Instant Analysis - Oct. 3
LSU 20 ... at Georgia 13
They are ranked No. 4.
We should've all known that LSU was going to pull
this off when no one was predicting a Tiger
win, and we should all remember that nebulous
concepts like emotion and being "dissed" play into
college football more than any other sport when
looking at next week's showdown against Florida.
The Tiger defensive line came up with its best
performance of the year against the Dawgs, and the
offensive line did just enough to get by, opening up
the holes when absolutely needed to help the running
game amass 156 yards. This might have been a shaky
performance down the stretch, and this is still as
iffy a fourth-ranked team as they come, but LSU is
3-0 in SEC play with a win at Georgia to hang its
hat on, and it has an opening day win over
Washington in Seattle that looks a whole bunch
better now than it did a few weeks ago.
Maybe this is one of those teams that simply finds
ways to get it done. The talent level is there,
there are several future NFL players on both sides
of the ball, and the coaching staff knows how to win
big games. If nothing else, next Saturday night is
going to be lots and lots of fun.
Are you satisfied with LSU at No. 4 in the country now?
After having to hear all week that they might not be worthy of such a lofty ranking, the Tigers went out and delivered a gut-check win over Georgia, their first in Athens in more than two decades. No, it was not pretty. This team just might not be capable of many works of art this fall. However, it was a road win over a ranked SEC opponent, and that has to count for plenty. The defense is nasty, holding the Dawgs well below their season scoring average. The offense? Well, it’s a work-in-progress, but maybe Charles Scott’s explosion for the win will prove to be a spark going forward. The unit needs it.
LSU obviously has talent, and now it’s learning how to win close games and endure even on off days. That kind of perseverance is critical for any team with weighty goals. And now here comes Florida, unsure about the status of its leader and looking to protect its top ranking. If you had trouble wrapping your arms around No. 4 LSU, how will you react if its No. 1? It could take a night loss in Baton Rouge, which rarely happens, to keep the Tigers from moving into the pole position at the halfway point of the 2009 season.
1) Les Miles’s game management instincts haven’t changed. That’s not a good thing. Les Miles’s leadership of his team hasn’t changed. That’s a great thing. LSU’s hit-and-miss fortunes with quarterback play haven’t changed. That’s a mixed blessing. LSU’s athleticism still exists at a pretty high level. That’s an obvious blessing. What has changed for this program, then? Well, let’s chat after Florida comes to Baton Rouge next weekend. Any win at Georgia speaks for itself, but we still don’t know LSU’s identity, except for the fact that with Les Miles at the helm, the ride is always thrilling and fun.
2) Apparently, this SEC officiating crew didn’t get the memo after an absurd celebration penalty was called against Jake Locker last year, following his late touchdown in the Washington-BYU game. If a player is celebrating with his teammates or not taunting the opposition, let it go. This isn’t 1984, or at least, it’s not supposed to be. Players shouldn’t be enmeshed in an Orwellian novel. They should be able to have a little fun on the field. What a concept, right? Why do we keep having to revisit the same pronounced and abject failures on the part of officiating crews? Football IS a game of emotion. The sport requires a considerable amount of intensity. Fans have been known to create a juiced-up gameday atmosphere. Fourth-quarter pressure raises the temperature inside a stadium. And officials are acting the part of the thought police? Unacceptable, intolerable and inexcusable.
With fewer than three minutes remaining in Saturday’s LSU-Georgia game, an impromptu tribute to the AFL broke out, with the teams trading touchdowns, crazy plays and a wild ending. All that was missing was an early network breakaway for “Heidi.” In the end, LSU preserved its perfection and set up a huge game next week in Baton Rouge with Florida by having the last say and taking advantage of Georgia’s inability to handle its prosperity. The Tigers are a shaky 5-0, but they are 5-0, and in this season where top-10 teams seem to relish the opportunity to get upset, that’s quite an accomplishment. They survived in Athens by overcoming a weak third period and answering whatever the Bulldogs did with big plays and clutch performances of their own. They host the Gators next week with a chance to establish their SEC primacy and to prove that they are a true national title contender. Give credit to QB Jordan Jefferson for his poise late and celebrate an LSU ground game that got it done when it had to. As for Georgia, there is no ignominy in losing to a team of LSU’s caliber but to do so in a such a dramatic manner, giving up the late touchdown and getting burned by an excessive celebration penalty is going to sting for quite a while.