LSU can’t win a national championship, and chances at an SEC West title are pretty slim. So the season is over, right? Think again
In our virtual reality world, it’s hard to sift what is real from what is perception.
That’s especially true for LSU, where gloom and despair reign every time the Tigers lose a game or don’t play well for a half (We enter into evidence as Exhibit A the first half of the Furman game).
Perception: Les Miles is on the hot seat (or should be).
Reality: Monday, one of our sports staff members took a call from an out-of-state LSU fan wanting to know if Les Miles was in trouble.
Look, fans certainly have the right to be unhappy with the Ole Miss loss, the first half of the Furman, or the season in general. The Tigers despite their defensive issues (more on that later) should be 8-1 at least right now and still in the thick of the national championship hunt.
But to imply that Miles is on the hot seat, or that his seat is anything but air-cooled with a state-of-the-art ventilation system, is beyond ludicrous.
First, the Furman win put Miles’ record at LSU at 92-23. That a winning percentage of exactly 80 percent. Add one national title (played for another), two Southeastern Conference titles (played for another) and you’ve got a coach who, barring some off-the-cliff seasons to come or some major scandal (the Sports Illustrated investigation at Oklahoma State really didn’t dent him), is going to leave LSU on his own terms. Plus, any coach worthy of the job would run the other way for fear that if a coach who won a national title and 80 percent of his games couldn’t succeed what chance would they have, Miles isn’t going anywhere other than by his own choice.
The other safety net for Miles is money. LSU would owe him $15 million were it to fire him without cause for the next three years.
Perception: LSU has fallen far behind Alabama.
Reality: Just two years ago, LSU was No. 1 in the country going into the Alabama game, which it won 9-6. LSU was the preseason No. 1 going into 2012 before Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed. And LSU was a whisker away from beating Alabama last year, which would have put the Tigers in line to play Georgia for the SEC title and the right to beat Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game.
If LSU is awash in the Crimson Tide’s wake, then it makes the Tigers no different from any one else. Alabama has won three of the last four national championships. Since the The Associated Press poll began in 1936, that’s been done just two other times. If Alabama wins it all this year, it will be the first program in the AP era to win three national titles in a row.
Winning national championships is hard, much harder than Alabama is currently making it look. It’s LSU’s misfortune that it is in the midst of its most successful era of football at the same time Alabama is chasing history.
Perception: LSU’s defense is the worst ever.
Reality: This isn’t a classically skilled LSU defense as we have come to know them over the last 10 years, but it is also not completely terrible. In fact, in most statistical respects, the Tigers are respectable compared to their SEC bretheren: No. 3 in pass and pass efficiency defense, No. 4 in total and scoring defense with 351.7 yards and 21.9 points allowed per game.
Certainly there are some huge deficiencies. LSU is eighth in rushing defense allowing 148.4 yards per game. Third down defense (38.3 percent allowed) is seventh, not abysmal but obviously not great.
You could say the Tigers’ numbers are skewed by playing Florida and Furman two of the last three weeks. Their numbers are likely to get skewed the other way the next two games against Alabama and Texas A&M, the latter whose defense is ranked no better than 12th in any major SEC stat category.
Now that’s a bad defense.
Perception: LSU’s season is over.
Reality: The Tigers’ hopes of playing for the BCS title are virtually nil. Their hopes of playing in the SEC Championship Game aren’t much better, but it is still a reasonable possibility.
This is the scenario: LSU has to win out against Alabama, Texas A&M and Arkansas. It then needs Alabama to lose to Auburn (or Mississippi State, not likely either) while Auburn loses to Arkansas, Tennessee or Georgia.
Again, small chance, but less likely things have occurred.