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Is Alabama the Reason Nobody Wants to Watch LSU vs. Georgia?

Alex Groberman

They say that you really need to be an SEC fan to be able to digest SEC football. Well, if ticket sales are any indicator, even SEC fans can’t stomach the prospect of an LSU Tigers versus Georgia Bulldogs SEC Championship showdown.

Saturday’s match-up between undefeated LSU and winners of 10-straight Georgia is widely expected to be a LSU rout, with odds makers listing the Tigers as 13.5 point favorites at the time of this piece.

As noted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, prices and interest are taking a serious nosedive leading into this weekend’s outing.

“We’ve actually seen a fairly dramatic decline in ticket prices to the game … within the last week,” said Will Flaherty, spokesman for SeatGeek.com, a ticket search aggregator.

How much are the prices dropping? Since peaking at an average of $463 back on Nov. 20, prices have fallen to an average of $135. And, interestingly enough, the biggest price drop came between this past Saturday and Sunday after LSU and Georgia officially clinched their spots in the game.

The general sentiment as to why prices are dropping like a stone at this point was echoed by Flaherty. Alabama Crimson Tide fans likely bought up a lot of tickets and were hoping that the Arkansas Razorbacks would hand LSU its first loss of the year. If that had happened, Alabama would find itself in this game. When things didn’t pan out, Crimson Tide fans flooded the market with excess tickets thereby driving down the price.

Moral of the story: blame Alabama for no one caring about Saturday’s LSU vs. Georgia battle.

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Confident LSU Tigers Ready For The Razorbacks

Alex Groberman

The LSU Tigers can almost taste the BCS Championship game at this point, but there is still other work to be done. Namely, taking on the No. 3 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks, who will aim to shock the world this Friday and hand the Tigers their first loss of the 2011 college football season.

While admitting that there is a whole lot on the line this week, LSU players have taken to expressing a certain confidence about what lays ahead. They respect 10-1 Arkansas, no doubt about it, but they also fully believe that they are the best in the land and relish the opportunity to prove it.

Apparently, winning 10 out of your last 11 games by a double-digit margin (read: 30.4 points on average) will have that effect on a group. (The “Game of the Century” versus the Alabama Crimson Tide was the lone exception).

“We all have just one goal: Get to the national championship. And we don’t think anything can stop us from doing that but ourselves,” LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers told reporters this week.

“We’ve played top 5 teams, top 15 teams, it doesn’t matter,” LSU offensive guard Will Blackwell added. “Regardless of whether (Arkansas) was ranked No. 3 or No. 100, it would still mean the same.

“We’ve got some tough games left ahead of us, but we’ve played a lot of tough games this season and I feel like we’re prepared to take on that challenge, mentally.”

Head coach Les Miles was similarly secure in his team’s greatness.

“We play the style of football that, if we do what we are capable (of), it makes it very difficult on our opponents,” Miles said. “We move the ball efficiently without turnovers. Our defense does not allow an opponent to go down the field routinely. They get turnovers. … It does not surprise me that we have been able to have success.”

That positive attitude is key, especially given the kryptonite-esque role that Arkansas has traditionally played for LSU. Amazingly enough, the Razorbacks have beaten the Tigers in three out of their last four meetings.

But that was then, and this is now. This Arkansas team, although undeniably great, has shown a certain propensity for struggling when playing outside the comforts of home. It needed to rally from a 10-point hole to ultimately defeat the Mississippi Rebels, and similarly needed to muster up a comeback against a woefully bad Vanderbilt Commodores team.

Not that Arkansas is running away from their troubles. In fact, the players are the first to admit that their struggles — including a loss to Alabama — hardened them to the outside noise and shaped them into the unbreakable unit that they have become.

“A lot of people wrote us off there after the `Bama game,” Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette said this week. “We had some ugly wins afterward, but we’re playing well right now and we’re going to stay focused and try to get one more.”

As it stands, the Tigers have won their home games by an average of more than 34 points this season. They haven’t lost a game at home, for that matter, since the middle of the 2009 season. The oddsmakers have them keeping the streak alive, listing them as two-touchdown favorites.

Will LSU stay perfect and knock down the latest obstacle placed in front of them en route to a National Championship? Can Arkansas shock the world and turn an already tospy-turvy BCS on its head?

We’ll find out soon enough.

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Will LSU Win The SEC West?

Alex Groberman

It’s been all but officially confirmed that the LSU Tigers will play for the BCS National Championship.

The far more intriguing question as it relates to LSU and the SEC West in general is: does this team have the best shot at capturing a division title?

Following their dominating 52-3 victory over the Mississippi Rebels, the Tigers have two challenges remaining – and both are fairly daunting. Next week, they’ll square off against the Arkansas Razorbacks – a team currently ranked 3rd in the nation. If they win that one, they get to play SEC East top dogs, the 9-2 Georgia Bulldogs.

Meanwhile, the Alabama Crimson Tide has a much simpler path, all things considered. Despite their 9-6 overtime loss to LSU a few weeks back, Nick Saban’s bunch is more or less the favorite to meet the Tigers in the BCS title game and only has to deal with the 7-3 Auburn Tigers in their next game.

Of course, the wild card in all this is Arkansas. If, somehow, the Razorbacks are able to upset the Tigers on Friday, a three-way 10-1 tie in the SEC West would emerge. And if a tie were to occur, the SEC West championship would ultimately be decided by the team ranked highest in the BCS standings released that week unless the second-highest rated team is five spots or less below the first. If that happens, the champ is decided by head-to-head match-ups.

Alabama defeated Arkansas 38-14 back in September, and of course they in turn got beaten by LSU a couple of weeks back. Then again, in our hypothetical LSU loses to Arkansas, which throws the whole thing back into a state of flummox with only the final margin remaining unknown.

It’s worth noting, however, that even if LSU were to beat Arkansas but then lose to Georgia, they could still face off in the BCS National Championship despite the fact that the Bulldogs would be the SEC champs.

Isn’t the BCS grand?

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Les Miles Doesn’t Need Two Quarterbacks

Alex Groberman

Can we put an end to this ridiculous charade already? LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles clearly does not want, nor particularly need to play two quarterbacks. The only reason he has been resigned to doing so is because of the hand he was dealt before the year even started – what with Jordan Jefferson’s untimely preseason incident.

As we all saw in LSU’s 42-9 rout of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Saturday, Jefferson always was and always will be the quarterback of choice for Miles. In that particular outing, Jefferson made his first official start and played 42 of 59 total snaps.

His counterpart Jarrett Lee, on the flip side, only got into the game with about 12 minutes left. He played the last 17 plays – the epitome of garbage time.

Going into the game versus Western Kentucky, Lee had been announced as the supposed pregame starter. When that didn’t end up happening, the natural assumption was that he was replaced by Jefferson as a reprimand for something that had occurred.

According to Miles, however, that was not the case. Rather, he pulled Lee in favor of Jefferson because of “practice performance,” and not any sort of disciplinary action.

So be it.

With the team sitting on a 10-0 record and the BCS title game so clearly within grasp, though, maybe it’s time to stop politicking with the players. Obviously Miles doesn’t want to create any tension in an otherwise harmonious locker room by picking one passer over the other. At the same time, the uncertainty that comes with not knowing who your leader is from week to week grates on an offense’s nerves – and LSU’s offense is no exception.

Look, Lee has been solid in his unexpected role this year – there is no denying that. Up until the Tigers’ win versus the Alabama Crimson Tide, you could easily make the case that he had earned the starting spot. But when he only got 11 snaps to Jefferson’s 47 in that absolutely vital season-making game, the writing was on the wall.

Jefferson isn’t perfect. He’s not a great passer and his more lengthy attempts — while continuously improving — still aren’t up to par. He also seems intent on holding on to the ball way too long, as most mobile, evasive quarterbacks tend to do.

At the same time, he does exactly what the LSU offense needs him to do. He can be moderately efficient as he was against Western Kentucky with his eight-of-14, 168 yard showing. He can evade the pass rush. And, most importantly, the players trust him more in crunchtime situations than they do Lee, as has been made clear time after time this season.

On Monday, Miles played the usual games with reporters, building up both quarterbacks’ self-esteems.

“We need both,” Miles said. “We’ll use both.”

LSU certainly doesn’t need both. LSU hopefully won’t use both. And, the quicker everyone realizes that this is true, the less unfortunate tension there will be in the locker room of this year’s probable national champions.

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Throwaway Play Could Help Give Oregon Their LSU Rematch

Alex Groberman

One throwaway play from the first game of the year for both the LSU Tigers and Oregon Ducks may ultimately play a pivotal role in deciding the 2011 BCS National Champion.

Back on September 3, the Tigers absolutely punished the Ducks in what was touted as the marquee early-season game of the year. LSU’s defense was brilliant from to start to finish, and the offense was surprisingly solid despite the fact that one of the team’s two quarterbacks in Jordan Jefferson was embroiled in a bigtime bar fight scandal that came to light shortly before the start of the season.

With the game already decided and less than 30 seconds left on the clock, Oregon was able to get the ball into the endzone for a touchdown that didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of 13-point shellacking.

The Tigers won that game 40-27.

Following the events of this past weekend, the Boise State Broncos have officially been eliminated from contention for the BCS championship and Oregon has slowly shifted back up the rankings. As it stands, the Ducks are sitting comfortably in fourth place behind the Tigers, Oklahoma State Cowboys and Alabama Crimson Tide.

Conventional wisdom says that Alabama won’t get a rematch versus LSU. It could happen, obviously, but most seem to agree that voters would not want to see a reincarnation of the 9-6 defensive battle fans were privy to a mere two weeks ago.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, control their own destiny. If they can hang on against Oklahoma two weeks from now, they will be the ones to earn a bid to the champion game – no doubt about it. They offer the perfect contrasting style to LSU’s aggressive, defensively-oriented schemes, and the voters would absolutely respond with glee to the possibilities.

If — and this is a big if — Oklahoma State falls to the Oklahoma Sooners, though, that could open the door for Oregon. So long as the team is able to get past the USC Trojans this coming weekend, the vastly-inferior Oregon State Beavers on November 26, and whoever they play in the league championship game on December 2 – they could end up in the big seat with a chance at redemption against LSU.

And it’s safe to say that, had the Ducks not scored that last second seemingly meaningless touchdown on the Tigers back in Week 1 of action, the powers that be wouldn’t have given them the slight advantage that they currently have on the No. 5 ranked Sooners.

Will the stars align for Oregon?

We’ll find out soon enough.

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Les Miles On Penn State: “I Know They’ll Do The Right Thing”

Alex Groberman

The current alleged child molestation scandal rocking Penn State is like radioactive waste that nobody really wants to get near.

If you approach the matter rationally and admonish the school and its operatives for their complete and total incompetence, you’ll probably get your media van turned over by these nutjobs. If you try to play Devil’s Advocate for a school and group of people who — by all accounts — at best idly sat back and watched and at worst covered up alleged child rape – then you’ll feel the rest of the world’s wrath.

So with that lose-lose proposition, is it any wonder that coaches and various college football big name figures are doing their best to avoid discussing the matter? Of course not.

Fortunately, LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles isn’t one to shirk away from the limelight. Understanding his duty and responsibility, as a representative of the university for whom he coaches to comment on the matter, Miles had this to say on the happenings at Penn State:

“The only thing I can tell you is that I think everybody in America — football coach or not — is probably first and foremost concerned with the well being of the young people that were involved,” Miles said. “And if there’s any way that that can be addressed first and foremost, that might well take precedence over any other piece. I think that the great coach at Penn State (Paterno) certainly has a distinguished coaching career. The only thing I hope is that all is done right as best as they can from this point forward.”

If only Penn State had a guy with some character working for them when you-know-what hit the fan. What a foreign concept Miles introduced in his brief commentary – think of the victims. In 58 words, the LSU head coach said everything that Penn State officials should have said following the scandal breaking, and a mantra they should have lived by 10 years ago when they were first allegedly made aware of what was going on under their very noses.

“It’s a great school and a great tradition and there’s a wonderful backdrop to Penn State, but the game is not necessarily as important as the things that went on there,” Miles added. “I wish them well. I know they’ll do the right thing.”

As endearing as Miles’ optimism is, it’s probably misplaced. If Penn State has proven anything thus far, it’s that its concerns on anything and everything start and end between the two endzones at Beaver Stadium.

Get more great analysis over at Opposing Views.

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Two Milestones Await The LSU Tigers This Weekend

Alex Groberman

One week after firmly establishing themselves as the unquestionable No. 1 team in the nation, the LSU Tigers will take on a slightly less threatening foe – the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

Despite the fact that this LSU team cemented itself as the best squad in the country via a 9-6 victory over Alabama last week (in a ratings bonanza for CBS, no less), the team’s head  coach, Les Miles is still fretting about what this weekend holds. Acknowledging the very real risk of a letdown after such a huge, monumental effort just one week earlier, Miles made it known that his foot wasn’t going to come off the brake any time soon.

“The key is to keep fighting, to find a way,” Miles said.

“There was nothing settled in any way with victory last Saturday,” Miles said. “We still have to earn our way. It is all about whom we are about to play and what is a necessary improvement that must take place this week. With that being said, we are looking forward to the process as we go forward.”

If the Tigers can earn a win this weekend, they’ll accomplish two feats: the 100th victory of Miles’ career and their first 10-0 start to a season in over 50 years.

Fortunately for LSU, barring a collapse of epic proportions, the team should be able to hold its own against a 5-4 Hilltoppers squad that has been outscored by its ranked opponents by nearly 29 points on average since 2004. Couple that with the Tigers’ perfect mark against Sun Belt Conference programs and 36 consecutive regular season wins over non-conference opponents since 2002, and you see why things are lining up nicely for the top-ranked team in the nation.

The plan of attack for LSU, no doubt, will be continue to abuse the opposing offense with a monstrous, impenetrable defense. For the year, the Tigers rank third in the FBS in yards allowed and second in scoring.

And, of course, Western Kentucky’s offense isn’t exactly potent. It currently ranks 101st in total scoring and offense this season. The team’s only real means of attack is the run, with their senior running back Bobby Rainey boasting the 3rd most rushing yards in the FBS with 1,169. He has also racked up over 100-yards in eight games this year.

The far more interesting storyline going into Saturday isn’t how LSU will handle their vastly inferior opponent but, rather, what’s going to happen with their quarterback situation. After starting the game against Alabama last week, Jarrett Lee was pulled in favor of Jordan Jefferson – who in turn ended up playing the majority of the outing.

Miles has remained mum on who will ultimately start this weekend.

Regardless of who the starter ends up being, the squad can take solace in the fact that they’ll have running backs Michael Ford and Spencer Ware around to take some of the pressure off. The latter, of course, leads the team with 541 rushing yards total and the former has 513 yards on the season.

So, all in all – expect more of the same this weekend. The Tigers will pass the ball a bit, run it a little more than they pass, and ultimately seal the deal with their best-in-the-nation defense.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. eastern time, Saturday.

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