I've always been a pessimist when it comes to sports and my teams.
I never think we'll win 'til it's over, and even then I still worry that a win can be taken away. As I've said before, this comes from my roots as a Saints fan.
Of course, don't take that as negativism, because it's not. Thinking the worst will happen and wanting the worst to happen are two different things.
So as LSU played in its biggest game of the year last Saturday against Alabama I really didn't think before the game that the Tigers would come out on top—not necessarily because of my outlook, but because of my football knowledge.
But I wanted LSU to beat Alabama.
I mean really wanted to beat them.
I didn't care if it was by one or 40. I wanted this game badly.
And as any pessimist would do, I looked ahead to a world where LSU would lose to Alabama and I totally feared it.
But now that it's happened here's the weird thing: I'm totally OK with it.
I'm not sure why. Overall, I think it's because I really thought through this game people would declare a referendum on the whole Miles/Saban war.
The intolerable windbags and purveyors of idiocy would run rampant claiming that LSU is dead and Alabama is here to stay.
And you know what? They would be right. Well, half right.
Alabama isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
It's pretty clear, even for an LSU fan, that Nick Saban is a great coach and he is working his magic at yet another program. Not to make LSU fans puke here, but Alabama is just as lucky to get Saban as we were.
So what I expected to see Saturday was an Alabama team on a different level than this LSU team—an Alabama team that was as tough as their undefeated record the past two regular seasons would indicate.
Instead what I saw was just another tough SEC foe.
And honestly I think that statement is more of a credit to LSU than a knock on Alabama.
This is a rough year for LSU. Inexperience at the quarterback position and a defense slowly finding its way under a new defensive coordinator has proved to be costly this year.
But at what cost has LSU looked bad? Seven wins, two losses.
And those two losses came to two of the top three teams in the nation, in a year where LSU is considered to be rebuilding/reloading.
If LSU wins out (which is a big if), they would have ten wins which is no small feat in the SEC, especially considering one of those two losses will probably be to an eventual national champion or runner-up.
Unless LSU collapses like they did last year after the Alabama game, this team still has a lot to play for in terms of pride.
It will be an uphill battle because of injuries but it can be done. As of right now I would say the Tigers would end up in the Cap One or Cotton Bowl.
That's not bad in a year like this, and after a game where I thought a loss would mean my world would turn into a post-apocalyptic Mad Max type of hell, but instead I left the game feeling good.
Heck, I'm even feeling positive about the future.
This loss was Rocky I for me. There are good things ahead for this team.
I'm not going to talk about penalties, no-calls, or injuries.
These things happen in football and are beyond the control of us as fans or the teams playing the game.
Was it a coincidence that the LSU offense sputtered when Jordan Jefferson and Charles Scott were absent? Not to mention senior tackle Ciron Black and the game-time decision to sit TE Richard Dickson with an injury.
Did it seem like there were some shady calls/no-calls being made?
One quick note about the refs, and this is an all-season-long thing, not just a Saturday LSU vs. Alabama thing: Say you were a law student and there was a mock trial involving whether or not the officiating this year by SEC refs were on the up and up. You had game tapes from this season as evidence. In order to get an A in your class would you rather be defending or prosecuting Rogers Redding and his officials?
Nick Saban said, "An interception doesn't mean they win the game."
And he's absolutely right. But now I guess we'll never know either.
I'd rather look at the things LSU could have controlled, though.
John Chavis started the game great.
He brought great pressure packages that didn't really result in sacks as much as they did hurried throws and knockdowns.
The LSU defense was aggressive. They stuffed the run and made the passing game ineffective even coming up with an interception late in the first half to kill a drive.
Then two things happened:
1) Once Bama got their first TD pass, Chavis went back to a soft zone. The pressure wasn't there and the aggressiveness ceased to exist.
2) The Tide started running the ball and LSU didn't load the box to counter. And when they did, players missed tackles.
All the nastiness of the LSU defense faded and Mark Ingram started gashing LSU's run D.
This is to take nothing away from Ingram. The dude is the real deal, but adjustments needed to be made and they never were.
Add that to a defense that had some untimely missed tackles and it was a recipe for disaster.
The offense was no help either.
While Jarrett Lee didn't throw a pick six (yay for progress!), when it was crunch time it was apparent he was not the guy.
And on the biggest play of the game CB Patrick Peterson was out with cramps, and his replacement Brandon Taylor failed to make the tackle.
That was the dagger from which LSU would not recover.
And no, I don't think there was a block in the back that play. Pictures make that play look worse than it was.
Just like the picture with WR R.J. Jackson getting facemasked after a catch—that happened after a play was whistled dead, hence no foul.
However, there were some other wacky things that happened, which, as I said, I'm not going to talk about.
The thing you should take from the game on Saturday is that LSU got beat by a better team.
But much like Alabama fans felt two years ago after the Tigers won in Tuscaloosa, I think the winning team was lucky to get out of that one with a W.
Things I'm 100 Percent Right on and Anyone Who Disagrees with Me Is Totally Absolutely Wrong
•LSU is not poorly conditioned.
They are coached in that area by Tommy Moffit who is one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the country, and a guy that Saban tried to hire away from LSU.
Sometimes ankles get tweaked. Landing on a shoulder the same way Charles Scott did would cause a broken bone whether your were playing Bama or Florida Atlantic.
And anyone in a skill position like cornerback who is constantly covering the field and who had the flu the week before is going to have hydration and cramping issues.
You may be able to get by as a QB or OL having had the flu a week before, but a guy like Peterson is always running, always covering a lot of ground, and always using the fluids in his body at a much quicker rate.
It remained a challenge all day to keep him on the field and when he was there he was just as spectacular as ever. And when he wasn't, his play was missed.
•It's never really a good thing to brag about how many players your team knocked out of a game.
I know there are bad fans everywhere, and honestly, Alabama's fans on the whole have been classy especially in person. It's the Internet that makes people really brave...and really stupid.
•Les Miles did the right thing by NOT criticizing SEC officiating publicly this week.
The national media is all over this. More and more notice has been taken. Why take a fine and come off as a whiner? The high road was the right call.
•If Les Miles wins 10 games this year with a chance to add another via a bowl game win with this team, it will have been his best coaching job at LSU so far.
The Outlook for the Rest of 2009
LSU could trip up against either Ole Miss in Oxford or against the Razorbacks in late November.
They could also drop them both instead of just one.
LSU has been very lucky with injuries this season but they all showed up at once in the Bama game. Now LSU has the potential to be missing up to five potential starters on offense when they take on Ole Miss in two weeks after facing La. Tech this weekend for homecoming.
However, I think the injury to Jefferson may not be that bad and Richard Dickson may be back as well.
The point is, the bumps and bruises have started to mount in the home stretch and they may play a big part in how LSU finishes. If you don't believe me just look at the offense after guys like Jefferson, Scott, Black, and Hebert went down last Saturday.
The most important thing this week to me is to rest a guy like Jefferson while giving Jarrett Lee more reps in case he is pressed into action.
Keiland Williams' disappearing act continues, as it looks like the Tigers will turn to Stephen Ridley at the tailback position. Ridley reminds me of another No. 34 at running back for the Tigers, Cecil Collins—of course without all the felony charges.
I think the LSU defense is going to be ill-tempered after last weekend and poor Louisiana Tech will be the unfortunate target of the Tigers' aggression.
Whether Jefferson or Lee gets the majority of snaps during the game, I feel this will be the Stephen Ridley show.
Look for Trindon Holliday and Keiland Williams to also get more touches. And yes, Russell Shepard should see a little more action as well.
The Bulldogs just won't have the guns to keep up with the Tigers, and Derick Dooley's squad will go down swinging.
LSU 35 La. Tech 9
Lastly, I'd like to say that all of this, football in general is just a game.
We get so caught up in it we forget sometimes what's really important.
Nothing made that clearer than watching Cal's Javid Best suffer a horrific looking injury on Saturday (link below).
The thoughts that swirled around my head while they were loading him on a back board and giving him oxygen while putting him in the ambulance included wondering if he would ever walk again.
Luckily, he escaped the incident with just a concussion.
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