Not sold on 10-1 LSU? You're not alone

Published Nov. 20, 2010 12:00 a.m. ET

By Pete Fituak

Is it OK if I’m not exactly sure whether LSU is all that great?

I know, I know. I’m supposed to follow the party line and simply assume that a one-loss SEC team, whose lone defeat came to a team that might be the best in the nation, is the best one-loss team in the country. But to struggle so much against a bad Ole Miss team (and it is a bad Ole Miss team), and with so much inconsistency, it’s hard to buy in.

Wins are wins are wins, and the Tigers have shown that they can win in slugfests, in shootouts, and in controversial finishes. But with a passing attack that could complete 8 of 22 passes as easily as it could hit on 14 of 21, and with a defense that could handle Alabama’s running game, but not the Ole Miss attack, they’re just way too flaky.

No, this is not a national title contender, at least it shouldn’t be after not winning the West. And no, it shouldn’t be considered the top one-loss team just because it’s in the SEC West, but that can change next week.

While the résumé is impressive with wins over North Carolina, Mississippi State, West Virginia, Florida, and Alabama, not to mention the Tennessee victory, it’s time to show more. It’s time to show that the Tigers can win on the road against someone with a pulse, and Arkansas more than qualifies.

LSU has beaten Vanderbilt on the road and struggled against a mediocre Florida squad, and that’s it. Yeah, at some point, the record is all that matters, and being 11-1 in the SEC West would be fantastic no matter how it happened.


But if the Tigers play like this against the Hogs, the BCS at-large bid will be gone. This is a team just begging to get tagged, but it also might be a team that simply plays up or down to its competition.

In other words, after 10 wins and after an almost full regular season, it’s still possible to not know quite how good this LSU team really is.

By Richard Cirminiello

Say whatever you want about a Les Miles-coached team, but don’t ever say that there’s an ounce of quit in it. Everyone knows Miles isn’t the nation’s best Xs and Os guy and can be rather quirky late in games, but his ability to motivate shines through whenever his players are embroiled in nail-biters.

Take Saturday, for instance. Ole Miss came to play, which surprised no one. And LSU was not at its best, especially its usually reliable defense. Yet, the Tigers kept battling, gathering up new heroes along the way as the second half progressed. If the D wasn’t going to lead the way this time around, then the punchless offense would have to show up for a change.

While QB Jordan Jefferson is borderline SEC caliber, he still threw for a career-high 254 yards and got a big day from little-used TE DeAngelo Peterson. RB Stevan Ridley had been quiet lately, but was able to manufacture his best game in more than a month, capped by the game-winning score. And young back Michael Ford is the kind of player who needs to get more touches before starting his sophomore season in 2011.

Yeah, lots of close calls make you wonder if LSU is the best one-loss school in the country. However, winning the majority of those games should tell you something poignant about Miles and his staff. Well-coached programs simply find a way to come through when a game can go either way in the final quarter.

After erasing three fourth-quarter deficits on Saturday afternoon, the Tigers showed once again that Miles doesn’t get nearly enough credit for having his kids mentally prepared for the most important stages of a close game.

By Matt Zemek

Let this put the matter to bed: Stanford is better than LSU. Wisconsin deserves a higher ranking than LSU does.

Full credit to coach Les Miles’s team, which continues to find multiple ways to win. The rivalry between Ole Miss and LSU is a contentious one, and games played between the two schools typically produce close games and frantic finishes. So Saturday's win was an important one for the Bayou Bengals, who – with a win at Arkansas on Nov. 27 – will earn a trip to a BCS bowl of some sort. If you’re an LSU fan, a very big reward is still sitting on the table, waiting to be claimed.

However, for a team that essentially did lose at home to Tennessee – let’s not treat that game as a noble escape or as a profoundly positive reflection on the Tigers – LSU ought to be strong enough to pulverize Ole Miss by more than one score.

Too many high-wire acts, too many close-to-the-edge moments, make LSU a pale shadow of a Stanford team that – say what you want about the Pac-10’s lack of depth – is crushing opponents left and right.

Saturday’s LSU win over Jeremiah Masoli and the rest of an inspired bunch of Rebels is an indicator of a team’s survival skills, but it also shows that in this evidence-poor and speculation-filled atrocity called the BCS rankings, the only reasonable approach is to put the Cardinal ahead of the boys from Baton Rouge.

Not that it’s likely to matter, though: LSU is still guaranteed a BCS bowl bid if it wins against Arkansas. If Stanford wins its final regular-season game against Oregon State, the Cardinal have no assurance that they’ll be playing in a premium postseason event.