LSU football coach Les Miles is talking the talk of late. I'd like to see him start walking the walk instead.
He's been ripping USC and the Pacific-10 conference. USC has an easier road to the national championship game. The Pac-10 is sort of light. And the SEC is great. Those three statements may all be true and I appreciate Miles' candor. This guy has some personality and some peppery competitive juices, which is great.
But Les, why don't you schedule USC? You could do it. USC regularly plays strong non-conference teams, such as Notre Dame, Nebraska and Arkansas last year. Oops, SEC West champion Arkansas lost 50-14 at home to USC last season and 70-17 the year before in Los Angeles. This year USC plays at Nebraska and at Notre Dame. In 2008, USC plays at Virginia and hosts Ohio State and Notre Dame. USC goes to Ohio State and Notre Dame in 2009.
Yes, USC does not have to play a Pac-10 championship game, but the SEC championship game has helped put SEC teams like LSU and Florida into national championship games in the 2003 and 2006 seasons while blocking Tennessee in 2001. The SEC could get rid of its title game, too, if it thinks that would help it get into more BCS title games. Of course, that would cost a lot of money.
The Pac-10 has had a weak year or two recently, but it's a better conference than people think.
Even if it's not, USC makes up for it and its lack of a league title game with its annually difficult non-conference schedule. Maybe USC realizes it is in a lesser conference, so it adjusts its schedule accordingly. Meanwhile, LSU's non-conference schedule in recent years has included such powers as Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulane, Fresno State, North Texas, Appalachian State, Troy State, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe, Western Illinois and Louisiana Tech. Hmmm. If the SEC is so great, why isn't SEC-member LSU trying to prove that?
LSU has ventured into the Pac-10, but it has carefully avoided USC.
LSU does host Virginia Tech early this season, but it also has the usual suspect non-conference foes such as Middle Tennessee, Tulane and Louisiana Tech. Yawn! And guess what, philosophically Miles does not agree with the scheduling of Virginia Tech. He said so at a recent press gathering. In the same gathering, he ripped USC's schedule. Notice a contradiction here?
Miles also criticized LSU playing Texas A&M regularly in the 1980s and 1990s. LSU lost the last five of those games with A&M from 1991 through 1995.
"You lost to the A&M team for what? Why? The years that you lost to A&M is a shame," Miles cried.
Uh, Les, make up your mind. Obviously you would have preferred LSU scheduling Nicholls State back then. So you favor easier schedules, right? So why the criticism of USC?
Hello! If one school has an easy conference schedule for the most part and a difficult non-conference schedule and another school has an easy non-conference schedule and a difficult conference schedule for the most part, doesn't that sort of even out?
When asked if he'd like to schedule Michigan, where he played, Miles scoffed and made some comparison to Texas Hold 'Em. He said he likes having a staircase schedule with the tough teams at the back end. You don't show your hand at the beginning. USC doesn't have that luxury. Neither does Ohio State. Sounds again like Les likes an easy schedule. And that makes sense since SEC teams can have an easy non-conference schedule and still get in the national championship game. LSU did that in 2003.
So, quit ripping USC, Les, until you schedule USC. USC has openings in 2011. Do it. The nation has wanted this game since 2003 when LSU and USC should have played in the national championship game.
It would put your schedule where your mouth is, and it would also make sense. But no, Miles doesn't want to do that. He'd rather just keep speaking out of turn like he did at halftiime of the Tennessee game, which was followed by an apology, and like he did at the recruiting bash, which was also followed by an apology, and at the Pensacola stop of the spring speaking tour.
Miles thinks that Florida's national championship last year proved once and for all that the SEC is the best conference in the land. And, therefore, according to Miles, if a team wins the SEC it deserves to play in the national championship game regardless of how easy its non-conference schedule is. Wrong, Middle Tennessee breath. The only reason Florida got into the national championship game last year was because USC was upset by blood rival UCLA from the Pac-10. LSU doesn't have a blood rival, and UCLA could beat a lot of SEC teams.
Miles needs to forget about Florida last season and LSU in 2003 and look at Auburn in 2004. Auburn went undefeated and won the SEC, but it didn't play in the national championship game because its non-conference schedule featured such powers as ULM, The Citadel and Louisiana Tech.
Not playing a USC-type, non-conference schedule is like not buying insurance. Yeah, you can get by without it often, but keep doing it and one day LSU will get Au-burned.
"Yeah, it's good to play a great non-conference team, if you win," chimed in one of Miles' underlings.
Wrong again. This isn't Texas Hold 'Em. This is college football. If a team loses early to a great team and wins the rest of its games, it could still get in the national championship game. It would take some luck, but no more luck than LSU and Florida needed in 2003 and 2006. And if you win that early non-conference game and win the rest, or even lose a game, you can still get in.
So talk less, Les, and schedule USC.