THERE WAS not a
lot of suspense at Tiger Stadium last Saturday, with Louisiana Tech on the
homecoming menu. That was fine with LSU fans, whose nerves are a bit frayed
these days, the result of coach Les Miles's proclivity for living on the edge.
The Tigers ran their record to 9--1 with a 48-point win over the Bulldogs. One
of the loudest cheers of the night arose when the news came over the
public-address system that the Buckeyes had gone down.
Jacob Hester, who
had a career-long 87-yard touchdown run against Tech, couldn't resist drawing a
distinction between LSU and the Buckeyes: "The parity in college football
is unbelievable. The thing is, when you have those close games, you have to
pull 'em out."
Or if you don't
pull them out, make sure the loss happens early enough in the season for your
team to work its way back up the rankings. On Oct. 13 the Tigers lost at
Kentucky in triple overtime, but they didn't panic. "Me and [quarterback]
Matt Flynn and [defensive tackle] Glenn Dorsey told the guys, 'Hey, it's early
in the season; we've got a lot of games in front of us; we can still work our
way up to where we need to be.'"
Flynn speaks from
experience. He was a redshirting freshman on LSU's 2003 national champions.
That team, you'll recall, overcame a mid-October loss (to Florida) to reach the
national title game.
As will these
Tigers, if they win at Ole Miss this week, at home against Arkansas on the day
after Thanksgiving and in the SEC championship game on Dec. 1, against
Tennessee or Georgia, in all likelihood.
With the egg laid
by Ohio State, LSU moved to the top of the BCS. Advancing to No. 2 was Oregon
and its dynamite quarterback, Dennis Dixon, who runs the Ducks' spread option
with a virtuosity that Williams can only hope to achieve. "He's got a
little Dennis in him," Patrick Chung allows, somewhat grudgingly, of
Williams. Chung, Oregon's starting rover, sat in his apartment last
Saturday'the Ducks were idle'watching Williams upend the Buckeyes. Did he jump
off the couch? Shout for joy?
no'it wasn't like that," insists Chung, who recalls thinking, All right, we
needed that. That helped us. Now let's get back to work.
Oregon was Michigan's flat performance at Wisconsin. Every game the Wolverines
drop'and they will be underdogs against Ohio State this Saturday'devalues the
Ducks' victory in the Big House in September. Devalues it, at least, in the
unseeing eyes and heartless algorithms of the BCS computers. And that's not the
only way Oregon stands to get hosed.
Even if the Ducks
win out'they've got Arizona this Thursday in Tucson, UCLA in the Rose Bowl on
Nov. 24 and Oregon State at home on Dec. 1'they could be bounced from the title
game by events beyond their control. Profitable though it would be, the Pac-10
refuses to cleave itself into divisions and schedule a championship game. The
BCS computers don't give a fig for the Pac-10's virtue; the Ducks stand to be
leapfrogged by a team that has a conference title game.
possibility prey on his mind? "Not at all," says Chung. "We've just
got to play to our potential."