Ok, so I think enough time has passed: my scars have scabbed over and healed; my discolored deeply bruised skin has returned to its normal “coffee with two teaspoons of cream” hue, and all the residual pain is gone– mostly. Yet, every now and then some random person will spy either my LSU class ring or sweatshirt du jour or other piece paraphernalia and ask, “WHAT HAPPENED?” To be honest, I have inquired the same of myself. How did a 13-0 undefeated and supposedly invincible powerhouse get run over and made to look like an intramural powder puff team? Please bear in mind with that phrase, I’m primarily speaking of the LSU offense– or lack there of. Ergo, I apologize for insulting Powder Puff teams everywhere with my aforementioned simile.
LSU fans have littered the Internet with blogs suggesting multiple theories (e.g. A mafia payoff, a pre-game team disruptive fight, etc); thus, I think it only fitting I propose one more, and hopefully one that at least sounds realistic.
Quite simply, and with no disrespect to the awesomeness of Alabama (and yes, I am fighting a serious gag reflex as I type this), but LSU lost and lost the pitiful way it did because of one simple thing: the re-match factor. Meaning this: having played and beaten Bama once (and twice in consecutive years), the LSU players did not really want to face Bama again.
Allow me to submit Exhibit A: the 1st game. Having built up a massive amount of momentum going into the first meeting on Nov. 5, both teams were doped up on the “Game of the Century” hype and both were ready to play. LSU won a close, hard fought, typical SEC game of smash mouth running and jaw rattling tackling– boring to some, yet exciting to (most) Southerners. After such a game, all the pundits believed all LSU had to do was run the table, win the SEC championship game, and end up with a home game for the Championship against some out-of-conference opponent TBD. If you’re a LSU player, you think: “Ok! Not an easy task, but fully within reach after vanquishing Bama once and for all, right? I mean, we don’t have to play Bama again until next year because there’s no way we will play them again this year. We’ve won our division, and the whole conference, so there’s NO way….” But no. The BCS said, “Way.” I don’t care or buy what Les Miles or anyone in purple and gold says– playing a team you already and barely beat before has to be more than just a little bit of a downer. More to the point, I think a rematch with such a tough, once beaten foe let doubt creep to into idle minds, especially minds that were idle for approximately 45 days.
Exhibit B: If you can find the ESPN footage of the Sunday when the BCS match-ups were announced, peep out the live feed shot of the team in the LSU athletic facilities. Pay special attention to the stone faced look of shock on the players’ face when they learned about the re-match. There was clearly no joy in Mudville that night. In fact, it took Les to beak the silence and elicit a forced cheer from the team, and trust me it was a very forced, reluctant cheer with no true enthusiasm.
I admit my bias. I’m an unabashed, proud LSU alumnus whose heart sits on my sleeve perpetually beating a bleeding river of my school colors. I also admit that I’m no where close to being a psychologist, but I believe there is something to be said for being mentally prepared. I tell the same thing to be students. Before one can pass a test, one has to actually believe he can pass the test. Of course, preparation (i.e. studying) is key, but perhaps mental preparation is paramount. Thus, I think LSU could not, and obviously did not beat Bama, because as whole the team did not really want to play them again. During the rematch, they looked and played deflated and uninspired– a look that at no point in this season’s gauntlet had been shown. I’m not going to complain about the BCS or the suggest that Okla. State should have been there instead. I’m just suggesting that it’s far more difficult to mentally convince yourself to “re-beat” a conference rival, let alone one whom you think may not deserve to be in game in the first place. Let’s not forget Bama failed to win its division, let alone its conference.
All in all, LSU lost and lost badly. Bama was better prepared and more inspired. Kudos to them. However, if my theory has any merit then ultimately the fault lies with LSU’s coaches for not preparing the team properly, and maybe some fault is with the players. Shame on them for expecting the BCS to hold to the pattern of a SEC school vs. any one else. Maybe it’s their fault for believing they were playing for National Championship instead of the SEC Western division all over again.
Remember what I said in the beginning about my wounds being healed? Yeah, um, I lied. GEAUX TIGERS!