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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Night time not the right time

BATON ROUGE - The masses have been in an uproar in recent days since LSU's football season opener against Appalachian State has been moved from a 7 p.m. kickoff to 4 p.m. for ESPN television. That game is on Aug. 30, and it will be as hot at kickoff as it will be for the opening pitch at 3 p.m. Sunday in game two of the LSU-UC Irvine Super Regional at Alex Box Stadium. We're talking mid-90s with a heat index likely approaching 100.

It will not be football weather. Worse yet, it will not be ideal tailgating weather either. This is really why so many are upset.

Night games are truly special in Tiger Stadium. They always have been and always will be. No other football venue can match LSU at night. They're getting more precious because LSU is such an elite program now that it has to often move games to the afternoon CBS slot. ESPN shows LSU a lot, but that time slot is normally at night.

Not the case this time. ESPN has other more interesting games than the Tigers against another lower division opponent. Yes, it is an interesting matchup of the BCS national champions against the I-AA champions. I didn't put the new name for that league on purpose because it is just more silly euphemism-izing. There, I made up a term, too. But it's still another case of LSU's inability to schedule like a man. So, LSU fans, you should feel fortunate that you're still on national television even with the poor scheduling.

You want prime time. Tell your football coach to let his athletic department people, namely Verge Ausberry, schedule with guts. Do not blame Ausberry for this non-conference schedule that includes Troy, North Texas and Tulane this season, while USC will be playing Virginia, Ohio State and Notre Dame out of conference. Miles is the one who does not want to play strong opponents in non-conference. He said last summer that he didn't want to play Virginia Tech, which was a leftover game from the previous coaching staff.

Without the victory over Virginia Tech last season, LSU does not get to the national championship game. Without the loss to LSU and a win over an easier opponet, Virginia Tech makes it to the national title game instead of LSU.

Miles has a good argument. He believes he plays enough difficult opponents in the SEC, and he's right. LSU plays at Auburn, Florida, South Carolina and Arkansas this season, and all four could be good, including those last two. He also has Georgia coming to Tiger Stadium. But he needs to realize that LSU needs that one sexy non-conference opponent each season to help give it that push it may need with the voters and polls to get into the BCS. That's how it got in last season with a record two losses, including a late November setback at home to an average Ar-Kansas.

LSU does have some interesting non-conference games down the road such as Washington, but it really needs to schedule USC. That would be the game of the century. The Trojans obviously play anyone non-conference anywhere, so they're not the stumbling block. Miles is.

But this season, Miles' scheduling philosophy is just what the Tigers need in what could be a rebuilding year, which only means three or four losses instead of one or two. LSU will be very green at quarterback with Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch - in that order. LSU will also be younger and more inexperienced at cornerback this season than perhaps at any time this decade. That's a very important position, too. LSU will be very good this season because it still will have a great defensive line and very good backs, receivers and offensive linemen to help bring a quarterback or two or three along.

Appalachian State, meanwhile, returns much of its national championship team, including quarterback Armanti Edwards. Appalachian State, which knocked off Michigan last season in the Big House, is a very difficult first opponent for LSU, particularly with a nervous quarterback under center in front of 90,000. It would have been better to start Lee's career at Mississippi State, which Matt Flynn enjoyed last season.

LSU does not need App. State to be comfortable and somewhat cool at a 7 p.m. kickoff. LSU needs App. State, which is located in cooler Boone, N.C., to be hot and bothered. When App. State is "warming up" at the 3 p.m. hot point of the day, it's going to realize it's in hell.

LSU needs a defensive game against App. State. It doesn't need to have to rely on Lee or Hatch completing passes. LSU needs a 4 p.m. kickoff on Aug. 30.


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