Scooter Hobbs column: Don’t look hard for motivation

Published 6:50 am Monday, January 2, 2023

By Scooter Hobbs

So here we stand, pondering that age-old postseason dilemma.

By now you know my feelings on the matter. There is no such thing as a “meaningless” bowl game and I will fight you to the death on that one.

OK, maybe it’s not life or death, but nearabout. I’d at least argue vociferously about it.

So you consider the intangibles.

Things like which team has the most to gain … or nothing to lose.

Otherwise, Purdue seems like one of those unobtrusive midwestern schools — i.e., easy to pull for — which isn’t easy in the the Big Ten.

But there’s nothing there to really get mad about.

My guess is that what most LSU fans know about Purdue is that Drew Brees played there — and will be an interim assistant coach for this game — and perhaps that the school is most famous for having the world’s largest drum in its marching band.

That may sound like one of Indiana’s more fascinating roadside tourist attractions — with advertising beginning 100 miles away — but, at more than 10-feet tall, it has trouble getting into some domed stadiums.

And, for my interest, it probably needs a better nickname than “Big Bass Drum.”

But if that’s all you know about Purdue, you’re just scratching the surface.

I knew that Neil Armstrong was a Purdue man, but not only was the first man to walk on the moon a Boilermaker, so was the last one, Gene Cernan.

Not so shocking, actually. They are two of 25 Purdue alums who went on to become NASA-certified astronauts, a list which also includes Gus Grissom.

It got so crowded with Purdue up yonder that one out of every three of NASA’s manned spaceflights included at least one Boilermaker alum.

Remember that factoid the next time LSU starts chest-beating about being D.B.U.

But back to the game itself — where the modern-day considerations for the bowl season seem to be figuring out who wants to be there, who has the most to play for and who has the most players to do it after the opt-outs and portal refugees are divvied up.

LSU has the clear advantage in the opt-out derby, although certainly the Tigers weren’t immune to the lure of it, or the portal.

Purdue lost the heart of its offense in quarterback Aidan O’Connell and the nation’s leader by receptions (110) in Charlie Jones and is second-leading receiver in Payne Durham.

LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte may be the Tigers’ best offensive player — debatable — but it’s a position the Tigers are best able to replace. Same for the losses in the defensive line.

So … Motive?

Not sure.

You’ll know that once the game starts.

But I do know that it’s an important game for LSU and head coach Brian Kelly.

The effect of this game on next year is probably overrated.

But it will define the offseason for Kelly and the Tigers.

There seems little doubt that Kelly has already changed the culture in the LSU program, probably a little ahead of schedule. That won’t change.

If nothing else, it’s a chance to see how that culture change translates into getting a team ready to play a month after its last outing.

But “10” is still a nice, round number to have in the win column for the 9-4 Tigers.

Coupled with an above-optimal recruiting class it makes Kelly’s first year the resounding turnaround that first became a conversation piece when LSU upset Alabama.

A loss, particularly as a two-touchdown favorite, and a lot of the shine comes off from that.

It would also mean closing the season with three consecutive losses, two of them major upsets, after rising to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

So, no. There’s nothing meaningless about Monday for LSU.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com