I believe these are all of this season’s bowl games. Apologies if I missed something.
Part I: Frame of Reference
This went long enough just covering the top two conferences, so I plan at least one more blog to finish off the bowl list and another for the overall list.
Before assessing the overall strength of conferences, we should discuss the bowl games, since that’s often the first place people go when talking about conference strength.
I’m skeptical about the bowls being very decisive because all but four teams (until 2014, all but two teams) aren’t really playing for anything but a nice trophy that few people really care about. Not only that, but there is a month layover after the games that really count.
Granted, anyone who lost more than a game or two was out well before the season ended, but there were few teams who didn’t at least have a rivalry game to get excited about in the last couple of weeks of the season. Also, what often happens is a team will be disappointed or disinterested in a bowl game.
There is a lot of talk about let-down games during the season, but a fair percentage of the time the better team ends up winning games like that. It’s a little bit different in bowl games. A relative lack of interest and motivation over a month makes a bigger difference than over a week. Also, you’re pretty much guaranteed an opponent who will beat you if they have a fairly good game by their standards and you have a fairly poor game by your standards.
Nonetheless, if you take the bowl games as one week, that’s still the most important playing week of the season when determining relative conference strength.
The most important consideration for me is how many wins a conference has. I think this is more important than winning percentage, because winning percentage is based more on who your competition is and which teams you have qualify. If only your best five teams are put to the test in a bowl game, what about the other half or more of your conference? They wouldn’t likely have won bowl games. Also, you have to look at who the wins came against.
The SEC, the #1 conference going into the bowl season, had the most wins with 7, 6 of which were against Power 5 conferences. The SEC had 12 teams qualify (and was very close to a 13th). The ACC was second with 11, but the ACC only won a total of 4 bowl games, two of which were not against other Power 5 conferences.
The Pac-12, the #2 conference going into the bowl season, did very well with 6 wins (5 over Power 5 conferences) out of 8 bowl teams. As a result, discussion of the best conference of the bowl season should rightly center in on the SEC and the Pac-12
Where I may part with some is I believe strength of schedule should not only be evaluated in the abstract (how good the opponents are on their own) but also by how difficult the opponent is in light of how highly ranked the conference member.
For instance, the most impressive non-conference win of the season in my opinion was by the ACC when Virginia Tech beat Ohio St. Virginia Tech was about #10 in the ACC, and they beat a team that made the championship game. If Florida St. had beaten Ohio St. instead, it would have been a lot less impressive.
All of the Pac-12 bowl games were fairly even match-ups. I think the combination of Arizona and Utah was a fair match for Boise St. and Colorado St. of the MWC. Each conference won one of the two. The combination of UCLA and Washington was also a fair match for Kansas St. and Oklahoma St., and again each conference won one of the two.
Since there were no other losses, everything else goes in the plus column for the Pac-12. Of course, Oregon beat Florida St. going away. Arizona St. was #4 in the Pac-12 and beat the ACC #5 Duke. Stanford was #7 in the Pac-12 and beat Big Ten #6 Maryland. USC was #5 and beat Big Ten #5 Nebraska.
Returning to the SEC, the results were contrary to what one would have expected. Most of the season, the top five teams of the SEC West beat all the other teams. It wasn’t until the last few weeks that that group lost to ANYONE else. Auburn lost to Texas A&M and Georgia, and Ole Miss and LSU lost to Arkansas. Still, it was interesting that three of those losses were still inside the SEC West. Also, despite the fact that the SEC lost more inter-conference games in rivalry week than it had lost the entire rest of the season combined, not a single one of those losses were by the SEC West.
Those five top SEC West teams were curiously the only teams to lose bowl games though. I think part of it was that disappointment, letdown sort of phenomenon I mentioned, but obviously that wouldn’t apply to Alabama. I think what happened there is the Tide defense got worn down, and then the Tide offense couldn’t keep up with the Buckeyes. That’s not the kind of game Alabama is accustomed to having to win, although they did manage to win a similar game against Auburn.
Also, those teams gave each other a beating. The most notable injury in an inter-SEC West game was to Laquon Treadwell, but I know LSU lost a lineman in the Alabama game, and some other players (such as Kenny Hilliard) were banged up as well.
Out of the five games lost, there was only a game and a half that was bad. Auburn took Wisconsin to overtime, LSU lost in the last second, Alabama was alive in their game until the final minute. The second half by Mississippi St. and the whole game by Ole Miss were pretty ugly though.
I believe I counted accurately that despite those five teams not winning any bowl games of their own, they got a total of 18 wins over teams that won bowl games. That’s more than the top five of any other CONFERENCE. The only one that comes close is, of course, the Pac-12.
I was a bit surprised that with Arkansas playing Texas in Texas (#10 SEC vs. #6 of the Big XII), Texas A&M playing West Virginia (#9 SEC vs. #5 of Big XII), South Carolina playing U. Miami (#12 SEC vs. #10 of the ACC), and Tennessee playing Iowa (#11 SEC vs. #7 of the Big Ten), no other SEC team lost a game. I won’t pretend I was at all surprised by Missouri, Georgia, and Florida winning all of theirs, but that doesn’t make them count for less.
It’s frustrating that there were no games between the SEC and the Pac-12 of course, but there are a few different ways to look at this.
There were four bowl wins by the Pac-12 over teams in the top 5 of power conferences and two losses to other teams. If we limit that to the top 4, the Pac-12 had two wins inside and two losses outside.
The SEC had three bowl wins over teams in the top 5 of power conferences, and Notre Dame was the only loss outside of that group. Notre Dame barely had a winning record against Power 5 opponents (even though they generally played pretty good ones), but we don’t have to count them as of that quality. Of course, if we discount the Irish too much, that devalues the season as a whole for the Pac-12 (three games against them vs. only one by the SEC). If we limit it to the top 4, it’s two wins and one loss. These are both better ratios than the Pac-12 had. I would also note that the Pac-12 didn’t have a sub-top-5 team beat a top-5 team of another conference.
Here’s another way to look at it. The Pac-12 wasn’t really over- or under-matched in any of their games, so they’re 6-2 in games in which they weren’t over-matched or under-matched.
The SEC was 3-2 in games in which they were over-matched. The wins I mentioned were by Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Tennessee; the losses were by Ole Miss (#4 SEC vs. #1 [tie] in the Big XII) and Auburn (#6 SEC vs. #3 in the Big Ten).
You could argue Florida was under-matched by East Carolina (#8 SEC vs. #4 American/AAC), but even though they struggled against the top of their own conference, East Carolina did beat ACC #6 North Carolina 70-41, so I think it’s fair to say that was basically even as well.
If the SEC and Pac-12 had the same number of teams, I would honestly struggle to pick a better conference despite the Pac-12’s 75 winning percentage in bowls vs. the SEC’s 58.3%. But since ½ of each conference won bowl games, I think it’s fair to give the Pac-12 a little slack for not being over-matched in any games and for having a smaller percentage of teams qualify. So they’re my #1 for the bowl “week”.
I do want to note that I don’t blame the Pac-12 for not having better bowl opponents. There aren’t that many great bowls out west that the other major conferences really want to play in. Also, the bowls in the East aren’t particularly disposed to trying to get Pac-12 opponents. Just because they’re good teams doesn’t mean a large group of fans want to travel two or three thousand miles to go to the game. But just like with my team standings, I can only judge on the games that actually take place.
We've all heard some variation upon the theme of the following quote, "Exactly how far is your head up your ass?", right?
Well, now I have to wonder if Florida State football coach and enabler-in-chief Jimbo Fisher will ever get his head out from either his or Jameis Winston's ass.
Yesterday's completely unsurprising announcement that Winston would leave FSU for the NFL draft came on the heels of a lawsuit being filed by the woman he was accused of raping back in 2012. She filed the suit against the school's board of trustees but the lawsuit will engulf pretty much anyone involved with the school, including Fisher.
Now the FSU school president said in a statement that the university looks forward to "addressing these meritless allegations in court." and I suppose that rhetoric is to be expected from named defendants. But MERITLESS? Child, please!
Winston got out of town while the getting is good because there will soon be a posse chasing everyone from the board of trustees and the school president to the head football coach out of town right behind him.
Winston left the school after two seasons in which he managed to rack up a 26-1 record, a Heisman Trophy and a national championship. Of course, there was the two investigations (if that's what you want to call them) for rape, stealing from Burger King (soda) and Publix (crab legs that got him a 3 game suspension from the FSU baseball team), being handcuffed over possession of a BB gun, and the whole "F*** Her in the P****" incident that actually got him suspended (after a public outcry) for a game.
Any one of those incidents would have been enough for a coach with balls to kick him off the team for violation of team rules. After all, Fisher had no problem doing it this year to a backup defensive player who broke some minor team rule.
Instead, as Winston left town leaving others to hold the bag of flaming dog crap he created, this is what Fisher had to say about him:
"I would like to wish Jameis nothing but success at the next level as I think he'll be extremely successful.
It was a blessing to coach him. He's one of the unique players that I've ever had the privilege to coach. He embodies what you as a coach want as a person, a student and a player. He's a genuine and honest guy. He's one of the greatest players in Florida State history."
The preceding two paragraphs are not a satirical article from The Onion. No, that is from the AP article I read in the Boston Herald today.
Let's break this down shall we?
Now the first paragraph is boilerplate wording. When any player of top talent leaves, you can expect to read something like that. So let's just give that a pass.
It is really the second paragraph that is sure to infuriate, oh I don't know...anyone with a lick of sense?
"It was a blessing to coach him." This translates to "Thank God Winston brought me a championship ring. And it suggests as seems to be the case with football coaches everywhere, but particularly in the south that Fisher is a bible-thumping religious man. If so, I'd like him to point out in the bible where it says it is okay to steal ( I thought those pesky 10 commandments said something about NOT doing that) or rape or to stand up in a student union and blurt out a particularly vile phrase.
"He's one of the most unique players that I've had the privilege to coach." Again, this translates to Fisher being down on his knees genuflecting to Winston for having brought him a title game victory. And what were you coaching him to do off the field? After all, coaches talk about how they are teaching players about life after football too.
"He embodies what you as a coach want as a person, a student and a player. He's a genuine and honest guy." - I don't know how Fisher could say this with a straight face. I don't know about you but as a former coach who is embarrassed by the number of ex-players of mine who've wound up in loads of criminal activity, I would NEVER say something like this.
How does multiple sex assault/rape investigations plus arrests for stealing, gun possession and mouthing off like a moron do anything to enhance one's qualities as a member of the human race. And I'm fairly sure all those accusations would've gotten a normal "student" at the school suspended from the school. Not too mention, a normal student wouldn't have had the law enforcement division of the FSU Booster Club a.k.a the Tallahassee police department covering up for them and pressuring the complaining witness into not pressing forward with her charges.
And genuine, honest guys don't generally come off as an entitled punk with no future if he didn't have athletic talent who has spent his entirely life being coddled and enabled by those hoping to leach off his talent should it become economically possible.
And while the comment about him being one of the greatest players in Florida State history ring true, I have to wonder how they are going to feel about the no better than a two year old throwing a temper tantrum behavior of Winston when the NCAA investigates (and you know they will) and finds something amiss that causes them to vacate the national title.
It is a bit ironic that someone like Fisher, who claims to be a man of piety, would sell his soul to the devil in order to get a ring.
The school administration, the coach of the football team, the Tallahassee police department and Winston himself are all in cahoots with each other. It makes me wonder if truth in advertising laws applied to school names, would FSU have to change its name to FoSU...Full of S*** University?
It would appear no one bothered to translate the latin words in the school logo: Vires Artes Mores = Strength, Skill and Character.
As for Fisher, his constant blindness to reality and enabling of his scumbag QB begs the question, "Coach Fisher, exactly how far is your head up your ass?"
HAPPY BELATED NEW YEAR TO ALL!!! Irish Shu is back with a review of the recently-completed Fighting Irish football season…yeah, I’m late. SHADDUP! Anyway, the second half of the season sucked a dick, so I’m gonna keep it short and sweet. Here’s how they did in their last 7 games after winning their first 6.
FLORIDA STATE: The biggest game of the regular season against the then #2-ranked Seminoles.
The Irish outplayed FSU in all phases of the game and won the statistical battle, but lost on the number that counted the most 31-27 as the Irish D could not contain Jameis Winston’s passing in the 2nd half after they had done it so well in the first half. The painful part of the game was on ND’s second-to-last offensive play that saw Corey Robinson score the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left only to have it called-back on a pass interference/illegal block play…unfortunately what the refs missed was that one of the FSU defenders pulled his helmet off in frustration at the play, which should have resulted in unsportsmanlike conduct and a fresh set of downs for the Irish (one more play from a better spot, at least)…but I’m not bitter, of course! FSU would go on to finish an undefeated regular season only to be flattened in the Rose Bowl playoff semifinal by Oregon. Sadly, this Irish loss started a tailspin…
NAVY: In what would turn out to be the last regular season game the Irish would win this year, QB Everett Golson had a career day as he passed for 315 yards and became the first ND signal caller to throw for 3 touchdowns and also run for 3 more as the Irish survived the game Midshipmen 49-39.
The Middies did tear the Irish D for 336 rushing yards, but sadly saw their eventual MVP In middle linebacker Joe Schmidt suffer a dislocated and broken leg and be lost for the season…one of many injuries the defense would suffer from here. Navy would go on to finish 8-5 with a Poinsettia Bowl win over San Diego State.
ARIZONA STATE: The game was a battle of #9-ranked ASU and #10-ranked ND and it wasn’t even close as Everett Golson did a face plant and turned the ball over 5 times including 2 pick-6’s in a 55-31 loss that saw the Irish storm back in the second half and close the gap to 3 points in spite of Golson’s mistakes, only to have a pass bounce off Corey Robinsons hands and into the arms of an ASU defender for the second pick 6 and, yeah, they shat the bed again from there.
It wasn’t helpful that Golson was sacked 7 times, either. The Sun Devils were brought back down to earth the following week in a loss to Oregon State, but would go on to finish a great season at 10-3 with a Sun Bowl win over Duke.
NORTHWESTERN: FUCK IT! I didn’t even bother watching this one after I found out about the 43-40 OT loss. I went ahead and just deleted it from my DVR Because I knew it was only gonna piss me off if I watched. I don’t know what happened and I don’t want to know. No excuse for losing that game. Ever. Northwestern finished below .500 and didn’t go bowling. Enough said.
LOUISVILLE: The Irish were game but could not hold-off Cardinal QB Reggie Bonnafon and failed to make a short field goal in crunch time for the 2nd week in a row as they lost 31-28 to a good ACC team which went on to finish 9-4 and lose to Georgia in the Belk Bowl.
In spite of Irish runner Tarean Folston’s effort – 18 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown, the Irish D continued to fall apart as several of their strong players left this game with injuries. Sheldon Day, Jarron Jones and Cody Riggs among them. Also in this game, The Irish gave up 30 or more points for the sixth straight time, which is the first time that's happened in 126 seasons of football. The 242 points Notre Dame gave up in that span is also the most ever by the team in six games…OUCH!
USC: Given the problems the Irish were already having with defensive injuries and trouble keeping possession of the football on offense, this game at the LA coliseum could not have come at a worse time…I think a final score of 49-14 in favor of the Trojans made that all-the-more obvious.
As Coach Brian Kelly said, it could have been worse – SC could have piled-on even more points had they wanted to. As it was, the Irish D committed another historical first by allowing Trojan QB Cody Kessler to complete 5 touchdown passes in the first half (6 for the game) and Everett Golson was benched for Malik Zaire after an un-inspired first half. Zaire did show some promise with a 170-yard passing day with no interceptions and also ran for 18 yards and a score, but that was the only bright spot.
Music City Bowl vs. LSU: The Irish FINALLY managed to pull-out a win in Nashville over the 23-ranked Bayou Bengals in a game that helped salvage a disappointing season.
The very-well-executed game plan featured Malik Zaire in his first career start running straight at the LSU D from a 2-tight-end set and controlling both the clock and the football (NO turnovers! YES!) en route to the 31-28 Irish win. The capper was Irish kicker Kyle Brindza knocking-in the game-winning field goal as time expired to end his career with the Irish after a frustrating season for him that had more to do with the Irish holders failing to get the ball down on the holds than it did with his kicking technique. While the Irish D and special teams did yield 3 big plays including huge scoring runs by LSU’s Leonard Fournette, they held-down the Tiger offense when they needed to and helped get the win. Golson, while he didn’t start, did chip-in with a 90-yard passing performance which included a couple key completions on the final drive. Zaire, however, was named the game’s MVP as he both ran and passed for scores.
So to wrap it up, a season that seemed to be heading the right way with a 6 and 0 start fell apart with turnovers and injuries to a predominately-young defense and should have ended better than the 8 and 5 record it finished with…but such is life. The good news is that the personnel losses to graduation and players opting for the draft should be minimal, although a solid DE and captain in Sheldon Day is among those pondering the draft, and there is also some rumor buzz that Golson may transfer to another school for his last year since he is graduating – I don’t think that would necessarily be a terrible loss given the turnovers he kept committing…when he was good and avoided the mistakes, he was DAMN good though. He was in the running for the Heisman for the first few games before disaster struck. I wish him well with whatever he decides but if he leaves, I feel good about Zaire and the rest of the QB bench coming back.
As for how my other teams fared:
MONTANA GRIZZLIES: Had a good year and sent their retiring head coach in Mick Delaney off in style as they went 9-5 and made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs where they lost to Big Sky Conference rival Eastern Washington on the God-awful red turf field. Seriously, I can’t watch a game on that shit for more than 5 minutes without getting a head ache! Oh, well, a good season nonetheless.
NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Not much to say here. One too-many 9-win seasons and blowout losses to Wisconsin cost Coach Bo Pelini his job. While a 9- or 10-win season is great for most teams, it’s less than what is expected in Husker Land. His temper and demeanor throughout his career there didn’t help him, either. We’ll see if new coach Mike Riley from Oregon State can do any better.
COLORADO STATE RAMS: Had their best season in years! 10 wins…but a bit of a sad ending on 2 fronts: 1. They lost their head coach in Montana native Jim McElwain who left just prior to their bowl game to take the same position with the Florida Gators (can’t say I blame him for that, though) and then 2. they were blown-out by Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. Great year up until that, though.
CUSTER COUNTY COWBOYS: My hometown high school team did me proud once again! They had a good season and made the playoffs as they do most years, and then won an overtime thriller over Havre in the first round before losing a close one at Whitefish in the second round. They lose a couple great athletes to graduation but have a lot coming back next year, too. We’ll see how it goes.
Fellow You Gabbers: It is always a pleasure!!! Have an awesome 2015! Take care, Irish Shu
Walter Sobchak: Were you listening to The Dude’s story?
Donny: I was bowling.
Walter Sobchak: So you have no frame of reference here, Donny. You’re like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and wants to know…
-The Big Lebowski (1998)
The characters Donny and Walter
Standing alone, this blog probably won’t be very interesting, but I want to provide a frame of reference for later blogs I have planned.
As I had stressed at the end of the regular season, it’s helpful to look at where a team is in a conference when talking about inter-conference games. For instance, it’s not anything to brag about when a top-4 team of one conference barely beats a bottom-two team of another conference at home.
I’m going to start with what I think are fair conference standings going into the bowls. Since there are so many ties and since so many conferences have uneven conference schedules, you can’t just follow the official conference standings. This won’t be exactly what I’ll go by when I rank the conferences overall; but, since I consider the bowls to be just another game (in actuality, if you’re not in the top 4, they’re LESS meaningful than most regular games), it won’t be far off.
Even though the SEC West (for instance) went only 2-5 in bowl games, playing six bowl teams in the division should earn some consideration. Texas A&M and Arkansas (winners of the two bowl games) were not opponents that provided teams in that division a breather like the bottom two teams of just about any other division would have. To not be able to take a break at all in divisional play makes it harder to get to 7-1, 6-2, 5-3, etc.
I decided not to alter that by more than two games though. For instance if one team is 5-3 and another is 7-1 and the two teams did not play one another, I’m going to keep the 7-1 team ahead.
I also factored in non-conference play at times if two teams were close, especially where there was no meaningful difference in conference schedule.
I’ll list the conferences in the order I had them going in. I’m grouping Notre Dame with the ACC since it is part of the ACC bowl group.
There were a couple of teams such as Western Kentucky and South Alabama who were arguably lower, but since a bowl picked them instead of another team, I used that to break the tie rather than making it more complicated. That’s also how Penn St. went ahead of Michigan and Northwestern (neither of which was eligible for bowls).
However, I included two non-bowl teams in the Sun Belt listings because they were clearly better in the conference than bowl teams. (They were considered transitional teams and would only have been eligible had other teams in the conference been ineligible for contractual bowl slots.)
SEC (12/14 teams in bowls)
2. Mississippi St.
4. Ole Miss
9. Texas A&M
12. South Carolina
Pac-12 (8/12 teams in bowls)
4. Arizona St.
Big Ten (10/14 teams in bowls)
1. Ohio St.
2. Michigan St.
10. Penn St.
ACC (11/14 + Notre Dame)
1. Florida St.
2. Georgia Tech
5 1/2. Notre Dame
6. North Carolina
8. Boston College
9. North Carolina St.
10. U. Miami
11. Virginia Tech
Big XII (7/10 teams in bowls)
3. Kansas St.
5. West Virginia
7. Oklahoma St.
(Other) Independents (2/3 teams in bowls)
Mountain West (7/12 teams in bowls)
1. Boise St.
2. Colorado St.
3. Utah St.
4. Air Force
5. Fresno St.
6. San Diego St.
Conference USA (5/13 teams in bowls)
2. Louisiana Tech
5. Western Kentucky
American (5/11 teams in bowls)
2. Central Florida
4. East Carolina
Sun Belt (3/11 teams in bowls)
1. Georgia Southern (NOT in a bowl)
3. Appalachian St. (NOT in a bowl)
4. Arkansas St.
5. South Alabama
MAC (5/13 teams in bowls)
1. Northern Illinois
3. Western Michigan
4. Central Michigan
5. Bowling Green
This is the link to my full blog, The Bayou Blogger. I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter (@TheBayouBlogger).
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 doesn’t exactly fit the “rivalry” theme, but that’s 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 isn’t up to my usual standards. It was mostly written on an airplane, and I’m using an unfamiliar computer.
Tuesday’s 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 I’ll do those together.
The series is tied, 5-5. LSU has won the only two “neutral” site games, but both were in Louisiana. LSU’s only win at Notre Dame was in 1985.
2006 (Sugar Bowl) – 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 didn’t 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 ’90s. 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 didn’t 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 – Notre Dame 24, @LSU 6
1997 (Independence Bowl) – LSU 27, Notre Dame 9
1998 – @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 DiNardo’s 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, LSU’s 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 didn’t 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 – Notre Dame 30, @LSU 22
1985 – LSU 10, @Notre Dame 7
1986 – @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 arnsparger’s 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 Beuerlein’s 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 Dame’s 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 LSU’s 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 Dame’s 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 – @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 – @Notre Dame 3, LSU 0
1971 – @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 manning’s 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 coaches’ 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.
Alabama (Pregames: 2011, 2013)
Auburn (2010 post-game)
(Steve Spurrier and) South Carolina