Wiedmer: Bama-LSU looks bigger every week

Wiedmer: Bama-LSU looks bigger every week

October 14th, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

From his cubicle inside the Tennessee Titans' locker room a couple of weeks ago, defensive back and former Texas Longhorn Michael Griffin said of his embattled college coach, Mack Brown, "He's going to be fine. I think we're going to win eight straight and play for the (Big 12) championship. Hook 'em, Horns!"

The prediction seemed somewhat preposterous then. That other UT -- as it's known in these parts -- stood 2-2 on the year, having been humbled in two of its previous three games by BYU and Ole Miss.

More importantly, longtime Longhorns coach Mack Brown was under siege, the program having come somewhat undone following its 2005 national championship and 2009 national runner-up finish.

There was much loud talk that the 62-year-old coach and his $5 million yearly salary wouldn't make it through October. He was too old. Too soft. Too complacent.

And much of that may yet prove true. At least all of it except being canned in October. But after Saturday's 36-20 victory over bitter rival Oklahoma in the annual Red River Shootout, Brown and his Longhorns have now won three straight and would appear to be the favorite in every remaining game until the regular-season finale at Baylor.

Even Brown, who's spent much of the past month deflecting talk of his eminent unemployment, made sure to inform the media after the win, "I guess we've won five out of the last nine now (against OU) -- for you that are counting."

As long as the top-ranked, two-time defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide and once-beaten LSU Tigers experience no hiccups before their monstrous showdown in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9 (after a Bama off-week, no less), that contest, this week's Clemson-Florida State showdown and next week's Oregon-UCLA game will possibly count the most toward shaping this season's BCS title game.

Of course, in that same mix will be the Stanford-Oregon game on Thursday, Nov. 7, and the South Carolina-Clemson game on Nov. 30 at USC, assuming both the once-beaten Gamecocks and undefeated Tigers keep winning them all until then.

Yet no rational human being could watch the Tide roll in recent weeks, see LSU improving almost hourly and not believe the unofficial national championship game will be played between Bama and the Bayou Bengals.

And unlike two years ago, when Bama lost in T-town, then got a reprieve to meet the Tigers a second time in New Orleans for the national championship, the loser of this one should be done.

Bama would likely be finished because the Tide's scheduling of both Georgia State and UT-Chattanooga should kill it in the computer polls. Having already lost to Georgia, LSU would be out because of two losses.

Of course, the Tigers could beat the Tide, lose at home to Texas A&M and Johnny Football on Nov. 23 and still fail to even reach the SEC title game, but if any Top 10 team appears to be picking up steam at the right time it's LSU.

Even Tigers coach Les Miles is in top Mad Hatter form given his profanity-filled "Hammer and Nail" rant after Saturday's win over Florida.

(And, yes, the belief from this corner is that Alabama will play the role of the hammer this year against LSU, but that's this week. Let the Tide begin to suffer the same injury devastation that Georgia's endured and that could quickly change.)

Still, with a record eight teams in this week's Associated Press Top 25, the SEC would appear to be as strong, if not stronger than ever, as it attempts to win a stunning eighth straight national title.

Yet as Texas tenaciously showed this past weekend -- and formerly undefeated Stanford taught us at Utah -- this is shaping up to be a highly unpredictable season, one that might deliver an unexpected national champion come January.

As for Texas, Brown would probably still be wise to retire after this year, if only to leave the Longhorn fan base possibly pulled apart for years to come, as that other orange-tinted UT has been ever since it fired its national championship-winning coach Phil Fulmer.

Not that he seemed inclined to lean that way after beating Oklahoma.

"We're not in the grave," he told the media. "We're crawling out."

In other words, no one's hammering a nail in Brown's coffin this week.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com