Hobbs: Being top cat is nice, but it is still early

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2005

MORGANTOWN, W.V. — OK, if nothing else, can we finally put to bed the wayward notion that LSU doesn’t get any respect nationally.

I say the next Tiger fan to whine about it — or even mention it on a message board — gets his couch burned and his flask confiscated.

Also, be careful what you ask for.

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Head coach Les Miles certainly didn’t politick to be No. 1 in these United States. In fact he acted like, for now at least, the top ranking could have just as soon flown right over Baton Rouge and it would have been just fine by him.

But a third win in four weeks away from home against a jacked-up, ranked opponent, two of them in hostile environments, was apparently too much to ignore, the lastest an oddball of a 47-21 victory over No. 16 West Virginia.

At any rate, by Sunday morning national television was filled with talking heads falling over themselves to proclaim LSU this year’s “it” team while also deciding there’s some mercurial method to the Mad Hatter’s occasional madness.

A lot of voters must have agreed with them.

So tell me again about how LSU gets no respect.

Oklahoma and Alabama, two of the real blue bloods of college football, got passed over in the process.

Oklahoma, which went on the road to beat Florida State last week, must be wondering what in the world it did wrong in beating Missouri 38-28.

And what of Alabama, which has been flip-flopping with LSU for the No. 2 spot all season? The Tide had to be pretty satisfied with a 38-14 beatdown of Arkansas. Holding the high-octane Hog offense to 14 points is every bit as impressive as LSU holding West Virginia’s beep-beep attack to 21 points. Especially since the Tide didn’t give up a gazillion yards in the process.

Apparently, it’s LSU’s world now, whether its fans want to admit it or not.

But anybody still clinging to outdated notions of this perceived lack of national respect for LSU, anybody still annoyed over the national media fawning over Nick Saban and the Oklahomas of the world, they weren’t at The Varsity here watching a Saturday afternoon of televised football unfold while limbering up for the late-night main event across the street at West Virginia’s Milan Puskar Stadium.

Most every school has a “Varsity” somewhere near campus — most also have a “Library” that isn’t particularly conversant with the Dewey Decimal system — a nonchalant eatery catering to the non-scholastic needs of the student body.

This one, like most, gets taken over by alums and visiting fans on game day, and this one was a happy mix of bright yellow and still brighter yellow as Tigers and Mountaineers sized each other up.

A few hours later, Miles would be amazed at the atmosphere his team trotted into, a zany cauldron imploring the Mountaineers to daring deeds while heckling everything purple.

“When the crowd got jacked when we came onto the field, I knew we could play,” said Miles afterwards with a certain defiant relish. “I knew our guys would show up.

“We understand the routine, (that it’s) going to be close, a hostile environment. We get enthused because the opponent makes noise.”

The Tigers were ready for the challenge — they usually are, enjoying the special attention as it were.

Fortunately for Miles, though, the LSU varsity was not at The Varsity, else the Tigers might have gotten a bloated sense of security for the night ahead.

No respect?

LSU’s visit was treated like the Royal Wedding was coming to Morgantown, which is a little off the beaten path.

But the outnumbered Tiger fans in attendance came away disappointed if they were trying to pick a taunt.

There were no couches and lighter fluid outside, one Mountaineer said, not because they were afraid of the city ordinance prohibiting it, but because they didn’t really expect a reason to burn any of them, which evidently is quite a popular local tradition.

Indeed, as the two sets of fans mingled, the most common refrain was something like “I hope you guys take it easy on us” or “that defense is going to kill us.”

Or … “I just hope we don’t get embarrassed.”

Sounds like plenty of respect to me, especially from a fan base far enough removed as to not pay particular attention.

But back to the singular question: Does LSU really want to be No. 1, like right now?

It’s not unheard of for No. 1 to win and still get leap-frogged, even if it’s Oklahoma.

But now that the year’s rules have been established, could it be setting up as a free-for-all like the 2007, when seemingly everybody got a chance to be No. 1.

The most popular pasttime that season was knocking off No. 1 and then tearing down the goal posts.

LSU got two shots at it, and each time held on to the top ranking for as long as 15 or 20 minutes.

Yeah, it worked out fine in the end, with LSU holding it when it counted.

But it’s way too early in the season to be starting that kind of foolishness again.