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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Where does Va. Tech victory rank?

It has been a long time since LSU has had a victory that slapped a nation in the face quite as sharply as the Tigers' 48-7 scrimmage Saturday that made No. 9 Virginia Tech look like scrum.

Was it the most impressive regular season win ever? It has an argument. It is by point differential against top 10 teams. But we have to wait and see how good or bad the Hokies end up being this season. If Tech ends up being a 5-7 team, that would take some of the luster off the victory. I don't see that happening, though. Frank Beamer is too good of a coach. Tech will gather itself and have a decent season. That defense is talented and will play better. It also probably cannot play any worse.

LSU has never defeated a top-10 opponent by 41 points, but it had a similar victory on Oct. 14, 1972, against Auburn in Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers, like this year, went into the 1972 season with serious national championship aspirations as Sports Illustrated put its preseason No. 1 label on LSU, which would be led by senior quarterback Bert Jones of Ruston and junior linebacker Warren Capone of Baton Rouge.

"Their chances for a national title have seldom seemed better," is said in the magazine.

The Tigers started the season ranked No. 9 by the Associated Press and moved up to No. 8 after easy wins over non-ranked Pacific, Texas A&M and Wisconsin and a 12-6 struggle at Rice.

Auburn, like Virginia Tech, was No. 9 in the nation entering Baton Rouge. It came in with a 4-0 record after beating Mississippi State an Tennessee-Chattanooga in close games, upsetting No. 4 Tennessee 10-6 in Birmingham and edging No. 18 Ole Miss 19-13. Tennessee and Ole Miss had the longest winning streaks in the nation at the time before running into Auburn coach Shug Jordan's forces.

Auburn would try to make it three in a row as LSU now had the nation's No. 1 winning streak at eight. Amazingly, the game was not on television, but these were the days when usually only one game was televised on a Saturday. I listened to it with my father in the patio and we both came away amazed at how easily the Tigers won, 35-7, behind three touchdowns passes by Jones.

LSU coach Charles McClendon won his 84th game, which made him No. 1 in school history in victories with 84. He finished with 137, which present coach Les Miles could break if he doesn't go to Michigan and stays here for about 15 years. He's 53 now with 24 victories. He'd still be in his 60s. He could do it.

LSU moved up just one spot, though, to No. 7 after the win. After wins over Kentucky and Ole Miss (17-16 in the infamous slow clock game), the Tigers went to 7-0 and to No. 6 going into a date at No. 2 and 8-0 Alabama. The Tide ruined LSU's national championship hopes with a 35-21 victory, and LSU finished 9-3-1 with a 3-3 tie at Florida and 24-17 loss to Tennesee in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston.

Auburn never lost again after leaving Baton Rouge, finishing 10-1 with a 24-3 win over Colorado in the Gator Bowl.

Here's a prediction. Virginia Tech won't end up as well as the 1972 Auburn team, but LSU will win more than 10 and do better than a Houston bowl.


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