TIGER RAG VIEWPOINT: Where We Stand

OXFORD, Miss. – This week's edition of Where Do We Stand comes to you from deep in the "Old South."

Things have changed in Oxford since the Tigers last visit to Ole Miss. Two years ago, the Rebels were enjoying their best season in decades. LSU held off Eli Manning and Ole Miss for a 17-14 victory en route to a national title.

Since that November afternoon in 2003, LSU has maintained its position as one of the best teams in the country. Ole Miss, on the other hand, has slipped back into the SEC's cellar, maybe the deepest its been in the hole in quite some time.

While the football game wasn't much of a contest with LSU winning 40-7, the sights and sounds of Oxford mixed with Old South hospitality made for a nice weekend away from the capital city.

Speaking of Mississippi, the state as a whole had seen better days on the gridiron. Wins were hard to find Saturday in the Magnolia State.

Les Miles continues to reach some milestones in his first season at LSU while his team put together its first complete game of the year. The offense was efficient enough to score 40 points (however, that was not such a tall task against the Rebel defense), but the defense stole the show putting together its most suffocating effort of the 2005 campaign.

Saturday saw a shakeup in the BCS with Miami losing to Georgia Tech. USC survived (yet another) scare and Penn State won its first Big Ten title in 11 years.

A disappointing season came to an end for Vanderbilt, albeit on a high note, which came at the expense of hated rival Tennessee. Alabama's BCS bowl hopes went down the drain with a whipping on the Plains as Auburn makes its case as arguably the best team in the SEC.

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Oklahoma was dealt a last-second loss to Texas Tech to further send Bob Stoops' team spiraling from the ranks of the elite to the doldrums of mediocrity.

As usual, the first thumbs up goes to the Tiger football team. LSU has rattled off eight straight wins and are 9-1 overall on the season. The Tigers are now a win away from their third trip to the SEC Championship Game in the last five years. With Georgia Tech's upset of No. 3 Miami, the Tigers should check in at the No. 3 spot in both polls.

To LSU football coach Les Miles. In his first season in Baton Rouge, Miles has not only defeated Alabama, Auburn and Florida in the same season for the first time in the history of the program; Miles put together a perfect 5-0 clip on the road, including wins at No. 15 Arizona State and against the No. 4 ranked Crimson Tide.

To the Tiger defense. LSU continues to climb the charts in statistical rankings in Division I, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Tigers are fourth overall in total defense and held Ole Miss to 175 yards of total offense. Ole Miss managed a mere seven rushing yards against the Tigers and three, first half first downs.

To Mississippi football. Not just Ole Miss football, but football statewide. No one program was better than the other on Saturday as Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss all lost. The Bulldogs were embarrassed by Arkansas 44-10 setting up arguably the worst "Egg Bowl" in years with a 3-7 Rebel team facing 2-8 Miss. State. Southern Miss tried to rally but fell to Memphis and Mississippi Valley State lost to Southeastern Louisiana 38-21. One Mississippi team was destined to get a win, but only because two schools played one another. Alcorn State beat Jackson State 31-14 in the Capital City Classic held in Jackson, Miss.

USC's Reggie Bush all but sewed up the Heisman Trophy with an out-of-this-world performance against Fresno State. Bush undoubtedly passed teammate Matt Leinart and Heisman favorite Vincent Young by collecting almost 600, all-purpose yards in the Trojans 50-42 win early Sunday morning over the Bulldogs.

To Fresno State. Coach Pat Hill and his team should be commended for an outstanding performance against the nation's top-ranked team. The Bulldogs show no fear in scheduling the big boys and bit off a little more than they could chew in the No. 1 ranked Trojans. However, Fresno did have the ball deep in USC territory with a chance to tie the game before throwing a late interception. Don't take this the wrong way though, it isn't like a near-win against USC is good enough to vault the Bulldogs into, say the top 10 a la Notre Dame. But just ask Beano Cook and he'll tell you how a close loss to the mighty Trojans qualifies you as one of the best teams in the nation. It will be interesting to see if Hill calls Charlie Weis' agent in hopes of re-negotiating his new, $40 million contract.

Poor, poor Vanderbilt. The Commodores are a consistent SEC cellar-dweller, but every now and then they find a good thing. That good thing was Jay Cutler and he led Vandy to a 4-0 start. However, the Dores remembered they were still Vanderbilt and followed up a sparkling start with six straight losses. After getting beat by lowly Kentucky, the Commodores failed at its chance to get bowl eligible. But what would be better than going to a bowl game? Making sure Tennessee doesn't, and that's just what the Dores did last Saturday as Vandy beat the arch-rival Vols 28-24 in Knoxville. While the win was sweet, the Commodores have to be kicking themselves after losing games to Middle Tennessee State and Kentucky.

To the Tennessee Volunteers. It's easy to kick someone when they are down, so this will be the last (and most enjoyable) shot taken at the Volunteers. How does a team go from preseason No. 3 in the nation to not even finishing bowl eligible? Tennessee will go down as no doubt one of the most overrated teams in SEC history. Phil Fulmer will be forced to make major staff changes or may find his orange keister on the chopping block a year from now. Another question, how many orange-clad Vol fans will bother to show up to watch Tennessee play Kentucky in a meaningless season finale.

Speaking of overrated teams, the Alabama Crimson Tide comes to mind. Remember two weeks ago when Tide fans were buzzing about possibly being left out of the national championship picture if they were to go undefeated and win the SEC. That must seem likes years ago as Alabama, a week after losing to LSU 16-13 in overtime at Tuscaloosa, went down on the Plains Saturday and got pasted by Auburn 28-18. Auburn actually led that game 21-0 in the first quarter. Alabama's Rose Bowl hopes have wilted into something resembling a Cotton bloom, or maybe even a soggy Peach.

 To the Oklahoma Sooners. Oklahoma may have won 12 games in four of fives seasons from 2000-04, but the Sooners will be lucky to get seven wins this season as OU limps into the season finale with Oklahoma State. Bob Stoops' crew fell 23-21 to Texas Tech last weekend and would serve as a nice consolation prize for the Cowboys, whose bowl hopes went up in smoke with a 44-34 loss to Baylor.


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