As college football historians look back on all the national champions, the nuts and bolts of the 2007 season might get lost in the shuffle and the translation. LSU didn’t win the national title; it survived the season.
Oh sure, in hindsight it appears obvious. After all, LSU had the best team in America. Everyone knew that going in, and while all turned out to be right with the world, at least as far as who the national champion should’ve been, LSU also turned out to be one of the luckiest teams ever, and one of the toughest, gutsiest and most resilient.
What had to happen? What did the Tigers have to go through to win the big prize and not just be a 50-point Sugar Bowl winner over Hawaii? Consider …
# LSU had to win the SEC title game without its starting quarterback.
# West Virginia had to lose at home to a lousy Pitt team.
# Missouri had to lose the Big 12 Championship to Oklahoma.
# LSU was the first two-loss team in the BCS era to get a shot at the national championship.
# Not only did LSU lose twice, but it lost in triple overtime to two mediocre teams: Kentucky and Arkansas.
# The star defensive tackle, and the heart and soul of the team, Glenn Dorsey, was playing on one leg after being on the wrong end of a cheap shot block against Auburn; fellow starting tackle Charles Alexander was lost for the year early on with a knee injury; and rising star tackle Ricky Jean-Francois missed almost the whole season because of academic issues.
# Les Miles was almost certain to take the Michigan job; couldn’t pursue it because his team was playing for a conference title; and then really couldn’t pursue it (even after his now-classic “damn strong football team … have a great day” speech) because his team was playing for a national title.
# Miles hit the equivalent of an unnecessary 54-foot jump shot that went in with his controversial call for a 22-yard throw for a touchdown with one second to play to beat Auburn when a 40-yard field goal would’ve won the game.
# Going for it, and making it, on fourth down instead of hitting a field goal that would’ve forced overtime against Florida on the way to the game-winning touchdown.
So, basically, LSU had the best team in America and needed every gamble to go right, every break from the college football gods, and the ability to overcome a variety of bizarre and tough obstacles to earn the right to hold up the big crystal ball at the end of the year.
This year’s Tigers aren’t as good and they’re not going to get the same breaks twice, but they should still have one of the five best teams in America once the quarterback situation is settled. The precedent has been set over the last two seasons — win the SEC title and you get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to playing for the national championship.
While nothing’s set in stone considering the teams LSU lost to last season, if it can split road games at Auburn and Florida and hold serve at home, and that includes beating Georgia and Alabama, Miles will likely be playing for another SEC championship with a shot to play for the national title. This is yet another damn strong football team, even if it’s rebuilding a bit.