LSU was ranked No. 12 in the final USA Today coaches’ poll and No. 14 in the final AP Top 25. In both polls, the Tigers ranked sixth among Southeastern Conference teams.
Alabama finished No. 1 in both polls with a 13-1 record. The Crimson Tide’s only loss was to Texas A&M, 29-24.
Oregon (12-1) was No. 2 in both polls. Ohio State and Notre Dame were3-4 in the AP poll, while Notre Dame and Georgia were 3-4 in the USA Today Top 25.
The only LSU losses in regular-season play were to No. 1 Alabama, 21-17, and Florida, another Top Ten team from the SEC, 14-6. The Tigers also lost to Clemson, ranked No. 9 in the USA Today Top 25 and No. 11 by Associated Press, 25-24, in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
If any school has a gripe about the polls, it is Ohio State. The 12-0 Buckeyes are No. 3 in the Associated Press poll and were ineligible for the USA Today poll because of NCAA sanctions.
The team that beat LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Clemson (11-2), is ranked higher than LSU in both polls. Clemson is No. 11 in the Associated Press poll and No. 9 in the USA Today Top 25.
Most observers agree that Zach Mettenberger is the best quarterback at LSU in a long time.
Mettenberger completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 2,609 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, with only two interceptions.
The polls reflect a college football team’s national reputation. Bowl games reflect how a team plays on one night.
In its four-point loss to Alabama, LSU has already shown that it can compete against anybody in the country. But the Tigers weren’t able to prove they can beat any team in the country.
Clemson’s two losses were to Atlantic Coast Conference rival Florida State and South Carolina of the SEC.
In 1996, when the game in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome was called the Peach Bowl, quarterback Herb Tyler led LSU to a 10-7 victory over Clemson, giving the Tigers their first 10-win season in nine years. Clemson had a chance for a game-tying 52-yard field goal in the last two minutes, but it was blocked by LSU’s Aaron Adams.
That game was played between LSU’s two postseason trips to Shreveport for Independence Bowl wins. The Tigers beat Michigan State 45-26 in the 1995 Independence Bowl and beat Notre Dame 27-9 in the 1997 Independence Bowl. All three of those LSU teams were coached by Gerry DiNardo.
LSU fans weren’t especially excited about the Tigers’ two Independence Bowl trips to Shreveport, and they obviously aren’t elated about the Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Clemson this season.
But what you saw in the Georgia Dome is what you got.
The situation reminds me of Dizzy Dean’s reply when sports writer Grantland Rice asked him about his pitching arm at the end of Dean’s career.
“It ain’t what it used to be,” Dean said. “But what the hell is?”