National championship expectations run high for LSU

Dave Moormann
LSU’s Stevan Ridley scored twice against ULM.

You know the bar has been raised ridiculously high when the unlikelihood of a national football championship brings a twinge of disappointment.

Back in the day, a nine-win season and a bowl appearance would have been cause for excitement at LSU. Now, with a school-record 11 consecutive bowl berths to its credit, LSU and its faithful expect nothing but the best.

Anything short of that brings a hint of frustration. That’s why last week’s 51-0 homecoming victory over the University of Louisiana at Monroe was tempered by the knowledge that three unbeaten teams ranked above LSU all staved off upsets.

No. 1 Auburn rallied past Georgia, while Oregon and TCU won by a combined seven points. Boise State rolled to victory, as LSU remained locked at fifth both in The Associated Press Top 25 and the BCS standings.

That being said, LSU has every reason to be proud of what it’s accomplished this season. It’s not over yet, either. Two regular-season games remain, including one against Ole Miss at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

LSU is looking at the prospect of an 11-win regular season and a major BCS bowl game. It can be argued that LSU is the second-best team in the country.

At any rate, LSU certainly is better than ULM, which didn’t put up as much resistance as McNeese State, a Football Championship Subdivision team. The Tigers’ defense dominated the Warhawks, even with two first-time freshmen starters in the secondary.

LSU limited ULM to 190 yards total offense, forced five turnovers and scored two defensive touchdowns for the first time since 1991. Junior quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee weren’t nearly as effective as they were in the second half against Alabama, but they were good enough to help LSU score 31 points off those turnovers. So was senior place-kicker Josh Jasper, who had a career-best, 52-yarder among his three field goals and continued to show a deft touch with his pooch-punting.

“The only thing I can tell you is all we are going to focus on is what we can control,” said Miles in response to Auburn having clinched a spot in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. LSU, at 9-1 overall and 5-1 in the SEC, can still tie Auburn for the Western Division title, but Auburn would win the tiebreaker by virtue of its 24-17 victory over LSU.

“I think we are going to just continue to play and take one (game) at a time, and we’ll see how it fares,” Miles said.

Since LSU showed no signs of a letdown after its emotional 24-21 victory over Alabama, it’s unlikely the Tigers will overlook Ole Miss. As strong as LSU can be, it’s not so good that it can take anyone lightly.

Its inconsistent offense is enough to keep any opponent in the game, particularly as one as good as Auburn, which played error-free against LSU.

To consider where LSU has come from truly is amazing. It still boggles the mind to remember how LSU overcame all its flaws to beat Tennessee with no time on the clock, 16-14. Considering how LSU pulled off that victory, it shouldn’t complain about Oregon and TCU catching a break.

Had LSU lost to Tennessee, no telling how the season might have unraveled. As it is, LSU has managed to find a way to win in every game but one.

The offense leaves something to be desired but can erupt as it did in the second half against Alabama. Junior running back Stevan Ridley has a nose for the end zone, which he reached twice against ULM.

If LSU can generate a modicum of offense as it did against ULM, that will complement a fierce defense that continues to create havoc for the opposition.

LSU is not perfect and it won’t win a national championship this year, but the Tigers have put together a season worthy of acclaim.