SEC 2010 // How Les Miles (and You) Can Survive at LSU

LSU is certainly its own corner of the SEC -- from its refusal to choose a color from one of the league's traditional schemes to its decision to actually own a real, live Tiger. Who better to ask about the team from Baton Rouge than those following the Bengals for And The Valley Shook?

What needs to happen for Jordan Jefferson and the offense to get going this year?

PodKATT: It'll be a combination of better line play creating a decent run game, JJ doing a better job of knowing when to throw it away to the sidelines instead of taking a sack, and less risk-averse playcalling. We've got the talent at WR to handle catches all over the field, but it will come down to wether or not Miles or Crowton are willing to go back to a more aggressive strategy that was successful in the past with experienced QBs under center.

Poseur: Billy and I have had a running argument about this, but I believe the biggest problem with the offense is philosophic: it was pathologically risk averse. Jefferson, being a good, coachable kid, did exactly what he was taught to do -- avoid turnovers at all costs. The problem is when your offense is designed to do nothing but avoid risk, that's all it can do. Opening things up and risking bad results also opens up the possibility of good results. This is an offense that needs to learn the occassional interception is okay so long as it's also gaining yards and scoring points (using the middle of the field would be a nice start). Every offensive problem stemmed from the paralyzing fear of risk. Crowton needs to get over that fear.

Billy Gomila: First and foremost, the offense just needs to find some sort of focus. In spite of everything that went wrong last year, LSU managed to score points when they just kept things simple. When it forgot about trying to use every weapon in the arsenal and just shot straight. A better offensive line and a running game that the coaches can trust will go a long way in providing that focus.

As cocknfire noted, there are things to like about Jordan Jefferson. He’s an accurate passer who doesn’t make too many stupid throws. But at times, he was kind of a microcosm of the rest of the attack -- indecisive and ineffective. The problems he had, like not anticipating throws and taking too many sacks could be helped by a strong running game, better offensive line and playcalling that simplifies his reads and doesn’t ask him to convert so many third and [longs].

Paul: Nothing that hasn't already happened. It's about experience in my book. JJ was still green last season. Due to some anomalies created by ridiculous seasons, people expect every player to be Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy these days and step onto campus and immediately throw 45 TDs. This isn't the Big 12. JJ's progression last season was overshadowed by how poor of a run game LSU produced (half as productive as the NC season). Some of this surely falls on his shoulders, but the entirety of it does not. This year LSU will have a better o-line, a more mature QB and a better offense.

Where does Les Miles stand right now with the LSU fan base? What does he have to do to keep his job?

PodKATT: It seems that the vocal portion of the fan base is split into 2 camps. Half want him gone yesterday, even to the point that they wish he would have taken the Michigan job even if it cost us the title. The other half is just hanging onto faith that Miles can turn it around and bring us back to title contention before the mob snaps and gets the torches and pitchforks. All that when the worst he has done is 8-5 with a New Year's Eve bowl win. We are a spoiled lot. He needs a successful season to calm the fans who want him gone.

Poseur: LSU fans are not exactly a patient and understanding lot. From "Help Mac Pack" to the amateur real estate agents helping out the coach, LSU fans are always calling for a new coach. We were calling for Saban's job when he was here (remember losing to UAB? I do). Miles' job will always be in jeopardy because every coach at LSU has always had to constantly look over their shoulder. The natives are always restless. Miles is the most successful coach in LSU history, yet there is a large and vocal segment of the fanbase that wants him gone. That should tell you pretty much everything you need to know about us. There's nothing an LSU coach can do to feel comfortable other than win the SEC title every year. Good luck.

Billy Gomila: He’s as popular as most coaches would be after back-to-back disappointing seasons. There are a segment of fans that see those first three years as a reason to believe the last two are a rebuilding phase Miles can pull out of and there’s a segment that gave up hope after the Ole Miss debacle and are waiting to see the string played out. And there’s another segment who have just never liked him, and that’s equal parts success spoiling success, perception and message-board diarrhea. But winning makes everything smell better, right?

As far as what he has to do, I think that’s as much about perception as it is reality. Ten wins on a team with just nine seniors would be seen as a sign of a turnaround headed towards a potentially great 2011 season. If 2010 is a repeat of last year, but more aesthetically pleasing, that would be seen as a step in the right direction as well.

Paul: He stands in that precarious position of being ardently loved by few and passionately despised by many. He's in a position where every move he makes is perceived as the wrong move, even if it is the wrong move. As Poseur mentioned, we're a particularly fickle bunch. But winning is the cure all. Honestly, LSU could repeat last year's record, but be fortunate to wind up in the SEC, and the majority of the fanbase would love him.

More broadly, what is a successful season for LSU this year? Ten wins? BCS bowl? Contending for the SEC West? More?

PodKATT: Making the SEC title game this year would go a huge way towards calming the mob, but he may be able to get away with the same record and a New Year's bowl win if the team just looks more dominate and competitive than last year. It's all about perception and a good-looking 10-3 squad that is dominant in the OCC matches early and in MNC contention late might be the cure for what ails the fans. If not, the only one left to get rid of is Crowton if the fans call out for blood, and that might not be enough this time.

Poseur: Well, I think we all agree last year's season was not a success. TSK is about as neutral of site regarding the Tigers you'll find, and y'all have portrayed last season as a disappointment as well, so it's not just us being unreasonable. So we know what ISN'T a success -- finishing in 3rd in the SEC, making the best non-BCS bowl, and finishing in the top 15. If that's failure, then LSU needs to make it to Atlanta and finish in the top ten. I hate when Miles gets judged on aesthetics and whether the win was "convincing" enough, like there is a separate column in the standing for convincing wins, but the flip side of that is that I care about results. Win or else. If we're past the point of caring about moral victories, then I don't care about moral losses. But that means you gotta win. The irony is, if Miles wins 10 or 11 games and cools down his hot seat, he then becomes a more attractive candidate to go to Michigan. I think LSU is likely to be looking for a new coach if it has a disappointing season OR a successful season.

Billy Gomila: The style matters almost as much as the substance, really. Another 9-3 regular season will be a lot more palatable if it features blowouts against the teams LSU should blowout and solid wins against a division we all know will be pretty tough. And no more clock issues. But with a schedule like this that actually features one brutal non-conference game (UNC) and another dangerous one (West Virginia), anything more than that on a team with 57 freshmen and sophomores is asking a lot.

Paul: Winning every game we should and beating Alabama. So that's undefeated, right? Seriously, I think most would forgive Miles if he takes down Bama and Ole Miss this year. If we lose to Florida in Gainesville, that wouldn't shock anyone (unless they start out 0fer or something). But if he rebounded by beating Bama and Ole Miss, and having a shot at the SEC Championship Game, fans would be pleased in my estimation.

Who exactly is LSU's biggest rival in the SEC?

PodKATT: You know, this was a hard question a few years ago, but I'm starting to think it's Ole Miss. There is a lot of old hate in the fan base for the Fightin' Calamari and lately it has had what every great rivalry needs: competitive games. It wasn't but 4 years ago that the LSU-Ole Miss game didn't even rate high enough to make it on TV (not even as a JP/LF/Raycom game) but now it's one of the better late season matches. Move that game back to Halloween weekend where it belongs (and burn that stupid f'ing trophy) and I think you've got a real rivalry on both sides.

Poseur: No one, really. Two years ago, I would have said Auburn, but it turns out that I hate Tuberville, not Auburn. Besides, that rivalry lacks history though it has given us some great games in the last 20 years. But if they were a rival, I would have enjoyed blowing them out a lot more and really, it didn't move the needle for me. Ole Miss certainly hates us, but I can't bring myself to hate them. They are sort of cute and I find myself pulling for them when we're not playing. Officially, we're rivals with Arkansas and that's another series with lots of good games recently. However, there is simply no hate there. It's a competitive game year in and year out, and I respect the Hogs, but it's not a game that boils over with passion.

That brings us back to Alabama. If Bama was ranking their rivals, LSU probably comes in no better than third behind Auburn and Tennessee. So calling LSU-Bama a rivalry suffers from the same problem as LSU-Ole Miss, only we're the Ole Miss in the Bama relationship. I will say that Bama is probably the program we are most different from. They are sort of ruthless in their pursuit of more wins, and they take pride in being, well, bland. When you boil it down, they really only have one tradition: winning. LSU certainly likes to win, and we're a pretty darn successful program, but we absolutely love the party. I really do think it's more about the experience and the tailgate at LSU than it is about winning. We're all about Fun. Bama is the Enemy of Fun. Bama is the Empire in Star Wars. LSU are the Rebels (To follow this analogy, that means Saban was Anakin with LSU before becoming Darth Saban and embracing the Dark Side of the Force. Actually, to be honest, we're probably the Ewoks, hanging out in trees, throwing parties, and worshipping C-3PO). Vive la revolution!

Billy Gomila: Everyone and no one. What we lack in that Alabama-Auburn/Florida-Georgia singularity, we make up for in numbers. If you asked five fans you might get five different answers (nevermind the old guard that still considers Tulane LSU's biggest rival), and that's kind of fun. Nobody likes us, but that's okay because we don’t like anybody. Poseur likes to call us the Ewoks of the SEC, but I say we're Han Solo before Leia tricked him into settling down: just cruisin' the galaxy with our hairy buddy, doing a little smuggling, shootin' a few bounty hunters and living life our way.

Paul: Right now, it's definitely Bama. I don't put much stock into the historical rivalries, especially now that those are slowly being eroded due to conference realignment. Obviously games like OU/Texas and Ohio State/Michigan will always be important to those particular fanbases, but the tension created between Bama/LSU of late makes me believe we're in the nascent stages of a boiling rivalry, particularly if Saban sticks around LSU. LSU fans keep a diluted perspective regarding Saban and his success in Baton Rouge, so they'll always act like a spurned lover regarding his presence at Bama.

Really -- aren't there concerns that Mike will get free one day and eat someone? Or is that an acceptable risk for anyone daring enough to attend an LSU game in the first place?

PodKATT: Back in the Day, Tulane used to break the locks all the time, but Mike knew well enough to just fell some trees in the area and wait for the vet to show up. Nowadays, he's got no reason to leave the palatial tiger mansion. But you never know ...

Poseur: Mike actually has escaped before. Not this one, but a previous Mike. He didn't eat anybody. But if he did eat somebody, we'd like to think he could tell friend from foe, so he'd play it safe and just eat anyone wearing red or orange. Chances are good you won't get an LSU fan if you play those odds. Or, being an LSU Tiger, he'd probably go straight for the keg.

Paul: I have it on good authority that Mike is a vegetarian. Or was it vegan? He doesn't eat meat. Or is it pork? Is he Jewish? I can never remember. Anyone, he's not into people. So don't worry. Our staff will easily accommodate all visiting fans with an up close and personal view of Mike's cage. Non-refundable ticket, though.

Billy Gomila: Isn’t taking your life in your hands part of the charm of coming to Louisiana anyway? Besides, if you’re nice about it, we’ll at least get you drunk enough to not feel the first bite.

For this and other considerations extended to visitors to Baton Rouge, or simply to follow LSU news and commentary, visit And The Valley Shook before, during and after the season.

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