Tagged with "LSU"
Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Notre Dame
Category: NCAA
Tags: ALABAMA BILL ARNSPARGER DALTON HILLIARD GERRY DINARDO LSU NOTRE DAME OLE MISS PENN ST. STEVE BEUERLEIN TEXAS TIM BROWN TOMMY HODSON USC
LSU graphic for the 1984 game.

LSU graphic for the 1984 game.

Apologies for not posting this here sooner.† Things have been kind of crazy with relatives and so forth.† I've done all my family stuff after Christmas this year.

This doesnít exactly fit the ďrivalryĒ theme, but thatís what I decided to call blogs of this type.

There is a fair number of Notre Dame fans in Louisiana because of the Catholic population, so there always seems to be a fair amount of excitement over these games since the winner may have bragging rights for a while. I apologize in advance if this blog isnít up to my usual standards. It was mostly written on an airplane, and Iím using an unfamiliar computer.

Tuesdayís game will be only the second meeting since 1998. In just over a year's time, the Tigers had faced the Irish three times, winning only one. Apart from 2006 and 1981, all the other games were in groups of at least two, so Iíll do those together.

The series is tied, 5-5. LSU has won the only two ďneutralĒ site games, but both were in Louisiana. LSUís only win at Notre Dame was in 1985.

2006 (Sugar Bowl) Ė LSU 41, Notre Dame 14

The 2006 game (in the Sugar Bowl) was interesting, at least it was an interesting match-up going into the game. LSU didnít win the SEC, but what had kept them from the title game was the loss to eventual national champions florida (whose berth in the championship opened up the Sugar) in the regular season. They also lost to auburn in a bizarre 7-3 game marred with officiating disputes.

Notre Dame entered that year with one of its strongest teams since the early í90s. Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija led a very productive offense. Though neither Quinn nor LSU quarterback Jamarcus Russell amounted to much, they generated a lot of buzz for the NFL draft. Russell would be the #1 draft pick a few months later.

The game was competitive for a half, but LSU looked to be the stronger team all along. They just didnít translate that into points as well in the first half. LSU won going away, 41-14.

When LSU won the national championship in 2007, it was remarkable not only for the two losses that season but also for the fact that so much talent had gone to the NFL after the previous season.

1997 Ė Notre Dame 24, @LSU 6
1997 (Independence Bowl) Ė LSU 27, Notre Dame 9
1998 Ė @Notre Dame 39, LSU 36

LSU had a fairly good year in 1997, going 9-3, but they had a miserable time with the Irish on a rainy November day (not night) at Tiger Stadium. They got revenge when the Irish came back to Louisiana, this time to Shreveport for the independence bowl. Neither game was close.

The bottom fell out for LSU in the next two years. Gerry DiNardoís tenure, which had started with a 29-9-1 record, ended with a thud. The Tigers only won 3 of the last 18 games he coached.

There were a number of close losses to good teams in there though, and the Irish were one of them in 1998. LSU took a 34-20 lead with 8 minutes to go in the third quarter. The Irish responded by scoring late in the third, and then LSU had a chance to go back up by 14 in the fourth. On second down from the Notre dame 17, LSUís Herb Tyler threw to the wrong team, and the Irish ran it all the way back. There was some hope when LSU blocked the extra point, but this didnít matter when Notre Dame scored the go-ahead touchdown with just under 90 seconds to go in the game. When the Irish won by three points (after intentionally taking a safety), it was the fifth loss that season alone to a bowl-eligible team by less than a touchdown.

1984 Ė Notre Dame 30, @LSU 22
1985 Ė LSU 10, @Notre Dame 7
1986 Ė @LSU 21, Notre Dame 19

There were three competitive games in the mid-1980s. That may not have been the case in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Tigers began their worst stretch in recent memory and the Irish were competing for national championships.

Following a three-game losing streak in 1984 (Bill arnspargerís first year at LSU), Notre Dame went on the road to upset a 7th-ranked LSU team that would eventually go to the Sugar Bowl. The Irish would not lose again until the Aloha Bowl.

After a disastrous loss at home in the third game in 1985, LSU went undefeated the rest of the regular season. The week after Alabama, the Tigers had a close call against Mississippi St., but they still entered the game against the Irish at 6-1-1 and ranked #17 in the country. After starting a respectable 5-3, Notre Dame lost to Penn State (who would finish 11-1) the week before hosting LSU.

Notre Dame took the lead just over 5 minutes into the game but would not score again the rest of the way. Still, the Irish held onto a 7-3 lead until late in the fourth quarter. With about 7 minutes left, an LSU drive stalled just a few yards into Notre Dame territory. After a 38-yard punt, the Irish took over at the 6 and went nowhere. This defensive stand allowed LSU to pick up roughly where they had left off on offense.

On a third and one (after a 9-yard run by LSU QB Jeff Wickersham), LSU took a gamble with a throw to running back Dalton Hilliard (uncle of current LSU running back Kenny Hilliard), who went down the sidelines for an 18-yard gain. Wickersham made another throw of 21 yards to get LSU into scoring position. After two runs, LSU took the lead 10-7 with about 3:30 to play.

After Notre Dame drove 25 yards to their own 48, Irish quarterback Steve Beuerleinís pass was tipped. The Tigers came up with it and were able to run out the clock.

LSU made the Liberty Bowl after that season, where they lost to Baylor.

The Tigers would have a similar record going into the 1986 game against Notre Dame, this time playing the Irish at home. LSU was ranked #8, and Notre Dame was again unranked and headed toward a 5-6 finish.

Another close game ensued. This time LSU was first on the board with a touchdown after about 5 minutes of play, but Notre Dameís Tim Brown took the kickoff back 96 yards to tie the game. LSU took the lead back after an 82-yard drive of 8:47. There was no scoring again until Notre Dame closed to 14-10 with about 6 minutes left in the third quarter. That score took place after Notre Dame converted a 3rd and 14. LSU would have had a stop on that down when it was first tried, but an LSU facemask offset a Notre Dame clipping penalty.

On LSUís next play from scrimmage, Tommy Hodson threw an interception, which was returned to the LSU 2. The Irish gained a yard on first down but went no further, and the ball went over on downs when Brown was tackled for a loss on fourth down. The following LSU drive was a three and out, and Notre Dame then drove to the LSU 13 with six running plays and only one pass. The Irish then went backwards but they converted a 44-yard field goal attempt to get within 1.

LSU used a mix of running and passing to drive 79 yards in 11 plays. The Tigers only faced one third down on the drive, a 3rd and 3 from the Notre Dame 28.

Notre Dameís next drive ended in a turnover, but LSU did nothing with it. The LSU defense could do little to stop the Irish from driving down the field in just seven plays for a touchdown. They stopped the two-point conversion though, and the Irish did not get the ball again.

1981 Ė @Notre Dame 27, LSU 9

Two awful teams played in 1981. LSU would only win three games that season, which is probably best remembered for ending with a humiliating 48-7 defeat at the hands of Tulane. Notre dame would finish 5-6 but they probably looked good momentarily in a 27-9 win at home.

1970 Ė @Notre Dame 3, LSU 0
1971 Ė @LSU 28, Notre Dame 8

What first inspired the Irish and Tigers to square off was the end of the 1969 season. LSU had only one loss, by two points to Archie manningís ole miss rebels, and was hoping for a Cotton Bowl invite to play undefeated Texas and had declined other howl opportunities. Notre Dame, which had declined all bowl invitations since 1924, decided at the last minute they wanted to play Texas instead. They lost 21-17.

Notre Dame would only lose to two schools in the next two seasons, USC and LSU. The Irish did beat LSU at home, 3-0, in 1970. After a scoreless struggle, LSU had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but their field goal attempt from the 17 was blocked. The Tigers kept Notre Dame from scoring on the next drive but were pinned at their own 1 afterward. Notre Dame then took over at the LSU 36. Interference was called on LSU on the first play from scrimmage, and Notre Dame drove 10 more yards before the winning field goal with only 2:54 to play.

LSU went 9-3 in both 1970 and 1971. In the 1970 bowl season, LSU lost to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, and Notre Dame got revenge over Texas in the Cotton.

In the 1971 game, LSU had lost to both Ole Miss and Alabama in the previous few weeks, so they took the opportunity to work out their frustrations in a 28-8 win. LSU was #14 AP and #18 in the coachesí poll going into the game. Notre Dame, which had been #7 in both polls before the game, did not go to a bowl that year, while LSU beat Iowa St. in the Sun Bowl.

Prior entries:

Team List:
Alabama (Pregames: 2011, 2013)
Arkansas
Auburn (2010 post-game)
Florida
Georgia
Kentucky
Mississippi St.
Ole Miss
(Steve Spurrier and) South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas A&M

Special editions:
Pac-12

SEC Strength and Potential Bowls
Category: NCAA
Tags: LSU Alabama Arkansas Auburn Georgia Florida MISSISSIPPI ST. MISSOURI OLE MISS SEC SOUTH CAROLINA TENNESSEE TEXAS A&M Kentucky
SEC teams on the map and the 12 likely SEC bowl locations. The gold stars are CFP bowls. An SEC team in such a bowl could also go to Miami (off the map).

SEC teams on the map and the 12 likely SEC bowl locations. The gold stars are CFP bowls. An SEC team in such a bowl could also go to Miami (off the map).

I donít like to post something on the same day as a major game, but the Pac-12 championship doesnít really affect what Iím talking about here. I do think the Pac-12 is pretty strongly the second-best conference, and I believe a 2-loss champion (if Arizona wins) is probably good enough to be in the top four, as I mentioned in my rankings blog. Anyway, my feeling on the conference does not change based on the outcome of that game.

I donít think last weekís SEC losses (all by the East) indicated the SEC West wasnít dominant. As mentioned, Georgia should have won anyway and Georgia Tech will be playing for the ACC title, so thatís not so bad of a result. Florida, Kentucky, and South Carolina registered a combined 0 wins over the SEC West and were playing the other top 4 teams of the ACC. Given their relative position in the SEC, Georgiaís loss was the only one that I felt damaged the SEC overall.

Although it doesnít help in the overall record, I thought it was an encouraging sign that Kentucky, one of only two SEC teams who failed to make a bowl game, got close to beating a very good Louisville team on the road. Had the Wildcats won, they would have qualified for a bowl game as well.

The top three SEC West teams (Alabama, Mississippi St., and Ole Miss) did not lose any games to the SEC East this season. LSU finished tied for fourth (with Auburn) and also did not lose any. The only SEC West teams that lost games outside of the SEC West were the other three teams, and Georgia and Missouri were the only teams in college football to beat any of them.

There were a few really strong out-of-conference wins too. LSU beat Wisconsin, the top team of the Big Ten West (and it wouldnít shock me if the Badgers beat Ohio St.). Auburn, the other team who tied for fourth, beat Kansas St., which could tie for the Big XII by beating Baylor this weekend. Otherwise, they could be used as an argument to put Baylor in the top 4. West Virginia, losers to Alabama, beat Baylor and lost to TCU (another top-4 possibility) by one point. I also donít dismiss Ole Missís win over Boise St.

I still canít explain Missouriís loss to Indiana except that apparently when they play badly they really play badly. They also lost to Georgia 34-0. Thatís a very unusual result for two teams that compete with one another for a division title all year, especially being that the loser of that game won the division and lost no other conference games.

Georgia and Missouri will probably occupy the top two non-CFP Bowls for the SEC, which are the Outback and CapitalOne Bowls.

Most predictions Iíve seen place LSU against an ACC opponent in the Belk Bowl (in Charlotte), the TaxSlayer Bowl (known as the Gator Bowl), or the Music City Bowl. We could have a nice reunion with former SEC West head coaches Bobby Petrino or David Cutcliffe, for instance. Not sure if ďniceĒ and ďPetrinoĒ belong in the same sentence, except in the sense that competitive teams are nice to watch.

The Big XII or Big Ten could also provide an opponent for LSU.

Mark Schlabach of ESPN changed his prediction of the Texas Bowl from Texas vs. Texas A&M (which has been widely predicted) to Texas vs. LSU. I wouldnít have a problem with that as an LSU fan; but as a general fan of the sport, I want to see that Texas/Texas A&M game. Iíd rather have a chance to beat a slightly better team than the Longhorns though. A Longhorn site is saying the SEC wonít allow such a game, but Iíve also heard from many neutral sources over the last couple of years it was Texas putting a stop to any game against the Aggies, so Iím skeptical.

Itís also possible the Gator Bowl could have a Big Ten team. Iíve seen Maryland and Minnesota suggested as possibilities within the last couple of weeks. Notre Dame was listed for that game at one point, but that was before they dropped the last two games.

Iím thinking what makes the most sense geographically would be Arkansas for the Independence Bowl, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl, and South Carolina for the Music City Bowl. The Birmingham Bowl or Music City Bowl would also make sense for Tennessee, but then the Liberty Bowl or Independence Bowl could have less geographically favorable teams. LSU (I hope and most expect) will be a more highly-regarded team, as will the other top four teams on the SEC West, so it makes more sense for SEC East teams to travel slightly to the West.

I also mentioned in the previous blog that there may be three SEC West teams in the six major bowls (not counting the national-championship game).

If LSU does not go to the Belk Bowl, that would also be a good one for South Carolina, and maybe one of the others could grab Florida.

Speaking of LSU, I also wanted to mention Iím excited about the basketball team, but I might go into that more when there is a lag with the football games.

Week 13 College Football Rankings 2014
Category: NCAA
Tags: ALABAMA BAYLOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF FLORIDA ST. LSU MINNESOTA MISSISSIPPI ST. NOTRE DAME OHIO ST. OREGON TCU TEXAS A&M

Florida St. moves into #1 in the computer rankings for the first time this season.

My Top 25
My Rank/BCS/team/prev
1 ( 2 ) Florida St. 2
2 ( 1 ) Alabama 1
3 ( 7 ) Ohio St. 4
4 ( 3 ) Oregon 3
5 ( 4 ) Miss. St. 5
6 ( 8 ) UCLA 8
7 ( 19 ) Marshall 9
8 ( 5 ) TCU 7
9 ( 9 ) Georgia 10
10 ( 12 ) Arizona 15
11 ( 14 ) Auburn 11
12 ( 26 ) Boise St. 12
13 ( 6 ) Baylor 16
14 ( 17 ) Ole Miss 6
15 ( 18 ) Ga. Tech 13
16 ( 21 ) Colo. St. 14
17 ( 10 ) Mich. St. 17
18 ( 15 ) Wisconsin 20
19 ( 11 ) Kansas St. 21
20 ( 16 ) Missouri 22
21 ( 13 ) Arizona St. 18
22 ( 20 ) Oklahoma 23
23 ( 22 ) Clemson 24
24 ( 30 ) Nebraska 19
25 ( 23 ) Minnesota Ė

(Louisville and LSU are the two Mock BCS top 25 teams who are not in my top 25.)

Full Rankings 1-128

Out of top 25: (25) USC

There are a total of 44 teams that got some level of points in the Mock BCS standings linked to above.

Earlier top-25 blogs:
Preseason
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12

Comments

Florida St. moved into #1, although I think another reminder that I donít factor in margin of victory is in order. Alabama could move back into #1 by beating better opponents in the coming weeks, but something else to keep in mind is Florida St. isnít the only ACC team playing an SEC team this weekend. If the ACC does significantly better, thatís an even stronger argument in Florida St.ís favor, which my system is designed to recognize.

I thought some of the commentariat brought up some interesting points about the committeeís #4-7 teams.

I want to mention something Jeff Long, a member of the committee, said first though. He said they look at where a team was ranked when you played them. I hope thatís not true, but it would explain why LSU was seemingly penalized so much as compared to other two-loss teams before the Alabama game.

I just donít think itís right if they donít consider that a loss to a top-five team. Itís not LSUís fault people didnít yet know they were going to be one of the top teams this season. If anything, the team who is the first to go down should get a break since theyíve had more time to recover from the loss. Also, later teams have more ability to anticipate problem areas and can possibly benefit from injuries. Of course, what they should do is consider how good the opponent is without the loss. For instance, had LSU won the last two games, it may be worth noting in the Bulldogsí favor that taking out their win over LSU, the Tigers would be in the conversation for the top 4.

I do think there are some unique challenges to beating a previously unbeaten team several weeks in, but I also hope Florida St. isnít being given credit for a top-five win when Notre Dame isnít even in the top 25 now. A top-25 win maybe, if you consider the Irish could well be in the top 25 had they simply not played the Seminoles. It is very important to consider those teams just outside of the top 25. Iíll talk more about them at the end.

There was some grumbling about Mississippi St., but I think if they beat Ole Miss, they have a good argument. I do think a one-loss Ohio St. team winning the Big Ten championship game (especially if itís over Wisconsin) should go ahead of an idle Mississippi St. team, assuming Alabama wins the SEC West anyway, though.

I penalize for bad losses and yet I still have Ohio St. in the top 4, so that tells me that Ohio St.ís 8-game conference schedule + Wisconsin (if the Badgers win) is going to be better than either TCUís or Baylorís, assuming weíre going to be comparing one-loss teams. Ohio St. also has respectable wins over Navy and Cincinnati.

Baylor didnít beat anyone worth mentioning out of conference, and TCU only beat one team, albeit a good one (Minnesota).

Obviously, if Minnesota beats Wisconsin, thatís going to be even better for the Horned Frogs and you could have an argument theyíre more deserving in that scenario.

I donít see any scenario, however, where one-loss Baylor should go ahead of one-loss TCU or one-loss Ohio St.

ďB-but head to headĒ isnít an argument.

Beating TCU is just a high-quality win.

I know the way tie-breakers work, they donít care how bad the loss is. For instance, if Alabama had lost to Arkansas or Texas A&M instead of Ole Miss, they still would win the tie-breaker over Mississippi St. if the two finish with the same SEC record.

I do care how bad the loss is. In fact, I think that should be the most important game to compare when you compare two one-loss teams.

So before we even get to Minnesota, I think TCU goes ahead of Baylor. Playing well enough to lose to Baylor by three (my system doesnít look at the margin, but that doesnít mean my arguments canít) is playing well enough to beat all but maybe 10 teams in college football. Playing at that level could be good enough to win a semifinal playoff game.

Itís hard to be complimentary about a 14-point loss to WVU though. It is tougher to play them on the road, but TCU did that and managed to win.

I know not everyone will credit Ohio St. for having a couple of mid-level non-conference wins instead of one good one like TCU, and thatís fine. I can accept that. I could not accept Baylor going ahead of either team though, assuming one loss apiece.

I think the Big Ten is slightly better than the Big XII, but even if theyíre equal, consider that when youíre in a 10-team conference you play the worst teams as well as the best. Ohio St. did not play Purdue, and thatís one of the two worst teams in the Big Ten. TCU played Kansas (barely beating them) and will play Iowa St. during championship week.

My hope is Ohio St. is given significant credit for beating a tougher opponent on that weekend. If they are and they come up short, thatís fine. I like TCU better anyway.

A lot of these conversations could become even more muddled if you add in a possible two-loss SEC team. I think Mississippi St. is out with two losses, but a two-loss SEC champion Georgia team, Iím not so sure. They would have wins over Auburn, Georgia Tech, Arkansas, and Missouri, not to mention whoever the SEC West champions will be (most likely Alabama but possibly Mississippi St.)

Also, unlike last year, a loss to Auburn doesnít necessarily knock Alabama out of the divisional race. Most people predicted Alabama to come out of Oxford with a win, and that didnít happen. The same thing could happen to Mississippi St.

Alabama beat that West Virginia team mentioned above. They also beat Mississippi St., LSU, and Florida and could possibly beat Georgia in the SEC Championship.

Georgia isnít guaranteed to win the East though. In fact, they need Arkansas to beat Missouri for that to happen. That may be the key to any two-loss SEC team being included.

Nothing down the list was too interesting. Minnesota actually jumped up 10 spots, so even though they beat Nebraska, they still got pretty significant credit for that even though it wasnít quite enough to most past the Huskers. When two teams are separated by 16 spots going into a game, itís not always enough for the lower team to get ahead in the ratings.

Also, it was nice to see Boise St. and Marshall finally get included in the committeeís top 25. Iím generally against ďmid-majorĒ teams being in the top 10, but the committee went too far in excluding them for so long.

I donít know what theyíre thinking keeping Utah in there though. Losing to Washington St. is pretty bad. If you want to pick a team with four losses, here are some better suggestions: LSU, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, and USC. Apart from Notre Dame againstNorthwestern, none of the rest lost an embarrassing game like that. Since Notre Dame is playing USC and LSU is playing Texas A&M, hopefully the winners will get some strong consideration for that last spot. I would even take Arkansas as a five-loss team given their schedule (In addition to the SEC West, they will have played Georgia and Missouri, the best two teams in the East, as well as Northern Illinois and Texas Techout of conference).

Notes on LSU @ Texas A&M 2014
Category: NCAA
Tags: ARIZONA ARIZONA ST. ARKANSAS COLLEGE FOOTBALL LSU OREGON TCU TEXAS A&M WASHINGTON WISCONSIN

The LSU defense did about as well as could be expected against Johnny ManzielÖ

But as a more traditional passer, Kyle Allen presents a very different test.

LSU was the only team that went 2-0 against ďJohnny FootballĒ, but as the captions above indicate, thatís not necessarily a reason for confidence going into this game. If you missed it, I wrote about LSUís quarterback situation last week.

For the last few weeks, Iíve been waiting until I can compute the Mock BCS standings before writing a blog about my rankings. Unfortunately, (when I first wrote this) one of the formerly BCS computer rankings still ha[d] not been released for this week, so this could not be done on time.

You can still access my ratings for all 128 teams here, but youíll have to wait until tomorrow or the next day for the blog that I write to accompany them.

I updated my LSU-Texas A&M ďRivalry SeriesĒ blog after last seasonís game, but I thought of a few more possibly interesting tidbits.

From 1989 to 1995, LSU lost 4 consecutive games at Texas A&M. The Tigers did not travel to the state of Texas again until 2002, when they lost to the Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl. The last five trips to the state have gone fairly well, however:

2014 Ė Wisconsin (Houston), 28-24
2013 Ė TCU (Arlington), 37-27
2012 Ė @Texas A&M, 24-19
2011 Ė Oregon (Arlington), 40-27
2010 Ė Texas A&M (Arlington), 41-24

In trips West of the Mississippi River since that 2002 Texas game I mentioned, LSU is 11-3, with all three losses coming against Arkansas (just in case of confusion, when I put ďLittle Rock,Ē that means thatís where the game was played, not that LSU played the University of Arkansas-Little Rock):

2014 LOSS Ė @Arkansas, 0-17
2012 Ė @Arkansas, 20-13
2010 LOSS Ė Arkansas (Little Rock), 23-31
2009 Ė @Washington, 31-23
2008 LOSS Ė Arkansas (Little Rock), 30-31
2006 Ė Arkansas (Little Rock), 31-26
2005 Ė @Arizona St., 35-31
2004 Ė Arkansas (Little Rock), 43-14
2003 Ė @Arizona, 59-13

Since joining the conference, Texas A&M is only 4-6 in SEC play at home. By comparison, when the Aggies beat South Carolina in late August, they ran their SEC road record to 7-2 but have since fallen to 8-4. (If that doesnít quite seem to add up, they beat Arkansas at a neutral site in 2012.)

In addition to the blog and website linked above, you can also find me on Facebook (link) and on Twitter @TheBayouBlogger

Exorcise the Saban Ghost
Category: NCAA
Tags: ALABAMA AUBURN BEAR BRYANT COLLEGE FOOTBALL FLORIDA GEORGIA GERRY DINARDO KENTUCKY LES MILES LSU MIAMI DOLPHINS MICHIGAN ST. Nick Saban

I know this is long, but there are a few things I cover.† I give an overview of his time at both Michigan St. and LSU (with more detail for LSU of course) and then I talk about some things that went Alabama's favor that don't necessarily go in LSU's favor had Saban stayed all this time.

People talk about ghosts of Tiger Stadium (which turns 90 on Tuesday, by the way). Usually itís positives like Billy Cannonís Halloween Run in 1959, the 1988 Earthquake Game against Auburn, the five fourth-down conversions against Florida in 2007. There were a couple of other classics against those opponents and others.

There have also been negatives. One negative was when the Tigers went 30 years without a win against Alabama at home. Even though Bear was only there for about the first 1/3 of that time, it was like his ghost was still on the sidelines, pushing the Tide to victory in a way that it wasnít even present in the state of Alabama.

Other than the national championship, one of the main things Iím grateful for from Sabanís tenure is the fact that he had two home wins over Alabama, the first of which ended that long streak. Neither win came against a great Alabama team, but that wasnít important. Just like it wasnít important how young this LSU team was or how well Ole Miss had played in previous games this season.

In January, it will have been ten years since Nick Saban coached an LSU team.

In January, it will have been ten years since Nick Saban coached an LSU team.

Under Miles, things against Alabama started even better. After winning two games over Mike Shulaís teams (I also find it kind of funny that Miami is the team Saban came from due to that last name), Miles won three of his first five games against Saban. If Miles had left after 7 seasons, heíd be known the guy who (unlike Saban) actually beat a number of good Alabama teams at LSU. (In addition to the three wins over Saban, LSU beat a previously unbeaten, 4th-ranked Alabama team in 2005.)

The ghost of Bear might be gone now, but now there is a living ghost in the collective psyche of LSU fans by the name of Nick Saban. Some still openly regret the fact that heíd left and wanted him to come back. Iíve heard from multiple sources there was a group of boosters who thought they could get Saban back if Miles were to leave. Others bitterly resent what they see as his betrayal of LSU by going to Alabama.

I believe like most supposedly supernatural phenomena, this ghost is present in our minds only to the extent we allow it to be, but itís been really hard to shake since 1/9/12, that fateful day that ended what would have been LSUís first undefeated season since 1958 (although LSU still won two more games in 2011 than it had in 1958). It also prematurely ended what should have been at least 24 consecutive months of bragging rights over the Tide and gave Alabama another national championship to rub everyoneís noses in.

To backtrack a bit, I want to note that very few people mind the fact that he went to Miami. He had rejected many NFL offers out of respect for LSU, and he was still of the age that it made sense to give it a try. Also Wayne Huizenga, the owner of the Dolphins, had bent over backwards to accommodate Sabanís every contractual demand.

The betrayal was going to Alabama. Alabama may not have ever put too much emphasis on beating LSU, but the same could not be said of LSUís priorities. Of course, Alabama was not what it once was in 2007, but I think most LSU fans knew it would only be dormant for so long. For the catalyst of Alabamaís return to be Nick Saban was the ultimate slap in the face.

Both LSU and Michigan St. (his two stops before his brief experiment with NFL head coaching) fans took part in derogatory chants against Saban a couple of weeks ago. The Michigan St. fans did it when Chris Fowler interviewed Saban by satellite (if thatís even still the technology used), and the LSU fans did so in person when the Tide came to Tiger Stadium.

What annoys me more though is the perception by some that LSU and Michigan St. owe any success in the last few years to Saban. I wanted to set the record straight on some things, because Saban did not have anything close to the kind of improvement or level of consistency heís had at Alabama since 2008.

I could probably write a book about all the things I like and donít like about him and my observations of him as a person and a coach over the last 20 years (I clearly remember Michigan St. both before he took the job and during his time there), but I just want to focus on what exactly changed at Michigan St. and LSU when you look at the results on the field. I also want to consider the argument or suggestion that if heíd stayed at LSU, the LSU football team would be what Alabama has been over the last five seasons.

Sabanís last year at Michigan St. was a good one; but before that, his teams were just about as mediocre as they were under his predecessor there (although to be fair, 6-5-1 and 6-6 at least arenít losing seasons, which his predecessor had suffered a couple of times). Still, Sabanís second-best season there was only 7-5.

I donít want to dwell on Michigan St. too much ó his last season there was 15 years ago ó but in his first season gone, they went right back to 5-6, which they had finished the year before Saban started there. That was a long-term impact of approximately 0. In fact, you can go out even further. In the five years before Saban, Michigan St. won 48% of its games. In the five years after he left, Michigan St. won 48% of its games. What are fans today supposed to thank him for again? Other than memories of the 1999 Citrus Bowl?

It doesnít take a great coach to have a single ten-win season in five years. I donít think any major programs are beating down the doors of Will Muschamp, Larry Coker, Gerry DiNardo (Sabanís full-time predecessor), or even Gene Chizik, who has a national championship to his credit. Another example from the SEC, David Cutcliffe, took a long time to get back into a head coaching job despite having led Ole Miss to its best season in decades in 2003.

Saban did step things up in his fourth and fifth years at LSU, but the Tigers had a combined 12 losses in his first three years. The conference championship in 2001 was a fluke. How often has the SEC champion had three conference losses? How often does the SEC champion have a loss by 29 points at home?

LSU had worse in the previous two seasons than Michigan St. had had immediately before Saban but had two season of the previous four with wins of 9 games or more, whereas the last time Michigan St. had won even 8 games was five seasons before Saban got there.

LSU likely had better athletes to start with. After being a dormant program for 6 seasons, DiNardo did have some initial success. In his first season, he led the Tigers to only their second bowl win in 16 years, and it was over Sabanís first Michigan St. team. This was followed by a 19-5 record over the next two seasons, which included a win over defending national champions Florida in 1997. Also, Louisiana is more fertile recruiting ground for recruiting than the state of Michigan, and LSU isnít ďlittle brotherĒ to anyone in the state of Louisiana.

It was not that difficult to have a spike in Louisiana recruiting. It also wasnít the case that DiNardo couldnít develop players, which he clearly did given some of the close results against good teams. He just lost the ability (partly due to turnover among his assistants) to manage the team to wins.

Iím sure that put a damper on recruiting in the 1998-99 offseason, but LSU would finish the 1999 campaign with a strong win over a ranked Arkansas team (with an interim coach), and the hope that the hire of Saban brought (probably as much as or more than Saban himself) kept the recruiting after the 1999 season from being a problem. If they could beat a ranked team with a no-name interim coach at the helm, the sky was the limit.

Nonetheless, Sabanís first three seasons were actually worse than DiNardoís first three by record, and there had been no winning seasons that preceded any of the recruiting classes DiNardo worked with in that time.

Sabanís 9 wins in his final season were good in the context of the 12 years before his arrival, but I donít remember Les Miles getting a ton of credit for following a national championship season with 8-win and 9-win seasons, respectively. Nor did he get a lot of credit for winning 33 games in the past three full seasons combined. Sabanís best three years at LSU together didnít account for that many wins.

One of the other coaches I mentioned likely could have coached Sabanís 2004 team to 9 wins or more. Also, the loss to Georgia that season was reminiscent of the handful of bad losses Miles has had. So there was really only one season at LSU that was better than what had taken place at LSU the five seasons before Sabanís arrival.

As he did at Michigan St., he did raise the floor at LSU. When things didnít go well, he went 8-5 and 8-4 instead of 4-7 and (starting) 2-8. That was an improvement, but just like with Michigan St., he only raised the ceiling in one year.

In both instances, those singular seasons caused his stock to go through the roof (continuing with the housing analogy), although he did decide to stick around at LSU another year anyway. Also, itís not just wins and losses on their own. There were baffling losses under Saban. In his first season, he lost to Florida by 32, he lost to UAB (with only 10 points scored), and he lost to an Arkansas team (which had gone into the game with a losing record), 14-3.

Itís not good if you have three games where you score 10 or fewer points and four games where you score 17 or fewer.

The next year, they had the opposite problem. The offense was only held under 20 twice, but they allowed 44 to Florida, 25 to a bad Kentucky team, 35 to Ole Miss, 38 to Arkansas, and 34 to Illinois.

2002 was all over the map. They scored 14 or fewer four times, but they scored over 30 seven times. They allowed over 25 points five times.

2003ís team only had a single loss, but it was an ugly one: 19-7 at home against Ron Zookís Gators. The Tigers struggled offensively at times against the better teams such as Georgia, Ole Miss, and Oklahoma. It helped that that team was able to play 6 teams with losing records and a I-AA opponent. Before the last four games of that season, LSU had not played two teams back-to-back that would finish with winning records. Contrast that with Milesí last couple of seasons.

The 2004 team did not have a stellar offense, and LSU actually hurt themselves by trying to start JaMarcus Russell too soon. They nearly lost to Florida before Marcus Randall came off the bench to lead a comeback. They also needed Oregon St. to miss a few extra points in order to win the opener by 1 point in overtime. I already mentioned the Georgia loss that year.

LSU scored over 40 points three times that year (against teams with a combined 11 wins), but their highest point output otherwise was 27 against an Ole Miss team that finished 4-7. They only managed to score 24 apiece against the likes of Troy and Vanderbilt.

This was with Jimbo Fisher as the offensive coordinator. To apply the criticism Miles gets to Saban, he must have been holding the offensive coordinator back, right? It would seem to apply to Saban even more. In fact, Iím calling it right now: Cam Cameron is not going to be the head coach of a national-championship team in the next 10 years.

One could have also argued Saban only developed one ďrealĒ quarterback (Matt Mauck, whom he actually first recruited during his Michigan St. days) in those five years.

Saban was there when Russell came to LSU, but Iím sure that had more to do with Jimbo. Also, Russell didnít really come into his own until the middle of his last year, which had nothing to do with Saban.

Point being, if you start from the perspective of looking to blame the head coach for everything, Saban could have taken a lot of blame as well as credit during his time at LSU. I think people just donít realize how much their expectations have changed, which made every big win Saban had wonderful and every loss (or sometimes even close win) under Miles tragic.

So if weíre going to be assigning blame, we can blame Saban for causing LSU fans to forget what a losing season feels like. I still donít think we have him to thank for the 7 double-digit-win seasons since he left, although of course he was instrumental for at least the first couple of them.

The LSU fans who do have this pathetic sense of longing for Saban are misguided. Alabama has certain advantages that LSU just isnít going to have.

I donít buy into conspiracies, but I think there is a natural degree of deference they get from recruits, from referees, from the media, from conference officials (who, perhaps not coincidentally, are based in Alabama), etc. Notre Dame has not had a sustained presence atop college football in 20 years. For Nebraska, itís been about 15 years. So Alabama is the focal point of the historically great programs right now. There is just a different level of mystique for such programs. Nick Saban or not, that wasnít going to be LSU.

People canít accept that though. They just think that had Saban been here in 2009, 2011, and 2012, we would have had three national championships in those years rather than none. Maybe Saban wins in 2011 with either team (although even thatís arguable), but Iím doubtful about 2009 and 2012.

What if LSU (rather than Alabama) had been undefeated in 2009 and threw an interception on the game-clinching drive against Alabama. You think that gets ruled incomplete and LSU goes on to kick the field goal anyway?

LSU got some flak for winning in 2007 with two losses, but at least they won the conference, unlike Alabama in 2011.

Letís say LSU loses a home game to Alabama like they did this year and everything else plays out like 2011. Do you think LSU gets a re-match over a one-loss champion of another conference? I doubt it.

LSU hasnít gotten a soft touch at all in their slate against the SEC East even though their annual opponent (Florida) has been better than Alabamaís annual opponent (Tennessee).
The previous two seasons have had ďbridgeĒ schedules, temporary stop-gaps before they started off the new rotation, which was formalized before this season.

Alabama drew Missouri in 2012. Missouri played in the 2011 Independence Bowl, but they had an anticipated lull in adjusting to the SEC slate in 2012. In addition to the one good Muschamp team (which would only lose one SEC game), LSU had to play South Carolina, which had gone 11-2 in 2011. South Carolina would finish with the same record in 2012.

If you switch both SEC East opponents around, chances are LSU goes to the SEC Championship game instead of Alabama in 2012, even assuming Alabama still beats LSU in the closing seconds. Point being, I donít think had Saban coached LSU that year (even if he had players just as good as the ones he had at Alabama), he would have beaten both Florida and South Carolina.

In 2013, LSU got Georgia, which had nearly beaten Alabama in the 2012 championship game, while Alabama played Kentucky, fresh off another losing season. Again, that scenario does not get reversed if Saban coaches LSU instead of Alabama.

It was an extra advantage for Alabama because what turned out to be their top challenger, Auburn, had to play Georgia also. Auburn had a favorable bounce and there were some unfortunate injuries to Bulldogs players between playing LSU and Auburn, but that could have easily been another Alabama divisional win (even with the Iron Bowl loss) owing in significant part to the schedule.

A Saban team might have won another game last season at LSU, but if they donít end up winning two more, they donít win the championship anyway.

So all things considered, maybe Saban wins one more championship than Miles did over the last 10 years (thatís right, this is the 10th LSU season after Saban). On the other hand, maybe they donít win in 2007. You might blame Miles for the OT losses, but maybe Saban loses games to Florida and Auburn (there were some gutsy calls Saban may not have made) and they either lose a third somewhere along the way or someone else wins the division. So it could even be the same number of championships.

I donít mind the idea of looking at the unmatched level of success Alabama has had over the better part of the last seven seasons (the only time a program had done anything like that in my memory was Nebraska in the mid-1990s) and wanting to match that, but just get over the fact that the head coach there coached LSU 10 years ago. That goes for people who want to insult him and those who wish heíd stayed (or fantasize about his return) alike. For those who persist in being hung up on Saban, at least get your facts right.

This is my previous post here at the Gab. I included a picture of Saban with Jimbo Fisher, who was an assistant throughout Saban's time at LSU.

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