Speaking of months, this weekend’s kickoff is exactly nine months to the day since the same Tigers defeated Oklahoma 21-14 in the Nokia Sugar Bowl for the program’s first national title since 1958.
Without a doubt, few folks can honestly say one year ago right now that they felt LSU could be sitting where it is as the 2004 season opener with Oregon State is just days, even hours away. Few could have thought on a rainy August night in a game versus UL-Monroe that LSU would be sitting atop the college football world by season’s end. However, St. Nick (Saban) delivered the ultimate prize, the prize he envisioned when he arrived in Baton Rouge in December of 1999.
Saban mentioned in an interview over the summer when he arrived here he could not understand why LSU wasn’t one of the nation’s elite teams, ranked up there with Miami, Michigan and Florida State on a consistent basis.
And why shouldn’t it be?
Louisiana is a state rich in football talent, the university competes with no other school in the state for the top recruits and we are talking about a university that is as passionate about football as any other school in America.
Saban cultivated all the necessary components, brought them all together, and mixed in his master plan of developing quality student athletes that shoots to win championships. The result, in year four, Saban and his team stood on college football’s greatest stage and held the grand prize high into the air.
One website stated it best last week when
previewing LSU’s 2004 team.
Collegefootballnews.com said of LSU, “no matter what happens, this program should be here to stay among the elite.”
Hasn’t that been what Tiger fans have been wanting for the past, say, 50 years. The LSU faithful asked, and Saban delivered.
Now, after hearing all of that and re-living the goose bumps and memories of the Tigers magical season in 2003, leave it there, right there, back in 2003. It is a new day.
As Saban has preached throughout the offseason, do not let the accomplishments of last season cloud the vision for the future. Not to go into Saban’s rendition of climbing the mountain, planting the flag and now returning to base, but what LSU fans have to realize is that it is a new year.
As Southern California found out Saturday night versus Virginia Tech, although the Trojans are the big dogs as most folks’ preseason No. 1, just showing up is not enough. The Hokies led USC at the half and nearly pulled the upset before the Trojans rallied in the fourth quarter to seal the 24-13 victory.
Fast forward to Saturday; LSU faces its toughest season opener in Tigers since 1994 when the Oregon State Beavers come to town.
Granted the Beavers do not possess the quantity of talented athletes as that of the Tigers and will struggle mightily not only to move the ball on LSU’s defense, but most notably to stymie the Tigers’ offense.
But in this day and age, anything can happen at any time. Oregon State has said they have played in tough environments going on the road to Washington and Oregon, but the Beavers have yet to take the field in an atmosphere as rowdy as the one Mike Riley’s team will experience on Saturday.
But at the same time OSU is adjusting to the crowd, Saban’s Tigers must adjust as well. LSU cannot get caught up in the hoopla and celebration which will engulf the LSU campus by midweek.
Fans will begin pouring onto campus and by the time the national championship flag is raised during the pregame festivities, the celebration will reach a fever pitch. But unlike the fans, these Tigers cannot get caught up in the frenzied jubilation for there is a job to do and that is squaring off with the Beavers.
And while many prognosticators will choose the Beavers to pull off the upset much like those who picked Arizona to beat LSU last season, remember LSU didn’t get to where they are by choking under pressure or falling flat with overconfidence.
Saban will have the troops ready and by the time Dan Borne introduces your Fighting Tigers of LSU as the defending champions of college football, hold on to your seismograph folks, because it is going to be a night to remember.