Sunday, November 18, 2007

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: Great Expectations

I never had one hour's happiness in [Tiger] society, and yet my mind
all round the four-and-twenty hours was harping on the happiness of [being a Tiger fan] unto death.
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.

Sorry about that. Couldn't stop myself.

I'm sure other fan bases experience similar emotions. It can be torturous to watch the Tigers fail to play up to their potential yet play good enough to win and remain at the top of the BCS poll. I wonder - had LSU started out the season ranked #17 in the pre-season polling, would the media and the blogs and the fan forums project a different, more positive tone about the team's accomplishments?

Admitted: The defense has been challenged lately, the team has a penalty addiction, Matt Flynn has thrown a bunch of picks and has a very ho-hum 55% completion percentage (or so), and the Tigers have had to use second half play on multiple occcassions in order to fix messy first half play.

However, some perspective. LSU is the unanimous #1 [edit: LSU did not receive all number one votes, but is number 1 in each poll] in all polls for the second time this year, even though:

  • LSU is playing without the services of 4 first round NFL draft picks from last year's #3 team.
  • Matt Flynn only started one game going into this season.
  • LSU has had some significant injuries, though some have been resolved. Dorsey is playing hurt. I bet Doucet is as well. Beckwith is out and we felt his absence against Ole Miss.
  • LSU played Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, Kentucky and Alabama when each team was ranked. Noone else has played a schedule like that.
  • LSU's only loss came in 3 OT against Kentucky (#17 at time).

Other teams, playing lesser opponents, have fared worse.

  • USC lost to unranked Stanford before losing later to Oregon.
  • Ohio State (#1 at the time) was beaten by (unranked at the time) Illinois
  • Oregon already had a loss to Cal when (#2 at the time) they lost this week to unranked Arizona
  • Oklahoma already had a loss to unranked Colorado before they (#3 at the time) lost this week to unranked Texas Tech.

    There were others, of course. The point is, as Rabalais says in his latest piece, there are worse things than "ugly" wins.

    Now, I'm interested in stats. I think they provide context to what is otherwise just a record of wins and losses and final scoring totals. And the stats in this game tell an Ole Miss-hued story.

    But as the season wanes, and all the games become increasingly important, stats begin to lose their luster. Even allowing the 400plus yards to Ole Miss last night, LSU still has the #2 defense in the country. So how much should we pay attention/care? I still pay attention, but I'm not sure I care anymore at this point in the season.

    All I care about now is two more SEC wins. And this team has proven itself to be able to play through adversity and mistakes and straight-up buffoonery and remain in the game when other teams might have folded under the pressure.

    I really don't care who LSU plays in the SEC championship game. Neither Georgia or Tennessee are as good as LSU. Both will beat LSU if LSU makes enough mistakes and doesn't play their best.

    I also don't care who LSU plays if we make it to the BCS national championship game. This team is for real and has enough talent to beat any team in the country. If they play well, they win. If they don't, then any top 10 team can and likely will beat them.

    So, it's in the hands of the boys in Purple and Gold (and White).

    I still have Great Expectations.

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