From both Nebraska’s and the Orange Bowl’s perspectives, LSU’s emphatic punching of its ticket to Miami was a welcomed thing Monday.
Nebraska had itself an opponent that would be regarded as a tough assignment. LSU’s 61-17 shredding of Ole Miss on Saturday night enhanced the credentials of a team known mainly for its defense — first nationally against the run and third in fewest points allowed. Yes, LSU had two losses, but they were by a grand total of five points to Notre Dame and Texas A&M. The Bayou Bengals were no slouches and were finishing strong. Beating them would be a feather in Nebraska’s hat.
Before Saturday night’s game in Baton Rouge, Orange Bowl brass cringed at the possibility of having to settle for damaged goods: either a three-loss LSU team or a two-loss Arkansas squad that had just been smashed 42-7 by Texas. Instead, they got a marquee matchup of conference champions.
Nobody knew at this point what would be riding on the prime-time showdown in Miami. But it was shaping up as a compelling matchup regardless of how the earlier New Year’s bowls might play out.