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Best Games of the Miles Era #7: 2008 BCS National Championship

Destiny is a VERY fickle matter

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Destiny (n) - The hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future.

You always hear sports commentators and fans re-iterate that same line again and again, "They were destined to win that game." "They were destined to win that title," "They were a team of destiny," so forth and so on.  It's a saying that is often used but never really lives up to the meaning of it.  If there was one team that set the standard and set that bar extremely high when it comes to teams of destiny, the 2007 LSU Tigers are that team.

The Season

Third-year Head Coach Les Miles was coming in on a hot streak following his second-straight 11-win season in Baton Rouge, culminating with a dismantling 41-14 win over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, which Billy covered earlier in the countdown.  The Tigers came into the season ranked No. 2 but were going through an offensive coaching changing of the guard.  Offensive Coordinator Jimbo Fisher went to Florida State to be Bowden's successor, replaced by Gary Crowton.  Todd Monken left as receivers coach to try his hand in the NFL, replaced by D.J. McCarthy, while Greg Studrawa took over the offensive line from Stacy Searels.  Questions persisted with the moves, but confidence was high regardless of an entire new offensive coaching staff.

Those lingering questions were quickly answered in the first three games of the season, outscoring their opponents by a combined 137-7, including dominant wins at Mississippi State and a home win against Virginia Tech, giving Frank Beamer his worst lost since he took over the Hokies back in 1987.  Miles pulled a fast one on the Ol' Ball Coach Steve Spurrier with an over-the-head fake field goal pass from Matt Flynn to Colt David that even put a smile on Spurrier's face and led to a win over No. 12 South Carolina.

I would go into detail of the Florida game, but we all know that will be covered in much more detail later on in this countdown, but the four fourth down conversions, with one failed attempt resulting in a loss, just helped show that this team might be a team of destiny.

Sometimes Even Destiny Can Be Derailed

It was history.  It was only the fifth time in SEC history that an unranked team pulled off the near-impossible task of defeating a No. 1-ranked opponent.  It took three overtimes, but Andre Woodson and the Kentucky Wildcats were able to celebrate the biggest upset in school history with their home crowd.  You never would have thought a team that gained so much momentum from such a dramatic win against Florida could respond in that manner.  Maybe it was tiredness, maybe it was a trap game with LSU looking forward to the following week's foe No. 18 Auburn.  Either way, it was something that could end the dreams of most teams...

But Destiny Can Be Fast To Get Back On Track

We all watched as the seconds counted down, yelling at Les, Flynn, our TV sets, whomever could hear, but when it looked like all hope was lost, a prayer from Flynn to Demetrius Byrd helped bring destiny back to Death Valley.  Again, I could go in much detail, but this could be another that you might be seeing more of soon.

LSU dons the purple and gold on a weekly basis, but it was the golden foot of Chad Jones that showed this team truly was a team of destiny, when a sack on No. 17 Alabama's quarterback John Parker Wilson spun him around and Jones' foot hit perfectly on the ball, which Curtis Taylor fell on.  Two plays later, Jacob Hester found the end zone in Tuscaloosa and scored the game-winning touchdown following a failed desperation attempt from Alabama.  That destiny had struck LSU two straight weeks and we saw that we were on our way to playing for our third National Championship.  Wins against Louisiana Tech and Ole Miss left LSU two games away from their true date with desti...

Wait, Did It Happen Again?

Never in SEC history had a No. 1 team been upset by an unranked opponent twice in one season, but as the three-headed monster of Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones carved up the defense for 385 rushing yards en route to yet another three-overtime defeat, history was written.  LSU fans filed out the stadium and others changed their TV station, resigned to the fact that their title hopes were now crushed.  Yes, the chance to play in the Sugar Bowl was there with a win against Tennessee in the SEC Championship, but that didn't matter to fans.  When you have your dreams set for a Ferrari, you aren't really happy when you receive a Toyota.  To top it off, Matt Flynn went down with an injury, meaning Ryan Perrilloux, only used in mop-up duty, would be the one at the helm for the Tigers in Atlanta. That didn't even bug the fans, who couldn't care less that those title hopes were dashed. Let's face it, up until then, no team with two losses played for the National Championship. Losing in the most inopportune time left the Tigers with a climb that appeared more daunting than Mount Everest.  LSU seemed as if they were settled on playing in the Sugar Bowl at best, as odd as that sounds...

She Wasn't Done Yet

It started off simple.  No. 4 Missouri beat No. 2 Kansas the next day, putting an end to Kansas' title dreams. Behind a valiant performance from backup Ryan Perrilloux and the Tiger defense, a 21-14 win over Tennessee put LSU in the Sugar Bowl for sure. With the win, No. 7 LSU seemed to have jumped No. 6 Virginia Tech (who they demolished earlier) and No. 5 Kansas, who lost and wasn't playing in their conference title. In that same regard, No. 4 Georgia was also stuck at home watching and suffered that same fate of being jumped, which left only three.  No. 3 Ohio State's regular season was done and were sitting pretty for a title shot, leaving LSU to hope that losses to No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia would occur.

Those hopes were dim at best.  West Virginia was going up against a Pittsburgh team that was 2-4 in the Big East and facing one of the most high-power offenses that season.  But it happened, somehow, some way, it happened.  A then somewhat unknown LeSean McCoy ran for 148 yards en route to an ugly 13-9 win.  It came down to the Sooners, a team that LSU denied a national title to 4 years earlier.  While Missouri was stuck kicking field goals, No. 9 Oklahoma was finding the end zone to a 38-17 crushing of the top-ranked team.  The win likely put LSU in the title game, but a performance by Oklahoma made things dicey.  However, the Sooners didn't have enough to jump Virginia Tech, much less LSU and somehow, that Louisiana gris-gris worked it's magic putting LSU in the game.

They had done it.  That thing called destiny finally paid off, leaving sports pundits to scurry off to their computers in haste to tell the world that LSU didn't deserve to be there.  That this season was a mockery that any team with two losses, especially to the two teams that LSU lost to, should never be in a game of that magnitude.  And they were right....well, for a little while.

The Big Game

Like destiny, momentum can be a fickle matter as well.  Those writers sat there on January 7th giddy as can be as they watched Ohio State jump out to a quick 10-0, which including a 65-yard touchdown run from Chris "Beanie" Wells.  The Tigers came back to square it up at 10 behind a Colt David field goal and a 13-yard touchdown pass to Richard Dickson, but that didn't stop the Buckeyes.  Behind Todd Boeckman, the Buckeyes neared the red zone again.

The thing with momentum is it doesn't take much to get him swinging once again.  A last second fingertip from Chevis Jackson helped pry a pass away from Brian Robiskie's hands and denied a thought-to-be touchdown, setting up a 38-yard field goal for Ryan Pretorious.  It appeared as if LSU was conceding the three points to prevent a fake field goal attempt on the 4th & 3, but the long arm of Ricky Jean-Francois, a name built for LSU, batted the try down, Beckwith recovered, and the route was on.

A 66-yard drive culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell, and on the third play of their next drive Boeckman threw an interception to Chevis Jackson, who started the momentum shift earlier.  That pick led to a short 24-yard drive and a one-yard punch-in from Jacob Hester.  A Tyson Jackson sack killed the Buckeyes drive and LSU went into halftime with a 24-10 lead.

LSU started the second half with an 80-yard drive encompassing nearly 6 minutes and finished with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Early Doucet, which turned it 31-10 and the wind in the Buckeyes' sails had been completely deflated.  31 straight points.  What appeared to be as good of a start as the Buckeyes could have imagined had turned into their worst nightmare

A touchdown late in the third quarter to Brian Robiskie gave them a little sliver of life, and a three and out from LSU to start the 4th quarter gave the Buckeyes a renewed sense of hope.  When it looked as if that door was opening up for a comeback for Ohio State, it was that renowned LSU defense that shut the door quickly.  Back-to-back sacks from Kirston Pittman and Ali Highsmith ended that first drive, and even after the Buckeye held LSU to another 3 and out, it was Curtis Taylor picking off a Boeckman pass.

Once again, it was another Hester 4th & 1 carry , like against Florida, to extend the drive that led to a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dickson, putting the score 38-17 with only 1:50 left and putting this game on ice.  A quick touchdown from Ohio State put it 38-24, but time was not on their hand and a failed onside kick led to three knees and that was it.

They Had Done It

A team that started off the year #2 in the nation. A team that overcame dire situations to continue onward with wins toward their dream.  A team that thought they saw those same dreams shattered on two separate occasions. A team that found a way to jump up 5 spots in the BCS in the last week of the season. A team that made BCS history.

When you look back on the 2007 season, you see it all around.  A team should never be able to convert four 4th down conversions in the same game, should never be able to rebound from two losses to non-ranked opponents, complete a hope and a prayer pass that left a single second on the clock and could have ended the game if anything had gone wrong during that play.  It was the culmination of one of the most magical seasons of all time.  The recent 2013 Auburn team came within a few seconds of possibly re-defining  the "team of destiny" mantra.  No LSU fan could have ever thought their team would be raising the crystal football at the end of the 2007 season.

But then again, a fickle matter.

Other entries in the Best Games of the Les Miles Era:

#8) LSU vs. Oregon - 2011

#9) LSU vs. Alabama - 2005

#10) LSU vs. Alabama - 2008

#11) LSU vs Florida - 2010

#12) LSU vs. Miami - the 2005 Peach Bowl

#13) LSU vs. Notre Dame - the 2006 Sugar Bowl

#14) LSU vs. Arkansas - 2011

#15) LSU @ Georgia - 2009