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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Matt Deville is the editor of
Tiger Rag Magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.