Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 12/4/11
FULL TEXT Les Miles, the head coach for Louisiana State University , stood in the hallway outside his team's locker room after the Tigers' 42-10 ruination of No. 12 Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game and was presented with the idea that L.S.U. was in the midst of the greatest season in college football . ''Considering who we beat,'' Miles said. His paused, and raised an eyebrow. ''The margin of victory,'' he said, and pursed his lips. No. 1 L.S.U. (13-0) beat eight teams ranked in the top 25 and won its 13 games by an average of 27.9 points, but Miles is too demure to make the ultimate proclamation, especially without a firm grasp on the national championship trophy. ''This is a quality team,'' Miles said. It was as far as he would go. For now. The Tigers soared into the Jan. 9 national championship game, probably against No. 2 Alabama, by spotting Georgia 10 points and then ripping off 42 straight points Saturday night against a team that had the nation's fifth-ranked defense and had won 10 consecutive games. The Tigers trailed, 10-7, in the third quarter when Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray had the ball jarred loose for a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. Two plays later, running back Kenny Hilliard sliced 15 yards through the Georgia defense for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead, and the rout was on. When the game was being decided in the third quarter, Georgia (10-3) had four possessions and managed 35 yards. The L.S.U. defense, which was blocked in the first half by the Bulldogs' line, went unblocked in the second half. The Tigers finished with 10 quarterback hurries, 4 sacks, 9 tackles for a loss, 8 pass breakups, 2 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles, recovering 1. ''Their momentum kind of shot out on them,'' said Will Blackwell, the L.S.U. left guard. The quarterback-centric teams in the national championship discussion - Stanford and Oklahoma State - might scoff at the lack of a passing game in the L.S.U. offense, but the Tigers have been so successful with the rushing game, they might alter the trend toward the spread offense. L.S.U. used four running backs, and the players listed third and fourth on the depth chart had the best games. The third-string back, Alfred Blue, ran the ball eight times for 94 yards and a touchdown. The fourth-string back, the freshman Hilliard, carried eight times for 72 yards and scored three touchdowns. ''We lived out a lot of the things that other people have been living out playing those guys, their ability to get stronger as the game goes on,'' Georgia Coach Mark Richt said. ''It was very evident that they were able to do that.'' The L.S.U. passing game accounted for just 30 yards, but the third phase of the game, special teams, was key for the Tigers. Mathieu returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown, and he might have been one of the front-runners for the Heisman Trophy if not for a suspension earlier in the season. The punter Brad Wing, a redshirt freshman from Australia, averaged 50.4 yards on eight kicks, and he kept Georgia pinned deep in its own territory in the first half. Wing had an SEC championship game record 67-yard punt in the second quarter. In the first half, Georgia hemmed in the L.S.U. running game with line slants and blitzing linebackers through the gaps on either side of the center. The Tigers did not have a first down in the half, and the crowd roared for its team. In the L.S.U. locker room at halftime, his team behind, 10-7, Miles left the sermons to his players. He did not have to polish up an old speech to a team that was down. ''Mo Claiborne just told them, 'Go play,''' Miles said. ''Tyrann Mathieu just told them, 'Go play.' You don't have to say much with these guys. Just go play.'' The Tigers went out and played and had Murray fleeing the pocket throughout the third quarter. Hilliard scored all three of his touchdowns in that third quarter, when L.S.U. stormed to a 28-10 lead that started chasing Georgia fans to the exits. The only team left for L.S.U. to beat will probably be Alabama again, and the Crimson Tide seems to be the only team that can beat the Tigers. In a slugfest Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, L.S.U. won in overtime, 9-6, but the Alabama players feel they gave the game away. ''I don't know that they deserve it, but I'm sure they would love a shot at us,'' Blackwell said. ''They didn't win their conference, they didn't win their division.'' L.S.U. won its conference and it won its division. There is one prize left before proclamations roll. This time, Wisconsin got the stop it needed against Michigan State - and a big break to wrap up its second straight Big Ten crown, The Associated Press reported from Indianapolis. Montee Ball scored four touchdowns, including a 7-yard score with 3:45 left in the inaugural conference championship game Saturday night, giving the 15th-ranked Badgers a 42-39 come-from-behind victory over No. 11 Michigan State. Wisconsin (11-2) now heads to the Rose Bowl, where it will face the Pac-12 champion Oregon on Jan. 2. The Badgers turned the tables on Michigan State (10-3), which won the first meeting in October on a last-second Hail Mary pass. On Saturday, it was the Badgers who scored late, forced a punt and managed to run out the clock when Isaiah Lewis was called for running into the kicker, giving the Badgers a first down with 1:37 left in the game and Michigan State out of timeouts.
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