FEINSWOG: The Tide has turned

Flash back, if you will, to Tuesday, September 27. It was the day after the day that will live in LSU football infamy.

aIt was the day after LSU blew the lead and lost to Tennessee in overtime.

There were a number of observations made that day through today's immediate-gratification mediums, talk radio and internet chat boards.

The sky was falling and that was the least of it. Les Miles was a bad fit, a coach in over his head and a bad hire. Worse was his defensive coordinator, Bo Pelini, whose unit failed miserably in the previous game against Arizona State and then fell apart when it mattered against Tennessee.

Woe was LSU, or at least its fans, who shredded the first-year coach and his defensive coordinator like there was no tomorrow.

Only there was.

As it turns out, that defeat to Tennessee will likely cost LSU a shot at the national championship.

But it wasn't the end of the world, as evidenced Saturday when the Tigers won at Alabama 16-13 in overtime.

Clearly LSU's job the past three weeks was simple: Take care of business by beating North Texas and Appalachian State without overstressing the program and be ready to take on Alabama in the game that would decide the Southeastern Conference Western Division. And in the meantime, teams ahead of it would fall by the wayside.

And so they did.

Way back when, three weeks ago, LSU was seventh in the polls. Since then, Virginia Tech and Georgia fell by the wayside.

Alabama loomed large, representing a chance for the Tigers to nestle in at No. 4 behind Southern Cal, Texas and Miami.

This week's BCS ranking comes out after this writing, but there's no reason to think LSU will vault past either Virginia Tech or Penn State. No, this past Saturday was those teams' week to sit back and let someone go away, either LSU or Alabama.

So here's how it stands as LSU prepares to play at Ole Miss on Saturday and come home for Arkansas the day after Thanksgiving.

LSU has to win. Simply. One thing LSU fans love to do is compare something current LSU to something past LSU, whether it's a coach, a player or a team. OK, compare this, although you won't want to:

In 1997, LSU knocked off then No. 1 Florida in one of the most exciting games in school history. But the next week, the Tigers well on their respective faces to Ole Miss.

Take note: LSU plays at Ole Miss this Saturday.

This past Saturday, in the first match-up of top-five teams involving LSU since 1958, the Tigers were huge. The defense, coached by the aforementioned Bo Pelini, was bigger than Alabama's highly touted "best-in-the-country" counterpart. The offense, run by quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who has seemingly eliminated bonehead plays from his repertoire, came up big when it had to, especially in the overtime.

And the Tigers, behind a coach who may look funny in that white hat, came up big again on fourth down for its first TD. Miles, the aforementioned head coach, has big, well, you know, when it comes to taking chances. His punter passed once from his own end zone. The Tigers are 6-for-6 on fourth-down conversions. And his team has won seven in a row since the day before the day after, improving to 8-1 overall, 5-1 in the SEC.

LSU can't control the teams ahead of them. USC and Texas and probably Miami are going to take care of their business.

But the Tigers can – and should -- be 10-1 heading into the SEC Championship Game, a remarkable achievement when you recall what it was like around here the day after.

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Lee Feinswog is the author of "Tales From The LSU Sidelines," a Baton Rouge sportswriter and host of the television show Sports Monday. Reach him at (225) 926-3256 or lee@sportsbatonrouge.com.

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