Rabalais: LSU Tigers get no respect in bowl process

Dear Rodney Dangerfield,

Your Chick-fil-A Bowl tickets will be at the Georgia Dome Will Call on New Year’s Eve.

Tell ’em Mike sent you.

Another bowl season is upon us, and once again the LSU Tigers are teeing it up in the No Respect Bowl.

Last year, the winter venue of the Tigers’ discontent was a BCS national championship game in New Orleans against Team Do Over, the Alabama team LSU beat in Tuscaloosa in November.

This year it’s the Chick-fil-A in Atlanta against Clemson.

This is not to disrespect the Chick-fil-A Bowl itself. It’s a fine bowl run by fine people, played in an NFL stadium in a great city, though as with any big city, people’s impressions of Atlanta vary widely. And the Dec. 31 matchup between LSU and Clemson (No. 8 and No. 14 in the final BCS standings) is one of the best of the entire bowl season.

It’s certainly better than the Orange Bowl between Florida State and Northern Illinois, and light years more compelling than Stanford and five-loss Wisconsin in the Rose.

Those bowls are Exhibit A and B for an archaic and needlessly accommodating bowl system that seeks to mollify champions of underweight conferences at the expense of power conferences that are legislated out of deserved seats at the BCS table.

The domino theory began with Northern Illinois’ robust 15th-place finish in the final BCS standings. That got the Huskies into the Orange Bowl, knocked Oklahoma from the Sugar Bowl to the Cotton and knocked LSU out of the Cotton in favor of Texas A&M.

The Cotton wasn’t going to pair A&M with Texas, which was set for the Cotton before Oklahoma got knocked down by NIU. That game had major fan and TV appeal but was politically radioactive.

But Sooners-Aggies? No political baggage there.

The Cotton wanted LSU, but not as much as it wanted Texas A&M. Take a step back, Tigers, but we’ll be glad to say “Howdy!” in August when you come to play TCU in the Cowboys Classic.

The Outback Bowl, we’re told, wanted LSU. And it had Michigan on the other side, with the potential for a first-ever meeting between the Tigers and Wolverines. The Capital One may have even wanted the Tigers, but the SEC wanted to protect SEC Championship Game loser Georgia.

So instead of Georgia making a second straight trip to the Outback Bowl or falling to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Cap One protected Georgia, which came up 5 yards short of the BCS title game Saturday against Alabama.

But who protects LSU? The Tigers were the SEC’s fourth-highest-ranked team according to the final BCS standings, behind Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Alabama is in the BCS title game. Florida is in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia is in the Cap One. All fair enough.

But LSU deserved the SEC’s fourth-best pick. That’s the Cotton or the Outback. They’re on the same line of the SEC bowl hierarchy. But instead, the teams in those bowls, Texas A&M and South Carolina, are the teams that LSU beat. They are teams that LSU is still ranked ahead of (A&M is No. 9, South Carolina No. 10).

In a way, LSU can blame itself. Not because it didn’t lobby hard to get into the Cotton or Outback (it really did), but because the Tigers have no flashy marquee player like Johnny Football, having been forced to punt the Honey Badger in August. They have no flashy end-of-season wins, having closed after the Alabama loss by beating Mississippi State by 20 (it could have been much closer), Ole Miss by six and Arkansas by seven.

Still, LSU deserved better. As long as the SEC is pulling strings and calling in markers, the Tigers deserved to have the SEC say, “Hey, Aggies, you’re the new kids here. You’re going to the Chick-fil-A. LSU has been at the adults’ table for 80 years. We’re going to take care of them first.”

Instead, LSU was the only one of the six top-10 BCS schools from the SEC that didn’t get any of what it wanted.

Really, is this unexpected? This is the same SEC that when knocking together its slip-shod 2013 football schedule stuck LSU with a road trip to Georgia on top of its permanent SEC East game against Florida. Meanwhile, Alabama kept its permanent SEC East game with Tennessee and added a road trip to Kentucky.

UK’s football program is in such bad shape the SEC should have sent the Red Cross instead. Tennessee isn’t much better. They went a combined 1-15 in SEC play this year. Georgia and Florida were 14-2. Anyone care to guess who will be favored to win the SEC West?

While you chew on that, LSU will prepare for a bowl trip unlikely to generate a buzz among the Tigers’ typically passionate fans.

It’s not the Chick-fil-A Bowl itself that’s a turnoff.

It’s the lack of respect for LSU from the SEC and the bowl process.

No respect at all.