It's rarely a mistake when two or three reporters ask the same question at SEC Media Days. It usually means that they see a theme developing. And they saw a theme developing Thursday, as Steven Godfrey pointed out, with Les Miles taking the podium in a year when he's not one of the favorites to play for the national title.
Which is how Les Miles got at least two questions about the fact that the notoriously inaccurate SEC press corps tabbed LSU as the third most likely team to win the SEC West and the fifth most likely team to win the SEC Championship Game -- thanks to the one person that voted for them. So:
Your team the last two seasons has entered the year No. 1, No. 2. preseason. This year, still a lot of promise, but maybe not quite as high. Is there something you can thrive under being not as much the hunted?
I don't know if you're under the radar, you're still a top-10 team, but not a lot of people picking you to be a national contender. Do you get more excited going into a season like that when you're kind of teaching more, trying to build a team back?
It's no secret that the SEC Media Days vote is a terrible, terrible way to gauge a team's potential. In 2008, after hearing that his team was picked to win the West, Tommy Tuberville remarked: "Y'all are never right." He then set out to prove his point with one of the more spectacular immolations in college football history, allowing his longtime assistants to undermine his offensive coordinator, going 5-7, and losing his job.
This year seemed to offer self-evident proof of the fact that the voting is flawed when nearly 10 percent of those who cast ballots -- I was not one of them -- deemed Jadeveon Clowney unworthy of one of their four votes for defensive linemen. (There has been just one unanimous pick to the preseason All-SEC team since 2000 -- Darren McFadden -- as sure an indicator as anything else that some voters are motivated by contrarianism for contrarianism's sake.)
Miles and his players largely brushed the questions off, or answered them politely. More politely than I would have on the latter of the two questions to Miles, when I would have pointedly told reporters that I would not allow their votes to control my excitement one way or the other. He actually said:
You know, it's interesting. The excitement, it's not derived from where you're ranked or how people perceive you. It's the youth of your team, what you have to get coached, how you approach a practice.
I think that each team has its own potential, its own high-side opportunities. Certainly what we're trying to do is play to our greatest expectations and exceed them.
I think it's more the youth, wanting to get the message across, teach that technique, make sure that that young player is evaluated so that he has the opportunity to play if, in fact, he is one of our best.
Zach Mettenberger was more blunt.
You guys are funny with the preseason rankings. Last I checked, none of you have gotten a preseason ranking right. Nobody has gotten it right.
The last time someone said that at SEC Media Days, it was because too much was expected of a team and it didn't make it. If LSU can managed to reverse that equation this year, they might end up with a more favorable postseason rank in Hoover in 2014. Not that there's any reason for them to want it.