DEVILLE: It's four teams and everyone else

It's college football at its best in 2007. Just three weeks into the college football season, there has been unparalleled drama and angst among some of the nation's most traditionally powerful programs.

The most documented story of this young college football season is no doubt Appalachian State's upset of Michigan, but that upset on the first weekend of the season – one some call the biggest in the history of college football - is only the tip of the iceberg.

 

Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas, Tennessee and Auburn to name a few are just a few of the those teams who are usually cemented somewhere in the top 10. Well, not so much this year.

 

The Wolverines, who followed up that loss to Appalachian State with a 38-7 throttling at home by Oregon, finally got their first win of the season last weekend. Michigan fattened up on poor Notre Dame, who has still yet to score an offensive touchdown – three weeks into the season!

 

The Fighting Irish is "the worst offensive team I've seen," so said ESPN's Mark May Saturday night.

 

Notre Dame is last in the nation in yards per play, yards per game and total offense. Plus, through three games, the Irish has totaled all of -14 rushing yards. Oh, and they have allowed 23 sacks already this season! Ouch!

 

By looking at Texas' record, the 6th-ranked Longhorns are still 3-0 and ranked among the top teams in the country. But just barely.

 

Texas needed the benefit of a questionable call on an onside kick to ease past Arkansas State 21-13 in the season opener – at HOME! That's right, Arkansas State, as in the same Arkansas State that is in the Sun Belt Conference.

 

After roughing up TCU in week two, the Longhorns went on the road to Central Florida. Yes Mack Brown and the gang got the win, but did it kicking and scratching to the tune of 35-32 over the Golden Knights of Conference-USA. Yikes!

 

Phil Fulmer's seat just got hot again as his Volunteers are 1-2 to open the season for the first time since 1994. Tennessee dropped a shootout to Cal in the opener then was simply outclassed by rival Florida on Saturday in an embarrassing 59-20 loss in the Swamp.

 

And Auburn.

 

You can imagine there is plenty wailing and gnashing of teeth on the Plains this week. If you though it was bad enough losing to South Florida at home, try dropping a 19-14 loss to Mississippi State?

 

Yep, it was those same Bulldogs that LSU punished 45-0 in the season opener just three weeks ago. Although it wasn't pretty, Miss. State sent Auburn's Brandon Cox to the showers early and took advantage of a plethora of Tiger turnovers to register the upset.

 

Now you have to ask, "what does this have to do with LSU?"

 

Nothing actually, but that's the good thing.

 

Les Miles complimented his team after Saturday's 44-0 win over Middle Tennessee and actually referenced the insanity that has been occurring in major college stadiums across the country.

 

"When you look at the scores today, at teams that BCS schools supposedly should just hand over, when it is ‘just another ranked team that is playing a team that is not that good,'" Miles said. "You find that that those ranked teams fight for dear life or get upset. At any event, that doesn't happen here. Our guys understand in every contest we come to play."

 

Couldn't have said it better myself Les.

 

Miles might have his critics, but there is one thing he has done quite well since arriving at LSU. Against weaker competition, Miles leaves no doubters. Except for last season's come-from-behind win over Ole Miss, Miles' Tigers have pounded the competition.

 

Saturday was a good example.

 

Middle Tennessee wasn't expected to come into Tiger Stadium and contend for the upset, but the Blue Raiders had some momentum after a previous shootout loss to then-No. 8 Louisville.

 

In that game, MTSU put up 555 yards of total offense and racked up 42 points in a 58-42 loss to the Cardinals. Even though Louisville's defense might be more than a little bit suspect, Middle Tennessee proved they had a pretty good offense.

 

That is until they came to Tiger Stadium last Saturday.

 

LSU's defense held the Blue Raiders to 90 yards of total offense, all of nine first downs (three in the first half) and just nine rushing yards. Afterwards Miles said the defense was "pretty good."

 

Pretty good?

 

Sure enough Miss. State and Virginia Tech aren't considered offensive juggernauts, but now through three games the LSU defense has surrendered just seven points and are allowing just 128 yards per game.

 

Even The USC Trojans' vaunted defense gave up 31 points to Nebraska, most of which came when the game was very much in hand. But LSU's second and third teamers are just as stingy as the starters.

 

And while people can't stop talking about LSU's defense, the offense is as equally impressive.

 

Through three games, LSU has outscored its opponents 137-7. The Tigers amassed 505 yards of total offense and scored 40-plus points for the third straight game. And they did this on Saturday without the benefit of their starting quarterback or their best receiver.

 

Matt Flynn didn't play while resting a high-ankle sprain. Early Doucet was rumored to have some sort of groin injury which he sustained at the end of Friday's walk through. Miles wouldn't comment on the extent of the injury stating only that it "was the damndest thing he'd ever seen."

 

Whatever that means, right?

 

Tell you what Saturday's game meant though, LSU may not be the No. 1 team, especially after USC flexed its muscles in devouring Nebraska. But the group of elite teams at the top of college football is shrinking week by week. Presently there are four teams in college football – USC, LSU, Florida and Oklahoma – and then there's everybody else.

 

It's shaping up to be a heckuva rest of the season for Miles and his Tigers.

 

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


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