Ten Opponents One LSU Alum Would Like to See in Tiger Stadium
Top-ranked LSU takes a breather from the rigors of Southeastern Conference play this Saturday when Western Kentucky comes to Tiger Stadium to serve as the Bayou Bengals' homecoming opponent.
The Hilltoppers have won five consecutive games since an 0-4 start and are nowhere near as bad as some of the teams which have graced the Death Valley sod in recent seasons, but anyone expecting Les Miles' bunch to be exerted much beyond the first quarter is only deluding themselves.
With the Southeastern Conference adding Texas A&M and Missouri next season and the possibility of a ninth conference game on the horizon, it's unlikely there will be many high-profile matchups in Baton Rouge in the near future. But it's nice to dream.
And I'll dream of these 10 schools of one day playing my alma mater:
10. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
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Series: Georgia Tech leads, 12-7
Last meeting: 2008 Chick-Fil-A Bowl (LSU 38, Georgia Tech 3)
The Tigers and Yellow Jackets were once both members of the SEC, and Bobby Dodd always gave the Bayou Bengals, whether they be coached by Bernie Moore, Paul Dietzel or Charles McClendon, quite a battle.
It would be an easy trip for fans of both schools. LSU would appreciate playing a game in Georgia, since it doesn't get to play between the hedges in Athens as often since the Tigers and Bulldogs are in opposite divisions of the SEC.
The Jackets have found some big-name recruits in Louisiana, including All-American defensive lineman Greg Gathers.
Anyone wanting a passing shootout would need to look elsewhere, as Les Miles likes to grind it out, and Paul Johnson runs the triple option. Ground lovers, eat your heart out.
These are the only two schools in college football which regularly prefer to wear white at home over their colored jerseys. Maybe the winner would earn the right to wear white, instead of playing for a trophy.
9. Tulane Green Wave
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Series: LSU leads, 69-22-7
Last meeting: 2009 (LSU 42, Tulane 0)
Okay, I know this one sounds silly. But if LSU insists on playing one or two "guarantee" games per year, where they give the visiting team large chunk of change to come to Tiger Stadium to get their clocks cleaned, why not play the Green Wave, who don't have the added expense of a chartered flight and hotel rooms for the short drive up from New Orleans?
I am well aware Tulane wants to play LSU home-and-home every year. That is just not feasible. Tulane would do much better to play every year in Baton Rouge, where it knows it will get a guaranteed sellout and a large chunk of change.
And maybe LSU will be willing to take a 4-for-1 or 5-for-1 deal so it can play in New Orleans every so often.
No, Tulane cannot compete with LSU. It hasn't won in the series since 1982. It hasn't been close since 1987. But if you're going to throw money at schools to come to Death Valley, LSU might as well throw it at a school only 80 miles away.
8. Florida State Seminoles
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Series: FSU leads, 7-2
Last meeting: 1991 (FSU 27, LSU 16)
LSU has recruited heavily in Florida since the days of Bill Arnsparger and Mike Archer in the 1980s, and this would be a very good way to give the Tigers another entreaty into the Sunshine State.
The schools are within easy driving distance along Interstate 10, and Jimbo Fisher was once at LSU, working as offensive coordinator for Nick Saban and Les Miles for seven seasons.
Even though these schools haven't met in 20 years, there is some history.
The teams were the participants in the first Peach Bowl in 1968, won by LSU 31-27.
Tiger Stadium was one of the road venues where Bobby Bowden's early FSU teams earned the "giant killer" moniker, winning 24-17 in 1979 en route to an 11-0 regular season.
In 1982, FSU and LSU played a November contest which ABC desperately wanted to show. Problem was, the network wanted the game to kick off at 11 a.m., and the Bayou Bengals flatly refused to move the contest from its scheduled 7:30 p.m.
Then-FSU athletic director Hootie Ingram was incensed, furious his school was denied to cash a six-figure paycheck from ABC. LSU won 55-21 to clinch a berth in the Orange Bowl.
7. Oklahoma Sooners
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Series: tied 1-1
Last meeting: 2004 Sugar Bowl (LSU 21, Oklahoma 14)
The two schools have long been powerhouses in their respective conference and are not all that far away, yet have never played in the regular season.
It's peculiar the only time the Bayou Bengals and Boomer Sooner have come together has been in the Sugar Bowl, and those games were played in different stadiums 54 years apart.
Bob Stoops and Les Miles have already matched wits after Miles spent four seasons in Stillwater, and these are two men who are known to go for broke and gamble when the time is right.
Stoops has been in Tiger Stadium only once, and that was when then-No. 1 Florida lost to LSU 28-21 in 1997. Stoops was Steve Spurrier's defensive coordinator from 1996 through 1998 before building his empire in Norman.
Exposing Oklahoma to Tiger Stadium might make the Sooners think twice about the Pac-12 should the Big 12 ever dissolve. The SEC would make much more sense for OU and Oklahoma State should Mike Slive ever have designs on a 16-team superconference.
6. Boise State Broncos
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Series: never met
Boise State complains and gripes about how it gets no respect. This would be a quick avenue for the Broncos to earn that respect, win or lose.
Win in Tiger Stadium, and Boise State will immediately gain big points for going down on the Bayou in the stifling heat and humidity and winning in front of what has been called by many the toughest road venue in college football.
Lose, and Boise still gets kudos for trying their hand in front of 92,000 crazy Cajuns. A win-win for Chris Petersen.
That said, Boise cannot expect LSU to make the return visit to Idaho, unless there are major guarantees involved which would help LSU make up some of the revenue it will undoubtedly lose from giving up a home game for a contest a long way from home in a 35,000-seat venue.
Too many schools have shied away from Boise. Les Miles thinks outside of the box, and I'm hopeful he and athletic director Joe Alleva would be accommodating to such a draw.
5. Michigan Wolverines
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Series: No meetings
Les Miles has been rumored not once, but twice, to be leaving LSU for his alma mater, where he played offensive guard for the legendary Bo Schembechler.
Miles emphatically denied the rumors the first time only hours before the 2007 SEC championship game by addressing the media and ending the press conference with "have a great day."
It would be a nice day (or night) if these two traditional powers got together for the first time. To make it more interesting, LSU could play a day game in Baton Rouge and Michigan could play a night game in Ann Arbor. After all, the Big House now has lights.
Just kidding on that part, but the atmosphere in both stadiums would be undeniably electric.
4. Oklahoma State Cowboys
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Series: LSU leads, 1-0
Only meeting: 1956 (LSU 13, Oklahoma A&M 0)
The connection here is obvious. Les Miles coached at Oklahoma State from 2001 through 2004 before taking the LSU job. Mike Gundy, who quarterbacked the Cowboys in the mid-1980s, took over and has led the Cowboys to their highest football ranking in school history.
Of course, this game may become reality sooner rather than later should both teams finish the 2011 season undefeated.
Even if the two schools don't match up in New Orleans, this would be another exciting intersectional battle between SEC and Big 12.
3. USC Trojans
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Series: Tied, 1-1
Last meeting: 1984 (LSU 23, USC 3)
LSU fans like to think of Troy as a rival, even though the schools have only played twice, and not since 1984. The rivalry was born at the end of the 2003 season, when the Trojans and Tigers split the national championship.
You probably know the story, but here goes: Despite the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll, USC finished third in the BCS standings behind Oklahoma, which lost to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, and SEC champion LSU.
The Trojans were relegated to the Rose Bowl, where they defeated Michigan to claim the AP championship. LSU defeated Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl to win the BCS championship and the coaches' poll, although three coaches--Mike Bellotti of Oregon, Lou Holtz of South Carolina and Ron Turner of Illinois--put the Trojans ahead of the Tigers on their final ballot.
The debate engaged for months, with Trojan fans claiming they were screwed out of a chance to be the true national champion, while Tiger fans stated USC was an illegitimate champion.
There is a little history on the field, too. In 1979, USC came to Baton Rouge ranked first and led by a team of future pros, including eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charles White, Ronnie Lott and Anthony Munoz, but lightly-regarded LSU battled the Trojans tooth-and-nail until the Trojans scored the winning touchdown in the final minute, aided by a controversial roughing the passer call against Tiger defender Benji Thibodeaux.
2. Nebraska Cornhuskers
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Series: Nebraska leads, 5-0-1
Last meeting: 1987 Sugar Bowl (Nebraska 30, LSU 15)
Last regular season meeting: 1976 (Nebraska 6, LSU 6)
You wouldn't think a series which hasn't been played in more than three decades would engender much antipathy, but news of a Nebraska loss still elicits quite a response from the Tiger Stadium faithful.
LSU fans have long memories, especially those of three bowl losses to the Cornhuskers in the 1980s, including two in the Sugar Bowl in front of highly partisan Tiger crowds.
LSU and Nebraska are remarkably similar for being so far apart. Both schools are in capital cities, and the capitol buildings themselves are within the shadows of each campus.
The capitol buildings themselves are quite similar; in fact, when Louisiana was building its current capitol building in the 1930s, Huey Long ordered the building to be taller than Nebraska's, which at the time was the nation's tallest capitol.
There are competitive ties, too. Tom Osborne often raided Louisiana for talent in the 1980s and 1990s when LSU was stuck in the middle of the SEC pack.
And now there is more tangible connection, since Husker coach Bo Pelini was Les Miles' defensive coordinator for three seasons, including the national championship season of 1997.
The Big Ten and SEC already have bowl tie-ins. Why not extend it to the regular season?
1. Texas Longhorns
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Series: Texas leads, 9-7-1
Last meeting: 2003 Cotton Bowl (Texas 35, LSU 20)
Last regular season meeting: 1954 (Texas 20, LSU 6)
There's no reason the Tigers and Longhorns have not played in the regular season in nearly 60 years. These are two perennial powerhouses, two flagship institutions from neighboring states. It's only a seven-hour drive from Baton Rouge to Austin.
TV would eat it up, and we're not talking about the Longhorn Network. LSU recruits Texas extensively, and you can believe the Longhorns would welcome an entreaty into talent-fertile Louisiana, where Les Miles has nearly shut off the pipeline to out-of-state schools poaching Bayou State standouts.
Texas coach Mack Brown was an assistant coach at LSU in 1982, helping the Tigers reach the Orange Bowl. He left to take head coaching job at Appalachian State in 1983 and was considered for the LSU post in 1984 after Jerry Stovall was fired.
But when the Tigers hired Bill Arnsparger, Brown served for one year as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma before coming back to Louisiana as head coach at LSU's in-state rival, Tulane, for three seasons.
The Longhorns like to play a non-conference road game. Why not play one close to home and against an opponent where a loss can be overcome?