MULE': Tigers Gather Style Points

If it was said one time in the last week, it's been said across the state a thousand times: LSU is going to pulverize its last regular season opponents.

I heard it several times in, of all places, the LSU athletic department last week. A New Orleans radio station trying to draw in its listeners had this for a topic: Should LSU run up the score against its last three opponents?

Tiger fans, you're killing me.

LSU did have an impressive score against Louisiana Tech Saturday night, but ask anyone who was there and they'll tell you that eventual 58-10 margin seemed a lot closer in the first quarter when the Tigers seemed to be moving in slow motion and were in front 10-0 against a competitive opponent at that stage.

Remember, this was on a night after LSU had secured the SEC West title because its nearest rivals Alabama and Auburn were both mathematically eliminated. It was on a night when No. 1 Ohio State lost, shooting the Tigers to the top rung. You would have thought LSU would be at the top of its game. It eventually was, but not really until the second half.

So now, two SEC also-rans, Ole Miss and Arkansas, await the Tigers, both itching to derail LSU's national title run. Pulverize them? If only it would be that simple.

Ole Miss was once a white-hot adversary of the Tigers, but that rivalry has fallen by the wayside – at least on the LSU side. Every year, LSU tends to overlook the Rebels (and this season is a prime example, if you listen to the fans), and almost every year, Ole Miss plays its Game of the Year against the Tigers, even when the Rebs are outmanned.

In LSU's recent SEC title years of 2001 and 2003, Ole Miss played the Tigers off their feet, winning the first 35-24 and losing the second 17-14. Even as far back as 1986, the SEC champion Bayou Bengals were beaten by the Rebels 21-19. Remember when LSU beat No. 1-ranked Florida in 1997, then a week later was upended 36-21 by the Rebels waiting in ambush?

Since 1970, when LSU beat Ole Miss 61-17 for the SEC title, the Tigers have dominated what had been a close series, going 25-12-1 in the process. But even when LSU wins, Ole Miss usually gives a good account of itself. In practically every one of the Rebels' victories since the watershed season of 1970, Ole Miss was the underdog.

And we only have to go back one year when, like this season, Ole Miss had a breather (against Northwestern State) and then a week off to prepare. Then the Rebels played the Tigers out of their cleats before losing in overtime.

It may not happen that way. But here's a warning: If history is any guide, Tigers, particularly in a year when LSU has demonstrated a tendency to play sloppily and undisciplined, expect the Rebels' best shot. Popping LSU's dream will make their season.

It has in the past.

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Louisiana Tech represented the 100th game LSU has played since the Saban/Miles era began in 2000. Tech also turned out to be the Tigers' 79th victory in that span. …

When Alabama and Auburn lost Saturday to Mississippi State and Georgia, respectively, it gave LSU the SEC West title for the fourth time (sixth if you count two more in which the Tigers tied for the top spot but came up short in the tie-breakers). Alabama leads with five Western Division titles, but, among the western schools, LSU already has as many SEC Championship Game victories as the Tide. Bama is 2-3; LSU 2-1; Auburn 1-2; Mississippi State 0-1; and Arkansas 0-3. Eastern Division teams have dominated the series 10-5 and outscored the West 404-328. Florida is the all-time leader in all categories, appearing eight times and winning six. …

After incurring eight penalties against Louisiana Tech, LSU has now been flagged an SEC-high 91 times. Tiger opponents have been called for 43 infractions – fewer than half those called on LSU. …

The Fightin' Zookers of Illinois' upset of Ohio State brought this to mind: If conventional wisdom says Les Miles has been winning with Nick Saban's players, how come no one has noted that Urban Meyer won last season's national championship with Ron Zook's talent? …

Alabama, after dropping a second straight game to Mississippi State and Sylvester Croom, the man Crimson Tide athletic director Mal Moore should have hired five years ago, now has the same record it had a year ago at this time – when Moore decided he had to fire Mike Shula. Alabama would be in a lot better shape today if Moore had made the obvious choice in the first place. …

There was nothing close about Virginia's 48-0 defeat of Miami in the last game in the Orange Bowl, but the Cavaliers have been a special team this season. The Cavs, with an 8-3 record, have won five games by a total of seven points. They have notched three victories by one point apiece, and two by two points. No team in major college football history has ever won that many games by so slim a margin. Winning close is a mark of a champion. …

Navy's 74-62 victory over North Texas is said to be the highest scoring (136 points) game in regulation. What about Georgia Tech's infamous 222-0 obliteration of Cumberland in 1917? That one was ended prematurely.


Marty Mule' can be reached at

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