FEINSWOG: Things could always be worse

Look, things could always be worse. You think 7-3 is bad? You could be LaSalle, which lost to Ursinus on Saturday, 6-2. There's always a college football team out there hurting on a Sunday. Last week, LSU fans anticipated their game with Auburn full of optimism about their Tigers and full of laughable venom toward ESPN, which made a smart business decision to take its GameDay elsewhere.

As if that mattered.

 

What matters now is not if GameDay will grace LSU's presence again, but if LSU will salvage what's left of its 2006 season.

 

That's right, unfortunately, salvage. Because of a system that isn't going to change, LSU is now out of the national-championship hunt. Unless it wins all the rest of its games and Auburn loses twice in the Southeastern Conference, LSU can't win the SEC West, which means it can't win the SEC title, which means it can't win the BCS national championship.

 

The problem is the league championship game. If that didn't exist, LSU could stay in the national-title hunt. But that's a moot point, because that big money maker is never going away.

 

The situation is reminiscent of baseball before the American and National leagues split into divisions and wildcards were added. In the old days (before the mid-1970s), most teams were out of it by June. That meant three more months of baseball with nothing to play for except statistics and being a spoiler.

 

Things aren't that bad in college football, but there is a double-edged sword to deal with.

The current format puts teams like LSU and Tennessee (a loser to Florida and now in a similar situation in the SEC East) out of it, but they still can play themselves into a fun, lucrative, high-exposure bowl. Last year, for example, was the best-case scenario for LSU when it fell out of the big picture but continued to win, got into the Peach Bowl and punctuated its season with a tremendous victory over Miami. It was a real feel-good time for the Tigers.

 

This is a real feel-bad time for LSU, however. The Tigers have to face this simple reality: If you can't run the football, you can't win a big-time football game. That stats are sobering: LSU rushed for 42 net yards. Justin Vincent and Alley Broussard gained 16 apiece. Jacob Hester totaled minus 4.

 

Someone smarter than me said before LSU's first game its running game was in trouble because of a suspect offensive line and his doubts about the aforementioned Vincent and Broussard. LSU will have to set up the run with the pass, he said, admitting that defies conventional wisdom.

 

He was right on. It would be easy to blame Russell for the mistakes he made on the final drive – getting sacked and not reaching the end zone on his final throw – but truth is he did his part, completing 20 of 37 passes for 269 yards and putting LSU in a position to win the game.

 

Auburn was better, not by much, and benefited from having this game at home and a couple of officiating calls that seemed to go against LSU.

 

But all that aside, LSU has only itself to blame. It can't blame the new rules, because it had 60 offensive plays, only six less than it had on the average last season. It can't blame GameDay, because GameDay doesn't matter. It can blame the refs all it wants, but those calls aren't coming back.

 

It can credit Auburn, which played a whale of a defensive game. For that matter, harkening back to baseball, if you like 1-0 games with great pitching duels, than LSU-Auburn was a classic.

 

In the meantime, LSU can still salvage its season, do wonderful things and say what fans of teams like the Washington Senators and Chicago Cubs used to say in June in the old days:

 

There's always next year.

 

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Lee Feinswog is a Baton Rouge sportswriter and host of the television show Sports Monday. Reach him at (225) 926-3256 or lee@sportsbatonrouge.com. His book, "HoopDaddy" is available at www.HoopDaddy.net.


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