DEVILLE: Shades of 2003?

OXFORD, Miss. – It seemed like déjà vu all over again.

Maybe the setting was a bit different and the circumstances were slightly altered but Saturday night felt like being in the movie Groundhog Day.


Sort of.


At 1 a.m. Sunday morning, people sat huddled around a television glued to some distant late night football game as if the future of the world would be decided on its outcome.

Maybe not the future of the world but no doubt the Bowl Championship Series, which sometimes seems like the end of the world.


But the scene was awfully familiar Saturday after LSU dismantled Ole Miss 40-7. Midway through the Tigers' win over the Rebels, word began to spread that Georgia Tech was in the process upsetting Miami.


The Hurricanes were rated ahead of LSU in both major polls as well as the infamous BCS standings, that was before the Rambling Wreck sent the Canes packing Saturday 14-10.

Much like the way the cosmic tumblers clicked into place two years ago, Tiger fans everywhere watched as the impossible looked as if it could happen.


As Vaught-Hemingway Stadium fell quiet in the brisk northern Mississippi night, the buzz continued to grow about No. 16 ranked Fresno State, who led No. 1 USC 21-13 at the half.


Could the upstart Bulldogs shock the world? Fresno coach Pat Hill and his team adopted the motto "Anybody, Anytime, Anywhere," well they got their wish and led the top-ranked Trojans at the midway point.


It was a familiar scene, much like the first weekend in December in 2003, as anticipation built over a faraway game in the wee hours of the morning.


Two years ago, LSU fans huddled in bars and hotel rooms in Atlanta watching to see if Hawaii could somehow knock off Boise State, a bizarre chain of events that could send LSU to the national title game.


While that was very late in the season, Saturday had the same feel. Sure Oxford is a far cry from Atlanta and Tiger followers chatted with Georgia fans about their team's future instead of a bunch of disgruntled Ole Miss folks, but the feel was eerily similar, especially with the events of the day and what could happen.


With Miami out of the way, only Big 10 champion Penn State stands between LSU and the top two spots in the BCS rankings. Projected rankings say the Tigers will leapfrog the Nittany Lions with wins over Arkansas in the season finale and an SEC Championship Game date with the Georgia Bulldogs.


BUT…. LSU would need either USC or No. 2 Texas to somehow stumble along the way opening the door for the Tigers.


Fresno State has proven they are a program to be reckoned with and the Western Athletic Conference power would probably rank among the best teams in the Pac-10. But no one gave Hill's team much of a chance going into the Coliseum against Pete Carroll's high-flying Trojans.


Southern Cal erased an eight point halftime deficit and seized a 13-point lead early in the second half. It looked as if the Trojans would follow suit and blow the lid off the Bulldogs in the second half.


But Fresno refused to go down. After a spirited third quarter, the Bulldogs managed to pull ahead of the mighty Trojans and lead 42-41 midway through the fourth. Fresno State had the backing of LSU fans everywhere as the upstarts from the WAC were trying to pull off the impossible, hand USC its first loss in 33 games.


Well, it didn't happen.


Southern Cal running back Reggie Bush, possibly the best player these eyes have ever seen, virtually wrapped up the Heisman Trophy in gathering almost 600 all-purpose yards – by himself.


The Trojans won 50-42.


Nice try but most people didn't actually think Fresno State would beat USC. The Bulldogs came close but failed. However, the UCLA Bruins will do everything in their power to do so on Dec. 3.


It's funny how college football can take unseen twists and turns. After a loss to Tennessee way back in September, most Tiger fans wrote off a shot at a run at the Rose Bowl. LSU die-hards were content with winning as many games as possible and getting back to the SEC title game for a shot at a league title and a BCS bowl game. Any shot at being involved in the national title talk was the farthest thing from reality.


Here it is, Thanksgiving week, and LSU is right smack dab in the middle of the BCS hoopla – again – just a couple of wins away from landing back in the big game, with help that is.


Over the next few weeks, the Bruins of UCLA, the Texas A&M Aggies and whatever sacrificial patsy the Big XII North offers up will become the preferred team of many Tiger fans.


It was once thought the events of that first weekend in December two years ago was a once in a lifetime experience. It appears that might not be the case. Whatever the outcome, the next few weeks should be a heckuva ride.


Hang on!




Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. Reach him at

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