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Tigers report: Inside slant

 
Strategy and personnel | Notes, quotes
 
Throughout four quarters of the SEC championship game, LSU answered Georgia's every challenge with a convincing response, as if the Tigers were trying to do more than just win a game and a championship. At times, the Tigers played like they were trying to prove a point and win an argument.

"Any time we started to do something, they did a great job of getting the momentum back," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "As champions do."

The Tigers proved their point in the SEC championship game, winning the title with a 34-13 victory. In the process, they also earned a chance to prove a bigger, better point in the national championship game.

When the Bowl Championship Series spit out its final results, LSU (12-1) found itself ranked No. 2 and paired with Oklahoma in the national championship Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.

"I would like to say how excited our football players are that we have the opportunity to go to the Nokia Sugar Bowl and be in the BCS Championship Game," LSU coach Nick Saban said.

"A lot of people have worked extremely hard and made a lot of sacrifices. We were basically in a must-win situation after the Florida game and for our players to play with that consistency to create this opportunity for them, speaks volumes of their character, their commitment and competitive spirit to excellence.

"I told the players today I know how happy they were for what they have accomplished, how happy I was for what they have accomplished. But truly I don't think they understood what a tremendous impact they had on happiness and pride for so many people in the state of Louisiana by what they were able to accomplish."

Critics will argue forever about how top-ranked Oklahoma lost 35-7 to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, dropped to No. 3 in both human polls behind No. 1 USC and No. 2 LSU, and yet still ended up in the national championship game.

By the time the results were announced, however, those debates seemed to center on Oklahoma and USC, and not on LSU. The Tigers, it seems, have earned their way into this position without a lot of questions or concerns about their worthiness.

Not that the Tigers ever had any doubts.

"When you win the SEC, which I think is the best conference in the nation, and you go 12-1, you shouldn't be apologetic," LSU quarterback Matt Mauck said.

Besides, LSU didn't invent the system. All the Tigers did was win their last seven games after their one loss of the season, Oct. 11 against Florida. The rest was up to the polls and the computers.

"No one is going to know who's the legitimate national champion unless all three teams get a chance to play one another," Saban said.

"We all have to take the system we have and respect it. We're playing for the national championship against a quality team. Whoever wins that game will have the right to call themselves national champions."

USC might still end up with a share of the national title if it wins the Rose Bowl and earns the top vote in the AP poll, but the Tigers can't do anything about that. They've done a good job of taking games one at a time and focusing on the task at hand since the Florida game, so look for the Tigers to do the same thing when it comes to play Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

"As long as we play our A-game, we can beat anyone," LSU defensive tackle Chad Lavalais said. "When they asked us who we'd rather play, me and a few of my teammates said that it didn't matter. Whoever it is, we're ready to play now."

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