EAST: LSU keeps BCS fate in its own hands

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — LSU might or might not be done with Alabama.

A rematch in the BCS Championship game is possible, but that would be way down the road, and several things would have to happen just right for these teams to meet again.

Crimson Tide followers can track those developments, but Tigers followers don’t have to — not like they did in 2003 and 2007 — thanks to No. 1 LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory against then-No. 2 Alabama on Saturday night in Bryant-Denny Stadium. That outcome set the course for the final quarter of the regular season as the Tigers separated themselves from Alabama’s lurking shadow.

Yeah, there’s a long way to go, and all that one-game-at-a-time stuff still applies, but after beating the most formidable opponent on its schedule, LSU — unlike Alabama — can comfortably ignore the polls and computer rankings and other teams’ schedules and results.

Of course, LSU has known all along that as long as it kept winning it would get to where it wants to be — in New Orleans, playing for the BCS title on Jan. 9. But Alabama was in the same position even though it was one spot below the Tigers.

That’s the reason so much was at stake in Tuscaloosa. The loser was going to put itself in a position where winning the remaining games would no longer be enough by itself.

The game had the intensity of a championship game — not because of the media hype, even as extensive as it was — but because the winner was going to earn what any team craves second only to an actual championship, and that is the opportunity to control its destiny and not have to worry about whether others will provide necessary help.

In 2003, a loss to Florida left LSU needing help to get to the title game, and everyone involved obliged. In 2007, overtime losses to Kentucky and Arkansas left LSU in the same position, and again everyone involved obliged.

I guess you could say those LSU teams got lucky.

And speaking of lucky, those who are so inclined can revive the “Les Miles is lucky” or “LSU is lucky” mantra. One of the biggest plays of Saturday’s game — safety Eric Reid’s jump-ball interception during which he wrestled the ball away from tight end Michael Williams at the Tigers’ 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter — might have been ruled dual possession, which would have given Alabama first-and-goal at the 1. But it wasn’t.

Lucky Miles. Lucky Tigers.

Four plays after Reid’s interception, Tide punt returner Marquis Maze misjudged the ball, or lost it in the lights or was otherwise discombobulated by Brad Wing’s punt and let the football sail over his head for a 73-yard field-flipper.

Lucky Miles. Lucky Tigers.

LSU won the coin toss in overtime, giving it the advantage of going on defense first.

Lucky Miles. Lucky Tigers.

Alabama’s place-kickers missed four of their six field-goal attempts, which proved to be game-deciding because LSU’s Drew Alleman made all three of his.

Lucky Miles. Lucky Tigers.

Well, Miles and the Tigers were lucky indeed in at least one regard against the Tide. They were lucky that Miles and his staff were smart enough to recruit, coach and prepare to put the better set of special teams on the field Saturday night.

Legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant once explained why he put an emphasis on getting a reliable punter and kicker as he was putting together a football team.

“If it wasn’t important,” Bryant explained, “they’d call it armball.”