DEVILLE: I know when I am wrong

Let me begin by saying – I was wrong.

There I said it.

 

I am swallowing my pride and making no excuses about it – I was wrong in every facet of my breakdown of the LSU Tigers showdown with the Miami Hurricanes in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.

 

It was easy to say a team, drilled in its last game against Georgia, debuting a new quarterback to run an offense that has been sporadic at best most of the year against a top 10 Miami team - that was in no way a recipe for success.

 

I think it is pretty safe to say, though, I wasn't the only skeptic out there that picked the Tigers to lose in their second straight trip to Atlanta's Georgia Dome. It was pretty much a general consensus among writers and fans alike LSU was probably on its way to the team's third loss of the season.

 

But the Tigers had other plans.

 

Maybe a little time off was just what the doctor ordered for the team that played 11 straight games after having the beginning of the regular season re-arranged due to a couple of hurricanes.

 

It seemed appropriate the Tigers drew Miami as its bowl game opponent. It was only fitting LSU opened the season with two catastrophic hurricanes and closed the season with yet another hurricane. The difference in the storms were Katrina and Rita may have gotten the best of the Tigers and most of the gulf coast, but the Miami Hurricanes weren't quite as devastating. Matter of fact, Miami's efforts Friday night might not have even registered as a tropical wave.

 

The Hurricanes came out blazing and grabbed a quick 3-0 lead. But LSU, behind first-time starting quarterback Matt Flynn and a suffocating Tiger defense, scored 40 unanswered points pummeling Larry Coker's team into submission 40-3.

 

Four weeks after Georgia drilled an exhausted LSU team 34-14 in the SEC Championship Game, the Tigers returned to the scene of the crime with a bit of a chip on their collective shoulder.

 

For almost a month, their character had been questioned, the coaching staff browbeat by a restless fan base and their chances of beating the mighty Hurricanes were very slim.

 

All of that, coupled with several precious weeks of rest, resulted in the most dominating performance in a bowl game in LSU history.

 

It was far more lopsided than LSU's 45-26 victory over Nick Saban's Michigan State Spartans in the 1995 Independence Bowl, which was the Tigers' largest bowl victory coming into Friday's game.

 

Speaking of lopsided, it was Miami's worst loss in a bowl game in the program's history surpassing the previous mark of 29 points in a 29-0 loss to Arizona in 1994. It was the U's most lopsided loss since Donovan McNabb and the Syracuse (then) Orangemen, now just Orange, whipped the probation-riddled Hurricanes 66-19 in 1998.

 

Adding insult to injury, not only did Miami get dominated on the field, a couple of Hurricanes players got roughed up in a postgame scuffle that left Coker rather red faced in the aftermath. Several Miami players pursued LSU wide receiver and Miami native Dwayne Bowe into the tunnel after Bowe had exchanged some friendly trash talking after the game.

 

The incident became the center of attention in the national media and while the unfortunate occurrence not entirely LSU's fault, it seemed to cast a negative light on the Tigers' impressive victory. Minutes after LSU was being praised for such a dominating performance, the Tigers were then criticized for running up the score by faking two kicks in the fourth quarter with a commanding lead.

 

At any rate, one can ask themselves, what does this victory do for Les Miles and the Tigers?

 

For one thing, it will give Miles some much deserved breathing room heading into the offseason.

 

Miles has been under the microscope since his arrival in Tiger town. The first year coach has been criticized on everything from the way he talked, his coaching decision, his views on discipline even the way he wore his hat. Heck, 10 wins did nothing to ease the criticism either and the Tigers' flop in the SEC title game only incensed the growing lynch mob ever further.

 

However, Miles and the Tigers' win over No. 9 Miami should propel LSU into the top 10 in the final poll and complete a season in which the Tigers sustained a top 10 ranking throughout the complete season.

 

LSU projects to finish ranked somewhere between 6th and 9th and the decisive victory should ensure a nice, lofty preseason top10 ranking for next year. And with the way the Tigers' schedule sets up, LSU should be in good shape before they take their first of four tough road trips in 2006.

 

The Tigers open with UL-Lafayette, then host Arizona and an opponent yet to be named. Then Tulane and Mississippi State visit Tiger Stadium before LSU heads to Florida in the first road game of the year. Kentucky then visits Baton Rouge followed by trips to Auburn and Tennessee. Needless to say, this win over Miami placed LSU in a nice spot heading into a critical season of the Les Miles era.

 

Plus, a win over a national power like Miami definitely helps in the way of recruiting.

 

The Tigers have won many battles in the Sunshine State most recently with players like Dwayne Bowe, Xavier Carter, E.J. Kuale and Rickey Jean-Francois. Don't think Miles and his staff won't use Friday's win or its aftermath as a strong selling point for the LSU program.

 

In closing, I can admit I was wrong in my pregame judgment of this team. I can say in three and a half football seasons of being the editor of Tiger Rag, I have picked the Tigers to lose only twice.

 

The first, in 2004, when LSU, fresh off a 45-16 drubbing at Georgia, had to travel into the Swamp to face the Florida Gators, I picked the Tigers to lose.

 

The result – LSU 24, Florida 21.

 

The second, was this Peach Bowl game, in which no one gave the Tigers much of a chance. I picked it 27-10 Miami.

 

The result – LSU 40, Miami 3.

 

It doesn't hurt to be wrong every now and then.

 

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Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.


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