Rabalais: Tigers want to win out, get BCS bowl

Don’t count on the asteroid. The Mayan calendar won’t run out before the Iron Bowl has run its course.

For LSU to get into the Southeastern Conference Championship Game this season — and thus have a shot at an automatic berth in the Sugar Bowl — it will require an Auburn upset of Alabama that would make “Dewey Defeats Truman” look like a coin flip.

So don’t count on that. The LSU Tigers certainly aren’t.

They also aren’t doing what many of the rest of us are doing and counting on LSU wins over 5-5 Ole Miss and 4-6 Arkansas to end the season. Not before the game clocks wind to zero.

College football players usually tow the party line so effectively it’s hard to know what they’re really thinking. Jarrett Lee trotted out so many canned responses over the years you thought there was an invisible teleprompter somewhere behind the cameras and tape recorders that only he could see.

Even in the age of social media and instant information, football players, to a large degree, live in a bubble for the four months of their season. They play, they practice, they eat, they sleep and most of them (yes, most) go to class. Former Tiger T-Bob Hebert admitted he didn’t pay any attention as a player to SEC scheduling inequities, like say the jury-rigged divisional alignments designed to protect cross-divisional rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee and (supposedly) Auburn-Georgia.

But these Tigers are not so bubble-wrapped that they can’t wrap their minds around the tasks before them in these final two regular-season games.

The realistic tasks: Win out, impressively if possible, and hope you’ve made a strong enough impression on a BCS bowl somewhere.

“We definitely take notice of that stuff,” punter Brad Wing said. “We know we can still go to the SEC Championship Game, but a miracle would have to happen for Auburn to beat Alabama.

“We have no control over that. So what we’re just focused on is beating Ole Miss the best we can and Arkansas the best we can. It would be a shame if Auburn did beat Alabama and we ended up losing one of these next two games.”

A crying, garment-rending shame, as far as Tiger fandom is concerned.

No matter how strong the finishing kick for LSU finally is, there will be a segment of the purple and gold populace who are already dissatisfied because this season won’t end in a national championship. Such are the Everest-high expectations for LSU football these days. When you start the season as a preseason No. 1 — for the first time since 1959 — there are only met expectations or disappointment.

But by any standard, a BCS bowl trip to the Sugar, Rose or Fiesta (the Orange is a miniscule possibility because LSU almost certainly wouldn’t be available for the bowl to select) is a mighty nice consolation prize.

Still, consolation will be a scarce commodity if the Tigers don’t win out.

“The motivation for us is to get in the best bowl we can get into,” defensive end Barkevious Mingo said. “We know we have to win out to do that, so that’s what we’re focused on.”

It’ll take focus to beat Ole Miss on Saturday, something that will also be in short supply with the annual distraction of Senior Day festivities serving as this game’s opening act.

The memory of Ole Miss’ 52-3 dissection by LSU last year should be long past. This is a new and much improved band of Rebels under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. This is a team that pushed Alabama, Texas A&M and Georgia to their limits — briefly — before being driven back by superior firepower.

But that doesn’t mean the Rebels can’t catch lightning in a bottle if they catch LSU looking the other way.

The Tigers had best let the fans and us media types engage in the BCS bowl speculation. They would be better served to fully engage Ole Miss.

Otherwise, their final destination won’t taste as sweet as the Sugar, smell as sweet as the Rose or be the desert party of the Fiesta.