FEINSWOG: Well deserved rest

A football team that really, really needed some rest and time off finally got it.

And now we'll find out if the LSU Tigers of 2005 are the ones who astounded the college-football world for most of the season en route to winning nine games in a row, or the ones who got overpowered last time out.

The more I thought about it, the more appreciative I became of this beleaguered group as it marched through 11 consecutive weeks of games.

The victories were often harrowing – some even said lucky – but LSU won and won and won. And luck, as many will tell you, is when preparation meets opportunity.

Nonetheless, the Tigers simply appeared to have run out of steam when they went to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. A 34-14 defeat to Georgia probably shouldn't have been that surprising.

And when you think about it, one Georgia touchdown came from a blocked punt and the other on an interception when the outcome was all but decided. For argument's sake, take away those plays and it's a one-TD game.

But LSU just looked slow and tired at times. The 11 weeks in a row had taken their toll.

Heck, I'm the host of a weekly live television show. There are people who will tell you I stink all the time, but I will tell you that during stretches without some replays sprinkled in and time to recharge, I know I get stale. One would have to imagine that's the same or worse for a football player.

The Peach Bowl match-up with Miami is an opportunity for LSU to accomplish quite a bit. Considering the base the previous staff built in South Florida (Duane Bowe, Xavier Carter, Ali Highsmith and others), the recruiting angle is no small thing.

In an LSU-perfect world, Bowe and Carter catch TD passes and Highsmith leads in tackles.

It's also a chance for LSU to record only the third 11-victory season in school history. The other times, LSU won the national championship (11-0 in 1958, 13-1 in 2003). For that matter, LSU has only won 10 games in a season three other times (1908, also a national-title season, 1987 and 1996).

What that means is even if LSU loses, it still goes down as one of the top 10 seasons in school history.

Not bad for a group of guys who had the rug completely pulled out from under them because of Hurricane Katrina. That seems so long ago from a football sense, but remember all that occurred, from the changing of games to players being hosts for their oversized families to not knowing what was going to happen next.

I never thought LSU would win 10 games in the regular season. And when you look back on a team that committed so many penalties and turned the ball over so often and dealt with a fair number of injuries, its record is even more commendable.

This is a really tough match-up with Miami, one made tougher with the presumed loss of quarterback JaMarcus Russell to a non-throwing shoulder injury. It puts a lot of pressure on Matt Flynn, who has excelled in mop-up time but has yet to take on a big role in the spotlight. His interception against Georgia for an easy TD doesn't lend itself to confidence about his abilities.

Nonetheless, it's a chance for Flynn to make the quarterback derby at LSU next spring and summer more than just a foregone conclusion that the job is all Russell's.

LSU should be rested and ready. The opportunities await. Maybe these Tigers will be lucky again. And anyone will you in bowl games they'd rather be lucky than good.

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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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