Wiedmer: Could extra game derail LSU's BCS title train?

Wiedmer: Could extra game derail LSU's BCS title train?

November 28th, 2011 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

As long as their BCS numbers hold, wouldn't you rather be Alabama than LSU this week? Wouldn't you rather feel fairly certain that your current BCS number of .955 is at least as likely to remain second in the final poll as the top-ranked Tigers, should they lose to Georgia in Saturday's Southeastern Conference title game?

Maybe LSU holds onto one of the top two spots and maybe it doesn't - though it's hard to see the Tigers knocked out of the title game, since they've already won at Bama - but let Oklahoma State smoke Oklahoma this weekend and who knows?

Perhaps it could somehow become a Bama-Okie State title game. Or Stanford-Bama.

Sure, Bama and LSU both look to be locks to reprise their Nov. 5 defensive gem that ended with the Tigers on top 6-3 following an overtime period.

And if you really want to see the two best teams play for the title, that's as it should be. Nor do most serious football folks question that Bama and LSU are the two best teams, though many question giving the Tide a second shot, since it already failed to defeat the Tigers on its own turf.

There's also the rather powerful argument that no team unable to win its own league should play for a national championship under the current format.

But for today only, let's at least consider the possibility that LSU playing a 13th game is dangerous, no matter how heavy a favorite the Tigers may be.

For as Tennessee can painfully attest this morning, if you play, you can lose. No matter how unlikely the possibility of the Bulldogs besting the Bayou Bengals.

So what did we learn this week other than LSU remains scary good and Alabama almost as frightening?

We learned that Vanderbilt's immediate future looks slightly brighter than UT's, since the Commodores will be bowling this holiday season while the Big Orange goes bawling over its first loss to Kentucky in 27 years and its first seven-loss SEC season ever.

(Hey, nobody beats UK 27 years in a row.)

We learned that Vols coach Derek Dooley won't be the only Nick Saban disciple spending an uncomfortable winter on the booster club circuit, Florida coach Will Muschamp also sure to feel the chill after a 6-6 season that included a 3-5 SEC finish.

Heck, their excuses even sound alike. Or can you pick who said the following:

A) "We're not good enough up front right now, quite frankly. We're not."

B) "Their rush defense is no worse than our rush offense."

C) "Over 70 percent of our roster are freshmen and sophomores and those are the guys who are playing."

D) "We're going to have to learn from it and we're going to have to begin our climb in the offseason."

If you answered A) Muschamp, B) Dooley, C) Muschamp and D) Dooley, you've spent way too much time on the Internet lately.

But Tennessee's loss to Kentucky is one that looks worse with each passing hour. Take away UK linebacker Danny Trevathan and punter Ryan Tydlacka and the Vols are arguably better at every other position on the field.

Yet here were the Wildcats, down to playing a very average senior wide receiver at quarterback for the only time of his college career and they not only failed to stop him, they let Matt Roark more than double the rushing yardage (124) of UT's whole team (61 yards).

Did the Vols coaching staff never hear of a "spy" to shadow Roark, since he couldn't throw the ball downfield, not one of his four completions traveling more than three yards past the line of scrimmage?

And what about that UK defense, which entered as one of the league's worst, yet exited holding the Vols to seven points, one score and no drives past midfield after UT pulled within 10-7.

This is the same Wildcat bunch that got buried 38-8 at Vanderbilt two weeks ago, but against Tennessee their defense proved as salty as Alabama, LSU or Arkansas, which all held the Vols to a single score.

It's one loss in a season of seven of them, but if the UT coaching staff's idea of adjusting is to turn a mediocre wide receiver into a 124-yard rusher, returning the Big Orange to a team capable of challenging Alabama and LSU may take more than this year's freshmen and sophomores becoming juniors and seniors.

It may mean making adjustments to those who coach them.

It may mean figuring out who the Vols can shake loose from the Les Miles coaching tree.