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Are you Ready for Some (SEC) Football?
Word 'repeat' doesn't exist in vocabulary of LSU coach Miles
HOOVER, Ala. — Repeat? Duck if you dare to mumble that word around the Louisiana State University coaches' football offices in Baton Rouge
.The Southeastern Conference Media Days for football will start today in this Birmingham suburb, with top players and coaches of the 12 schools scattered throughout three days of interview sessions. The defending national champion LSU Tigers are among the four teams who will appear in today's opening session, along with Florida, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Tigers coach Les Miles will undoubtedly be peppered with questions about being last year's national titlist.
LSU became the first two-loss team to claim the Bowl Championship Series title with a 38-24 win against Ohio State. But don't expect Miles to use the term "repeat.'' In fact, he snarls at such thought.
"This is the '08 team,'' Miles said earlier this offseason. "The '07 team was the national championship team, there wasn't any question. We have to develop and see what kind of team we can be. Each year is different. The ambitions can be the same, the goals can be the same but the potential and team chemistry, how the team comes together, is all in front of us.
"We're not carrying a burden of defending on our shoulders. We're talking about the '08 team. The '07 team is the national champions, there is no question. We just want to compete and improve and see how good we can be in '08.''
To contend again, LSU must find some defensive help and develop a quarterback. Matt Flynn, who threw four touchdown passes in the title game, is in the NFL. Ryan Perrilloux, his backup who was expected to take over without a bump this fall, ran into off-the-field problems and is at Jacksonville State. Star running back Jacob Hester and receiver Early Doucet are also chasing NFL dreams after solid careers in Tiger Town.
But Miles is realistic. He knows there's still plenty of talent from years of top recruiting classes and that nobody will take LSU lightly.
"We feel like the guys we've recruited have ability," Miles said. "If they continue to develop and improve ... we'll have the ability to win and play for championships. It really depends on the development of the team.''
Last year was filled with wild games and upsets throughout college football. Miles expects more of the same this fall.
"That's the way college football is,'' he said. "If you're not prepared, if you don't have a great game plan, if your kids don't come prepared and ready to play quality football and play for four quarters it's going to be a dogfight.''
Nowhere is that more obvious than in the SEC, rated by many as the toughest conference in college football. Georgia and Florida may actually be considered the favorites ahead of the Tigers to contend for the league and national titles. But overall, the conference may be as strong as it has ever been. Nine teams played in bowl games after last season, with total payouts of about $50 million.
Even during last year's championship run, six of LSU's nine games against SEC opponents were determined by seven points or less, including league losses of 43-37 at Kentucky and 50-48 to Arkansas in Baton Rouge. Both defeats went three overtimes.
No school has won back-to-back conference titles since Tennessee claimed the 1997 and 1998 SEC Championship Games and the '97 game was a one-point win over Auburn (30-29).
To which Miles declared, in 2008 in the SEC, "You better be ready to play.''