DEVILLE: Calling Hogs, BCS mess & Turkey Day

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Word is, there were a few upset Arkansas fans on Saturday morning.

It's pretty certain Hog fans were still smarting from Friday's 31-26 loss to LSU, Arkansas' first SEC loss of 2006, which also snapped the Razorbacks' 10-game winning streak.


But those weren't the only reasons.


LSU coach Les Miles was high on the list as well.


Following the Tigers' five-point victory at War Memorial Stadium, the second-year head coach said he felt as if his team was the best team in the SEC Western Division.


Hog fans didn't take kindly to that comment, especially since they will represent the West in the SEC Championship Game this weekend in Atlanta. In stark contrast to being eliminated from the national championship picture (a picture in which Arkansas was a mere shadow anyway), a Razorback victory over LSU would have been little more than an exclamation point to a grand season.


The Hogs had already sewed up the divisional title (thanks to two earlier league losses for LSU) and had clinched a berth in the SEC Championship Game with a win over Mississippi State a week prior.


But a team looking for style points, Houston Nutt's Razorbacks would have liked another win over a top-10 program like LSU. Then a victory over No. 4 Florida in the SEC Championship Game may have erased that black-eye of a loss to USC in the season opener and got Arkansas in the National Championship Game. All of that hinged on a Notre Dame win over the Trojans, of course, which also didn't happen.


At any rate, the Razorbacks now head to the SEC Championship Game with a 10-2 record, the same as LSU's, with the only difference being the Hogs' 7-1 league mark compared to the Tigers' 6-2 conference tilt.


Sure, Razorback fans can take solace in the fact that while LSU danced and celebrated on their field in "Razor Rock" (as they like to call it), the following weekend those same folks will be sitting at home in their Barcaloungers watching the Razorbacks and Gators play for the league crown in the Georgia Dome.


Miles said Friday night he feels like his Tigers' are the best team in the SEC West. We'll go one step further and say LSU could be the best team in the SEC, and probably is – considering that the Tigers went on the road and beat a top-five Arkansas team in a stadium where they have lost only once prior (also to LSU) in the last decade.


And speaking of top-ranked teams, all four trips away from Tiger Stadium this season were to play against "top-eight" teams in arguably four of the nation's toughest venues.


Three of those teams were ranked in the top five at the time LSU played them. The Tigers went 2-2 in those games.


But it's all conjecture, right?


All LSU can do now is sit and wait to see where the chips fall. All factors indicate the Tigers should be a BCS at-large selection and play in either the Orange or Rose Bowl.


Orange Bowl officials were waiting with anxious anticipation outside the locker room in Little Rock to chat with Miles, just as they did in Knoxville.


The two questions that now remain are as follows: (1) Did the Tigers sufficiently state their case with a 10-2 record, 2-2 tilt against top-10 teams and closing out the season with six consecutive victories? and (2) Who stands in the way of the LSU's first BCS bowl game since the 2004 Sugar Bowl, in which the Tigers won the national title?


First and foremost, we'll look at the teams who were in contention and are now out of the mix.


How about West Virginia? Thanks to a 24-19 upset loss to South Florida on Saturday, the Mountaineers have been bounced out of the BCS race. Now, LSU fans need to pull for the 'Neers to beat one-loss Rutgers to eliminate them from elite bowl status.


I'll say that Notre Dame is out of the BCS mix only because they should be. In the name of Beano Cook, you know the Fighting Irish will still be considered for a BCS game even after getting pummeled by USC on Saturday night. That now makes two ugly losses for the Gold Domers this season


Oh, and speaking of the Trojans, I know you LSU fans dislike them, but they are going to get to play for it all against Ohio State – that is, unless a very average UCLA team can pull off the monumental upset. (Don't bet on it).


Boise State (even though this writer thinks it's a load of hogwash) locked down its BCS at-large bid by whipping Nevada on Saturday. Even though the Broncos get one of the coveted at-large bids, that leaves the other one up for grabs, most probably between a couple of SEC teams.


I know Tiger fans would rather spit than cheer for Florida, but LSU needs the Gators to win the SEC Championship Game. An Arkansas victory would send the Razorbacks to the Sugar Bowl with the league's automatic bid. The loss would drop Florida to the ranks of the twice-beaten. And with a 23-10 win over LSU earlier this year, the Gators would grab the at-large bid ahead of the Tigers.


A Florida victory means three losses and a ball of Cotton for the Hogs, and LSU sews up the second at-large bid.


In the end, though, Miles' statement still singes the "high-knees" of Razorbacks fans and leaves LSU fans stirring in what could have been. However, as this writer wrote last summer, the best team doesn't always come out ahead. The road schedule was speculated to be the Tigers' Achilles heel (at the time, no one could have imagined how tough it would really turn out to be) and 10-2 was the benchmark for this LSU team.


(Actually, I picked LSU to go 10-2 with losses at Auburn and Florida. Sorry folks.)


The best team probably isn't playing in Atlanta this weekend, but that is why the game is played. You do have 10 wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history, and we'll be gunning for victory No. 22 in a 16-month period, which pretty much any school in America will take at any time. It is a shame that LSU didn't get to flex its muscles on the national stage (National Championship stage, that is), but closing out the 2006 campaign in a prominent setting will be a fitting way to send off the winningest senior class in LSU Tiger history.




The trip to Arkansas is always one of my favorites, mainly because I get to pass through my hometown of Bastrop, La., and spend Thanksgiving with my folks.


This year we took it a step further.


My wife, Beth, and I loaded up and made the pilgrimage north, stopped and gathered my parents, and headed north to the Natural State for Thanksgiving. We joined some friends in their motor home on Turkey Day for a feast worthy of mentioning, then we stayed over for the game on Friday.


My parents rarely get to come to Baton Rouge for LSU football games, so it was extra special for me to have them attend the game versus Arkansas. It is opportunities like these that make me truly thankful.




Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at

Tiger Blitz Top Stories