R-E-S-P-E-C-T for LSU

What a difference a week, and losses by perennial “contenders,” makes.
As Miami fell to Tennessee, Virginia Tech lost to Pittsburgh, and unranked Clemson knocked off Florida State in a stunning upset, upward goes the stock of the Fighting Tigers in the BCS rankings.
Both the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll and the AP poll have LSU ranked at #3 this week. (The Tigers did not play this weekend.) The BCS ranking system has the Tigers at #4, behind Ohio State, flip-flopping positions with the Buckeyes from the other major polls. I can live with that. The Big 10 is a powerhouse conference, and Ohio State is the defending national champion, not a pretender like the Hurricanes or Seminoles.
Now the Tigers have a tough, SEC-only schedule for the rest of the season. This Saturday will be the Crimson Tide, in Alabama, on national television, courtesy of ESPN. Alabama has been pretty weak this season, but you can never discount a SEC opponent. I confess to being a bit worried; the last time the Tigers came off a bye week, they suffered their only loss of the season to Florida, the difference between #4 in the BCS and #2.
Should LSU prevail, the game of their season to date would be the following week, at Ole Miss. After this past weekend, the Rebels are undefeated in the SEC, 6-0, and currently sit atop the SEC West. Looking at the Ole Miss schedule, the only thing I see stopping them from going to the SEC Championship is LSU. Not that all three remaining games aren’t must-wins for the Tigers, but this will be the game, should LSU ride in to Oxford at 9-1. (Something that could work to the Tigers’ favor: while LSU plays Alabama this coming weekend, Ole Miss is off.)
And should LSU enter their last regular season game at 10-1, the Razorbacks of Arkansas are always looking to spoil the Tigers’ chances in the postseason. As far as the SEC championship is concerned, the Tigers control their own destiny; win all three remaining games, and they’re headed to Atlanta on December 6th. Win the SEC championship, and there is the slim chance they could actually play for the national title.
Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening; like I said, it’s a slim chance. Oklahoma is going to finish the season undefeated, with the Big 12 championship. USC has Arizona (2-8) and UCLA (6-4) left in its season; the Trojans will roll over the Wildcats, leaving the Bruins as the only potential spoiler. It could happen, but again, the chances are slim. Ohio State does have its work cut out for it, however. The Buckeyes, like LSU, have a tough schedule to finish on, first taking on Purdue, then arch-rival Michigan. Should Ohio State cap off their season with wins in these two games, I believe you’ll see them in New Orleans defending their title against Oklahoma, no matter what USC does. I’m sorry, BCS, but you can’t compare the Pac-10 to the Big 10 when it comes to schedule strength.
So, here’s hoping that the Bruins down the Trojans, and I’ll be rooting for the Boilermakers and the Wolverines. Should LSU wrap up all three of its remaining games, and any of the above happens, they would end the season as the only one-loss team. (The TCU Horned Frogs notwithstanding; I like TCU–they’re a hometown favorite–but they’re not in the same league.)
Which means the Tigers would head to New Orleans to be promptly crushed by the Sooners. Hey, I love my Tigers, but I’m a realist. Unless there’s a football miracle out there that none of us can see, Bob Stoops will win his third national championship this season, no matter who Oklahoma faces in the Big Easy.