The year was 2003 when LSU’s footballers won their first five games and rose to No. 6 in national polls before losing at home to Florida, 19-7.
The loss to Gators in year four of Nick Saban’s reign in TigerTown appeared to remove the Bengals from national and conference honors, but LSU rebounded to win eight games in a row and captured the BCS National Championship with a 21-14 victory over Oklahoma.
The parallels between the Tigers of 15 years ago and the current team are obvious, but the question is whether Coach Ed Orgeron has the same kind of magic in the second half of his third season as Saban did in his fourth tour of the league in 2003.
Saturday’s 27-19 setback at Florida does nothing as far as LSU’s chances of winning its division, the SEC and the national title. If the Tigers take their six remaining regular season contests, they will be playing for the league title with a chance to enter the Final Four championship series.
That said, there is no room for error, which was the case in 2003. Championships are often the product of talent and timing and luck. LSU survived a 17-14 battle at Oxford to beat Ole Miss and Eli Manning in 2003. Otherwise, the Tigers would not have even won the SEC West much less hoist a crystal trophy in January of 2004.
LSU also scored a hard-fought 17-10 triumph over Georgia at Tiger Stadium in 2003. Mark Richt’s unit rebounded to win the SEC East and vault to No. 5 in the country, then lost 34-13 to LSU in the conference title contest.
Georgia enters this week’s game in Baton Rouge with a 6-0 record and ranked No. 2 in the country, but the six victims of Kirby Smart’s crew have been Austin Peay, South Carolina, Middle Tennessee, Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, not exactly murderer’s row.
Georgia may be ripe for an upset, and LSU is likely to step up a notch after the disappointment in the Swamp. The season is just beginning for the Tigers, but one defeat in any remaining clash will end all dreams of victory parades for 2018.
If LSU beats the Bulldogs from Athens, the Bengals will be strong favorites to whip Mississippi State and set up another Game of the Year vs. Alabama on Nov. 3.
The Crimson Tide surrendered 31 points to a putrid Arkansas team, so this could be the year for LSU to snap Saban’s winning streak against his former employer. The Tide has won seven in a row against its Louisiana rival, five against Les Miles and two against Orgeron. Counting his stay at Ole Miss, Coach O is 0-3 vs. Saban, but his teams have limited Alabama to just 61 combined points in those games.
If LSU scores 31 points vs. the Tide as the Razorbacks did Saturday in Fayetteville, Orgeron should be breaking the longest losing skid for LSU against Alabama since the Bear Bryant days from 1971 to 1981.
Georgia comes first for LSU, and in a season of surprises, victory for the Tigers would not be shocking despite the fact that odds makers favor UGA by more than a touchdown.
Eric Reid is brave, but is he wise?
The last time LSU defeated Alabama in football was on Nov. 5, 2011 when the Tigers prevailed in the Game of the Century 9-6 at Tuscaloosa. Tiger safety Eric Reid made the win possible with a remarkable interception at the goal line, preserving a tie in regulation that ended with a thrilling overtime triumph at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Reid, the pride of Dutchtown, was a first-round draft pick, the 18th player chosen in the 2013 NFL Draft by San Francisco. He made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, but almost retired in 2015 because of suffering three concussions in his first two years in the league.
Reid stayed the course in the NFL, and his five years with the 49ers included 204 tackles and ten interceptions, but he is best known for taking a knee during the National Anthem in 2016 along with the ostracized quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers teammates were denouncing police brutality and racial inequality, causing many politicians led by then candidate Donald Trump to vocally denounce the protestors as unpatriotic.
Last month, Reid inked a free agent contract with the Carolina Panthers, and Sunday he again took a knee before the game against the New York Giants in Charlotte.
Reid was the only player go to a knee during the “Star Spangled Banner,” continuing his protest when he was in San Francisco. He is the first Panthers player to kneel during the national anthem.
The view here is that Reid is a brave, but misguided man. Kneeling during the anthem is not the answer to societal problems that concern him and many others. Nonetheless, Reid risks his career by kneeling for a cause that is unpopular.
Some distinguished veterans find the action of Reid unacceptable and unconscionable, and they have the standing to criticize him for his deed. Politicians, who used every trick in the book to avoid fighting with our country in Vietnam, should shut up about Reid, who is many things but no draft dodger.
Presidents Donald Trump, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were each born in the summer of 1946, the front end of the Baby Boom and prime age for service in Vietnam.
The three commanders-in-chief pulled strings to avoid making the sacrifice that other members of their generation so gallantly did by risking life and limb in the rice paddies of Southeast Asia.
Two of the three U.S. presidents, who avoided Vietnam service while 57,000 men of comparable age were giving their lives for us, have wisely refrained from the debate over protests about the anthem.
The other, who took six draft deferments and ridiculed a decorated veteran who logged more than five years as a P.O.W at the Hanoi Hilton, continues to take aim at the likes of Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick.
Just as it usually helps if head coaches played the game, it would be nice if U.S. presidents fought rather fled during a time of war. What kind of a man do politicians, who took deferments during Vietnam, see when they look in the mirror and shave in the morning?
At the very least, they could show some manliness by being in top physical condition to compensate for tucking tail and running from danger when it was their turn to man up for America.