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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Notre Dame Not Good Enough?

How far has the LSU football program come in just four years? The Tigers are playing national college football icon Notre Dame in a BCS bowl, in a bowl with as much tradition as most, and in a bowl in LSU’s own backyard. And it’s a disappointment? Yes it is.

LSU plays Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3, and it’s a consolation prize! Just four years ago, the LSU nation was excited about an 8-4 season and a trip to the Cotton Bowl to play Texas. Nine years ago, LSU was tickled to death to get a re-match against Notre Dame, and that was in Shreveport.

On Monday, fans complained about having their BCS No. 4 Tigers play the BCS No. 11 Fighting Irish in the lesser Sugar Bowl. Just a few days ago, LSU was headed to a more classic match-up with Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Once you get a whiff of the big time, it’s hard to smell sugar. And Notre Dame has not been the big time in decades.

On paper, LSU should put up about 40 on the Irish, and everyone knows it. LSU needs to be careful, though. Everyone expects a large win. That is a very dangerous recipe. LSU coach Les Miles has his work cut out for him convincing his team that Notre Dame is capable of the upset. Particulary when it was Miles who made the following statement last week when LSU and Notre Dame were sparring for the Rose Bowl invitation to play Michigan.

“We are ranked higher,” Miles said. “There is no arguable playing advantage in the match-up. I think it would be a unanimous feel that LSU would be the best team.”

LSU is still ranked higher.

Miles will also have a tough time finding game film of Notre Dame playing good defense or of Notre Dame winning a bowl game.

The Irish have lost eight straight bowls, and most of those weren’t even close. The green men haven’t won a bowl since the Cotton in 1994.

Miles should note that the last time Notre Dame came to the Sugar Bowl in 1992, though, the Irish upset Florida 39-28.

The Irish will hear how bad it is and how bad its bowl record is for the next month. The Irish will be motivated, but I still can’t see Notre Dame staying within 10 points of the Tigers.

LSU will have every advantage, including the Superdome. Against virtually every other opponent, Notre Dame would have the Catholic advantage in New Orleans. Not this time.

The LSU nation should not complain about this game. Yes, the Rose Bowl would have been fun. (Excuse me, I forgot to cancel my hotel room in Beverly Hills.) But God has a funny way of not making things happen and then making them happen.

LSU and Notre Dame in the first Sugar Bowl since Hurricane Katrina. LSU and Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl for the first time. LSU returning to the Louisiana Superdome for the first time since winning the 2003 national championship there.

All this God and football in the same city that still needs all the prayers anyone can muster. If LSU fans hang like they did for the national championship game, New Orleans may just start coming back. It could be a bayou blessing, particularly if there are enough police.

“It’s just what the doctor ordered,” said Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan, who had to move his bowl to Atlanta last year while the dome was being restored. “It’s an absolute panacea for what has happened here. It’s a godsend.”

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well you just might find
You get what you need.

Of course, that song was made famous in the “Big Chill,” which was a movie about a bunch of Michigan graduates.


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