Eye of the Tigers
LSU claims top spot after impressive victory over S.C.
Posted: Tuesday September 25, 2007 12:54PM; Updated: Tuesday September 25, 2007 6:19PM
Following last week's Power Rankings, which included the unfortunate flaw of having Louisville ahead of a Kentucky team it had just lost to, and my subsequent explanation in the Mailbag about how it happened, many of you suggested by e-mail that I was falling victim to the very syndrome I gripe about in Bowls, Polls, and Tattered Souls:Too strict an adherence to preseason perception at the expense of actual, on-field results.
When Louisville (and Nebraska, for that matter) went ahead and destroyed all remaining remnants of their preseason perceptions last week, I realized you were probably right. It was time to go ahead and toss out all my preconceived notions once and for all, which meant making one particularly major concession: Admitting that I no longer believe my preseason No. 1 team is the best team in the country.
I realize this isn't exactly a logical week to bump LSU ahead of USC, what, with the Trojans coming off a perfectly thorough butt-whipping of Washington State and the Tigers posting a deceptively "close" 28-16 win over South Carolina. In fact, USC has done nothing wrong. It's not you, it's me. My reasons for finally elevating LSU are threefold.
For one, I'd been leaning the Tigers' way since their eye-opening rout of Virginia Tech on Sept. 8, but I resisted making the move, first because of USC's bye week, then because of the Trojans' impressive blowout of Nebraska. Ball State's 40-point, 600-yard performance against those same Huskers last Saturday eased my mind a bit in that department. Secondly, the Tigers are the only team on my ballot to have beaten two opponents -- the Hokies and Gamecocks -- currently ranked in my top 20. Heck, only two other teams (South Carolina and Georgia) have even beaten one.
But lastly, believe it or not, Saturday's LSU win, in my eyes, was its most impressive yet, despite also being its closest margin of victory.
Why do I say that? Because if you watched the game, you saw that quarterback Matt Flynn was basically playing with one foot. Top receiver Early Doucet missed the game completely. Starting defensive tackle Charles Alexander had just been lost for the season. And to top it off, it was pouring in Baton Rouge. The Tigers were so limited in what they could do (Flynn literally could not push off enough to throw a regular pass) that it might as well have been their jayvee team out there. And still, they basically toyed with a top-12 (at the time) opponent from the second quarter on.
No passing game? No problem, said coach Les Miles. We'll just run Jacob Hester up the middle. Or hand off to Trindon Holliday and watch him fly. Or bring in Ryan Perriloux to run the spread option. Or, in the game's signature moment, run a nifty little fake field goal in which holder Flynn tossed the ball over his shoulder to kicker Colt David. And it goes without saying that Glenn Dorsey and the Tigers' D mauled Steve Spurrier's offense like they have their previous three foes.
At one point, CBS' cameras showed Miles laughing with one of the referees on the sideline like this was the middle of the spring game or something. USC (or Oklahoma, or Florida, or West Virginia) may well be the No. 1 team by the end of the season, but LSU has been the No. 1 team these first four weeks.
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