Last weekend, LSU went into ravenous Bryant-Denny Stadium to play the most heavily hyped game of its entire season and, despite a litany of self-inflicted wounds, made the big plays it needed to at the end to knock off its fifth ranked opponent of the season, Alabama.
At least that's how I saw it. A few increasingly incredulous readers viewed the result in a much different light, including this guy:
I think it's pretty clear now LSU might not be as good as people thought. I mean, you could give them one, two or even three close calls. But every game? At some point you have to stop saying their schedule is that much tougher than everyone else's and start saying they're not that great.
Hmm. I seem to remember another supposedly overrated team that much of the public figured was living on borrowed time as it rolled off one ugly, nail-biting win after another -- so much so that it earned itself the nickname the "Luckeyes." That would be 2002 national champion Ohio State.
But you don't have to go back that far to find a parallel to LSU's 2007 season. Does nobody else remember national champion Florida's regular season from a year ago? Allow me to refresh your memory with a comparison between the Tigers' recent, brutal four-game stretch and Florida's effort during the same time span a year ago:
Oct. 6 -- Beats No. 9 Florida, 28-24
Oct. 13 -- Loses at No. 17 Kentucky, 43-37 (3OT)
Oct. 20 -- Beats No. 18 Auburn, 30-24
Nov. 3 -- Wins at No. 17 Alabama, 41-34
Oct. 7 -- Beats No. 9 LSU, 23-10
Oct. 14 -- Loses at No. 11 Auburn, 27-17
Oct. 28 -- Beats Georgia, 21-14
Nov. 4 -- Wins at Vanderbilt, 25-19
By the way -- Florida's struggles did not end there. A week later, the team needed a blocked field goal to survive South Carolina. In the end, all that mattered for the Gators was that they survived to see another day.
Ditto for this LSU team, which, as I wrote Sunday, must be pretty darn good to be winning all these tough games in spite of injuries (Early Doucet, Glenn Dorsey), suspensions (Ryan Perrilloux last week), dire circumstances (all those do-or-die fourth downs, the clock nearly running out on them against Auburn) and their own assorted blunders (Matt Flynn's three interceptions against Alabama). Like 2006 Florida, we know full well what this team looks like with its complete roster and a complete performance (see: the Virginia Tech game).
It's one thing early in the season, when you're trying to distinguish between 17 different 4-0 teams, to punish a team for winning ugly. At this late stage of the game, however, if you just played four straight ranked opponents and came away with a triple-overtime road loss as your only blemish, you're only going to earn respect from me, no matter how you did it.
I learned my lesson about "style points" last year.
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It's no coincidence All-America DT Dorsey, who was hobbled and/or sidelined during the Tigers' subpar defensive performances against Kentucky and Auburn, was at full strength when the Tigers held Alabama to 254 total yards Saturday. Dorsey had seven tackles, two for loss.
Last game: Beat Alabama, 41-34.
Next game: Saturday vs. Louisiana Tech.
The Buckeyes continue to earn my respect as well, albeit against lesser competition than the Tigers. Last weekend's late third-quarter, 17-10 deficit to Wisconsin fazed them not in the slightest, as they burst for four straight touchdowns (three of them long Beanie Wells runs) to win going away.
Last game: Beat Wisconsin, 38-17.
Next game: Saturday vs. Illinois.
You can't appreciate just how sneakily Dennis Dixon runs the spread option until you see a Ducks game in person. There were no fewer than five plays where, watching from above, I honestly could not tell for several seconds who had the ball. Neither, apparently, could Arizona State's defense.
Last game: Beat Arizona State, 35-23.
Next game: Nov. 15 at Arizona.
Two signs you have yourself a pretty good team (besides the ability to score 76 points on a former league bully): 1) The Jayhawks are the least-penalized team in the country (34 in nine games). 2) They're No. 2 nationally in turnover margin (plus-16). Both stats are a coach's dream come true.
Last game: Beat Nebraska, 76-39.
Next game: Saturday at Oklahoma State.
One of the more underrated players at any position is Sooners tight end Jermaine Gresham, a 6-foot-5, 263-pound matchup nightmare who's recently become a bigger factor in OU's passing game. The sophomore caught five passes last week against Texas A&M; four of them went for touchdowns.
Last game: Beat Texas A&M, 42-14.
Next game: Saturday vs. Baylor.
Before the season, it was assumed this Thursday's Louisville-West Virginia game would be one of the year's premier matchups, now, it's an expected blowout. Still, it will be interesting to see how a Mountaineers defense (currently ranked No. 4 nationally) fares against Cardinals QB Brian Brohm.
Last game: Beat Rutgers, 31-3.
Next game: Thursday vs. Louisville.
Since losing at Oklahoma on Oct. 13, Chase Daniel and the Tigers have been steamrolling people. Last week's 55-10 win at Colorado -- in which Daniel threw for 421 yards and five TDs -- raised their three-game scoring average to 46.0. They've yet to score less than 31 in a game all season.
Last game: Beat Colorado, 55-10.
Next game: Saturday vs. Texas A&M.
How impressive has freshman RB Knowshon Moreno been? With his 196-yard, three-TD performance against Troy, Moreno became the first Georgia freshman since Herschel Walker to notch a 1,000-yard season, and the Dawgs' first 1,000-yard rusher of any class since 2002.
Last game: Beat Troy, 44-33.
Next game: Saturday vs. Auburn.
The Devils made an admirable attempt to keep up with Oregon's offense, but some questionable play-calling and game management by Dennis Erickson's staff did not help their cause. Also, ASU's offense failed to handle the Ducks' blitzes in the second half, resulting in nine sacks.
Last game: Lost to Oregon, 35-23.
Next game: Saturday at UCLA.
Clearly, the 'Horns hold some sort of psychological hex over Oklahoma State. Their fourth-quarter comeback from a 35-14 deficit last week was in keeping with their 2004 (when they trailed 35-7) and 2005 (they trailed 28-9) wins over the Cowboys, only this time there was no Vince Young.
Last game: Beat Oklahoma State, 38-35.
Next game: Saturday vs. Texas Tech.
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