The nascent college football season’s first top-10 matchup arrives Saturday evening deep in the heart of Texas, as the No. 6 Tigers of Louisiana State take on the No. 9 Longhorns of Texas.
Toe meets leather at 7:30 pm in UT’s Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, with ABC broadcasting the affair live from Austin to a national television audience.
Traditional powerhouses LSU and Texas are on seemingly upward trajectories and enter the contest with lofty ambitions. To be sure, the game carries playoff implications.
It is, as they aptly say in some parts, a big’un.
It also serves as a barometer for the supposedly-mighty SEC after a first week that saw some shocking losses. It will test the SEC’s mettle, with LSU — the conference’s third-highest-ranked team — taking to the road to face a legitimate contender in Texas.
Texas, for its part, is riding a wave of confidence against the SEC, having spanked Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day harder than the 28-21 score suggested.
Saturday’s tilt feels like big-time, traditional college football, because that’s exactly what it is.
We’ve got live tigers and longhorn steers. Teams from neighboring, football-mad states. LSU’s distinguished, Ivy League of the South academic pedigree. Texas’s deep pockets. Fans foaming at the mouth for a return to glory.
Well, at least LSU fans foam at the mouth. Texas fans are too snobby to foam; more on that later.
The LSU-Texas series is more limited historically than might be expected. Though dating back 123 years, the teams have squared off just 17 times and only twice since 1963, with Texas holding a 9-7-1 advantage.
The schools last met in the 2003 Cotton Bowl in Dallas, a game I attended with my then-fiancee and, based on my friends’ embarrassing, immature, highly objectionable behavior before, during and after the game (I behaved like a saint), it’s a wonder she actually married me.
Mack Brown’s ‘Horns beat Nick Saban’s Bayou Bengals that chilly January morning, 35-20.
LSU would go on to claim the national title the following season, with Texas not far behind, winning it all in 2005.
With the proud programs rekindling the series Saturday night, a mix of tangible and intangible factors will dictate the outcome, and SEC Banter breaks them down below:
Texas QB Sam Ehlinger vs. LSU QB Joe Burrow: Texas coach Tom Herman recruited both quarterbacks out of high school, securing Burrow’s commitment to Ohio State while Herman was offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes, and offering Ehlinger a scholarship to Houston while head coach of the Cougars.
Tom Herman vs. Dave Aranda: Herman and LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda were roommates at Cal Lutheran, where they played football for the Kingsmen. Herman apparently texted Aranda about bunking up together this weekend, which seems a bit odd.
Bevo vs. Mike: Simply two of the most iconic mascots in all of college football. Bevo is a 1,700-pound longhorn steer with a dedicated caretaker crew called the Silver Spurs. Mike is a beautiful bengal tiger with his own 15,000 square-foot habitat just outside Tiger Stadium.
Ed Orgeron vs. the English language: A key factor in this game is whether LSU’s players will be able to understand their head coach. Ed Orgeron, a/k/a the Cajun Cookie Monster, has a thick accent straight from the bayou, and if his team can actually decipher his play calls, it gives LSU a distinct advantage.
Burnt Orange vs. Purple & Gold: Both schools have instantly-recognizable duds such that, if you turn on the TV, you immediately know it’s LSU or Texas playing. I love these uniforms and appreciate that neither school varies from them much because they don’t need to — they’re classic.
Texas Money vs. Louisiana Money: Don’t mess with Texas.
Geaux Tigers vs. Hook ‘Em Horns: LSU fans are the rowdiest, most blood thirsty yet hospitable group in the country. They want to kill you and have a beer with you afterwards. Texas fans are a wine-and-cheese crowd, period.
Texas food vs. Louisiana food: Texas has a rich barbecue history and the best Tex-Mex on the planet. I’d consider flying to Texas to have lunch at El Tiempo tomorrow. Louisiana has too many Creole and Cajun masterpiece dishes to name, and food is quite literally woven into the fabric of life down there.
With all the makings of an instant classic, Saturday night’s battle deep in the heart of Texas will imprint its mark on the 2019 college football landscape.
SEC Banter says the Bayou Bengals mess with Texas, 28-20. Geaux Tigers!