Scooter Hobbs column: Gotta be better than last year
Published 10:00 am Friday, September 1, 2023
Me, I’m wondering what all the fuss is about.
In a morbid sort of way.
Yeah, I get it. LSU and Florida State is the biggest, most hyped-up matchup of the season-opening weekend, which heralds the start of a season that will be the end of college football as we always knew it.
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Next year everything will be different — and not for the better, it says here, although I’ll spare you another rant on that subject.
So this is must-see TV, some would call it, because it’s two teams this early in the season that have enticing, if unproven, rankings attached to their brands, No. 5 for LSU, No. 8 for Florida State.
It’s the lone top-10 matchup of the long weekend, with a nationwide viewing audience all to themselves. The two quarterbacks, LSU’s Jayden Daniels and FSU’s Travis Jordan, might use it as a springboard for serious Heisman Trophy consideration on the odd chance that Southern Cal’s Caleb Williams gets traded to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers in October.
Whoopee. Probably worth bringing in popcorn for.
So, why in the world do the TV promos keep shouting at us about the “thrilller” these two teams engaged in last season (when neither was even ranked), also to open the season? Football at its best, they insinuate, right down to the game’s final play.
False advertising is all that is.
What were they watching?
It did come down the game’s final play, which ended it, as only it could have ended, with a blocked LSU extra point. It spared the nation an overtime session for a gag that already been milked too far.
But LSU had the edges blocked to perfection on the extra point while the FSU team portrait pulled a fast one and rushed up the middle.
I guess it was Florida State 24, LSU 23.
Yeah, that game was entertaining — entertaining in a whoopie cushion and pie-in-the-face sort of way. People have trouble looking away from car wrecks, too.
It kept TV viewers around for the ending, probably just to see what either team might step in next. Or both, as it turned out.
If you had been within ear shot of this foxhole the day after, you’d have read the words “Disappointing. Undisciplined. Disconcerting. Hard to watch. Awful. Eye sore.”
Granted, both teams went on to better things, hence the buildup for this game. The winner is automatically in the conversation for the College Football Playoff. The loser — and this is the beauty of these meaningful season openers, which will eventually fall victim to this new age — has time to recover.
But the simple truth is neither team played very well that night a year ago. They kind of stunk up the Superdome (with fitful breakouts of entertainment). Neither looked as if they’d sniff the 10 wins both ended up with.
If the Tigers weren’t getting kicks blocked left and right, they were muffing punts all over creation. Florida State played along with timely fumbles.
The Tigers, without benefit of an offensive line, were reduced to a playground offense that mostly had Daniels running for his life, while often stumbling onto long gains at opportune moments. LSU’s best play was the broken play.
And oh, that ending. LSU had no business having that chance at the end, especially after one final muffed punt gave the Seminoles the ball at point-blank range. But FSU played along and fumbled it right back, setting up LSU for the 99-yard drive that ended with an untimed touchdown to pull within one point.
And that’s when new LSU head coach Brian Kelly, with a chance to steal the game, not only went for the extra-point kick for the tie, the whole bonfire quickly escalated when said kick was blocked for the loss.
There was an epidemic of buyer’s remorse in Louisiana and a lot of the afflicted wondered if this smooth–talking Yankee really belonged in their insane asylum.
Truth was, neither Kelly nor FSU’s Mike Norvell put on a coaching clinic that night.
But both moved on. Maybe it was flashbacks of that FSU ending that, later in the year, reminded Kelly that, yes, of course go for the 2-pointer in a near identical do-or-die scenario to beat Alabama in overtime.
Now that was a classic game.
LSU-Florida State hardly seemed like a game demanding a rematch.
But don’t let me discourage you. That doesn’t mean the sequel won’t be two tons of fun to watch.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org