Now some of you may say that is
going a bit too far. But for Tiger football under Nick Saban, no matter how
Saban himself downplayed the game, this is a crowning achievement for his ball
club. He has talked about dominance and consistency and elevating the program to
prominence on the national stage, this win did that.
If LSU was to have lost on
Saturday, the talk would have been once again that Tigers were again overrated
and how they are not ready for the big time just yet. How many times has it been
said, “maybe next year.”
Guess what – next year is
For the first time since (uggh!!)
1998, the LSU Tigers are ranked in the top 10 during the regular season. Saban
has had a team finish in the top 10 following his club’s win over Illinois in
the Sugar Bowl, but never in the regular season.
Now we know Saban doesn’t like
rankings, polls or predictions, but
this more than just a number. It is respect and Saban has finally put LSU on the
map as a contender, rather than a pretender.
The Tigers won the big game in
September, something they have no done for quite a while. Winning your big game
in the early portion of the schedule propels your program into the national
spotlight, makes your team more attractive for notoriety, bowl games and
postseason awards and recognition. Just ask Arkansas and Tennessee, they, like
LSU, are ascending whereas Florida, Texas and Georgia will spend the next month
or so trying to win as many games as they cane to try and make up for that
costly September loss.
LSU has not won the big “early” one
in, well, six years. In 1997, the Tigers knocked off No. 1 Florida and jumped
into the top 10. But a loss the next week to Ole Miss cancelled all they had
accomplished a week earlier and sent the program spiraling out of control in
search of an identity. The wheels remained attached long enough for a bowl win
over Notre Dame, but things began unraveling in the offseason spun out of
control with a 4-7 season in 1998.
We can talk all we want about the
Tigers winning the “big one” by beating Georgia in Tiger Stadium. But really
Georgia wasn’t that big one everyone has been talking about. It was only half
Although Mississippi State is
probably the fifth best program in the state of Mississippi behind USM, Ole
Miss, Hinds Community College and Moss Point High School, the Bulldogs are the
proverbial spoiler that could rain LSU’s parade.
Mississippi State is just bad
enough (see Ole Miss in 1997) and unassuming enough and unlikely enough to again
knock LSU from its lofty pedestal.
However, here is why that won’t
happen this time.
Unlike LSU’s loss to Tulane after
the historic win over Florida State in 1982 and embarrassing defeat the hands of
Ole Miss in 1997, the Tiger football program is on much more stable ground than
it was under Gerry Dinardo or Jerry Stovall.
Saban has provided a solid
foundation under his team and a letdown is unacceptable in his eyes. The
fourth-year coach has already began preparing to re-enforce his team’s mindset
heading into this week expected to be filled with hoopla.
“I know it’s great for LSU, our
football program, and our football team to win on national television against a
nationally ranked top-ten team and I’m proud as I can be of them, our fans, our
administration, and anyone who had anything to do with it,” Saban
Saban stressed the importance of
putting the win over Georgia in the past.
“Next week when we play what we did
today won’t help us beat the next team,” Saban said. “We have to be more
concerned about what are commitment is to how good we want to be rather than
feeling so good about what we just accomplished. I think we have how many more
games, eight? We could go four and eight this year.”
Much the way they approached the
Georgia game, it is just another game and needs to be examined as the only game
on the schedule.
“You have got to play them one game
at a time,” Saban said. “You compete every play. Today was a great win and I’m
proud of our players. I can’t tell you how proud of our players I am. It’ll be a
test for our players to be able to have success and to be able to deal with the
success that they have and still prepare to try and get better.
What is your conviction to
continuing improvement even when you have success?”
Saban and his team have conquered
one step in the right direction toward dominance – achieving
success.“The next one is the big
step in dealing with it,” he said.