An early look at the bowl season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 12, 2001

That which LSU and Tennessee performed last Saturday night in Atlanta was 99.9 percent pure college football.

Everything was on the line – the Southeastern Conference championship in particular, but big bowl invitations and a lot of other things, without even mentioning bragging rights.

But LSU Tiger quarterback Rohan Davey was what you would figure was a huge loss to LSU when he went down with bruised ribs. And, of course, it was. But in comes 22-year-old freshman backup Matt Mauck and things kept going as well, if not better, for the Tigers, who had their “eye on the Sparrow.” Sugar Bowl, that is.

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And Domanick Davis, what about him?! If he wasn’t sensational he was right on it, considering that he’s a backup to injured starting tailback LaBrandon Toefield. What he ultimately did was take a flying leap over the second-ranked Vols’ huge line for the touchdown that sealed Tennessee’s fate, 31-20.

The now-9-3 Tigers had their hopes for the upset seemingly dashed when Davey was injured in the first half.

But things happen, like backup quarterback Mauck’s 13-yard scramble into the end zone that put the Tigers ahead.

So the bottom line is that the Tigers will spend New Year’s Day in the Sugar Bowl playing No. 7 Illinois. How sweet it is! Just be sure that LSU at 9-3 will not be inferior to 10-1 Illinois.

Just go back to the Tennessee game – which also happens to be the most recent – and you simply have to believe LSU and its depth at quarterback and running back, and a line that has stepped up, can rack with any of them.

Not trying to LSU you to death, but “them’s” my feelings, and again I’m sticking with ’em. A good Tiger is a “mean” Tiger. Mean enough to win on any given day. And as far as I’m concerned, the Sugar Bowl matchup Jan. 1 rivals the Jan. 3 Rose Bowl matchup between 11-0 Miami and 11-1 Nebraska.

Nebraska allowed Colorado to slip up on them during the regular season, but perhaps the Huskers played a slightly stronger schedule, who knows? It matters not your leanin’s as regards bowl matchups, they’ll essentially all grab you. Talkin’ for real college football fans now.

In fact, what’s wrong with the Citrus Bowl’s New Year’s Day matchup with the SEC’s own Tennessee Vols at 10-2 and Big Ten power 8-3 Michigan? Look’s like a whale of a ball game to me. I don’t ever want to make the Big Ten sound superior to Dixie’s own SEC (and it’s not, in my opinion), the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl tilt just grabs me.

Hey, since we’ve talked bowl games to this point, we might as well finish on that same note. The Peach Bowl: Auburn, yet another LSU victim, is 7-4 on the season, and North Carolina at 7-5 fought past two or three biggies on the year.

And 10-2 Oklahoma versus 7-4 Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl is yet another top-notch matchup. Who can ever forget Arkansas’ seven-overtime victory over the Ole Miss Rebels? Makes non-bowl Ole Miss appear a little stronger.

This year’s bowl lineup is, for a fact, imposing. Wish I could see ’em all.

Hey, I nearly forgot: National Football Foundation members, next meeting Dec. 17.

Glenvall Estes is a longtime sports columnist for The Natchez Democrat.