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July 27, 2011

Tough in close games

The resurgence of LSU football started when Nick Saban took over as coach for the 2000 season.

In the past 11 years - five under Saban and six under current coach Les Miles, the Tigers have won two national championships and three Southeastern Conference titles. LSU has appeared in a bowl game after each season.

The Tigers have posted double-digit win campaigns on six occasions - twice under Saban and four times under Miles. LSU has never won fewer than eight games since the end of coach Gerry DiNardo's tenure.

There has been one common trait for all 11 Tigers teams. LSU has been difficult to beat in close games. During this stretch, the Tigers have compiled an amazing 30-10 record in SEC games decided by fewer than eight points or in overtime. Those numbers translate to winning at a 75 percent clip.

Only two other SEC teams have won more than 60 percent of their close conference games during this same time frame. Auburn has a 27-14 record (.659) - 22-11 under former coach Tommy Tuberville. Tennessee has a 22-14 mark (.611) - 21-11 under former coach Phillip Fulmer.

Last season, LSU won four of its six SEC games by fewer than eight points - Ole Miss (43-36), Florida (33-29), Alabama (24-21) and Tennessee (16-14). The Tigers scored in the final seconds to pull out the victories against the Gators and the Vols. LSU dropped a seven-point decision at Auburn (24-17).

In addition, LSU won close games against North Carolina (30-24) and West Virginia (20-14). In Miles' first season as coach, the Tigers also won four conference games by seven points or less - Florida (21-17), Auburn (20-17), Alabama (16-13) and Arkansas (19-17).

With Miles as coach, LSU has a 19-8 record (.704) SEC games decided by fewer than eight points. In all games, Miles' record as Tigers coach in close games is 23-9 (.719).

With Saban as coach, LSU had an 11-3 record (.786) in league games decided by fewer than eight points. Since taking over at Alabama, Saban has an 8-6 record (.571) in close SEC games.

There has been only one season in which the Tigers have not had a winning record in SEC games decided by fewer than eight points. In 2008, LSU split four tight conference contests - beating Auburn (26-21) and South Carolina (24-17) and losing to Alabama (27-21) and Arkansas (31-30).

As previously mentioned, LSU won four close SEC games twice - 2005 and 2010. Florida has accomplished that feat three times (2002, 2003 and 2006). Auburn has won four league games decided by fewer than eight points twice - 2006 and 2010.

Here are the records of all the SEC teams in conference games decided by fewer than eight points or in overtime from 2000 through 2011.

EASTERN DIVISION


Tennessee: 22-14, .611
Florida: 18-14, .563
Georgia: 20-17, .541
South Carolina: 20-20, .500
Kentucky: 12-28, .300
Vanderbilt: 8-23, .258

WESTERN DIVISION

LSU: 30-10, .750
Auburn: 27-14, .659
Arkansas: 18-20, .474
Ole Miss: 17-20, .459
Alabama: 14-19, .424
Mississippi State: 11-18, .379


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