Cotton Bowl 2011: 6 Key Reasons Why LSU Must Win This Game
At the beginning of the 2010 football season, LSU was disrespected and low-rated by SEC media experts after the Birmingham SEC media conference.
As a result, LSU took a blow to their pride and were predicted to finish as only the fourth best team in the SEC West.
As the season unfolded, the Tigers exhibited a rather underachieving offense with basically no passing offense, but they just kept finding ways to win with great defense and special teams play.
LSU and coach Les Miles were called plain lucky by most pundits because of their good fortune in the Tennessee and Florida games, and most felt that LSU was not worthy and would fall anytime.
However, in their game against the Alabama Crimson Tide, Coach Miles did his finest coaching job, and the LSU Tigers performed both offensively and defensively like they have no other time this season. The Tigers earned that victory by outplaying and out-coaching Alabama.
As a result of this victory, LSU and coach Les Miles and the game turned the heads of the media, and everyone gained new respect for Miles.
With a BCS game on the line against the University of Arkansas and their great quarterback Ryan Mallett, the Tigers showed a chink in their armor in the second half, and they allowed the Razorbacks to run out the clock for the victory.
Jordan Jefferson and the LSU passing offense returned to their old struggling and ineffective ways, and we all watched as the LSU Tigers' hopes of a BCS bowl in the Sugar Bowl went down the drain.
The following are six reasons why I think the LSU Tigers must win the 2011 Cotton Bowl against the Texas A&M Aggies on January 7, 2011.
1. To Become the Second Team in LSU History to Win 11 Games
Throughout LSU's long history of playing football and being one of the most successful programs in all of college football, the LSU Tigers still have only had one 11-win football season in their history.
However, to put that in context, up until recently very few teams were given the chance to play enough games to realistically have an 11-win season.
But with influence from TV now, the extended seasons, conference championship games and then bowl games, having an 11-win season is certainly much more attainable than in past years.
Even though the Tigers do have a 12-win and a 13-win season, they still only have one 11-win season.
In coach Les Miles' rather short coaching career at LSU, he has quietly become the most successful coach in LSU history for his first five years, and if he continues his pace, he will rewrite the record books.
Coach Miles currently has a record of 61 wins against only 16 defeats with one national championship and one SEC title, plus he is 4-1 in bowl games.
Even though this year's Tiger team did not win the SEC or a BCS bowl bid, winning 11 games will give Coach Miles and this team something to be very proud of, and they will still go down in history as one of the great Tiger teams of all time.
Winning the Cotton Bowl to have that second 11-win season should serve as big motivation for this Tiger team, and if they prepare and play with purpose, an 11th victory is well within their grasp.
2. Re-Establish Momentum for Next Year
After LSU's big victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide, the LSU Tigers were seeing great things to come for this program, as they felt they were finally on the right track offensively and defensively.
While their performance in the Ole Miss game was not bad offensively, their defense surprisingly allowed Ole Miss to move the ball all over them.
Even though they won the game, the good feeling gained from the Alabama game was short-lived.
All of this carried over to the Arkansas game, and the LSU defense was once again surprisingly pushed around by Arkansas, and the Tigers ultimately lost their chance for a BCS bowl game as Arkansas stole it from them with their victory.
It is imperative that this LSU team regain its old form on defense and play like it did in the Alabama game if it wants to re-establish this team's momentum going into the offseason.
Going out a winner will bring momentum for the winner, but losing will have the opposite effect on a team and its fans.
LSU simply must find a way to win this game and go out as winners if they expect to build for the future next year and beyond.
3. Continue Winning Bowl Games Under Coach Les Miles
Under coach Les Miles, LSU has a bowl record of 4-1. The only loss came last year in the Capital One Bowl game to Penn State and coach Joe Paterno, the winningest FBS college football coach of all time.
Even in that loss, LSU was in good position to win the game in the final few seconds, but some questionable no-calls by the officials and poor clock management by LSU led to a sickening loss.
To make matters worse, that game will go down as a game played on one of the most deplorable muddy playing fields of any bowl game.
The Capital One Bowl was not only played in mud, but the entire playing field was coming up in chunks of grass. I have never seen anything like that, and it had to be an embarrassment for the Capital One Bowl Committee.
Because of this poor experience the LSU Tigers had to endure in last year's Capital One Bowl, I am sure the conditions may have played some significance in the LSU players and coaches letting their preference to go to the Cotton Bowl be well known.
But it was most important to the LSU Tigers that they would get the chance to play in Jerry Jones' new stadium against an old rival like Texas A&M.
Since the Tigers will also open against Oregon in the season opener next year in Dallas, this will also give them an opportunity to experience the playing surface.
To help with the feel-good experience of going to a nice bowl game, if you don't win it becomes a downer to the players, coaches and the fans, so winning is a must.
Coach Miles has shown he knows how to prepare his teams for bowl games, so I fully expect these LSU Tigers to be well prepared and ready to play the Texas A&M Aggies on January 7th.
4. Maintain Recruiting Prowess in Texas
With Texas being one of the two or three top recruiting grounds for high school football players, LSU must continue to send the message to these young recruits that they are a place where you can go to win championships in the best conference in America.
With virtually every major college throughout the country seeking the signature of the top blue-chip athletes, if LSU can continue to be one of the top programs in the SEC, their proximity to Texas gives them some regional advantages with these recruits over other schools.
With past and present Texans like Joseph Addai, Matt Flynn, Ciron Black, Russell Shepard and Terrance Toliver making major contributions to LSU's success, it is a big recruiting plus for LSU to come home with a Cotton Bowl victory.
If talk continues with the conference changes, it seems that Texas A&M could be the most likely prospect to become a new SEC member, and A&M is after those same recruits that LSU is after.
Even though it is always said that a bowl game is considered a reward to the team for having a great season, coming home as a loser never feels good to anyone, but winning brings joy for the victor.
Since LSU and its program will have the opportunity to showcase themselves to many of the top recruits, the Tigers must play with purpose and find a way to bring home the victory for LSU and separate themselves from those other schools recruiting Texas.
5. Control the Rivalry
With a rivalry that began in 1899, Texas A&M is one of LSU's oldest rivals.
The chance to renew this old rivalry this year had a lot to do with LSU players, coaches and the fans vocally expressing their preference for the Cotton Bowl over the Capital One Bowl.
With the anticipation of this game, LSU fans began buying up tickets for the Cotton Bowl, and within a day of the official announcement, the game was announced as a sellout.
There are simply too many upsides for both teams in this year's Cotton Bowl for either team to have wanted any other bowl.
The new Jerry Jones stadium with its rollback top and large TV screen presents a chance to play in one of the most beautiful and modern facilities in America.
But when all is said and done, it will be the renewal of this old rivalry that will take center stage for both teams.
A&M and LSU have not played since 1995, when the series was dropped, but most expect to see it be renewed in the near future, especially so if the Aggies join the SEC.
Although the current series record between the two schools favors LSU at 26-20-3, it is the Aggies that have won the last five games of the series.
This year's Cotton Bowl can serve as a golden opportunity for LSU to re-establish themselves as the dominant team of this series with a victory.
But it won't be easy for the Tigers, as the Texas A&M Aggies are considered one of the hottest teams in the country right now. LSU will need great bowl preparation and purpose if they expect to defeat a very good Texas A&M team.
6. Upholding the SEC's Reputation
Because the SEC has earned a reputation for being the most competitive conference in America where every week is a tough battle and anybody can beat anyone else.
Throughout this decade, LSU has won two BCS national championships, and it has become one of the top five dominant programs in the SEC.
The SEC has also won the last four BCS titles and is playing for the fifth straight this year with Auburn playing Oregon for the BCS championship.
When a member school of the SEC plays in a bowl, there is pressure placed upon those schools to uphold the reputation that the SEC has established in the regular season and in the bowl games as well.
Since Les Miles is now 4-1 in bowl games in his first five years, LSU has more than held its own in the bowl season.
But in this year's Cotton Bowl Classic, LSU will playing be one of the hottest teams in America from the Big 12 conference in Texas A&M.
A&M specializes in a strong passing game, but it also has a very fine running back in Cyrus Gray. If you compare the Aggies to a team in the SEC, they seem to resemble the Arkansas Razorbacks in their offensive approach.
However, unlike Ryan Mallett, Aggie quarterback Ryan Tannehill is not only a good passer, but he is a former wide receiver, so he can also run very well.
LSU has had one of the top defenses in the SEC and the nation, but the Aggies will present multiple attacks, and the Tigers will have to be ready for anything.
If LSU is going to keep up the reputation of the SEC and show its defense, they will have to be prepared, as the Texas A&M Aggies will not make it very easy for the LSU Tigers to win this game.
I feel this year's Cotton Bowl Classic will be a close game that will go down to the final minute, and whoever wants the game most will be the winner.