On the eve of the season's kickoff,
On paper, there is a convincing case for that scenario:
• In terms of sheer talent, the Tigers are loaded – maybe even obscenely overloaded, with backups who could be starters on other pretty good teams;
• In terms of focus and direction, LSU has what appears to be a sound – and creative – coaching staff, on all sides of the ball;
• In terms of what appears to be a favorable schedule, the Tigers have it, with every one of LSU's most formidable opponents having to play on the Tigers' home field.
All the stars are aligned. The Bayou Bengals are already being fitted for championship rings.
Maybe, maybe not.
Pieces of every puzzle (and every team and every season is a puzzle at this stage) have to fit, and over the long haul talent alone is often not enough to hold a season. There has to be team chemistry, with all the parts working as one – and at their best – over the course of 12 games. That's a rarity.
There has to be luck as far as injuries go (just one, like, say, to quarterback Matt Flynn, could change all the dynamics of an entire season); there has to be luck as far as the bounce of the ball (like recovering just of a couple of the five turnovers LSU committed against Florida last year) or the flow of a game (like getting the benefit of the call just once or twice out of the handful of the hairline penalties that went against LSU at Auburn last season).
Things like that are not factored into preseason evaluations of a team – but they often show their ugly faces at the end of a season.
But even without those
possibilities, LSU could have intangible landmines waiting to blow up its
season. One is those universally high expectations. The Tigers are not a program
that is traditionally used to having to live up to such lofty goals. LSU is not
like, say, Southern Cal, Notre Dame or Alabama, all of which have had No. 1 tags
branded on them many times (an honor that serves as basically a target on their
jerseys, bringing forth opponents' best shots week in and week out) and
prevailed. Joe Paterno, who coached
Also, what is all the hoopla about LSU getting those best opponents at home about? Is it an advantage? Yes. Does it guarantee victory?
That schedule itself may be LSU's undoing.
Consider this: Virginia Tech,
Over the course of the entire
season, LSU will play seven teams –
And there are real traps, like
having to go to
And there's one other thing about that schedule. Remember what everyone was saying when Nick Saban was at LSU … that if you give him a little extra time to prepare, his team can beat anybody?
Well, he has an off-week – that
crucial little extra time – before
That's not all. Just like last year
when Ole Miss played the Tigers off their feet before eventually losing in
overtime, the Rebels also have the week off before hosting LSU – two weeks if
their breather with
Steve Spurrier's South Carolina
Gamecocks do take the field the week before LSU, but against
Spotting extra advantages to coaches like Saban, Spurrier and Urban Meyer could put LSU in, say, the CapitalOne Bowl instead of the national championship game, or even the Sugar Bowl.
Marty Mule' can be reached at MJM981@Bellsouth.net.