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Senior College Football Columnist

Power Poll: Underachieving LSU could end SEC's BCS title run this week


What happened to old what's their name? You remember, don't you?

LSU, defending SEC champs.

LSU, the preseason No. 1.

That LSU, the squad still ranked in the top five, with only one loss -- to Florida. It says here on the worldwide interweb the Tigers are 20-2 since 2011. The defense lost two All-Americans and likely is producing at least another new pair this season.

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So why does all that information seem like trivia answers this week? Why is it so hard for Le Bon Temps Tigers to feel so good with Alabama coming to their cit-tay? Why does LSU's season seem like it is teetering on the brink?

The Tigers couldn't even enjoy a decent bye week. The alleged smoke-filled exploits of its best player and a starting quarterback from 2011 filled the headlines. The happy-go-lucky voice of those '11 Tigers found himself on talk radio being asked if LSU had a drug problem.

"I can say without a shadow of a doubt that is not the case," said former offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert, who played with all four former Tigers arrested. "We are easily one of the most drug-free teams in the SEC. We get tested all the time."

That's comforting. What isn't is an LSU that doesn't quite know what's staring back in the mirror. These Tigers have underachieved. They were supposed to be better on offense. They aren't. Zach Mettenberger either can't be trusted or isn't as good as advertised. The offensive line has been beaten up. There is a disturbing lack of playmakers.

If there is a breakout star, even he comes with baggage. Freshman tailback Jeremy Hill pleaded guilty in January to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful carnal knowledge of a juvenile. At least he's on the field being productive, letting his football speak for him instead of an attorney.

Last year Alabama-LSU was the game of the century. The Tigers would settle for surviving this week.

The game is different this time, if only because we won't be fooled again. In case you missed it, last year's overhyped contest didn't matter -- the eventual result was a rematch. A case can be made that a second game between the powerhouses in New Orleans started the wheels rolling toward a playoff.

A rematch is unlikely this time if only because the Harris and coaches pollsters are on high alert. If LSU loses, it is all but out of the running for the SEC West, the SEC and the national championship. If LSU wins, well, there are still three other undefeateds (Kansas State, Notre Dame, Oregon) near the top that look like they're going to stay that way.

And in the immortal words of Jerry Palm: No, a one-loss SEC team is not going to play for the national championship if more than one undefeated BCS conference team is left at the end.

Digest this Mr. and Mrs. Southern Fried Football: An LSU win Saturday could effectively end the SEC's run of six consecutive titles.

The teams are meeting for the third time in less than a year and it's hard to feel the same anticipation. The No. 1 Tide actually look more unstoppable than they did last year at this time. Mississippi State, the last team to come within 19 points of Alabama, got blasted by 31 on Saturday. It's already been proven a clunky LSU can't flip the switch against an SEC powerhouse. (See: Florida on Oct. 6.) http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/story/20484132/muschamps-gators-anything-but-soft-in-bulldozing-of-no-4-lsu

Meanwhile, a team that had everything going for it on Aug. 9, continues to be bludgeoned -- in the news, even in the trenches at times. What's the significance of Aug. 9? On Aug. 10, Honey Badger was kicked off the team, kicking off what seems like this season-long malaise.

The Tigers have been good enough at times, just not promising enough all the time. The bad news for the Bad News Tigers is that they may have peaked before November. Oh sure, there will be at least 30,000 folks at Saturday's tailgate without tickets just so they can say they were there. But in Week 10, we're still waiting to see if the LSU-as-advertised shows up. This was a team that was supposed to play with revenge on its mind. This was a team that was going to play with an edge. This was a team, we were told, that went through the offseason with "21-0" branded on its brain stem.

Instead, that preseason No. 1, those defending SEC champs have arrived at a crossroads. Sure, the Tigers would like to beat Bama. But first they'd like to feel good about themselves.

Dodd's Power Poll
RankTeam (Previous)Comment
1Alabama (1)
Overall: 8-0
Conference: 5-0
The last team to get close to the Tide (Mississippi State, 17 points last season) became the next team to get run over by the Tide (38-7). Clock starts ticking on the game of the week, not the game of the century. Let's not go nuts.
2Kansas State (3)
Overall: 8-0
Conference: 5-0
Stat of the year: K-State has answered every opponent's score this season with a score except one. Amazing. Collin Klein accounted for four more touchdowns against Texas Tech, giving him 68 touchdowns responsible for (running-passing) since the beginning of 2011.
3Oregon (4)
Overall: 8-0
Conference: 5-0
Yes, I was the one who had Colorado and the points (46.5). Silly me. Ducks scored 20 fewer points (70) than UMass has scored all season (90). Oregon's strength of schedule improves dramatically in coming weeks with games against USC, Stanford and Oregon State.
4Notre Dame (5)
Overall: 8-0
Conference: N/A
The Irish came to Oklahoma to grow up in front of the largest crowd ever to see a college football game in the state (86,031). Manti Te'o for Heisman. Irish, for goodness sakes!
5LSU (6)
Overall: 7-1
Conference: 3-1
The last team to beat Alabama doesn't want a repeat. The last time LSU played Alabama it suffered its worst loss since 2008. Question: Where is the offense going to come from against the nation's best defense?
6Ohio State (9)
Overall: 9-0
Conference: 5-0
Sore neck? What sore neck? Braxton Miller accounted for 276 yards in total offense in whipping Penn State. Too bad there were no bowl scouts watching it.
7Georgia (15)
Overall: 7-1
Conference: 5-1
Jarvis Jones, the Dawgs D and the Georgia is back. Check the parking lot. A red-tinged cocktail party may still be raging. Look who is in control of the SEC East.
8Florida State (10)
Overall: 8-1
Conference: 5-1
Shame on us for even anticipating the matchup with Duke. The Noles put the world back on its axis by whipping the Blue Devils.
9Clemson (13)
Overall: 7-1
Conference: 4-1
Tajh Boyd threw for a school-record 428 yards against Wake. Sammy Watkins caught a school-record 282 yards' worth of passes.
10Florida (2)
Overall: 7-1
Conference: 6-1
Blame Shawn Williams. The Gators come crashing back to earth. Kids, this is what happens when you turn it over six times against anyone, much less a blood rival.
11Louisville (20)
Overall: 8-0
Conference: 3-0
Charlie Strong will never, ever leave Louisville. Got that?
12Boise State (19)
Overall: 7-1
Conference: 4-0
How weird is this? The worst Boise team in five years is about to go to a BCS bowl. The Big Ten just needs to keep underachieving.
13Oklahoma (7)
Overall: 5-2
Conference: 3-2
The Sooners don't usually lose like this at home, because they usually don't lose. The 17-point loss to Notre Dame was Bob Stoops' fifth in his 14 years as coach. OU hasn't lost this bad at home since 1997.
14Oregon State (8)
Overall: 8-1
Conference: 4-1
Washington is 2-0 against top 10 teams at home, 2-4 against everyone else. The Beavers' dream of their first 7-0 start ever died when U-Dubs' Travis Coons kicked the game-winning field goal with 80 seconds left.
15Mississippi State (11)
Overall: 7-1
Conference: 3-1
It was fun while it lasted, which was a little more than a quarter. SEC's leading rusher LaDarius Perkins was held to 38 yards by Alabama.
16USC (12)
Overall: 6-2
Conference: 4-2
Against a team without its starting quarterback at the end; against a team that had trouble tackling, the Trojans were horrific. They were also sloppy with five Turnovers and 13 penalties against Arizona. Their job this week is to take the Pac-12 out of the national championship hunt by beating Oregon.
17South Carolina (17)
Overall: 7-2
Conference: 5-2
Please, do not look at the gruesome replay of Marcus Lattimore that is no doubt out there somewhere. Concentrate on a show of sportsmanship by both teams huddling around Lattimore as he was treated. Thoughts and prayers to a great player. Hope you can get back on the field, Mo.
18Stanford (18)
Overall: 6-2
Conference: 4-1
Cardinal got a school-record 10 sacks against Washington State and still won by only a touchdown. Outgained by more than 100 yards, Stanford controls its own fate in the Pac-12 North.
19Nebraska (NR)
Overall: 6-2
Conference: 3-1
Cornhuskers everywhere dare to dream. After squashing Michigan 23-9, Nebraska has control of the Legends Division. How long as it been since the Huskers won a title? One conference (Big 12) and 13 years ago.
20Kent State (NR)
Overall: 7-1
Conference: 4-0
What a remarkable year for the MAC: four teams with one loss. Kent State is among three teams undefeated in the league. It was 0-22 against ranked teams before beating Rutgers for its wins its first six-game winning streak in 72 years.
21Rutgers (14)
Overall: 7-1
Conference: 4-1
Scarlet Knights had Hot Flashes. Actually the Golden Flashes stuck another flag in the ground for the MAC. On a day and night of carnage for the undefeated, Rutgers saw its dream end by turning the ball over five times against Kent State.
22West Virginia (21)
Overall: 5-2
Conference: 2-2
Just a hunch, but Dana Holgorsen may have been working with the defense during the bye week.
23Texas Tech (16)
Overall: 6-2
Conference: 3-3
Red Raiders are the canary in the Big 12 coal mine. Each time they sniff greatness in the Big 12, they fade out. Tech has lost to Kansas State and Oklahoma by a combined 93-44.
24Texas A&M (NR)
Overall: 6-2
Conference: 3-2
Johnny Manziel grabbed some pine after a little more than a half against Auburn. Mercifully. Will a freshman from College Station be the final nail for Gene Chizik? Stay tuned.
25Northern Illinois (NR)
Overall: 8-1
Conference: 5-0
Only blemish is a one-point loss to Iowa. Other than that, Huskies have won eight in a row, seven straight on the road and 13 straight in the MAC.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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