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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
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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.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 2 A developing subplot with the Tigers is how the coaches plan to use their two-quarterback system going forward. Against South Carolina, Ryan Perriloux played the Tim Tebow role to Matt Flynn's Chris Leak, coming in solely to run, but like Tebow, Perriloux can throw the ball, too.
Last game: Beat South Carolina, 28-16.
Next game: Saturday at Tulane.
2 1 With so many stars on USC's defense, it's hard to pick out a true "MVP," a la Troy Polamalu, Mike Patterson and Lofa Tatupu in years past. The Riverside Press-Enterprise argues that guy is senior LB Keith Rivers, whose 14 tackles against Wazzu were the most since Tatupu's 14 four years ago.
Last game: Beat Washington State, 47-14.
Next game: Saturday at Washington.
3 3 What else can you say about the Sooners' offense? In four games, they've yet to score fewer than 51 points, and those 51 came against the same Miami defense that suffocated Texas A&M. To get to QB Sam Bradford, you have to get past that massive O-line, which thus far has been impenetrable.
Last game: Beat Tulsa, 62-21.
Next game: Saturday at Colorado.
4 4 The good news is, the young Gators survived their first SEC road test. The bad news is, LSU, Kentucky and South Carolina all possess scarier passing attacks than Ole Miss (which racked up 310 yards in the air on Saturday). Maybe Tim Tebow can double at defensive end and Percy Harvin at corner.
Last game: Beat Ole Miss, 30-24.
Next game: Saturday vs. Auburn.
5 5 East Carolina has a pretty good defense. A year ago, the Pirates held Pat White and Steve Slaton to a combined 119 rushing yards and picked off White three times in a 27-10 loss. This time, Slaton went for 110, White went 18-of-20 for 181 yards and WVU piled up 599 yards of offense.
Last game: Beat East Carolina, 48-7.
Next game: Friday at South Florida.
6 6 Could John Chiles be a new weapon for Texas? The athletic freshman QB saw his first action of the season in the 'Horns' first blowout, running nine times for 72 yards. Might offensive coordinator Greg Davis find a way to work Chiles into the game plan as a potential wrinkle for defenses?
Last game: Beat Rice, 58-14.
Next game: Saturday vs. Kansas State.
7 7 Cal is still cruising despite the fact DeSean Jackson has just 151 receiving yards through four games and has accounted for minus-7 return yards the past two weeks. Obviously, the Bears have several other weapons, but they'll need Jackson to be a factor if they hope to outscore Oregon.
Last game: Beat Arizona, 45-27.
Next game: Saturday at Oregon.
8 8 I was hoping this would be the week we'd finally get to see the Scarlet Knights play someone halfway decent (relatively speaking). Then Maryland went to Winston-Salem last week and choked away a 24-3 third-quarter lead. Yeah -- that bodes real well for the Terps' trip to Piscataway.
Last game: Beat Norfolk State, 59-0.
Next game: Saturday vs. Maryland.
9 10 You can hear the drumbeat building in Columbus: Can the Buckeyes deliver another 12-0 regular season during a supposed rebuilding year? No question OSU has looked better than expected, just as much of its Big Ten competition has looked worse, but don't overlook Purdue in two weeks.
Last game: Beat Northwestern, 58-7.
Next game: Saturday at Minnesota.
10 11 BC's biggest challenge over the next few weeks may be boredom. The Eagles looked largely uninspired for much of their snoozer against Army. Star QB Matt Ryan threw two interceptions, dropping the Heisman candidate to a puzzling 42nd on the national passing charts.
Last game: Beat Army, 37-17.
Next game: Saturday vs. Massachusetts.

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