ENGSTER: LSU, Notre Dame very similar

Forget the hype about Notre Dame being college football's invincible juggernaut.

The Irish team LSU will face on Jan. 3 at the Sugar Bowl has experienced triumphs and setbacks under the Golden Dome similar to those weathered by LSU at Death Valley in the years since Charles McClendon and Dan Devine quit coaching at the schools in 1979 and 1980, respectively.


Both programs have savored great success and have also suffered embarrassing downturns on the gridiron. As the two schools collide in the Sugar Bowl, here is a look at the Irish and Tigers in the last 27 seasons.



Comparisons                                        Notre Dame                 LSU


Winning seasons since 1980                  Notre Dame (20)          LSU (17)


Losing seasons since 1980                    Notre Dame (7)            LSU (10)


Bowl victories since 1980                     Notre Dame (6)            LSU (8)


Bowl losses since 1980             Notre Dame (12)          LSU (7)




Head coaches since 1980                     Notre Dame (8)            LSU (9)


National Championships since '80         Notre Dame (1)            LSU (1)


Championship coach                             Lou Holtz (1988)          Nick Saban (2003)


Record in their last 64 games                Holtz (46-16-2)            Saban (48-16)


Wins since 1980                                   Notre Dame (214)        LSU (193)


Losses since 1980                                Notre Dame (104)        LSU (119)      


10 win seasons since 1980                    Notre Dame (7)            LSU (6)          


Wins vs. each other since 1980 Notre Dame (3)            LSU (3)


Worst loss since 1980                          Miami 1985 (58-7)       Florida 1992 (58-3)


Worst hire since 1980                           Gerry Faust                  Curley Hallman


Best 5 year period since 1980               53-8-1 (1988-92)        51-13 (2002-06)


Worst 5 year period since 1980            30-26-1 (1981-85)      21-34 (1990-94)



The 2007 Sugar Bowl will feature a pair of sophomore coaches in Les Miles and Charlie Weis. Curiously, Miles is much criticized at LSU with a 21-4 mark while Weis is relatively popular at Notre Dame with a 19-5 ledger. The difference is that Weis inherited a program that posted an 11-13 record in the two years preceding his arrival. Nick Saban's last two years produced a 22-4 standard that Miles can reach with a victory over the Irish.


Weis served as coach of the defensive ends 19 years ago when LSU whipped South Carolina 30-13 in the Gator Bowl. Miles and crew are favored to whip the Irish in the Superdome, and most Tiger partisans are anticipating a third Sugar Bowl triumph in the last six seasons.


Nick Saban directed the Tigers to a 47-34 win over Illinois in his second season at the 2002 Sugar Bowl. Two years later, Saban's Bengals captured BCS honors, leaving New Orleans with the national title in 2004 as LSU topped Oklahoma 21-14.


The only time LSU and Notre Dame met in a bowl game was in north Louisiana nine Decembers ago as the Tigers avenged a regular season defeat with a convincing 27-9 victory over the Irish. Both coaches in the 1997 Independence Bowl at Shreveport were fired as Gerry DiNardo and Bob Davie lasted five seasons each in Baton Rouge and South Bend respectively.


A win over Notre Dame will ensure a second consecutive top five finish for Miles and should catapult him into an elite group of compensated college coaches. The outcome against Notre Dame will affect LSU's coach far more noticeably should the Tigers lose. The anti-Miles zealots are always poised to pounce.


The Philadelphia Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt once noted that Philly was the only city where he could experience the thrill of victory and the agony of reading about it the next day.


Based on the reaction to Les Miles and his 84 percent victory clip, some critics in Baton Rouge are rivaling naysayers in the City of Brotherly Love in their aversion to winners.




Jim Engster is the host of "The Jim Engster" show, the general manager of Louisiana Network and Tiger Rag and a featured columnist in Tiger Rag. Reach him at jim@la-net.net.

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