December 03, 2011
SEC Championship: LSU 42, Georgia 10.
Here's how good LSU is. For the first two quarters, just as an experiment, the Tigers decided not to play any offense. Did you ever try that in a video game? Like when you'd make Bo Jackson intentionally run around in circles for a while, just to make it interesting?That's where LSU is relative to the best team in the SEC East.
So for 30 minutes, the highest-scoring offense in the conference did nothing. Literally, almost nothing: In the first half, the Tigers snapped the ball 21 times, gained 35 yards, failed to earn a single first down and punted seven times in seven possessions. They didn't have good field position, and didn't move the ball past their own 38-yard line. Thanks to a missed Georgia field goal and another clutch punt return by Tyrann Mathieu, LSU only trailed 10-7 at the half, and seemed to be on its way to another victory earned entirely via defense and special teams.
In the second half? The Tigers scored on their first possessions, delivered a knockout blow barely halfway through the third quarter and piled on two more touchdowns in the fourth for good measure. A week after answering a 14-0 hole against Arkansas with a 41-3 blitzkrieg to close the game, LSU dropped six unanswered touchdowns on Georgia, in all three phases of the game. It could have been worse, but what would have been the fun in that?
At this point, this is just how LSU rolls. Down 13-9 against Oregon in the season opener, the Tigers rolled up 24 straight points en route to a 40-27 win that can be accurately described as a rout. When West Virginia scored back-to-back touchdown to pull within 27-21 in the third quarter on Sept. 24, LSU ran the ensuing kickoff back and finished on a 21-0 run. At various points, the Tigers have scored 24 straight against Florida, 24 straight against Tennessee and 38 straight against Auburn. All except the win over Florida included points scored by or directly set up by the defense and special teams. None were close.
The debates are not over: If Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma tonight, the Cowboys will have a place alongside Alabama for the second ticket to the BCS Championship Game, and one-loss Stanford, Boise State and Virginia Tech will deserve a fair hearing on their merits, too. Under the all-or-nothing system we have, every line on their resumés should be examined by every voter with a fine-toothed comb. Assumptions and hypotheticals won't do.
But LSU? We've seen enough. In fact, we may have seen enough to coronate the Tigers as national champions right now, and let Alabama or Oklahoma State or whoever it is take their shot at a piece of the crown — but only a piece — on Jan. 9. The one thing we know right now is that LSU can't be passed: No matter what happens there, the Tigers have had the best season in college football in 2011. They beat four of the top dozen teams in this week's BCS standings by an average of 18 points. They only trailed in the second half once, in the eventual overtime win at Alabama. Arguably their three biggest wins — over Oregon, Alabama and now Georgia — all came outside of Baton Rouge. There is no doubt about LSU's top billing in New Orleans. All that's left is the wait for the next challenge.
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