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Hobbs: LSU should look to past for how to finish season off

Last Modified: Thursday, November 08, 2012 8:10 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

It only took nine games into the season, but here it is:

“I think there’s an understanding that we’re a good football team,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I think Saturday (against Alabama), in certain ways, proved that.”

And this:

“If they play like that in the next game, I will be happy,” Miles said.

So, let me get this straight, LSU will spend the next three weeks trying to replicate the effort, execution and vigor it got during an excruciating loss?

Works for me.

I think what Miles is saying is that the Tigers just had the rotten luck to be playing the only team in America that could have beaten them when finally at the top of their game.

But LSU is in an odd spot here. The Tigers got the game their fans have been waiting on, played to their talented potential, ironed out some kinks and finally delivered the Zach Mettenberger who had been promised all summer on the same night when a loss snatched away most of the worthier goals they aspired to when the season started.

Their reference point from here on out will be a game they lost.

Where were those Tigers a month ago? If they want to kick themselves — and don’t fake it this time — it should be for losing to Florida.

Anyway, it’s always tricky when you start downsizing your goals.

Oh, coaches and players alike are saying all the right things this week, but what do you expect them to say? That they put all their eggs in the Alabama game and the season is pretty well shot now?

That’s Miles’ biggest project this week, not to mention getting them to pay attention to a Mississippi State team that they haven’t quite been able to lose to even with occasional lackluster efforts.

LSU has had good games and bad against the Bulldogs, but has won 19 of the last 20, and it would be 20 straight if instant-replay review had been in effect for the 1999 game.

So, what exactly are they playing for now?

“Can we end up in a BCS bowl? It certainly seems like it’s a possibility,” Miles said. “Should things change significantly on the perimeter, that would certainly give us an opportunity.”

Allow me to translate into standard English.

I would assume this “perimeter” he speaks of would be in Florida.

Basically, the LSU-BCS scenario, most likely for the Sugar Bowl, centers around Florida losing to Florida State (or, if you will, the Gators could lose to UL-Lafayette this week) and might still need Alabama to put a really embarrassing tattoo on Georgia in the SEC championship game.

It would also hinge on LSU steaming through the remainder of the schedule looking like the team that scared Alabama to death last week — minus the coaching hijinks — and cleaning up the finish.

Or you could get really dreamy-eyed and I can get you LSU in the SEC championship game if Texas A&M beats Alabama and then the Tide loses to, ahem, Auburn. It involves a three-way tie, and it would indeed put LSU in, but, trust me, it also involves an Auburn victory, so it’s not worth getting a headache over the high math involved.

Beyond that, LSU is probably looking at one of the upper-crust Florida bowls.

Dallas would be better.

The Cotton Bowl, however, is reportedly is trying to finagle a way to hook up Texas A&M and Texas (kicking and screaming) for their should-be-a-BCS bowl, and surely LSU wouldn’t want to stand in the way of something that much fun.

Besides, the Tigers will open next season in the Jerry World stadium against TCU.

But Miles has also done some of his better work once goals were readjusted.

If LSU still isn’t sure what it wants to be when this season grows up, it could take some examples from the fairly recent past.

They could be the 2006 Tigers, who might have actually been better than either of LSU recent national championship teams.

Certainly they were every bit as talented.

But LSU lost two games. It lost to Auburn because the coaching staff was apparently unaware (until it was too late, like late in the fourth quarter) that they had three first-round NFL picks at the wide receiver spots and the No. 1 overall pick at quarterback. And JaMarcus Russell was not yet an NFL bust when the Stone Age game plan kept him under wraps that day.

The Tigers also lost to Florida, the eventual national champion, despite thoroughly outplaying the Gators. That day, believe me, the Tigers had far more problems with Murphy’s Law than with anything Florida was up to.

By the time LSU got through toying with Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, the Tigers looked for all the world like an argument for the best team in the country and would have loved a mulligan against the crystal-toting Gators.

That’s football.

Or this year’s team could end up being the 2010 Tigers.

That team also lost two games, one to Cam Newton (Auburn otherwise had only minimal input) and one to Arkansas (not LSU’s most well-oiled performance). But by the time the Tigers demolished Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, they surely looked like the team to beat for the next year.

And were.

Both of those teams, in fact, used a strong finishing kick to end up the BCS championship game the following seasons.

Just something to think about.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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