has been talked about, written about, and debated for the last month, but tonight’s BCS National Championship game, effectively dubbed “the oversigning bowl” by some because of the two teams’ propensity to sign more players than technically allowed, may not actually crown the proper national champion. And if so, it would be the biggest injustice in the BCS’ 15-year history.
Clearly, the Southeastern Conference is the far and away winner this season for getting two of its own teams into the game, and it will certainly relish the opportunity to pound its chest even more, but reality says the national champion should have already been crowned.
No team in the country has outperformed Louisiana State from Sept. 3 through the SEC Championship game, and that includes the Alabama team they face in tonight’s championship.
Take a look at the resumes of the current top four teams in the BCS rankings. This is assuming Alabama beats LSU tonight. Obviously, if LSU wins, there is no debate.
Which of those teams has the best resume? With the same number of losses (again, assuming Alabama wins), LSU has three more wins over Top 25 teams, two more over Top 10 teams, and a better non-conference schedule (especially when throwing out FCS opponents Northwestern State and Georgia Southern). LSU’s one loss would be to the 2nd-ranked team on a neutral site. Alabama’s to the 1st-ranked team at home. Coming into the game, LSU holds the #1 ranking by every single voter. Judging by the above resumes, a very good case could be made for Oklahoma State over Alabama. The only real disparity between the two teams is scoring offense (OSU plus-12.7) and scoring defense (Alabama minus-18).
Some will say championships are won in January, not in November. But that’s not the way the college football landscape is set up. If the season came down to a playoff to decide the national champion, that statement would be correct, but it doesn’t. Every week throughout the season is critical. We currently have one team that ran the table the entire season. One undefeated team. And it already beat the team on the road that it has to beat again in order to officially be awarded the title of national champs.
Barring a West Virginia-Clemson-style blowout by Alabama, Monday night’s game should just be for show. Sure we’ll all watch and the SEC and BCS apologists will point to the TV ratings to show that the BCS got it right, but the 2011 National Champion should be the LSU Tigers regardless of what happens in tonight’s ultra-hyped BCS national scrimmage.
Imagine how you felt at this time three years ago, watching the bowl selection show and knowing Michigan was staying home for the first time in nearly four decades. Then move forward a year and think about watching bowl season without your beloved Maize and Blue for the second straight year. Now advance to this time a year ago, finally being bowl eligible, but limping into the Gator Bowl on the heels of two blowout losses with a lame duck and beleaguered coach.
Now, imagine Bourbon Street and Cafe DuMonde, creole food and ragtag jazz musicians on every corner. But best of all, imagine Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin, Kevin Koger and David Molk, and the rest of Michigan’s seniors who chose to stay through three head coaches, multiple coordinators, and more scrutiny than any Michigan class in decades now going to a BCS bowl.
On Sunday night, Michigan was selected by the Sugar Bowl to face the Virginia Tech Hokies on January 3. It will be Michigan’s first BCS appearance since a Rose Bowl loss to USC at the end of the 2006 season and Michigan’s first ever matchup with Virginia Tech.
Michigan hasn’t won a BCS bowl since a 35-34 overtime win over Alabama in the 2000 Orange Bowl. Since then, Michigan has made a BCS bowl three times, all losses in the Rose Bowl, two to USC and one to Texas. Michigan has played in one Sugar Bowl previously (before the BCS existed), losing 9-7 to Auburn in 1984, and is 18-3 all-time against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. Virginia Tech is 1-0 against Big Ten opponents and 1-2 in Sugar Bowls.
It creates an intriguing matchup two of the nation’s top ten defenses. The Hokies allow 17.2 points per game – identical to Michigan – and rank 12th nationally in total defense, giving up 313 yards per game. Offensively, the Hokies average 28.5 points per game and rank 31st in rush offense and 66th in pass offense. They do boast the nation’s seventh-best rusher, David Wilson, who averages 125 rushing yards per game, but Michigan has seen its share of talented running backs this season.
Neither team is very familiar with the other, having never played before. Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, in his 25th season at the school, said he hasn’t seen much of Michigan but knows Denard Robinson can move.
Michigan coaches and players say likewise about the Hokies, but also talk about what this means for the program.
“It puts us back on the map, so to speak, as a national powerhouse,” said senior Ryan Van Bergen. “It will be great for recruiting, it will be great for the alumni and the fans, but the biggest thing for us: team 132 wants to play again. We’ve really grown close. We have great team chemistry, and the opportunity to play one more game on a stage as big as the Sugar Bowl is huge for us.”
More to follow on the matchup in the coming weeks.
In other BCS news, Alabama edged out Oklahoma State to get a spot in the BCS National Championship game against LSU, thus proving what we all already knew: the BCS system is terrible. The same system that denied Michigan a shot at a rematch against Ohio State in 2006 allowed Alabama a rematch against an LSU team that came into its own house and beat it a few weeks ago. If you don’t think there’s an SEC bias, you’re crazy.
Alabama beat Penn State and Auburn on the road and Arkansas at home. Aside from those three, the Crimson Tide didn’t beat a another FBS team that finished with a record above .500. So much for the “vaunted” SEC.
What about the team they held off? Oklahoma State recorded wins over four teams that finished in the BCS Top 25, including a 44-10 stomping of rival Oklahoma on Saturday, and averaged 49.3(!) points per game. Its only loss was in double-overtime at Iowa State. Seven of the Cowboys’ 11 wins were against teams that finished the season with winning records.
Alabama was given the spot in the BCS National Championship game, not because of the season-long results on the field (the overall body of work), but because of the perception that the SEC is be-all end-all in college football. Critics of some type of playoff or plus-one system should be locked away.
The worst part of it is that the system designed to choose the top two teams completely failed the number one team in the nation. LSU is far and away the best team in the nation this season. They’re the only undefeated team in the country, having beaten Pac-12 champion Oregon on a neutral field, Big East champion West Virginia on the road, Alabama on the road, and 10-3 Georgia on a neutral field.
LSU proved it can beat Alabama at Alabama. Why does it have to prove it again? If Alabama wins, who can anyone rightfully call them the better team? If we’re going to throw any other conference out of contention for this season’s national champion, one of two things should happen: LSU should be crowned national champion right now and Oklahoma State should face Alabama for #2, or Alabama should have to beat LSU twice to claim the crown since the Tide already lost to the Tigers once – in Tuscaloosa no less.
Yet it’s not a perfect system and the BCS relishes controversy and the TV ratings and dollars that come with it. And while the same system that got Alabama into the title game this year screwed Michigan out of it five years ago, Michigan was one of the beneficiaries of it this year. So we’ll enjoy our Sugar in New Orleans while our little siblings to the north are relegated to the Outback Bowl.
Michigan basketball fans have grown accustomed to sweating out Selection Sunday the past few years, anxiously awaiting whether the Wolverines would get a spot in the Big Dance or be left out. This weekend, Michigan football fans get their turn. While it’s not exactly the same – Michigan will still go to a good bowl regardless of what happens on Saturday – the outcome of Saturday’s conference championship games will determine whether Michigan plays in a prestigious BCS bowl or a typical New Year’s Day* bowl.
In all likelihood, only two of the following scenarios need to happen to get Michigan into the BCS (and most likely the Sugar Bowl), but why leave it up to chance? The more of these scenarios that happen, the better.
The winners of the six BCS conferences (SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, Big East, and ACC) earn automatic berths into the four BCS bowls (the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Orange Bowl). If any of those happen to finish #1 or 2 in the final BCS standings, it will play in the BCS National Championship game, leaving a vacancy for an at-large.
An at-large selection must be ranked in the top 14 of the final BCS standings (teams from non-BCS conferences must be ranked in the top 12 or the top 16 if ranked higher than a BCS conference champion). Michigan currently stands at 16th with no games left to play, meaning the Wolverines have to leap frog two teams currently ranked ahead of them. Below is a list of Saturday’s games ranked in order of importance of what must happen for Michigan to make that jump.
For more on what needs to happen this Saturday, check out The Michigan Review’s breakdown.
1. SEC Championship: #1 LSU v. #14 Georgia (Line: LSU by 13.5)
This one is numero uno, since LSU and Alabama likely already have their spots in the BCS National Championship game secured. A Georgia win would give the Bulldogs the SEC’s automatic BCS bid and and knock Michigan out of contention for an at-large selection. At 10-2, Georgia is just two spots ahead of Michigan in the current rankings. A loss, even to the #1 team in the nation, would give the Bulldogs a third loss and drop them lower than Michigan. There’s an outside chance that a down-to-the-wire loss could keep Georgia ahead of Michigan, so root for Les Miles to help out his alma mater with a convincing victory.
Root for: A convincing victory by LSU
2. Big Ten Championship: #13 Michigan State v. #15 Wisconsin (Line: Wisconsin by 9.5)
This one is number two priority since regardless of who wins, one is bound to drop below Michigan. Wisconsin is #15 in the BCS and Michigan State is #13. The loser of this game would have a third loss and, therefore, likely drop below Michigan. MSU fans will argue that since they beat Michigan during the season, they deserve the BCS bid, but the reality is, they lost to Notre Dame and Nebraska and wouldn’t finish in the top 14 with a third loss. Wisconsin is just two hail marry’s away from a perfect season, but one was to 6-6 Ohio State. That, combined with a third loss, would pull the Badgers below 14th.
Like the LSU-Georgia game, an outside chance remains that an overtime game or a down-to-the-wire finish could keep the loser ahead of Michigan, so a lopsided win either way should be the goal.
Root for: A convincing win by one or the other. It really doesn’t matter who wins, but since we’re Michigan fans, keeping the Spartans from a Big Ten championship and a BCS bid would be ideal. Wisconsin convincingly.
3. Conference USA Championship: #6 Houston v. #24 Southern Miss (Line: Houston by 14)
The team everyone is forecasting Michigan to face in the Sugar Bowl, Houston, has turned in an impressive season. The Cougars have one of the most prolific offenses in the country led by senior quarterback Case Keenum. Had the Cougars compiled the type of season they did against BCS competition, they would be a shoe-in for the BCS National Championship game. However, the only team from a BCS conference that they played was the season-opener against UCLA (who finished 6-6) and Houston barely pulled out a 38-34 win.
A loss to Southern Miss would send the Cougars plummeting down the rankings, undoubtedly below Michigan, and freeing up a spot for the Wolverines in the BCS.
Root for: Southern Miss to pull off the upset, but it may also be a good game to watch to scout who could be Michigan’s Sugar Bowl opponent.
4a. #17 Baylor v. #22 Texas (Line: Baylor by 3)
The Big 12 no longer has a conference championship game since it is down to 10 teams and no divisions, but it will factor heavily into who plays in the BCS. This game and the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game could be interchangeable in terms of importance, but I see this one as slightly higher in importance. It won’t get Michigan into the BCS, but it could keep another team from jumping them.
Both teams are currently lower than Michigan, but Baylor is right on Michigan’s heels. Rightly or wrongly, the rankings view the Big 12 as a tougher conference than the Big 10 which explains why a three-loss Baylor squad is so close to a two-loss Michigan team. The fear here is another win over a Top 25 team would propel the Bears ahead of the stagnant Wolverines when the final rankings are released. The voters like the Bears with the Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Robert Griffin III and if he turns in a captivating performance in a big win, it could be enough to leapfrog the Bears over Michigan.
Texas, at 7-4 and 22nd in the BCS standings, has no chance of surpassing Michigan, so a Longhorn win would keep Baylor from moving up. With Mack Brown’s rumored retirement on Saturday (to which Burnt Orange Nation says not so fast), Texas could play inspired ball.
Root for: A Texas win.
4b. #3 Oklahoma State v. #10 Oklahoma (Line: Oklahoma State by 3.5)
I ranked this with a slightly lower priority as the Baylor-Texas game because I think the probability of Baylor jumping Michigan with a big win is greater than Oklahoma falling below Michigan with a loss. The Sooners started the season ranked #1 in the nation and despite losses to Texas Tech and Baylor, have fallen only to 10th. The loss of top receiver Ryan Broyles a month ago really hurt the Sooners in their loss to Baylor.
An Oklahoma win would obviously keep the Sooners above Michigan in the rankings and Oklahoma State probably wouldn’t even drop out of the top 10, so that wouldn’t help. Really the only way this game could help Michigan is an Oklahoma State blowout.
Root for: An Oklahoma State blowout [Edit: this is assuming Oklahoma State does not jump Alabama for the #2 spot. I don't see it happening, but there may be enough voters out there who don't want a rematch that in this scenario, they will intentionally drop Alabama to try to secure Oklahoma State a spot in the BCS National Championship. Since this is an 8pm game, hopefully by this point in the night, Kansas State (and/or Baylor/Houston) and Georgia will have lost and then we can root for Oklahoma to avoid any chance of Oklahoma State passing Alabama]
5. Iowa State v. #11 Kansas State (Line: Kansas State by 11)
This game is unlikely, but still has a rooting interest. At 9-2, Kansas State is 11th in the current BCS rankings. The only losses for the Wildcats were in back-to-back weeks a 58-17 route to then-#9 Oklahoma and #3 Oklahoma State. In addition, the last two weeks have weeks have been near upsets. K State beat Texas A&M 53-50 in four overtimes and then beat Texas 17-13 two weeks ago. A loss to Iowa State would certainly drop the Wildcats below Michigan, and it’s not out of the question. Kansas State has played a number of close games this season: the two mentioned above, a 10-7 win over Eastern Kentucky, 28-24 over Miami, 36-35 over Baylor, and beat Missouri and Texas Tech by a touchdown each. This isn’t a team that has blown opponents away.
Iowa State isn’t good at 6-5, but the Cyclones did pull off a shocking double-overtime upset of then-#2 Oklahoma State two weeks ago, and also beat Iowa at the beginning of the season.
Root for: Iowa State to pull off the upset
6. ACC Championship: #5 Virginia Tech v. #20 Clemson (Line: Virginia Tech by 7)
This game is probably the least likely to factor into Michigan’s BCS hopes. Win or lose, Virginia Tech is solidly ahead of Michigan and Clemson is unlikely to jump the Wolverines. After climbing as high as #5 in the BCS standings a little over a month ago, the Tigers are reeling with three losses in their last four games. Even with a win tomorrow, against a Hokie team Clemson already beat, it will be a longshot for the Tigers to move all the way to 14th.
Root for: Virginia Tech or anything but a Clemson blowout.
Fresno State v. San Diego State (Line: San Diego State by 8)
This game has no official bearing on the BCS rankings, but since Michigan beat San Diego State, a win by the Aztecs may help give Michigan a few more percentage points. At this point, every point helps.
Root for: A San Diego State win.
Obviously, not all of these things are going to happen, but at least a couple of them need to. LSU beating Georgia is a must. From there, at least one of the others (two to be safe) would be great and we can look forward to watching Brady Hoke take Team 132 into Michigan’s first BCS bowl since the 2006 season.
*Since New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, the NFL takes center stage, pushing the usual New Year’s Day bowl games to Monday, January 2.
This week, my job took me to Baton Rouge, La. for the battle of the Tigers. LSU entered as the nation’s top-ranked team while Auburn came to town ranked 20th. With three top LSU players suspended, a good game was expected in this rivalry that typically features tight matchups. Instead, LSU blew Auburn away 45-10. But how was the game day experience? I can describe it in two words: underwhelming and overrated.
It was my first experience of a true SEC football game (I had been to a game at Kentucky before, but that doesn’t really count), so I was hoping to be blown away. We always hear about SEC domination, not just on the field, but in tailgating and game day experience as well. However, I saw nothing that can’t be found in Ann Arbor, Happy Valley, South Bend, or Columbus on a college football Saturday.
The visit started with Friday night dinner at The Chimes Restaurant & Tap Room on Highland Road, just on the north edge of campus. If you get a chance to go to Baton Rouge, The Chimes is a must-visit if you’re looking for tasty southern food, plenty of beer options, and great atmosphere (SI’s Andy Staples plugged it last week).
Being a Friday night when I went, it was packed. I was told the wait for a table was an hour and a half – and I was only a single. My other option was to sit at the bar if I could find a stool. I chose that option and a stool opened up in about 10 minutes.
I had the duck and sausage gumbo and a barbecue shrimp po boy. Both were fantastic. I’m told the oysters are 35 cents on Tuesdays, so if you’re here during the week, that’s the night to come.
I’m not a fan of the NOLA brews, but I’d suggest trying the local Tin Roof Voodoo Bengal Pale Ale or Perfect Tin Amber. There’s also the array of New Orleans’ own Abita brews for your tasting pleasure. Aside from the large selection on tap, The Chimes has a wide assortment of bottles from around the world as well. Overall, it was a pleasant experience.
Game day started out with breakfast at another Baton Rouge staple, Louie’s Cafe. It’s your typical dive diner with great breakfast food and fast service. On a Saturday morning, it was packed with fans heading to the game. We were told the wait would be 30-40 minutes, but we were seated in about 20. I had the cheesy hashbrowns with sausage, monterrey jack cheese, and jalepenos as well as some cheese grits. Both were very good. My cousin had the cheesy grits and pancakes. She wanted waffles, but the waffle iron was broken, so that’s the only negative of the whole experience.
After breakfast, I drove towards the stadium, not wanting to park in the…umm…downtrodden areas just off campus. I found a huge free lot near the baseball fields, parked, and walked towards the stadium. Tailgating was everywhere, but certainly not the “you haven’t seen tailgating until you’ve seen the SEC” that I’ve always heard about.
Walking through all of the tailgating with a Michigan hat on, I didn’t get a single “Michigan sucks” or similar taunt (is it because we’re not seen as a national force anymore?). I did, however, get a couple of “Go Blue!”s from other guys with Michigan hats on, so it’s nice to se we’re everywhere.
Inside the stadium I found a good game day atmosphere, but again, not as great as I expected.
The colors and pageantry were nice. I really like the look of LSU’s field with the two different colored end zones and the tiger eye in the middle. The two bands played often, although often at the same time. The LSU band was seated in the middle of the student section, about halfway up instead of closer to the field like at most stadiums. The student section was good and loud, but the rest of the crowd was average.
For a rivalry game that had been played closely the past few years, and for the number one team in the nation, the atmosphere wasn’t anything to write home about. I would put it on par with a Michigan home game against a mid-level Big Ten team – certainly nowhere near the excitement, energy, or loudness of a Michigan-Notre Dame, -Michigan State, or -Ohio State game.
When the band wasn’t playing, the piped-in music was exclusively rap or hip hop, including this incredibly bad version of Michigan’s In the Big House. I actually prefer In the Big House to this thing.
The game was close for a quarter and a half before LSU stretched the lead to 21-3 at halftime. The Tigers (the purple and gold version) quickly put the game away in the first few minutes of the second half, and by the end of the third quarter, most of the student section had thinned out and the Auburn fans were heading for their cars.
After the game, there are a number of bars within walking distance, but I didn’t go to any as I wanted to get back and watch the MSU-Wisconsin and ND-USC games.
Overall, I’d rate the LSU game day experience better than Oklahoma, which I saw at the beginning of the season, but still well below Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State. I’d say the only thing LSU has going for it compared to the Big Ten schools is the weather and the girls, but there’s something that just feels right about tailgating in the cold chill of late fall, so that’s not a huge advantage.
I would certainly recommend experiencing an LSU game if you get the chance, but don’t believe the SEC hype. I expected to be blown away, but came away still convinced that the SEC homers who say there’s nothing like the SEC have never been north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
For previous When Maize and Blue Meets… reviews, click here.