Scooter Hobbs column: Can’t explain CFP’s love of LSU

Published 9:00 am Friday, November 25, 2022

Just to get the obligatory holiday reference out of the way early here — or a day late as it were — LSU surely has a lot to be thankful for today as it boards a charter jet for Saturday night’s game at Texas A&M.

Certainly a lot more than the most optimistic of Tigers could have ever dreamed of a month or so ago.

And that’s about as far as I’m willing to milk that angle. I promise. No turkey leftovers will be popping up in the following paragraphs.

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But, back to LSU, there’s a general rule of thumb for college football success and it goes something like this: if you’re annoying an awful lot of people, you’re probably on to something good.

If that’s the accepted standard, the Tigers are flying high right now.

Just put your ear to the ground. Feel the grumblings. Much of college football, particularly the normally aloof and docile California branch, seems to be up in arms that the Tigers — they have dropped the “Fighting” modifier and now answer to the Two-Loss Tigers — came in at No. 5 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings.

The uproar seems to be that LSU is as overrated as cranberry sauce (oops, sorry; won’t happen again).

But, all the worse, they say, this seemingly gives the Tigers a clear(er) path to land one of the top four spots when all the dust and stuff settles. Which is all that really matters.

It comes with several caveats, the biggest being that LSU has to win out, which would mean not only beating Texas A&M, but also upsetting clear No. 1 Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta.

But LSU will take that deal no questions asked. No matter who it ticks off.

Best I can tell nobody would be squawking if LSU and No. 6 Southern Cal were to switch spots, moving the One-Loss Trojans to No. 5 in the on-deck circle.

The haters’ gripe — if indeed they have one — should not be with LSU, but with the selection committee.

The Tigers were minding their own business, preparing for Texas A&M, when the good word came down.

This isn’t Louisiana politics at work — nobody on the selection committee got bribed, least that can even be suspected at the moment.

The committee chairman, North Carolina State Athletic Director Eugene “Boo” Corrigan, explained that “the overall strength of schedule for LSU drove the day,” mainly victories over Alabama and Ole Miss.

He added that the committee wanted to “see a little more” from USC’s defense in a 48-45 flag-football victory over UCLA last week. Apparently the group was slow to get the memo that defense is still optional in the Pac-12.

It sounded good to LSU, though.

Meanwhile, the Two-Loss Tigers stroll — tiptoe, really — whistling past that committee conference room hoping no one will notice that they got beat by Florida State (when neither played very well) and that it lost by 27 full points to the same Tennessee team that last week conveniently stepped aside to further clear up LSU’s path.

Of course, for the rankings it’s a long-standing policy dating to the BCS days that margins of victory aren’t allowed into the conversation, lest sportsmanship become as obsolete as the direct center snap.

They apparently do have some newfangled comparison (to me at least) called “control of game.” Now I would love for someone from the committee to define that rascal and explain the formula in some plain English. Mainly how, bottom line, it differs from a margin of victory.

Yet it seems to somehow work in LSU’s favor, along with the suspicion that, two losses or not, the committee would not dare leave out the SEC champion.

I’m not sure where in the CFP bylaws that is specified, probably not at all, probably not even a gentlemen’s agreement.

But it may be what has the West Coast on edge right now.

Now if the committee was to haul LSU before its tribunal, it might just ask the Tigers if they really think they’re one of the four best teams in America and … well, LSU could probably, after some squirming, white-lie its way past that one.

Still, if you read between the lines, the tone of the committee’s message seems to be that it will all work itself out over the next two weeks.

They’re probably right. It probably will. It generally does, no matter how much the bystanders root for total chaos and a CFP meltdown.

This “clear path” that LSU has detected — after somebody loses Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan game — still leaves LSU with a lot of work to do, much of it heavy lifting.

There’s no rule that USC couldn’t jump LSU even if the Tigers do somehow win out.

So the LSU faction finds itself in the odd spot of rooting for Notre Dame — the team its coach Brian Kelly left behind last year — to beat Southern Cal on Saturday.

Tell me college football isn’t a wonderful thing.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at