BATON ROUGE, La. -- When it edged Texas A&M, 24-19 Saturday at Kyle Field, LSU assured itself that it will enter November with its BCS championship dreams still alive and well.
LSU (7-1) has a bye this week, meaning it won't play again until Nov. 3 when it hosts No. 1 Alabama.
While it wouldn't quite be true to say the Tigers completely control their own BCS destiny -- there are three teams ranked ahead of the Tigers they have no control over -- it's safe to say that with the Alabama game and the possibility of playing in the SEC championship game (which would likely be a rematch with No. 2 Florida, the only team to beat LSU) the 7-1 Tigers would be in great shape if they found a way to win out.
Win out, and LSU likely will be headed to Miami for to play for a national title. And, by the way, "win out" is much easier said than done.
Here are three reasons why the Tigers will, or won't, climb to the top of the BCS rankings:
Why they won't
1. Alabama is better: The Crimson Tide have a defense every bit as good -- statistically, even better -- than LSU's. And on offense, it hasn't been close with A.J. McCarron, the SEC leader in passing efficiency and a talented group of wide receivers giving Alabama a far superior passing game than the Tigers. LSU will be a heavy underdog on its own field when the Tide roll into town Nov. 3.
2. LSU's anemic passing game: Watching Texas A&M use 8- and 9-man fronts to stop the LSU run while still holding LSU to less than 100 yards passing points out the Tigers' potentially fatal flaw. Alabama, and others, can use numbers to stop the run and won't feel threatened by the Tigers passing game that's ranked 12th in the SEC in passing yards and efficiency.
3. The rest of the country: While you can usually count on upsets, you also can't assume them. Even if LSU beats No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Florida (if such a rematch takes place in the SEC title game), there's a chance that out of No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Kansas State and No. 5 Notre Dame, two will finish undefeated, making it very difficult for a one-loss LSU team to pass them in the BCS rankings.
Why they will
1. Saturday-night home cooking: As the late, great Beano Cook once said, "Dracula and LSU football are at their best after the sun goes down." And Alabama is coming to Baton Rouge for a 7 p.m. national TV kickoff. If the Crimson Tide is to break LSU's school record and nation's best 22-game home winning streak, it will be in front of an LSU crowd that will be at the top of its game. (Note that kickoff times for home games against Mississippi State and Mississippi are not yet finalized.)
2. Upside: Remember when McCarron struggled in LSU's win at Tuscaloosa last year, then became a much better quarterback in the BCS championship game? For as much as LSU has struggled in the passing game, remember that Zach Mettenberger is only eight games into his career as a starter. In fact, LSU has played more true freshmen (15) than any team in the country. It's a young team that should get better and one would expect its biggest strides to come after the bye week.
3. The losses will come: Kansas State has a brutally tough schedule upcoming (Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor and Texas), Notre Dame still has to go to Oklahoma and USC. Oregon still has USC, Stanford, unbeaten Oregon State and a Pac-12 championship game ahead. The chances of two of those three teams remaining unbeaten aren't very good.