Has LSU-Auburn lost some sizzle? (US Presswire)
When toe meets leather for the annual battle of the Western-division Tigers tonight, will LSU vs. Auburn have the same kind of feel it once did? Kurt Valvis explores that topic in this week's Fan's Perspective.
I can’t stand Alabama.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that as a Tiger fan. From the whole Nick Saban soap opera to the last two times we took the field against them (sorry I brought it up), the Crimson Tide is the only thing that has kept LSU from having a stranglehold on the SEC West. Alabama has reemerged as LSU’s biggest rival.
But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, there was another team from the same state that used to draw plenty of ire from LSU fans, and not that long ago.
It used to be those other Tigers. In the early 2000s, Auburn was LSU’s greatest rival. From 2000 to 2006, LSU or Auburn won or tied for the SEC West crown each year, so you could say the LSU-Auburn game meant a lot to how each team’s season would unfold. It was a heated rivalry filled with bad blood, and it all started thanks to some cigars.
See, in 1999, after a decisive 41-7 win by Auburn in Baton Rouge, then-head coach Tommy Tuberville decided to light up cigars on the field post-game in Death Valley. This didn’t sit well with the LSU faithful and would lead to almost a decade’s worth of memorable clashes between these two schools. You don’t even have to mention the actual year of the game, all you need to do is reference that defining moment that stood out in each and any good Tiger fan will recognize it.
There was the Stomping on the Eye of the Tiger game (2001), the Ronnie Prude Extra Point game (2004), the John Vaughn/Five Missed Field Goals game (2005), the Pass Interference Game (2006), the Flynn-to-Byrd Game (2007) and the Cam Newton game (2010). Look at all those classic bouts in such a short time span. It’s an unbelievable collection of moments that sometimes defined LSU in those seasons. You could even throw in the Jarrett Lee game (2008), but I’ve tried to erase all memories of Jarrett Lee’s time under center that year.
When you play that many close, hard-hitting games, it’s understandable why each school and their fan bases grew a mutual dislike for one another. For me, it reached its nadir when during the 2007 game, Auburn tried to take out Glenn Dorsey, one of the most beloved Tigers of all-time. Chaz Ramsey infamously went low into Dorsey’s knee, ending his night and infuriating any LSU fan who saw it. That’s when Auburn truly became our biggest adversary to me.
Auburn hasn’t held up its side of this rivalry in recent years, however. Since Cam Newton took his last snap in college, the Plainsmen have been headed in the wrong direction as a program, eventually bottoming out last year in a winless run through the SEC.
New coach Gus Malzahn seems to have righted the ship, but they are still a long way from returning to their mid-2000s form. And while no LSU fan will ever complain about having one less juggernaut on the SEC slate, I kind of miss those days when we’d go into this game knowing we’d have a hell of a battle waiting for us. Instead, this year, LSU is a 17-point favorite. And last year, despite a close 12-10 win by LSU, I wasn’t excited about beating a hated rival. I was more relieved that we didn’t screw up our season by losing to an inferior opponent. I miss those intense match-ups. Don’t get me wrong, I love beating up on those once-formidable Tigers, but I liked it better when this game meant something more than just another SEC contest.
Kurt Valvis is part of a five-man team who operates the LSU fan site titled “Section 217.” CLICK HERE to access the site.
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