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Two Touchdowns

Two touchdowns this season are killing LSU in the polls and in the public's perception.  The polls are all about perception, and the perception is that LSU is a mediocre team that got crushed in their one big game.  Which is a reasonable interpretation to be honest, but Ohio State got annihilated by USC and they are still mentioned as a title contender while LSU gets little mention as the same.

Part of that is because it’s become the common wisdom that LSU struggled against Mississippi State and South Carolina.  Neither were marquee games, so it’s doubtful a lot of people watched a lot of either game unless they were truly interested in the teams playing specifically.  It didn’t get the casual fan, or the casual pollster.  So they load up the internet and see these scores:

LSU 34, MSU 24
LSU 24, USC 17

And it’s become commonplace to say LSU struggled against Mississippi State and South Carolina.  Against USC, that is true.  LSU needed to rally to win, but we’ll get to that in a second.  Against MSU, it’s not true.  LSU won the game handily.  LSU has a 27-10 lead midway through the 3rd quarter.  LSU had a 34-17 lead less than 5 minutes to play.  But then, LSU allowed a late touchdown.  So instead of the game looking like a pretty easy win, though not exactly a blowout, it instead looked like LSU struggled with MSU.  And LSU’s “struggle” has been used like a club to beat the team.  All because of a meaningless touchdown with two minutes left and the game essentially over.  But it’s now an accepted truism that LSU struggled with the Bulldogs.  

After the Florida game, LSU needed a big win over South Carolina. And let’s face it, things didn’t go well in that first half.  LSU went into the locker room down 17-10 and the season was on the brink.  So LSU came out and then absolutely dominated the second half and won 24-17.  However, with the ball deep in USC territory late in the game, LSU didn’t punch in the touchdown, and instead ran plays to kill clock.  So the perception is a tight game in doubt to the final seconds, instead of a comfortable 31-17 win, which it very easily could have been had Miles tried to score. 

Admittedly, the seven point margin is a bit more honest reflection of the game. It was a hard fought win, and 14 points would have been the largest lead of the game.  That said, Bama’s getting credit for blowing out Georgia, when in fact UGa made it a 10 point game in the end.  If we flip those halves in the LSU-USC game, LSU goes into the locker ahead comfortably 21-0 and the USC rally is viewed as a futile comeback effort.  Yeah, I know “if’s” are a stupid game.  But it does illustrate the point of perception.  It’s not just what you accomplish, it’s how you accomplish it.  Would LSU be a better team if they don’t allow that late TD to Mississippi State and score the late TD against USC?  Of course not.

But LSU would probably be perceived differently.   All because of two meaningless touchdowns.