It’s August and time for my annual Fearless Football Forecast for the LSU Tigers, in which I once more show why I’m doing this column rather than covering college football.
After predicting a national championship for the Tigers last season, I was sorely disappointed with a 10-3 season that wound up with a loss in the Chicken Sandwich Bowl.
Earlier this year, I felt that this season would end with the Tigers at 9-3 and back in Atlanta promoting fast food.
But that seemed too cruel a fate for our lads (hey, they’re just kids!), so I now see a better season ahead.
(Disclaimer: If any of our student-athletes are caught smoking potpourri and/or beating up citizens in bar parking lots, all bets are off and these predictions are null and void.)
Tough in Texas
The Tigers get off to a fine start by laying a licking on the TCU Toads (Frogs, whatever) in Arlington, Texas. The better than expected performance has ESPN talking heads paying more attention to our boys.
The first home game, against the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers (what, a team named after a jacket?), is also a win for the Bayou Bengals, as some younger players get on the Tiger Stadium turf.
The second home contest, with Kent State, is a ho-hum affair, as the Tigers have their way with the Golden Flashes. The game is noteworthy primarily for the opportunity it gives the home crowd to chant “Flush the Flashes.”
Taming the Tigers
The Auburn Tigers, that is. LSU’s first SEC contest is a bit tougher than anyone thought, indicating that Auburn is on the way back. But the home Tigers pull this one out late.
Agony in Athens
The Tigers catch the Georgia Bulldogs at home in Athens, and experience the first loss of the season. It’s a hard-fought contest, but the home field advantage proves too much.
Starkville ain’t Athens
And the Bulldogs of Mississippi State ain’t the Bulldogs of Georgia. The Tigers get back on the SEC winning track with a victory over the Dogs, but it’s a bruising contest that leaves some LSU players limping.
Home (Gator) cooking
The Tigers get revenge when the Florida Gators invade the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium, making up for last year’s loss at Gainesville with a big win that shoots them back up in the national polls.
A second trip to Mississippi almost proves to be the undoing of the high-flying Tigers. The Ole Miss Rebels give our lads all they can handle, and then some. The game is decided on a last-second field goal, as Les Miles is praised for his clever clock management. (Hey, it COULD happen. ...)
After the Ole Miss war, the Tigers catch a break, entertaining the Furman Paladins at home, a mismatch that allows LSU starters to get some rest.
It’ll be needed because after an open date is The Big One:
A funny thing happens to LSU on its way to the SEC championship — and it happens in Tuscaloosa. A heartbreaking loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide also knocks the Tigers out of the SEC West title race. But a respectable showing against the Tide leaves LSU still highly ranked in the national polls.
After a welcome open date, the Tigers are at full strength as they host the Texas A&M Aggies and Johnny Football, aka Johnny Manziel. Fortunately for our lads, the dreaded sophomore jinx (and an off-season of living it up) has the Aggie quarterback struggling mightily. Once more a John Chavis defense befuddles the youngster, and the Tigers win going away.
Dining on pork
The Arkansas game in Tiger Stadium is something of an anticlimax — the Bengals, for once, have less trouble with the rebuilding Razorbacks than expected. The boys from Baton Rouge wind up with a 10-2 record and a ton of respect for fighting through one of the toughest schedules around.
Sweet as Sugar
A lot of things have to fall the Tigers’ way to land them in the Sugar Bowl — and they do. With Bama in the national title game and a series of upsets earlier in the season tarnishing the records of the SEC East teams, LSU emerges as the best 10-2 team in the country and gets snapped up by the Sugar Bowl to play Notre Dame.
Deja vu again!
Didn’t we see this before? A much-hyped Fighting Irish team, the darling of sports media types, is favored by the Nawthun press over an SEC team with a blemish or two on its record. And guess what happens? Right. The SEC team, this time the Tigers, wins in a cakewalk.
So while the 2013 season doesn’t result in a national or SEC championship, Les Miles’ gang can proudly claim the title of “Sugar Bowl Champions.”
Yes, they can accomplish all this — if they behave themselves. ...
Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.