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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bowl talk

No matter how hard LSU tries to end up in a lower-tier bowl this year, it seems the Tigers just can't get there.

When the Tigers left Little Rock, they figured they were headed to the Liberty Bowl.

Losses by Kentucky AND Vanderbilt on Saturday, left those teams at 6-6. And, somehow, LSU is 7-5.

Hard to imagine the Chick-Fil-A Bowl passing on LSU with seven wins for those teams with six wins.

No matter what happens, at least LSU avoids the Cotton Bowl and what likely figured to be an embarrassment against a Big 12 passing game.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Grilled Miles on luncheon menu

The honeymoon for Les Miles -- and it has lasted since he arrived in early 2005 -- may finally be coming to an end.

His press luncheon today included some of the first grilling of Miles since he's been at LSU.

He was asked to assess the job he and his coaches had done this season. He was asked about the co-defensive coordinators, again. He was asked about the inconsistency of his team and how it would be a fluke if it played for four quarters on Friday.

You probably get how the luncheon was going.

The heat will probably intensify if Miles doesn't get things straightend out -- and soon.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Truth be told

I had this thought upon meeting Trent Johnson in the spring. And I had it again after Sunday's men's basketball game with NSU.

That thought is this: How long before Johnson gets himself in trouble with his team because of his bluntness?

The man apparently doesn't mind speaking the truth.

Check out this from Sunday's postgame when asked about the Tigers' 3-0 start.

“It’s the first three games. What do you want me to say? What do you want me do, jump up and down like we won the Rose Bowl or something? Or the Super Bowl? Or the national championship? What do you want me to do? I summarized that we’re 3-0, and we’re getting better. It beats the alternative.”

I imagine he's already been rather blunt with his players. And while that may be his style, congratulations to him if he can find players that appreciate bluntness.

From a media standpoint, it's sort of refreshing. From a players standpoint, we'll find out soon enough.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What the heck?

I almost pulled the trigger and picked Ole Miss, but I kept thinking at some point talent would have to rise to the surface.

Apparently not.

LSU was whipped up front by the Ole Miss defensive line. Jevan Snead picked apart the LSU secondary. Even a fake punt caught the "gambler'' Les Miles and his team by surprise.

Yep, it was pretty much a butt kicking.

And, after the Troy scare the week before, it probably wasn't all that unexpected.

This season has unraveled into perhaps the most disappointing season since 1998 when the Tigers came into the season off of three stright bowl trips and went into the tank.

The bigger question is this: Will this season be an aberration or is it beginning of a slide?

Friday, November 21, 2008

The year of the excuse

BATON ROUGE - I have heard it all now. Scratch The Year of the Pick-Six, and call the 2008 LSU football season "The Year of the Excuse."

First we heard that it took a "perfect storm" in Gainesville for Florida to defeat LSU 51-21. Everything was right for the Gators. Their backs were against the wall after losing to Ole Miss. They had LSU circled for a year because of their loss in Tiger Stadium the year before. In reality, Florida kicked LSU's butt, particularly its defense. It wasn't because of any interception returns for touchdowns.

Then we heard Georgia had the greatest quarterback and tailback presumably in history. Interestingly, they were both largely ineffective in losses to Florida and Alabama and barely won at Kentucky and at Auburn. In reality, Georgia kicked LSU's butt, particularly its defense. It wasn't because of any interception returns for touchdowns.

But what I have heard after this hugely fortunate win over Troy last week is just too much.

"We take the field. It's cold," LSU coach Les Miles said at his press conference Monday. "It's certainly a good crowd, but the crowd dwindles, and it becomes one where you are playing less inspired than you should."

On Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference teleconference, Miles explained how he and his staff tried to explain to his team that Troy was a good team and a dangerous opponent partly because of the emotional,overtime loss LSU suffered to No. 1 Alabama the week before.

"You communicate it, talk about it and remind them," Miles said, "and then you show up at the game, and it's cold. Yeah, you knew that it was a possibility."

This reminds me of an old commercial about an exercise gym. The point of the ad was how people tend to think up excuses for not to go to the gym and work out. "The WEATHER," the woman says incredulously on the commercial with the point being, you're really just lazy.

I have never heard a coach bring up the weather for a poor performance in a game, and he's done it twice.

And Miles is from Ohio. And Miles played at Michigan. That's cold weather. It was in the 40s last Saturday night,but it's not like the Tiger Stadium grass is suddenly the freakin' frozen tundra of Green Bay. Thoughts of the "Ice Bowl," never entered my mind during the game.

Interestingly, though, the fans at the famous Green Bay-Dallas playoff game in 1967 did not leave in droves as "fans" did from Tiger Stadium Saturday, and it was 13 degrees below zero that Dec. 31, 1967, in Lambeau Field.

THAT'S when men were men.

Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008, will go down as one of the strangest nights in LSU football history. On that night, LSU staged the greatest comeback in its history for a 40-31 victory after trailing 31-3. At the same time, it was one of the most embarrassing nights in LSU history as this defending national champion Tiger team was down to a 20-point underdog from the Sun Belt. LSU played extremely well down the stretch,
but Troy also fumbled, bumbled and stumbled the game away. And the "greatest fans in college football" left. Because it was cold?

"It's cold." Unbelievable. At least, none of the players used that as an excuse.
And guess what, folks? It's going to be cold for LSU's game with Ole Miss Saturday. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 50s by game's end. Goodness! Better fire up some charcoal on the sidelines and have EMS ready for hypothermia!

It's going to be cold. Will LSU even have a chance?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Interesting Miles take

I found some of Les Miles' quotes to be interesting following the Troy game, particularly in regard to the quarterback position.

“We tried. We were looking," Miles said. "We were searching like people in the audience, people in the stands, people at the grocery store, people that you drop the cleaning off at were saying, 'Try to do this.' So we got Jarrett a break. We put Jordan Jefferson in."

While I appreciate his honesty, I don't know if I rather wouldn't know that the coach is listening to what the people at the grocery story, cleaners or the stands are saying. If Miles had a clear reason for not playing Jordan Jefferson before Saturday night -- and I believe he does even though I'm not a huge Miles fan -- then I certainly wouldn't expect him to give in to the masses.

Then there was Miles on Jefferson's performance.

"Eventually he’s going to be a tremendous talent, but right now he could not handle the position that he was in," Miles said. " And it was unfair for us to continue to go with him. But I can tell you he really performed well in the things that we asked him to do. I think that there’s more playing time in it for Jordan Jefferson. And Jarrett Lee’s our quarterback. That's just the way it is."

He couldn't handle the position he was in because he hasn't progressed the way you would have expected. Look, I understand that most teams give the snaps to two quarterbacks during the week and Jefferson was No. 3. I get it. But since Hatch got hurt against Georgia, Jefferson should have been on an accelerated development program.

It's not the first time a quarterback situation has been botched at LSU. Heck, you could make a case that every coach at LSU since Dietzel has botched a quarterback situation at least once. But the fact is the coach and the player share some of the blame in this and not because the player "could not handle the position he was in.''

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What to make of Troy game?

Good luck finding even-handed analysis of the Troy game.

You'll find one camp of observers wildly celebrating one of the greatest comebacks in school history. (And rallying from 28 points down to win is impressive).

Then there is the other camp that is pissed off that LSU was down 28 points to a Sun Belt team in the second half. (And trailing by 28 to anyone in the Belt is embarrassing.''

Me? I have some thoughts, but I don't even know if those thoughts are valid.

But here goes:

1) There was a hangover from the Alabama game as well as being eliminated from the SEC title chase. There can be no other explanation for the slow start.

2) Spread offenses give this team all kinds of trouble.

3) LSU's superior talent eventually won out.

If you're going to have these "off'' nights, well, at least this came against such an inferior opponent that it could be overcome.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hoops talk

In the last few years, the start of men's basketball season at LSU has been engulfed by the football team.

While there is still a football game on Saturday -- well, the Tigers are scheduled to play Troy -- basketball is starting and maybe fans should pay attention.

The difference, besides Trent Johnson coaching the team, is apparently there are some in the world of sports pundits who have fairly high hopes for this group.

Not only were the Tigers picked to finish second in the SEC West at the conference media days, but this week's Sports Illustrated college basketball preview has the Tigers among the field of 65 for the NCAA Tournament.

If that happens, maybe LSU fans will take notice.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Good get for LSU

LSU's commitment from Morris Claiborne may not impress the recruiting gurus -- he's only a tw0-star player according to Rivals.com -- but this is still a good get for the Tigers.

And here's why:

1) He is an outstanding athlete who can contribute in different ways. He is played wide receiver and quarterback in high school. He's an elusive runner with big-play ability. He could also move to the secondary.

How good of an athlete is Claiborne? As a sophomore he was all-state in basketball and the Shreveport Times boys athlete of the year.

2) He's a good student. Claiborne has a 20 on his ACT. He's not going to struggle to qualify.

3) He wants to go to LSU. He could have accepted the first offer he received. Instead, he waited for the one he wanted -- from LSU.

And oh yeah, the last two-star recruit from Shreveport worked out rather well. You may remember him, Jacob Hester.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Quotes, lies and paranoia

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Often as reporters, we find ourselves quoting people knowing that they are probably lying. Football coaches, athletic directors, sports information directors, players and players' parents often lie.

LSU coach Les Miles lies about injuries more than any coach I have ever worked with in 25 years in the business, but Miles is honest about his lies. He even said the day he was introduced as LSU's coach that he would not be honest about injuries. At this moment, he is not being completely truthful about backup quarterback Andrew Hatch. Miles has said Hatch is "doubtful" for Saturday's game against Alabama with a leg injury. In reality, Hatch is likely out for the year with a hairline fracture in his leg suffered in the Georgia game. Miles did not want this out just yet so that Alabama would mistakenly prepare for Hatch's very good running skills.

Coaches do this often, and it is understandable. They have to lie at times for strategic purposes, even though in this case Alabama is preparing for the speed option of Hatch anyway because true freshman quarterback Jordan Jefferson can do the same thing. So what's the difference?

Which brings us to Alabama defensive end Luther Davis of West Monroe High. When Davis began running his mouth on Tuesday night about as much as he has run in games this season in an interview session with several reporters, the reporters knew that there was a good chance Davis was not being completely truthful. But his comments made papers all over Alabama and the Gannett papers in Louisiana Wednesday because if reporters didn't run quotes they thought were lies, the newspapers would be very empty.

This is why my story included the fact that Davis had lied to LSU coaches back in the 2006-07 recruiting season about not visiting Alabama, and he did. That was put in as a service to readers so they would understand a credibility issue with the speaker. I also included the fact that West Monroe coach Don Shows did not believe Davis' stories at the time. That also went to Davis' credibility.

When Miles reacted to Davis' comments, that was also added to the story.

It should also be known that Davis once told a reporter in Alabama that he was LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson's cousin. Jackson said that is not true.

So, do not always believe what people are quoted as saying in the newspaper. People lie in their quotes more than writers misquote them.

But in the end, Davis' comments are no more dishonest than what LSU released after Ricky Jean-Francois' accurate and taken-in-context quotes about what might happen to Florida quarterback Tim Tebow last month. LSU said Jean-Francois' comments were "misinterpreted," which was a lie. Remember, this is the same school that said Pokey Chatman was resigning to "pursue other opportunities," when in truth she was fired for pursuing her players.

But there may actually be some truth to that one devilishly hot quote by Davis. He said Miles said, "The devil (Saban) has come back to college football and is trying to create a big buzz."

This was a liar's memory of a recruiting conversation. He probably made it up. It would be hard to believe that Miles, who really is one of the nicest people you're going to meet who has this coaching profession in the proper perspective, would actually compare Saban to Satan in a conversation with Davis. But remember Miles does have a very good sense of humor and has taken a few shots at Saban on the fan speaking tour circuit. Nice guy Miles also said "f-ing Alabama" in front of thousands, including his kids, at the 2007 recruiting bash. And who knows what goes on in recruiting conversations? That's a different animal completely. Surely, not always the truth. I don't know who to believe here.

But one thing is true. In the weeks after Saban was hired at Alabama, which is when all this happened, there was serious paranoia on the LSU staff about how Saban's tremendous recruiting prowess would impact LSU's recruiting. When Saban visited LSU commitments Sidell Corley and Phelon Jones in Mobile, Ala., you would have thought he tried to kidnap them. Miles quickly dispatched two assistants to those kids' homes the next day. He didn't need to do that, according to the players' parents. They were coming to LSU anyway. It was paranoia.

The forgotten part of this Davis story is this question. Why didn't LSU just let Davis visit Alabama? Other prospects who are committed to LSU in recent years have visited other schools with no uproar. LSU also routinely hosts prospects who are committed to other schools and routinely continues to recruit and sometimes sign players who are committed to other schools. Just two weeks ago at the Georgia game, LSU hosted Pensacola running back Trent Richardson of Escambia High. He is an Alabama commitment.

Why the uproar over Davis? Saban paranoia, that's why. Paranoia makes people say funny things.

And some members of LSU's coaching staff are still paranoid about Saban. And why? His recruiting impact on Louisiana has been virtually nill. The only players he's gotten that LSU wanted is Luther, and he may never be a starter or very good or last.
Meanwhile, Miles struggles to even mention the guy's name. Get over Saban already!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Night time the right time for LSU-Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - For the most part, LSU has escaped this need to play every big home game at night. The victory over Georgia in 2003 did much to get the Tiger Nation over that crutch. The Tigers also beat Arkansas that season, 55-24, at home in the afternoon on CBS.

In 2005, LSU defeated No. 11 Florida 21-17 in the CBS afternoon game n Tiger Stadium as wiell as Arkansas 19-17 in the afternoon on CBS at home. And in 2007, the No. 2 Tigers defeated No. 12 South Carolina 28-16 in the 2:30 CBS time slot in Tiger Stadium.

But this Saturday with No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) coming into town and No. 15 LSU (6-2, 3-2 SEC) and its fan base not feeling so confident, a night game would be just what the psychologist ordered. Instead, the game will be at 2:30 p.m.

This one game where LSU needs every working intangible - the live Tiger mascot, the band, the fans and the night time. The Tigers actually have more talent than Alabama, but they just have not got it together yet.

LSU will also need some serious breaks to win this game - like an interception return for a touchdown for its team. Tiger Stadium would explode if that happens with excitement and with irony.

How Alabama would react to such pressure would be something LSU would love to see. Alabama has trailed for exactly 75 seconds all season. Ole Miss led 3-0 early in the game, but that was it. LSU, meanwhile, trailed 20-0 and 21-7 early in losses at Florida and at home to Georgia.

The kickoff decision for this game was just made a week or so ago. LSU should have just said no. It would have given the Tigers that little edge they probably will need.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Get over it

Apparently there are some folks in Baton Rouge with more money than sense.

A billboard for Nick Saban's return on Saturday?

Get over it people. He's a college football coach. Coaches move around all the time. Coaches lie all the time. So what's all that different about Saban?

To me, if you want to boo him on Saturday -- then boo him.

But if you've got money to spend on a billboard, do something else with your money. Do you think the Baton Rouge food bank could have used that money? Or how about a homeless shelter? Or the United Way? Or any of a number of non-profit organizations.

As it is, it makes LSU fans look both silly and spiteful.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Saturday thoughts

Here is what concerns me about the LSU football team as the final month of the regular season begins.

This team is playing with little confidence.

For a team that is ranked in the top-20, that won a national championship last year, you'd expect a little more swagger. But it isn't there right now. Granted, the Florida and Georgia losses took something away. Still, this is a team that doesn't look confident in what it is doing right now.

And that's not a good thing.

LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee appears to be getting worse, not better. The defense still has its issues.

LSU needs to get its swagger back -- and soon.