IN REVIEW: LSU makes improbable run to BCS

Was there any doubt the LSU Tigers would make it to the BCS National Championship Game?

Considering how the Tigers navigated their way through the 2007 season, it seemed inevitable, right? As a matter of fact, the way the college football season played out this year, it only seems fitting that the national championship should shake out the way it has.

Never in the history of college football have two more flawed – yet deserving – teams reached the big game. But considering the rest of the nation, it is quite appropriate that an afterthought Buckeye squad and a two-loss LSU team hook up for all the marbles.

Take Ohio State.

Blasted by Florida in last year's national championship game, the Buckeyes cowered into the offseason with their tail tucked between their legs, smarting from a 41-14 smacking at the hands of the mighty Gators.

Ohio State entered the season No. 11 in the AP Poll and registered 12th in Tiger Rag's preseason top 15.

But by week seven of the season, as one top-ranked team after another fell by the wayside, the Buckeyes found themselves at the top of the college football world. Ohio State sustained its No. 1 ranking for three straight weekends until week seven when, like USC and LSU had already, it fell from grace with a 28-21 loss to Illinois.

Many considered the Buckeyes out of the national championship race as Jim Tressel's team fell to seventh in the BCS standings. LSU rose to No. 1 in the land and looked primed to close out the regular season with a run to the BCS title.

Ironically, both teams would make it to New Orleans, but the path they took could never have been imagined.

LSU was the preseason pick to make it to the national championship tilt – in its own backyard, mind you – in the Louisiana Superdome. The Tigers were finally supposed to run head on into the USC Trojans and scores were supposed to be settled for the wounds left gaping from the 2003 season.

But the too-talented-for-their-own-good Trojans lost to 41-point underdog Stanford – at home – and was all but erased from any championship consideration. USC did end up winning the Pac-10 title, but it wasn't before a loss to Oregon sufficiently ended the Men of Troy's BCS title hopes.

Despite replacing nine starters on defense, Florida looked like another early possibility to make a repeat performance in the national title game. But Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and the Gators ran into midseason problems against Auburn, LSU, and Georgia, and Urban Meyer's bunch was done for.

Oklahoma and West Virginia were also considered as contenders as well, but at some point or another, both lost games they shouldn't have: OU at Colorado and WVU against South Florida. Both faded from sight.

Traditional powers Michigan and Texas struggled to find their identities early in the season, and both knew their seasons were not going to end on Jan. 7 as fast as you can say Appalachian State.

Pac-10 upstarts Cal and Oregon were in the hunt at one point or another, but injuries to their quarterbacks spelled certain doom as the season wore on.

By the final week of the regular season, LSU had lived up to its preseason billing and reigned supreme over college football – ranked No. 1 in the land, despite having one loss. The Tigers had been tripped up by a surging Kentucky team, which needed three extra periods to upset then No.1-ranked LSU.

But things had moved full circle, and the SEC title game-bound Tigers needed only a win over a hot-and-cold Arkansas team to roll into Atlanta. But the Hawgs showed up hot, and Darren McFadden ran wild as the Razorbacks, ironically, pulled past LSU in … three overtimes.

The Tigers were crushed, but the disappointment of a second loss and an obvious ouster from the BCS title chase had been building for weeks. It was obvious since LSU had sustained a couple of key injuries on defense that the Tigers had been living on borrowed time.

LSU needed last-second touchdowns on their final drives against Auburn, Florida and at Alabama to pull out victories. The Tigers trailed Tulane at one point, surrendered an uneasy amount of yards against Ole Miss, and looked a far cry from the dominant team that whipped eventual ACC champion Virginia Tech 48-7 in week two of the regular season.

In the wake of LSU's loss to Arkansas, coach Les Miles and his team knew they would play for the SEC title and could still reach a BCS bowl game, but the hopes of a national title were all but over.

The scene then shifted to the Big 12 North where 11-0 Kansas was to meet 10-1 Missouri for a shot at the conference title. These two Big 12 also-rans clashed in an epic battle to meet Oklahoma for a shot at the national title. The Tigers beat the Jayhawks and moved into the nation's No. 1 spot, but they lost to Oklahoma a week later to trigger the BCS earthquake on Dec. 1.

In the hours following LSU's 21-14 win over Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game, the Bayou Bengals looked on as Mizzou fell to the Sooners in the Big 12 title game. The remaining sparks of LSU's national title hopes became a flicker, then erupted into a roar as No. 2 West Virginia was beaten in the most improbable of upsets by a 4-7 Pitt team.

In the early morning hours of Sunday, Dec. 2, the scene began to materialize.

LSU, a team with two losses that had been ranked as low as sixth in the BCS poll, leapfrogged three other teams (Georgia, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech) into the No. 2 spot. The same Ohio State squad that had been left for dead after losing to the Illini catapulted into the No. 1 position and learned Sunday evening it would play the Tigers for all the marbles on Jan. 7.

And thus continues the chaos that is known as college football.


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