Jacques Talk: Don't be fooled, SEC Championship very important
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU fans can remember the late 1990s. They may not want to, but they can. Year after year, it seemed the Tigers' hopes of reaching the SEC Championship game came down to the "Iron Bowl" between Alabama and Auburn. And, whatever LSU needed to happen in that game never did. Heck, even the Mississippi State Bulldogs reached the conference championship game before the Tigers did in 1998. The painful irony of that season was Gerry Dinardo's squad pounded those same Bulldogs 41-6 in Tiger Stadium, yet finished 4-7 and out of the postseason all together.
The tragic events of September 11, 2001 pushed LSU's contest against Auburn back to the final game of the regular season. It was that Dec. 1 that LSU finally punched its ticket to the Georgia Dome for a postseason game other than "The Chicken and Peaches Bowl." LSU's 27-14 triumph over Auburn put Nick Saban's Tigers in position to then upset a mighty Tennessee team ranked No. 2 in the country and dreaming of a BCS national championship bid. The Tigers 31-20 shocker over the Vols then led to a 47-34 thumping of Illinois in the Sugar Bowl. LSU was SEC and Sugar Bowl Champions. Could things get ANY better?
Since then, Atlanta's bowl game has stopped mixing its chicken with peaches. And, all of us involved with LSU football, including the media, have become a bit spoiled over the last decade.
That's not a slam on anybody, just a natural progression. New York Yankees, North Carolina basketball and New England Patriots fans have all been a bit jaded over the years. As the lyrics to a famous song go, "The more things you get, the more you want. Just trading one, for the other."
But, make no mistake. Despite the fact LSU has likely already punched a ticket to the BCS National Championship, which would be its third trip since 2003, the SEC Championship is still very important. Saying you're the champion of the nation's top conference is no small bragging right. Can you imagine how disgusting it would be for Tiger fans if LSU won it all, yet, Georgia fans chirped all summer, "Yeah, but who won the SEC Title?" It would never end. Bulldog fans then would have credence to their 2007 argument. "I thought you couldn't win the national title...without winning your conference championship?" would be the sarcastic, rallying cry.
And, just ask LSU's opponent in the 2003 BCS Championship game about the fallout from losing a conference championship. Within a heartbeat, skeptics went from proclaiming the Oklahoma Sooners as one of the greatest teams of all time to saying they had no business playing for the crystal ball at all. That dark cloud of negativity hung over Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and his program for a month or so leading into the national title game. The media hounded and peppered them with tough questions, wondering if they truly deserved the spot. Then, it continued afterwards, with LSU winning perhaps the most convincing one touchdown game ever, 21-14 in New Orleans.
"We want to be remembered as the greatest team ever," Mo Claiborne, an LSU Jr. defensive back, emphatically said Monday. "When you think of LSU, we want you to think of this team."
Well, Claiborne and his teammates agree that the greatest teams of all time simply don't lose. Their right column in the win-loss tally must remain a zero. Control what you can control and leave no doubt to those eager to discredit your accomplishments.
With that in mind, does anybody really see this LSU team losing Saturday? No, not HOPING the Tigers are defeated, I mean actually believing they will fall victim to a Georgia upset.
Perhaps the Bulldogs' defense and a sea of red in the stands will create a few anxious moments for Les Miles' undefeated juggernaut Saturday. But this Tigers' team seems too talented, ultra-focused and relentless to slip. As the team has preached since the dog days of August...LSU is determined to FINISH.
Another Atlanta triumph would be another tremendous accomplishment, in what has been the most successful stretch in LSU history. And certainly nothing to yawn at, even if the Tigers are a virtual lock for an epic Alabama rematch Jan. 9 in the BCS Championship.
Because winning an SEC Championship, is still a VERY big deal.
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