The LSU Tigers are 9-3 For Better or Worse

I love weddings.

Not in a girly "two people are starting their journey in life together kind of way" as much as a "I get to eat and drink for free and hopefully hang out with people I like" kind of way.

But there is a part of me, especially when it's people I love and care about, that gets a little sentimental. After all, weddings are happy occasions, right?

On the surface, the nickel version is always the same: Two people walk down the aisle not married, an officiant of their choice says some stuff, they kiss, they walk back up the aisle married.

That's the important thing, right?

The two people wanted to get married, and they did.

But under the surface there was a lot that went into that:

Picking the bridesmaids and groomsmen, negotiating the invite cut list, having to deal with moms of the groom and bride and their input, staying within your budget, picking out dresses, tuxes, cakes, a church, a reception hall, band or a DJ, wedding favors, what the freaking napkins have written on them, as if anyone really cares what's written on what they wipe their mouths with...etc.

Realistically, that's just scratching the surface.

I know because I've been through a wedding myself. I was lucky enough to convince the love of my life to marry me, and almost four years later I'm even luckier to still be married with a beautiful one-year-old daughter. (That last sentence was superfluous, but I'm trying for brownie points here, fellas.)

I remember all the hullabaloo leading up to the big day, all the careful planning (that my wife did), all the work that went into it (that my wife did), and all the worry that everything would go as planned (we both did). Just to walk down the aisle unmarried and walk back up married.

At the beginning of the season, any realistic LSU fan probably knew two things:

1) LSU wasn't going to win the Western division with a sophomore QB and a less favorable schedule than Alabama and Ole Miss.

2) The over-under on wins this season was nine.

Well, guess what? The Tigers are not Western division champs, and they are 9-3.

Everything went as expected. In fact, most thought they would be playing in the Cotton Bowl (myself included), but instead they seem almost a lock for the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

But the ride to 9-3 was anything but smooth.

The road to most of those nine wins was painstakingly rough. LSU only looked comfortable as a victor in three of them: ULL, Auburn, and Tulane.

The Tigers struggled on the road in wins, and the best they played on the road was a game they lost to Alabama.

LSU is in the bottom fourth of the SEC on offense, and while their defense, run by first-year DC John Chavis, gives up yards by the bunches, points are usually harder to come by (LSU has only given up 18 TDs on the year). The defense is also hampered by an ineffective offense that can't stay on the field.

The main argument amongst LSU fans is how they got to 9-3. The devil is in the details.

The Tigers have been outrushed by their opponents (1,610-1,555) as well as out-passed (2,309-2,161). LSU only recorded 20 sacks on the year in contrast to opposing teams getting 35 sacks on the O-line and QB Jordan Jefferson.

The not so public rift between Les Miles and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton grew wider this season, and most expect Crowton and most of the offensive staff to be shown the door.

I wouldn't be surprised if offensive line coach Greg Studrawa (whose unit has grossly underperformed during his tenure here) and WR coach D.J. McCarthy (who's recently been named in a minor recruiting violation) also found a pink slip in their Christmas stockings.

One coach LSU would like to be holding on to is leaving for a head coaching opportunity, as RB coach Larry Porter will be taking over the coaching job at his alma mater, Memphis. Porter is a good coach and an excellent recruiter; he should make a name for himself in Memphis.

Getting back to the 9-3 record, I will reiterate it's how most rational, informed fans thought the Tigers would finish this year. I myself in the preseason picked losses against Florida, Alabama, and either Georgia or Ole Miss (saying they would win one of those two).

Minus a major coaching meltdown by Miles in Oxford, the Tigers were staring at 10-2 (but possibly no better bowl than the one they are expected to attend).

Wins and losses are not causing the grumbles, however. It's how those W's and L's were forged: starting slow in Seattle versus U Dub, winning a clunker against Vandy, escaping Starkville with a punt return and goal line stand, trailing in the fourth quarter to La. Tech, and squeaking by in overtime against a surging Arkansas team.

But one thing that must not be overlooked is the improvement from '08 to '09. LSU was embarrassed in a loss to Florida in '08 but only gave up one TD to the defending (and maybe eventual) national champions thanks to Riley Cooper's 45-year-old man in a pickup game tactics (I wrote that just for Tim Pollock; I know Florida dominated the game and was never in danger of losing).

The Tigers played Alabama tough in Tuscaloosa despite losing their starting running back, quarterback, center, and tight end in the second half. Maybe the interception no-call by Patrick Peterson would have mattered; maybe it wouldn't have.

And despite being outcoached and outplayed in Oxford, LSU still had a chance to pull a victory from out of the hat (so to speak) in the end thanks to the tenacity and resilience of Miles' players.

Has there ever been a season when a team was so close to 12-0 or 5-7? I still think Miles will have to appease the fans with a division title in 2010, or he could be on the hot seat.

But in 2009, nine wins are nine wins with a chance for a 10th. In a supposed down year, that's nothing to shake a stick at.

Even if the best man lost the ring, the flower girl cried her head off, the maid of honor tripped down the aisle, the groom saw the bride before the wedding, and someone sneezed now before forever holding their peace, the Tigers are married to 9-3 just like they were supposed to be before the season.

Now we can all breathe a sigh of relief and head to the reception (bowl game) and not worry about things like the caterer being late, the flowers catching on fire, and the cake collapsing. Right?

Mazel Tov!!!

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