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blacksaint 11-06-2007 10:12 PM

Substance over style
No reason to punish LSU for prevailing in close games

Posted: By Stewart Mendel,
Tuesday November 6, 2007

Last weekend, LSU went into ravenous Bryant-Denny Stadium to play the most heavily hyped game of its entire season and, despite a litany of self-inflicted wounds, made the big plays it needed to at the end to knock off its fifth ranked opponent of the season, Alabama.

At least that's how I saw it. A few increasingly incredulous readers viewed the result in a much different light, including this guy:

I think it's pretty clear now LSU might not be as good as people thought. I mean, you could give them one, two or even three close calls. But every game? At some point you have to stop saying their schedule is that much tougher than everyone else's and start saying they're not that great.
--Brad, Dallas

Hmm. I seem to remember another supposedly overrated team that much of the public figured was living on borrowed time as it rolled off one ugly, nail-biting win after another -- so much so that it earned itself the nickname the "Luckeyes." That would be 2002 national champion Ohio State.

But you don't have to go back that far to find a parallel to LSU's 2007 season. Does nobody else remember national champion Florida's regular season from a year ago? Allow me to refresh your memory with a comparison between the Tigers' recent, brutal four-game stretch and Florida's effort during the same time span a year ago:

2007 LSU:
Oct. 6 -- Beats No. 9 Florida, 28-24
Oct. 13 -- Loses at No. 17 Kentucky, 43-37 (3OT)
Oct. 20 -- Beats No. 18 Auburn, 30-24
Nov. 3 -- Wins at No. 17 Alabama, 41-34

2006 Florida:
Oct. 7 -- Beats No. 9 LSU, 23-10
Oct. 14 -- Loses at No. 11 Auburn, 27-17
Oct. 28 -- Beats Georgia, 21-14
Nov. 4 -- Wins at Vanderbilt, 25-19

By the way -- Florida's struggles did not end there. A week later, the team needed a blocked field goal to survive South Carolina. In the end, all that mattered for the Gators was that they survived to see another day.

Ditto for this LSU team, which, as I wrote Sunday, must be pretty darn good to be winning all these tough games in spite of injuries (Early Doucet, Glenn Dorsey), suspensions (Ryan Perrilloux last week), dire circumstances (all those do-or-die fourth downs, the clock nearly running out on them against Auburn) and their own assorted blunders (Matt Flynn's three interceptions against Alabama). Like 2006 Florida, we know full well what this team looks like with its complete roster and a complete performance (see: the Virginia Tech game).

It's one thing early in the season, when you're trying to distinguish between 17 different 4-0 teams, to punish a team for winning ugly. At this late stage of the game, however, if you just played four straight ranked opponents and came away with a triple-overtime road loss as your only blemish, you're only going to earn respect from me, no matter how you did it.

I learned my lesson about "style points" last year. - Writers - Stewart Mandel: Week*11 College Football Rankings - Tuesday November 6, 2007 2:41PM

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