Road Cats? A Look at the LSU Tigers’ 2009 Travel Games
Most people do their best work in a familiar environment, like their home turf.
Heck, I don’t even like using public bathrooms—no magazines.
The same can be said for football teams, and dominance on the road is a vital key to achieving that 10-plus win season.
There is much anticipation down the bayou as the 2009 LSU football season draws near. LSU fans are still reveling in the College World Series victory that brought a sixth national title back to Baton Rouge—and a return to college baseball glory.
There are many questions surrounding the ’09 Football Tigers, but the main one is sure to be, “Will they bounce back from 2008?”
Last season was by all accounts a disappointing campaign, filled with weak defense and a quarterback who had significant trouble determining which receivers were on his team.
Perhaps that is why LSU announced a slight change to the '09 jersey that will include “LSU” on the front below the neckline.
The other question marks run the gamut. How will Jordan Jefferson perform? How will the coaches use the heralded recruit Russell Shepard? Will Reuben Randle see significant playing time?
Who will replace former kicker and all-time leading LSU scorer Colt David? And please God, let John Chavis toughen up that defense! (I know, that’s not a question. I get it!)
But one of the main things standing between the Tigers and Atlanta is something beyond their control—the road schedule.
LSU faces some tough tests in and out of conference, but the spacing of the away schedule should give the Tigers all the time they need to steal a few on the road.
Nevertheless, it’s time for some college football already—57 days and counting!
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Sept. 5: at Washington
Washington didn’t live up to the hype last year, and opening up against an SEC powerhouse was probably not what new Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian had in mind for a coming-out party.
But let’s not forget that for some reason, something in the cosmos has kept the SEC teams who travel out west from living up to the conference reputation that precedes them.
Think of Auburn, Alabama, Mississippi State, and Tennessee—all have traveled to the “lowly” Pac-10 in the last decade and come home with a loss.
Even LSU’s last trip out west, an impromptu game in Sun Devil Stadium in 2005 forced by Madam Katrina, took a last-minute touchdown pass from JaMarcus Russell to Early Doucet just to get out of the desert alive.
The Tigers should win this game on talent alone, but how many times have we said that?
Sept. 26: at Mississippi State
Another squad with a new chief, the Bulldogs are looking to build a modern offense. Dan Mullen is walking into a tough situation, especially since Ole Miss and Southern Miss’ recent success has shed a brighter light on the shortcomings in Starkville.
LSU should be able to pound the Mississippi State defense with the power of tandem running backs Charles Scott and Keiland Williams.
The LSU defense will, however, have to contend with a Bulldog offense they have not seen before.
I’ve been saying all summer that Mullen will beat someone he’s not supposed to beat this year. I don’t think that win will come against LSU, but the Tigers had better be ready.
Oct. 3: at Georgia
Even with Matthew Stafford in 2008, the Bulldogs got LSU to spot them 17 points off of turnovers but still only won by 14.
Without Stafford, Mark Richt will have his hands full.
LSU knows all too well the pains that come along with trying to break in a new quarterback in the SEC, and Georgia is about to find out with Joe Cox.
This will be LSU’s first real road test in a true hostile environment. These two teams seem to trade beatings whether playing in the regular season or postseason.
Georgia is coming off a disappointing season as well, since they started 2008 ranked No. 1 but failed to make the SEC Championship Game.
The Tigers will have to do more than pound the Bulldog defense with "Chuck the Truck." They will have to spread things out, get creative, and maybe let Jordan Jefferson use some happy feet to keep the Dawgs on their toes.
If LSU doesn’t turn the ball over, they win. Plain and simple, just like last year.
But a huge road win like this will give the Tigers serious momentum going back to Baton Rouge when the defending national champion Florida Gators slide into Death Valley.
Nov. 7: at Alabama
Most LSU fans are so over Nick Saban. In fact, the only people who are really still obsessed with the Les Miles-Nick Saban rivalry are the media and Alabama fans (which are practically the same thing these days).
The real match was in 2007 when Miles went to Saban’s new house in Tuscaloosa and walked away with a win.
Game. Set. Match. Miles wins.
He would also go on to win a national title a couple of months later.
2008 wasn’t as significant for LSU. By the time they played Alabama, the Tigers already had two losses, and a trip to Atlanta was a virtual impossibility. Bama was the one that needed the win—they were undefeated.
The Tigers made the Tide work for it though, and it took overtime for Alabama to keep their title hopes alive.
I really can’t tell you who will win this game—I guess whoever scores last and has the fewest turnovers.
Either way, this will be the most evenly matched team LSU will face all year, even with a new Alabama quarterback under center.
But I guess we’ll get to see who wins the Miles-Saban rubber match, right? (yawn)
Nov. 21: at Ole Miss
I guess when a team has been as bad as Ole Miss has, for as long as they have, when they get a Cotton Bowl victory, you just know that the love fest is imminent.
The analysts have not disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, Ole Miss had a great year...or should I say, Jevan Snead had a great year. But the hype behind this 2009 Ole Miss squad is becoming more humorous by the day.
If Snead stays healthy, they will come in second or third place in the SEC West. If not, who knows?
Everyone seems to be circling this game for LSU and touting it as even more significant than the Georgia or Alabama road games.
Rewind to 2003, when the same exact thing was going on. Everybody said that the trip to Oxford would be LSU’s true test, a potential trap game.
Ole Miss had a decent squad anchored by a great quarterback...what was his name? Something Manning? Anyway, it was an exciting game, but LSU came away with the win, just like they always do in Oxford.
They also picked up an SEC title and a national championship, but who’s counting?
This year will probably get just as much hype. I mean, let's face it, nothing ever goes on in Oxford, Mississippi unless LSU comes to town.
It’s reportedly the only time of year you can see drunk pageant queens dancing on top of the bar and slurring some inaudible version of “Hotty Toddy” while making out with an LSU fan and hoping that none of her sorority sisters are watching.
Meanwhile, a group of shaggy-haired, disinterested Ole Miss frat boys are in the corner drinking Natural Light and complimenting each other on their exactly-matching North Face jackets.
Now tell me, have I been to Oxford?
LSU hands Ole Miss its second, or third, loss of the year and goes home to get ready to wrap up the season against Arkansas.