There have been a range of responses from Bulldog Nation regarding our bowl situation and the BCS selection process at large. I am not going to belabor this. Many of you are still furious at the perceived slight. I don't blame you. I agree with Paul however that it is important to keep this in perspective. If this were Let's Make A Deal and I gave you a choice between the Sugar Bowl and whatever was behind door #3, you would generally take the Sugar. When we were 4-2 and coming off an embarassing loss to the Vols, you would have joined me in taking the Sugar and believing that God must be a Bulldog. Because on October 8th things looked awfully dark in these parts, and we were searching Expedia for deals on December lodging in Shreveport, Nashville and Memphis.
Sure, we had an argument that we should be in the big game. Sure, LSU has lost 2 games since the last time the Bulldogs tasted defeat. Sure, the Evil Mouse Media Empire managed to politic the Narrative back into relevancy, and it was unseemly. I firmly believe that if we had played LSU yesterday, then we would be playing on January 7th. But we weren't and we aren't. The lesson to be learned by this young Bulldog squad as they transition into next year's seasoned Bulldog squad? Play every game, even the South Carolina game as if it is for the National Championship. Because it just might be.
I have heard some in Bulldog Nation say that they hope LSU gets flattened by the denizens of the Ohio Public Library System. This is misdirected hostility. Sure, LSU backed into the title game after losing to the Kentucky team that we handled by two scores and an Arkansas team that was held together with paper clips, bailing wire and Darren McFadden's massive biceps. But if LSU loses this game it does nothing to help the SEC or the University of Georgia long term. This is our chance to show that, all other things being equal, pollsters should vote for the team that survives the SEC to play for the crystall football.
That is important because it might well be us next season. If this Bulldog squad takes care of business against Hawaii, it stands in line for a top 5 preseason ranking in 2008. It will travel to take on Arizona State (also a possible top 10 team) and LSU. If things go poorly in those games, we will need all of the arguments we can muster in our favor. If we beat the Sun Devils but slip against Kentucky or Florida late, we will need our conference's track record to work in our favor. For the long term benefit of our program, the best case scenario has LSU shellacking the Buckeyes. We can then stand back and say "Heck, we could have done that too."
And after some reflection, Ive decided that we don't even have the best gripe around. No, that goes to Oklahoma. The Sooners soundly defeated the #1 team in the country to win their conference championship, and got their two losses a) on the road against Colorado on a last second field goal and b) while their quarterback was out with a concussion to Mike Leach and the pirates of the Lubbock Main. If "quality losses" count, I would put Oklahoma's right beside those of LSU. If failing to win our conference kept us out, I would think the Sooners' resounding win in the Big 12 Championship should have helped their case to get in. LSU struggled mightily to beat a Tennessee team that needed three straight missed field goals late against South Carolina, Vandy and Kentucky just to get to Atlanta. I would take Gary Pinkel's Tigers against Fulmer's Runnin' Dreamsicles on a neutral field.
I also wonder why Ohio State's cream-filled scheduling got them a pass to New Orleans. Is there anyone who thinks that the Buckeyes' victories over Kent State and Akron are that much more impressive than Hawaii's over Washington and Nevada? Telling stat of the season: LSU will be the first Top 20 ranked opponent the Buckeyes play all season. If that doesn't nauseate you, I don't know what will.
The fact is we are where we are. And it's a pretty good place to be. You'll never catch me complaining about a trip to the Sugar Bowl. You will however catch me worrying about a repeat of the 2005 Sugar Bowl. The degenerate gamblers among us will tell you that you can buy Momma a nice string of pearls by betting against slight favorites who are not in the bowl they were hoping for. There will be plenty of time to preview the Sugar Bowl in the coming weeks. For now, let's just put this nastiness behind us.
Let's take a little time to appreciate how far we've come. Ask yourself this: did you ever think there would come a day when we had a right to be disappointed about which BCS bowl we play in, as opposed to if we got one? In the words of Brad Paisley, me neither. We were that close. We were a part of the conversation, and that's good for the program's profile. Now let's go beat the pineapple out of Hawaii and start 2008 on a roll.