September 06, 2004

1-0, but no longer #3

It was a disaster. No, I’m not talking about Florida after the double-whammy of Charley and Frances, though that certainly qualifies, and more so. I’m talking about the near-loss by LSU Saturday night against Oregon State.

The Beavers were supposed to come in and give the Tigers a good go, but eventually fall to the defending BCS champions. Oregon State would have no such thing, and shocked LSU in to double overtime. And there but for the right-leaning foot of Beavers kicker Alex Serna—and I’m not talking politics—would have gone the Tigers’ chance at repeating as BCS champs. Serna missed three extra point attempts, including the one that would have sent the two teams to a third overtime, but instead won the game for the Tigers.

LSU had problems from the outset. For the second year in a row, the home opener was delayed due to a monsoon. This levelled the playing field as far as Oregon State was concerned, and they took advantage of it from the opening kickoff, when LSU’s Skyler Green fumbled on his own 25-yard line. The Beavers would eventually turn that in to six points; it was the first extra point Serna would miss.

The pundits of college football now point to this game as LSU being overrated as far as the 2004 season is concerned. I love my Tigers, but to be honest, I didn’t see a lot Saturday night that would lead me to believe otherwise. The two teams LSU had problems with last year—Florida, to whom they suffered their only loss, and Georgia—both host LSU in their home venues this season. If this was the same team from last year, I wouldn’t be worried. This isn’t the same team from last year.

I have never understood the recruitment and grooming of Marcus Randall as quarterback. Randall has never inspired confidence in his teammates, or the fans. Most of the time he has this deer-in-the-headlamps look on his face. His first-half performance was so bad that Coach Nick Saban had to put redshirt freshman JaMarcus Russell in to the game for the second half, and that poor kid was so keyed up he kept getting leg cramps and back spams. Yes, the Tigers sorely miss Matt Mauck, who, while not the athelete Russell certainly is, had all the leadership qualities one looks for in a quarterback. Randall has had three seasons to pick up on those qualities, and has failed to deliver time and again. Russell might grown in to the leader that LSU needs, but that will only come through playing time the Tigers cannot afford to give.

And that may be the problem with the 2004 LSU Tigers. Too many seniors gone, not enough left. Too many freshmen and sophomores on the squad, not enough juniors to balance it out. This happens in college football. Unlike the professional game, where players can be locked in to multi-year contracts, college football is transient, and it is coaching systems that continually win championships. Such systems, however, do demand certain types of personnel year after year, and LSU simply may not have said personnel this year.

So the Tigers win their first game, despite the fact that they shouldn’t have, and will lose their #3 spot in the BCS rankings. The AP poll already has them at #6, which, quite frankly surprises me. If the Coaches’ Poll puts them in roughly the same area, I expect they’ll end up at 6 or 7 on the BCS. In my mind, they probably don’t deserve to be in the Top 10 right now. It’s only the first game of the season. It’s only one game. But it could be the one game that determines how far LSU goes in the post-season, and whether they will play for another BCS title.

Posted by retrophisch at September 6, 2004 11:33 AM | TrackBack