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Bayou Bengals busted

LSU’s College Football Playoff hopes are not dead. However, they are certainly in critical condition.

The Bayou Bengals did absolutely nothing to justify their No. 5 ranking in the Associated Press preseason poll, turning in a stinker–save for a brief period in the third quarter–in losing 16-14 to Wisconsin at Lambeau Field.

I had a terrible feeling about the opener in Green Bay. Wisconsin came in unranked, and was certainly hungry to get even after losing 28-24 to LSU in the 2014 opener at Houston. Officially, Lambeau was considered a ‘neutral site’, but don’t give me that. Last I checked, Green Bay is in Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin is the state’s flagship university. The Badgers are the only team playing in a major conference. Therefore, it was a home game for Wisconsin, only it was played 135 miles northeast of Madison. It would be the same thing if LSU played anyone in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at New Orleans, and yes, I am including Tulane. Almost every LSU-Tulane game played there had an overwhelming majority of purple and gold in the stands. The only exception may have been 1979, when the Wave went 9-2.

If LSU somehow would run the table and then win the SEC championship, yes, they would be in the playoff.

However, with one of the worst quarterback situations among Power 5 conference teams, how can one have any faith of LSU running the table against a schedule which includes trips to Auburn, Florida, Arkansas and Texas A&M, plus a home game with Ole Miss? Oh yeah, there’s also the small matter of the Nov. 5 game with Alabama. And don’t forget South Alabama went into Starkville and beat Mississippi State. The Jaguars visit Baton Rouge in November.

In 1989, LSU entered the season opener at Texas A&M ranked No. 7. The Aggies returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and the Bayou Bengals went on to lose 28-16. LSU lost two weeks later at home to Florida State, and then lost five straight in the SEC on its way to 4-7, the first of six consecutive losing seasons and eight losing seasons out of 11.

I don’t believe LSU will have a losing season, but making the playoff? Not unless LSU somehow solves its quarterback situation. Otherwise, the Bayou Bengals will have to win every game 10-7 or 14-10, and that’s no way to go through the SEC. Heck, the offense scored ONCE today, and that was after a fumble recovery set up a short field.

I saw enough bad football in Tiger Stadium during my days in Baton Rouge to be cynical about the program. Yes, LSU has won two national championships during my lifetime, but there’s also been more than enough madness to give me permanent indigestion.

Give Wisconsin credit. The Badgers won with a quarterback making his first start as a fifth-year senior. They won because they were able to stuff Fournette throughout the first half, and contain him when they needed to in the second. Wisconsin’s defense put pressure time after time after time on Brandon Harris, and he wilted. Don’t forget Dave Aranda, Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator the previous three years, is now at LSU.

It’s not the end of the world. I’m almost 1,100 miles away from Baton Rouge. Very few other people care, although some I’m sure will take glee in LSU’s loss, not because they dislike me, but because they root for the underdog.

Barring the unforeseen, Kansas is finally going to win. The Jayhawks lead Rhode Island 26-6 late in the second quarter. KU fans will be able to gloat at least for one week, since K-State and Mizzou both lost. Then again, the Wildcats played at No. 8 Stanford, and the Tigers had a difficult road opener with West Virginia. BIG DIFFERENCE.

If KU students tear down a goalpost, then shame on them. I understand the Jayhawks haven’t won a game in almost 22 months, but to do it after beating Rhode Island????!!!

Enough ranting about college football. It’s a nice diversion, but it isn’t going to affect my quality of life, good or bad.

Kentucky and 67 others

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past four months, Kentucky has been the best men’s college basketball team in the United States. 

In fact, the Wildcats are getting better at the right time. They steamrolled their way through the Southeastern Conference tournament, destroying Florida, Auburn and Arkansas to improve to 34-0, 21-0 overall against SEC foes. 

Only six games stand between John Calipari’s squad and immortality. As dominant as Kentucky has been through the years under Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and Calipari, it has never finished a championship season undefeated. It went undefeated in 1952-53, but the Wildcats were banned from the postseason due to numerous NCAA rules violations. 

Kentucky is 34-0, two more wins than Indiana had in 1975-76. Those Hoosiers of Bobby Knight were the last major college men’s team to complete a season undefeated. In those days, there was no conference tournament in the Big Ten, and IU had to win five games, not six, to claim the title. 

UNLV came very close to running the table. The Rebels of the late Jerry Tarkanian won the national championhip in 1990 and defended that crown with vigor and gusto the next season, destroying eveything in their path. However, UNLV played in the terrible Big West, which is nowhere near the caliber of the Big Ten and SEC, and the Rebels were hardly challenged, save for a Feb. 10 meeting with No. 2 Arkansas in Fayetteville, until the tournament. And even then nobody came close as UNLV easily reached the Final Four. 

Then came Duke. The same team which lost the 1990 championship game 103-73, when the Rebels set records for the most points and widest margin of victory in a championship game, records which still stand. 

Coach K and Duke were not inimitdated by the brash and overly cocky Rebels. He wouldn’t allow it. Neither would point guard Bobby Hurley and center Christian Laettner, who stared down Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony and company and shocked UNLV 79-77. Two nights later, the Blue Devils won their first national championship by defeating Kansas. 

Duke’s best team came into the 1999 championship game 37-1, but it lost to Connecticut. 

There is no reason why Kentucky should not cut down the nets three weeks from today in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. Who is going to stop them?

Kansas? Right, the same team which lost 72-40 in November. Not happening.

Notre Dame? The Irish won the ACC championship, but haven’t been able to consistnetly play at an elite level.

Wichita State? Don’t make me laugh.

Wisconsin? Frank Kaminsky may be the natoinal player of the year, but the Badgers aren’t equipped to play Kentucky’s type of game. 

As for LSU, which choked away a golden opporutnity to defeat Kentucky last month in Baton Rouge by going scoreless over the game’s final four minutes, I don’t know what to think. Yes, the Bayou Bengals almost beat Kentucky and have some impressive road wins over West Virignia and Arkansas, but this is the same team which lsot to Auburn twice, Mississippi State and Missouri. Yeech. 

The Bayou Bengals and North Carolina State is an even match. LSU might even be able to slip by Villanova in the second round. But which LSU team shows in Pittsburgh? Okay, I’ll split the baby: LSU defeats NC State, but loses to Nova. 

Kentucky will steamroll, in order, Manhattan, Purdue, West Virginia and Kansas to get to the Final Four. Wisconsin wins the West to face the Wildcats in the national semifinals. Oklahoma emerges from the East and Iowa State from the South to set up an all-Big 12 semifinal.

The Cyclones oust the Sooners and have the privilege of being Kentucky’s 40th and last victim of the season. 

College football full tilt

Today is the first full day of the 2014 college football season. There will be games morning, noon and night–literally today, since Penn State and Central Florida kick off at 7:30 a.m. Central in Dublin.

LSU plays tonight at 8 p.m. against Wisconsin in Houston’s NRG Stadium, the retractable roof facility which is also home to the NFL’s Houston Texans. LSU has played several neutral site games in recent years, including games at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington vs. TCU last year and Oregon in 2011. The Bayou Bengals also played North Carolina in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome in 2010.

LSU and Wisconsin have not played since a home-and-home in 1971 and 1972. The first of those games featured an all-white LSU team going into Madison, which was a hotbed of student activism during the Vietnam War, which was winding down in 1971 but still ongoing. Wisconsin schools had never been segregated, and to have an all-white team from the Deep South come into Madison and play at Camp Randall Stadium was disconcerting to many. The Bayou Bengals were greeted quite rudely upon their arrival in Madison and then taunted and insulted throughout the game. LSU shut up the hippies by winning 38-28.

The next year when the Badgers came to Baton Rouge, LSU had its first black varsity player, Carl Otis Trimble. Wisconsin was swallowed whole in the cauldron that is night football in Death Valley, losing 35-7.

LSU was also treated rudely, although nowhere near as bad, when it played at Notre Dame in 1970. The next year when the Irish came to Baton Rouge, some of Notre Dame’s black players claimed LSU fans and players kept using the N-word. A couple of Irish players also said Mike the Tiger’s handlers used a cattle prod to elicit roars. The second part is definitely false, because there’s no way the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine would abuse Mike.

Games between the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten in the early 1970s were nearly unheard of. Until 1975, it was the Rose Bowl or nothing at all for Big Ten schools and bowls. And SEC schools were loath to take all-white teams into hostile territory. LSU showed it wasn’t afraid with the trips to Madison and South Bend.

Alabama also played a huge two-year non-conference series in that era, facing Southern California of what was then the Pacific-8 in 1970 and 1971. The 1970 game in Birmingham, won by USC 42-21, marked the first time the Crimson Tide hosted a team with black players. It has been said to be the catalyst

The other big matchup involving ranked teams kicks at 4:30 when Clemson visits Georgia. The Tigers and Bulldogs used to play every year, but conference expansion in both the ACC and SEC made that series impossible. Clemson and Georgia still have yearly rivalries with non-conference foes South Carolina and Georgia Tech.

Top-ranked and defending national champion Florida State plays Oklahoma State in Arlington. In most years, this is a great game, but the Cowboys are too young and don’t have the speed to match Jameis Winston and the Seminoles.

As for schools in the area, MIssouri hosts South Dakota State, Jack Krier’s alma mater, at 2:30, and Kansas State hosts cupcake Stephen F. Austin at 6.

I am trying to get out of here and get back to Buffalo Wild Wings. The fantasy draft is Monday.