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Hard-charging LSU poised to make late run

11/17/2010

In addition to his coaching duties, LSU’s Les Miles has turned lobbyist this week.

Just in case Auburn should stumble somewhere along the way, he reminded everybody that the top-ranked SEC team deserves a shot at the BCS national championship.

I’m not sure Miles’ politicking will do any good, but he does have a national championship-caliber football team that happens to be peaking at just the right time.

And while pointing out that there were a number of quality conferences out there that play great football, Miles reiterated that making it through the SEC as the top dog should carry extra weight.

“I only know about this conference,” Miles said. “The highest ranked team to come out of this conference should well have the opportunity to play in the national championship game. I’m prejudiced, but I don't think there is a better conference in the country than the SEC.”

There also are very few teams in the country playing better than LSU right now.

The Tigers (9-1, 5-1) face Ole Miss this Saturday at home and then close the regular season in Little Rock against Arkansas, another team playing some of its best football.

Is it too little, too late, for the Tigers?

A lot of that depends on the teams in front of them, namely Auburn and Oregon.

LSU is No. 5 this week in the BCS standings. Oregon is No. 1 and Auburn No. 2.

If both of those teams were to lose, LSU would have a real shot, especially with its already high No. 3 computer ranking. The pathway would also be open for the Tigers to move up as high as No. 3 in both of the human polls used in the BCS standings.

However it shakes out, the knock against the Tigers is going to be that they didn’t win their conference championship. Auburn has already clinched the West and will face South Carolina on Dec. 4 in the SEC championship game.

It’s reminiscent of what Georgia faced in 2007 when the Bulldogs were one of the hottest teams in the country at the end of the season. They were higher than LSU in the BCS standings going into that final weekend when both Missouri and West Virginia lost, but LSU beat Tennessee that day in the SEC championship game.

When the final BCS standings came out the next day, LSU soared past Georgia into one of the top two spots, securing a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. Both teams had two losses that season and had not played in the regular season.

If the Tigers win out this season, they would have just one loss. However, working against them is the fact that they lost head-to-head to Auburn back in October.

So even if Auburn loses in two weeks to Alabama and comes back and wins the SEC championship, Auburn could still wind up being voted ahead of LSU in the two human polls because of the head-to-head factor.

The best scenario for LSU is probably for Auburn to lose in the SEC championship game to South Carolina.

Either way, LSU can still make this season a memorable one. Two more wins would almost certainly land the Tigers in a BCS bowl, and they have a chance to win 12 games for the first time since their 2007 national championship season.

Obviously, there’s still a lot out there for the Tigers, who’ve come a long way since that near-debacle at the end of the Tennessee game.

“It’s always our desire to play significant games in November,” Miles said. “Some things we can control, and some things we can’t control. We are looking forward to the things we can control.”