If Alabama Fans Were Like LSU
- A vocal segment would have wanted to run Nick Saban out of town after the Tide lost the last four games of the regular season in 2007, his first year in Tuscaloosa. Included was a 21-14 home loss to Louisiana-Monroe, after which many fans would have branded him an "idiot" not in the same league with the immortal Bear Bryant.
- From that point on, nothing Saban could do would change their minds, not even a national championship in 2009. Any success would be attributed to being lucky and having the top-notch talent that the university's great football tradition always attracts regardless of the coach.
- After going 11-0 in 2008 but losing to Florida in the SEC Championship Game, Saban would be classified forever as "not able to win the Big Ones." The 31-17 upset loss to Utah in the Sugar Bowl would solidify this thinking. Some fans would have written on message boards how dreadful it was that Bama had signed Nick to a long-term contract which meant that they were "stuck" with him for three more years at a salary that was obviously way more than the man deserved.
- After the undefeated '09 season culminated in a 37-21 defeat of Texas in the BCS Championship Game, the victory would be attributed to luck because Texas's QB, Colt McCoy, was knocked out of the game in Q1.
- Through it all, Saban's detractors would harp on the fact that he stubbornly continues to use the "pro style" offense that insists on running the ball as much or more as passing it. He can't attract the really good QBs to Tuscaloosa running such an antiquated system.
- The three losses in 2010 would confirm the minority's view that Saban was "not a good coach." Blowing a 24-0 lead to archrival Auburn was ample evidence that Nick's game management was poor. Some disgusted fans would proclaim after the game, "I'm glad we lost to Auburn. Maybe now they'll fire Saban."
- Any loss is the fault of the head coach with no tip of the cap to the opponent for playing an excellent game.
- After the 9-6 loss at home to LSU in the Game of the Century in 2011, smug Saban Haters would crow, "I told you so." The pedestrian offense couldn't move the ball, and the special teams were terrible. And what was Bama doing running a wildcat formation from which Marquis Maze threw a pass that Reid intercepted to stop a drive that would have produced at least the go-ahead FG? And then why was a limping Maze sent back to receive the subsequent punt that sailed over his head and prevented Bama from moving back into FG range in the last minutes? Then the play-calling on the first possession of OT! I could name ten coaches that could do better at Alabama than this idiot.
- Saban got bailed out by the BCS voters who gave him another shot at LSU. With all the psychology in his favor and over a month to prepare, of course he won the game. A hundred other coaches could have done the same.
- As for 2012, yes, the team is 9-0 and ranked #1 but whom have they played? Nick pads his record against easy teams but loses the Big Ones.
Ways to View LSU's 2011 Season
There are at least five different slants one can take on LSU's last season. As the 2012 season nears, we're exploring those. The numbers indicate the order in which they were posted and do not reflect any order of importance.
Viewpoint #1 | #2 | #3
4. Alabama benefitted from a tragedy and got bailed out by the poll voters to get another crack at LSU.
- The Tide played poorly on November 5 as the players themselves admitted. And Nick Saban and his staff did a poor coaching job.
- Bama's special teams in particular did a lousy job that night. Two different kickers missed three FGs. In Q4, after Eric Reid's spectacular INT on the 1, Brad Wing boomed a rocket that Marquis Maze, sent onto the field despite an ankle injury, misplayed, allowing it to roll to the 19. So instead of having excellent field position and a chance to get into range for the winning FG, the Tide could only run out the clock.
- And Reid's INT came on a pass by Maze from wildcat formation when Bama had pounded the ball from its 23 to the LSU 28. Why go to a trick play when all the momentum is in your favor? If you did want to mix it up with a pass, why have a WR with a bad ankle throw it?
- Finally, to cite one more instance, Bama's play-calling on its OT possession was strange, and its execution was worse. A.J. McCarron threw a Utah-type pass to Trent Richardson in the middle of congestion. If it hadn't fallen incomplete, the play would have lost yardage. Then the Tide was penalized 5y for a sustitution infraction. McCarron had Richardson open on a wheel route but overthrew him. On 3rd-and-15, Sam Montgomery sacked McCarron to the 35, necessitating a 52y FG try that missed.
- Also, Saban's D didn't seem to be well prepared for Jordan Jefferson when he took over after Jarrett Lee threw two INTs. In particular, the Tide didn't play the option well when Jefferson pitched to Ford on LSU's second play of OT. The play should have resulted in a TD but Michael carelessly stepped out of bounds on the 7. But it did set up the winning FG. (I'll always wonder if Bama would have been voted #2 in the final BCS poll if the TD had counted and LSU had won 12-6 instead of 9-6. If only one or two more voters put them #3 ...)
- After the first game, all signs pointed to an LSU-Oklahoma State matchup in the BCS championship game. The Cowboys roared through their first ten games undefeated, the only close call being 30-29 at Texas A&M in Game 4. Then on November 18 tragedy struck when a single-engine plane carrying women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and an assistant coach crashed in central Arkansas, killing the two coaches, the pilot, and the pilot's wife.
- Less than 24 hours later, the Cowboys took the field against Iowa State in Ames. The 27-point favorite jumped out to a 24-7 lead early in the second half. But five turnovers helped the home team erase the deficit and take a 31-24 lead. But OSU fought back to tie it and had a chance to take the lead with 1:17 left but missed a 37y FG. Both teams scored TDs on their first OT possessions. But OSU QB Brandon Weeden threw an INT on the first play of the second series. Needing only a FG to win, the Cyclones got a TD on their third rushing play to finish off the improbable upset.
- Oklahoma State bounced back two weeks later and showed what kind of team they were by clobbering archrival Oklahoma 44-10. That same day, Nick Saban went on ESPN and CBS to lobby for the #2 spot for his team. Nick was free to do that, you see, because his team hadn't even won its subdivision of the SEC.
- We'll never know if OSU would have beaten Iowa State had the plane crash not occurred. But we do know that not enough voters cut them some slack because of the tragedy and still voted them #2. Instead, they overlooked Alabama's poor performance on their home field on November 5.
- And how many voters put 11-1 Alabama second over 11-1 Oklahoma State because the Alabama coach was Saban and the Cowboys coach was Mike Gundy?
- The rematch didn't sit well with a large segment of college football fans, drawing the third lowest TV rating in the 14-year history of the BCS and 8% less than the 2011 championship game.
3. Les Miles registered one of the best coaching jobs in history during the 2011 season.
LSU overcame numerous obstacles in going 13-0 in the 2011 regular season.
- At the beginning of August, as the staff put together the final touches for the upcoming preseason camp, new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. As a result, he relinquished his duties as coordinator but remained on the staff as QBs coach while O line coach Greg Studrawa took over as O coordinator.
- Two weeks before the season opener, a number of team members were involved in an altercation at a bar in the wee hours. As a result, the starting QB, Jordan Jefferson, was indefinitely suspended while he settled his legal issues.
- LSU had to turn to senior Jarrett Lee, whose three-year statistics coming into 2011 looked like this:
Games:30, Games Started: 9
Att - Comp - Int - Comp.%: 395 - 213 - 18 - 53.9%
Yds - TD: 2,643 - 18
These are OK, but hardly what is needed for an undefeated season in the toughest conference in America, especially the 18-18 INT-to-TD ratio. There were reasons he couldn't beat out Jefferson for the top spot.
- The Tigers opened the season in Dallas against #3 Oregon and won 40-27 with Lee completing only 10-of-22 but with 1 TD and 0 INT.
- Two weeks later, LSU began league play with a trip to #25 Mississippi State. Again, Lee managed the O competently and the D, which was expected to be very good but was playing even better than anticipated, shut down the Maroons 19-6.
- #16 West Virginia awaited the Tigers in Morgantown. LSU not ony won but won convincingly, 47-21. Golden had written on this site before the season: "If LSU is 4-0 coming out of September, watch out."
- October saw the Tigers win four straight SEC games by a total margin (159-35) that had never been matched in any four consecutive league games in any of LSU's 78 previous SEC seasons. Included were solid vicories over #17 Florida and #20 Auburn. During that period, however, three players, including the Honey Badger, were suspended, allegedly for testing positive for synthetic marijuana. The team didn't miss a beat and refused to allow any distraction to derail their championship express.
- Next came the Game of the Century in Tuscaloosa. Lee reverted to his old form and threw two INTs, forcing the staff to turn to Jefferson more than they planned. Thanks to some egregious coaching errors by the Alabama staff and shoddy special teams play by the Tide, LSU took the game into OT where they won 9-6.
- After easy wins over Western Kentucky and Ole Miss with Jefferson restored to the starting position, the Tigers took on #3 Arkansas. After falling behind 14-0, the Bengals rallied behind Mathieu's punt return TD to win going away 41-17.
- That brought LSU face-to-face with #16 Georgia in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. Again, the Tiger O started slowly, not recording a first down in the first half. But the staff rallied the troops for a dominating second half to win 42-10.
The Tigers' reward for this sensational season was a return match with Alabama.
- There aren't many coaches who can defeat a very good opponent twice in the same season. LSU's Paul Dietzel couldn't do it against Ole Miss after the 1959 season. Ditto Nebraska's Tom Osborne against Oklahoma in 1979. Bobby Bowden of Florida State couldn't do it against Florida in 1996.
- The 21-0 loss in the Superdome resurrected the Miles-haters in droves. The loss negated in their minds the wonderful 13-0 season. As Bobby Bowden said in frustration when his team lost yet again to Miami to prevent any chance of winning the national championship, "The only big games are the ones you lose."
- But by any objective standard, Miles did an extraordinary job of coaching in 2012. Yes, he had a talented team, but you don't go 13-0 just with talent unless you're playing an easy schedule. He kept the team together and focused after so many distractions.
- In fact, you could say that 2011 culminated an excellent four-year string when Miles had to compete in the SEC with inconsistent QBs after he dismissed Ryan Perrilloux from the team. LSU won 8, 9, 11, and 13 games in those years.
2. The end of LSU's 2011-12 season was payback for the way the 2007-8 campaign ended.
- LSU's 2007 regular season ended with Arkansas S Matterral Richardson intercepting Matt Flynn's 2-point conversion pass to seal the Hogs' 50-48 triple OT victory in Tiger Stadium. CBS announcer Vern Lundquist intoned: "The dream dies for LSU."
- LSU's second triple OT loss while ranked #1 that season dropped them to #7 in the second-to-last BCS rankings.
- The Tigers still won the SEC West and beat Tennessee 21-14 in the championship game with backup Ryan Perrilloux replacing the injured Flynn under C. As SEC champ, the Tigers were guaranteed a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
- However, some strange events happened later that day.
- #1 Missouri (11-1) lost in the Big 12 Championship Game to Oklahoma, 38-17.
- #2 West Virginia (10-1), a 28-point favorite, lost its QB Pat White in Q2 and was upset at home by Pittsburgh, 13-9.
- #3 Ohio State (11-1), #4 Georgia (10-2), and #5 Kansas (11-1) were idle.
- #6 Virginia Tech (10-2) defeated Boston College 30-16 in the ACC Championship Game.
- As a result, Ohio State finished #1 in the final BCS standings, and LSU vaulted to #2.
- Given another chance at the BCS championship, the Tigers dispatched the Buckeyes 38-24 in the Superdome.
The contrast with 2011 is obvious.
- The Tigers started #1 in the first BCS rankings on October 16 and stayed there the entire season, ending with three straight weeks of perfect 1.000 rankings, meaning they received all first place votes in the two human polls and were #1 in every computer ranking - a feat that never happened since the BCS began in 1998.
- But this time the football gods smiled on Alabama in the final poll. Despite not even winning the SEC West, Bama finished #2 at .9471 over Oklahoma State's .9231. The computers had the Cowboys a solid #2 but enough human voters put the Crimson Tide second to give them the edge. To further indicate how Fate intervened for Nick Saban, OSU's lone loss came on the road in OT at Iowa State less than 24 hours after an airplane crash killed two of the Cowboys' women's basketball coaches.
- Alabama was the only other team that was anywhere close to LSU in talent and probably was more talented. With all the psychological edge in their favor, the Tide dominated the Tigers in the rematch for the BCS Championship.
1. LSU had a better 2011 season than Alabama or any other FBS school.
- LSU finished 13-1, Alabama 12-1.
- LSU beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
- LSU's non-conference schedule was much stronger:
LSU: Oregon, Northwestern State, West Virginia, Western Kentucky
Alabama: Kent State, Penn State, North Texas, Georgia Southern
The strength of schedule explains why LSU finished #1 in the final Golden Football Rankings even after losing the BCS Championship Game.
- Most of all, LSU accomplished much more winning the SEC championship, going 9-0 in the conference, than Alabama did in winning the BCS championship, which entailed winning a rematch game in which the Tide had all the advantages.
Don't Be Surprised If ...
All these predictions were posted before the 2012 college and NFL seasons began.
5. Don't be surprised if the Saints' streak of three straight seasons with double-digit wins ends.
- I'm not as confident as many writers - especially the local writers - who think the Saints will do just fine without Sean Payton. The NFL is too tough a league to expect to make the playoffs without your leader and, for the first six games, your leader's top assistant.
- Payton won't be present in the game-planning meetings and, even more importantly, won't be on the sidelines calling just the right play at the right time to make the difference in a close contest.
- He won't be there late in the season when the team is dragging and needs a lift or a kick in the butt.
- They can mount the biggest poster possible of Sean overlooking the practice field, but it just stands to reason that, without him there day after day nagging, pushing, disciplining, that the team will be lucky to go 9-7.
- Yes, Drew Brees leads the O, but his burden is doubled without his alter ego Sean. The pressure on Drew will increase as the season progresses, causing him to press and make mistakes at crucial moments.
4. Don't be surprised if the winner of the Oregon-USC game has to face the same challenge as LSU in 2011 and beat the loser again in order to compete for the BCS Championship.
- The Ducks visit the Trojans November 3. That, of course, is the day of the LSU-Alabama clash. It will be a huge surprise if both those games do not have huge BCS implications.
- Unlike the Tigers and Tide in the SEC, Oregon and USC are in opposite divisions of the Pac-12. And both are heavily favored to win their divisions and meet again in the conference championship game, which is held at the stadium of the team with the better conference record. So the winner November 3 will likely host on December 2.
- The only other Pac-12 squad in the Top 25 of either preseason poll is Stanford (#21 in AP and #18 in USA Today). The Trojans play in Palo Alto September 15 while Ducks host the Cardinal November 17.
- Neither Oregon nor USC has a dangerous non-conference foe on their slates: Arkansas State, Fresno State, and Tennessee Tech for the Ducks, and Hawaii, Syracuse, and Notre Dame for the Men of Troy. Of those six teams, only Fighting Irish are ranked (#24 in USA Today). Also, the only one of the six games that is not at either Eugene or Los Angeles is USC-Syracuse at the Meadowlands NJ.
3. Don't be surprised if the Jets jettison Rex Ryan after the 2012 season.
- In fact, don't be surprised if Sexy Rexy doesn't make it to the end of the season.
- He recorded a 9-7 record in 2009, his first season as a head coach, and the Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game.
- They repeated that act the following year when they were 11-5 in the regular season.
- Last year, they slumped to 8-8, losing their last three to miss the playoffs.
- Now the Jets have brought in Tim Tebow to add to the excitement - and controversy - in the Big Apple. A QB controversy requires a head coach who can manage people well, and Ryan hasn't shown he can do that.
- QB Mark Sanchez is psychologically fragile. You don't help his confidence by bringing in Tebow.
- Rex doesn't stifle controversy; he fuels it. His act is already wearing thin with the players and his bosses, and anything less than a strong playoff run will wear out his welcome.
2. Don't be surprised if no SEC team goes undefeated.
- LSU already faced a tough road even with the Honey Badger to finish 13-0 for the second straight season:
Four SEC road games, any of which could result in a loss if you play poorly: Florida, Auburn, Texas A&M, Arkansas
Two tough SEC home games: South Carolina and Alabama
And, if you emerge from those games undefeated, you have the East champion in the title game - possibly Georgia or a rematch with South Carolina or Florida.
And the Tigers must navigate that dangerous course with a QB who has the physical tools but has never started an SEC game.
What are the odds of any team going 13-0 two straight years?
- Let's look at the other candidates:
Alabama lost most of its D starters and has two challenging road games at Arkansas and LSU.
And Missouri will be fired up when it hosts the Tide on October 13. Furthermore, the bi-annual trip to Knoxville won't be a picnic since Tennessee returns 18 starters and has QB Tyler Bray healthy after he missed five games in 2011 with a broken thumb.
It's entirely possible that the Big Three in the West defeat each other in a triangle such as Alabama over Arkansas, LSU over Alabama, and Arkansas over LSU.
And do you really expect an East Division team to go undefeated? Georgia has the best shot since the Bulldogs, like last year, do not play LSU, Alabama, or Arkansas.
- In fact, don't be surprised if no team in college football goes undefeated in 2012. The last time that happened was 2003.
1. Don't be surprised if Boise State's streak of six straight seasons of double-digit wins comes to an end in 2012.
Here's the Broncos' records during that time.
Boise returns just seven starters (only two on D) for their second and final season in the Mountain West Conference before moving to the Big East. More importantly, they lose Kellen Moore, the all-time winningest QB in FBS history.
BSU's 2012 non-conference schedule looks like this:
@Michigan State, Miami (OH), Brigham Young, @Southern Miss
The days of sneaking up on non-conference opponents are long over. If the Broncos do make ten wins, it will be Chris Petersen's best coaching job in seven years at the helm.
I started following SEC football so long ago (60 years) that ...
- Mississippi State was known as the "Maroons."
- Auburn was known as the "Plainsmen."
- Tulane and Georgia Tech were still members of the SEC.
- Paul Dietzel hadn't come to LSU yet.
- Tiger Stadium was U-shaped (no south end zone stands) and sat 45,000, which still made it one of the largest stadiums in the conference.
- Bear Bryant hadn't yet returned to his "mother," Alabama, to coach.
- Most all college football teams were lily white. Those teams from the Northeast that were integrated had only a handful of African-American players (a term that was not used at that time; they were simply "black players").
- The NCAA had reestablished limited substitution after loosening the rule during World War II because of a shortage of players.
- College football on television consisted of one game each Saturday - scheduled before the season began and coming from a different conference each week, including the Ivy League.
- There were only five bowls: the Gator Bowl the Saturday before New Year's Day and the Orange, Sugar, Cotton, and Rose Bowls on January 1.