This is for the soul of LSU.
This is for all the Cajuns who never went there, all the sororities dressed up in their finest on game day, the suburbanites in their SUVs streaming down Dalrymple Dr. chanting "Tah-gah Bait."
|Though Louisiana is thrilled again, Les Miles knows No. 1 'changes nothing.' (US Presswire)|
In this cruel, cruel world, they matter. Victims of hurricanes and itinerate coaches. They can deny it -- only halfway through the season -- but No. 1 matters too. The ranking has taunted the school and its team through the years. Thirty-one other teams have been No. 1 in the AP poll since LSU was last perched there in 1959.
"I was shocked when I read that statistic," Barry Switzer said. "I remember it because I was a senior playing at Arkansas. We had just beaten Texas A&M that afternoon. I'm driving to dinner with my date and I'm listening when Billy Cannon picks it up on a bounce."
Cannon, that year's Heisman winner, didn't stop until he provided the only touchdown in a 7-3 win over Ole Miss. The next week the defending national champions lost to Tennessee by a point.
"Went for two," said one of those Cajuns, political pundit and LSU grad James Carville. "Didn't get it. We were robbed."
Robbed? Tigerdroppings.com is still filled with the outrage of 2003. There is a large cache of fans who still believe LSU didn't share the national championship with USC that year. USC was No. 1 in the major polls that year but No. 3 in the BCS. While the Trojans were "exiled" to the Rose Bowl that season to salvage half a title, LSU celebrated a watershed moment by beating Oklahoma and winning the BCS crystal bowl in New Orleans.
The irony is that for LSU to have a chance to finish No. 1 in the AP this season, it would have to become USC in '03 -- finish third in the BCS.
"I do think a lot of people want to see LSU run the table," said author and former Tiger John Ed Bradley. "The same for USC, and then show we're the better team. If that game happens they're going to argue until the end of time that in 2003 we were the real national champions."
Robbed? Bradley and his teammates still agonize over losing to No. 1 USC in 1979, 17-12. The Tigers spent most of that day teaching the Trojans what SEC football was about. "We smacked them in the mouth," Bradley said.
LSU was going to win until a Pac-10 official threw a flag for a facemask against Tigers' defensive lineman Benjy Thibodaux on third-and-9 from the LSU 36. The drive stayed alive long enough for Paul McDonald to throw the game-winning touchdown pass.
So, it's easy to see that the ranking is both a small reward and a curse with Florida coming to town. Saturday night, LSU's soul will be bared. Saban's gone. Les Miles might leave. Matt Flynn's ankle is tender but the jambalaya is hot.