For #4 LSU, the route to the finals included a rout of 13 seeded BYU, a sound victory over #5 USC and a stunner against the nationís top rated team in OSU. #3 Michiganís path was much easier on paper with victories over conference champions Houston, Louisville and Oklahoma, but as is the case in this format, nothing was easy and every contest provided the Wolverines with their opponentís best effort.
Michigan opened some eyes as it opened the game with a solid nine-play 72 yard drive that concluded with a touchdown on a seven yard screen pass from Chad Henne to Mike Hart. Little did the crowd or viewers know that that would be the last time Michigan saw the lead. But the game was not without intrigue and suspense.
In true LSU fashion, the Tigers immediately answered the score with a three minute, 66 yard drive that included a 32 yard bullet from junior quarterback JaMarcus Russell to Dwayne Bowe. Colt David added two field goals for LSU and the Tigers took a six point lead into the locker room for halftime.
As if the stakes were not high enough, whatever head coach Les Miles told the team at the break pumped the Tigers offense up beyond what the stellar Michigan defense could handle. LSU took the opening kickoff and marched down the field methodically and powerfully. Russell hit five different receivers and four different Tigers rushed the ball on the 12-play 61 yard drive that ended with a Keiland Williams plunge into the endzone.
This time it was Michigan that answered with a touchdown of its own on a Mike Hart run, yet the Wolverines still trailed by seven. LSU was forced to punt on its next five drives, leaving the door open for Michigan to tie the game.
They were not able to do so though as a Chad Henne fumble and interception ended two fourth quarter Wolverine drives. The way that the defense and running game play, Michigan generally just needs to avoid mistakes by Henne. It did not and, because of the turnovers, could not win.
Both teams were able to score touchdowns in the last two minutes of the game, but earlier wasted opportunities cost Michigan its chance at a championship, and, just a little over a year after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the state, gave the LSU Tigers their second national championship in the last four years.
Bowe earned Player of the Game honors with 99 yards and two touchdowns. It was Russell though who took home more hardware as the 2006 December Madness MVP. Over four games, the First Team All-SEC QB tallied 996 yards passing, seven touchdowns and just one interception en route to the title. Now, I guess there may be more questions to be asked, but we will have to wait to see how the Madness unfolds next year.
Player of the game: Dwayne Bowe (99 yards, 2 TDs)
Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: LSU 58.2% - Michigan 41.8%