Instead of playing in the Rose Bowl for the first time, the LSU Tigers will play in the Sugar Bowl for a record 13th time. Instead of playing Michigan or USC, as LSU seemed destined for during most of the last week, the Tigers will play Notre Dame.
“You want to celebrate a great season with a quality opponent,” LSU coach Les Miles said, “and Notre Dame, any way you cut it, is a quality team: Two losses to nationally ranked teams, great teams, and one of those traditionally historic football programs. It’ll be a great matchup.”
Two games Saturday made it happen. UCLA’s 13-9 upset of USC knocked the Trojans out of a probable berth in the national championship game. Florida’s 38-28 victory over Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game impressed enough voters — and the BCS computers — to let Florida move ahead of USC and, by a razor-thin margin, Michigan in the BCS standings.
That means Florida, No. 2 in the BCS, will play No. 1 Ohio State for the championship Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.
The shuffle in the standings cleared the way for the Rose Bowl to have what it wants every year — a matchup of teams from its traditional partners, the Big Ten Conference and Pac-10 Conference — and gave the Sugar Bowl the chance to select LSU as an at-large BCS participant.
Paul Hoolahan, the CEO of the Sugar Bowl, said he was excited to have the Tigers and Fighting Irish in the Jan. 3 game in the Louisiana Superdome, a game that should provide a welcome financial and festive boost to the rebuilding city of New Orleans.
“We feel like we have two of the absolute best teams to help provide a little jumpstart for this local region,” Hoolahan said.
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis thanked Hoolahan for the invitation and said he’s glad the Irish will be playing in the Sugar Bowl.
“I can’t say enough about our affinity for the city of New Orleans,” Weis said. “The last highlight I can remember is watching that early NFL game when the Saints came back to New Orleans, to the Superdome, and we’re really looking forward to the challenge of going against LSU and bringing our troops en masse down to New Orleans to enjoy the festivities.”
The game is a sellout, LSU and Sugar Bowl officials said Sunday. LSU senior associate athletic director Herb Vincent said LSU will try to secure more tickets this week for its fans but couldn’t promise the university will succeed in that quest.
Notre Dame is 2-1 in previous Sugar Bowl games, including a dramatic victory over Alabama in the 1973 game for the national championship. Georgia won a national championship by defeating the Irish in the 1981 Sugar Bowl. Notre Dame defeated Florida in the 1992 Sugar Bowl.
LSU is tied with Alabama for the most appearances in the Sugar Bowl (12). The matchup against Notre Dame will break that tie.
Miles, one of 62 coaches who voted in the USA Today Top 25 poll that is a one-third component of the BCS formula, helped make the Notre Dame-LSU matchup possible by voting Florida at No. 2 on his ballot Sunday. That knocked Michigan out of the national title game and LSU out of the Rose Bowl.
Florida, Miles said, deserved a shot at Ohio State, and he voted accordingly.
Florida is one of two teams that defeated LSU this season. Miles said it eases the blow a bit to know the Gators will play for a national championship.
“We’re represented in that game,” Miles said. “We have to represent ourselves in our own game now, but we enjoy what the country sees as the strength of our conference.”
Well, the BCS pairings have been announced:
National Championship Game (Jan. 8th):
#1 Ohio State vs. #2 Florida
Allstate Sugar Bowl (Jan. 3rd):
#4 LSU vs. #11 Notre Dame
Rose Bowl (Jan. 1st):
#3 Michigan vs. #5 USC
It would have been nice to see the Tigers in the Rose Bowl for the first time, but the powers that be decided to take #5 USC instead of #4 LSU against #3 Michigan. Go figure.
The Sugar is a helluva lot more convenient trip for us anyway! Besides, I'm pumped that there's an SEC team in contention for a national championship once again. It just goes to show which conference is the toughest... nobody has a conference championship game like the SEC!
UPDATE 1-9-07: The Top 5 rounded out at:
#1 - Florida Gators (SEC)
#2 - Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten)
#3 - LSU Tigers (SEC)
#4 - USC Trojans (Pac-10)
#5 - Boise State Broncos (WAC)
Check out my 2007 Sugar Bowl post: SWEET Domination!.
Check out my 2007 National Championship post: Welcome to SEC Football, Buckeyes!.