First, a quick aside. Am I the only one that gets confused when someone refers to a team as the school's "proper" title? 'Cause whenever LSU is referred to as Louisiana State, or Ole Miss is called Mississippi, my first thought is something along the lines of "Louisiana State? Who the crap is that? Oh wait, they mean LSU." Anyway, frequent commenter and graduate of both Louisiana State University and the University of Mississippi (that's a lot of hottness to be around during your college days) Southern Papa has been chomping at the bit the past few weeks to let us know how he feels about LSU's coming season and
Coach Saban He Who Must Not Be Named, so without further ado:
Yes, there is the animosity towards He Who Must Not Be Named. It is real. The sports media has picked up on it, but there is real hatred there. It is an order of magnitude higher than the departure of Paul Dietzel (LSU's 1958 national championship coach, aka "Pepsodent Paul". He put up a banner saying "I will never leave LSU", then left for Army in 1961), but the good will was used up within milliseconds of his departure from Miami. There were Tiger fans who became Dolphin fans due to the former coach.
2. How do you personally feel about Saban's return to the SEC, but not to LSU?
My feelings on HWMNBN coming back to the SEC - I think if he had done like Spurrier, and laid back for a year, then taken an SEC job, I would feel differently. The OBC took stock after his second year, and realized the pro game was not for him. He was actually turned down at Florida, even though for his resume he could have said "Go look at your trophy case." It is rumored that the former LSU coach started shopping himself out in the middle of his second year, not wanting to bring himself to make the admission that the pro game was not for him.
3. Is Les Miles the man to keep LSU at the elite level it's attained over the past few seasons? Why or why not?
Les is the man at the head job, but I am concerned about his capability to select and/or keep quality coordinators. Jimbo Fisher left to go to FSU for what appears on the surface to be a succession planning move. Bo Pelini sooner or later will get a shot at a top job. He has the same pedigree as the Stoops brothers, and seems to have the same competitive drive. I could see him going straight to a Division 1 head coach's job in the next year or so. Stacy Searels, the long time offensive line coach, also left. The test this year will be the displays of Gary Crowton. Fisher could develop a QB, but needed time to do so. I think Crowton will be better at developing talent quicker.
4. How important is it for Miles to beat his predecessor? Should LSU lose to Alabama this year, will the fanbase turn on Miles?
It is important to beat Bama this year. This is a recruiting monkey that Miles cannot afford to get on his back. HWMNBN put a fence around Louisiana as far as recruiting (except for this one little school in Shreveport), and almost dared anyone to come in. If Miles was to lose the game, the impact would be felt on the recruting trail. Each game every week is going to be important, but November 3rd is circled on every LSU fan's calendar. In years past, when you played Alabama, you were playing Coach Bryant. When LSU beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa in 1982, the shirts in Baton Rouge read 'I was there when we beat the Bear." Charlie McClendon likely lost his job due to the combination of unimaginative offenses and the inability to consistently best the gentleman who wore the houndstooth checked hat. For LSU, the new Tide coach has had his persona imprinted upon the Red Elephants. They don't want just to beat Bama, they want to beat him. Like it or not, it seems that the new coach is heavily identified with the team at Alabama.
5. With all the hype surrounding this year's Tigers and the expecations to play for the BCS Title, if LSU stumbles (i.e. goes all season without any catastrophic injuries or other mitigating circumstances yet still manages to inexplicably drop a game or two) how will Les Miles be perceived by the LSU fanbase?
On this one I really have to say it depends. If it is a close game to a good opponent, and there is still a MNC at the end of the year, not so bad. However, if there is an absolute failure of the team to show up, like the SEC Championship game in 2005, there could be a lot of grumbling starting. If there is a loss to a team who had a less than .500 record last year, such as MSU or Ole Miss, there will be a run on "House for Sale" signs at Wal-Mart. Said signs would end up in Les Miles' yard, and there would be realtors willing to donate their fees to get him out of town. Top to bottom the SEC is probably the strongest conference in the country, whether or not you like what Miles said about the SEC versus the Pac-10. I may sound like I'm hedging a bit here, but I would not be surprised to see a loss to South Carolina in the mix. Sooner or later some of the cards are going to fall the way of other teams in the close games. If anything, LSU needs to continue what they did to Notre Dame - turn on the afterburners and put them away early.
6. What are your expectations for the coming season, and what's the bare minimum this team must do to have 2007 be considered a success?
Bare minimum to have a successful year- SEC Championship game winner going away. Thsi is absolute bare minimum. My expectations - 1 loss in a tight game to a Top Ten team, then rebounding in the SEC Championship game, then asserting their manhood in the MNC, hopefully against the Trojans. Conquest Chronicles shows that LSU & USC are 1-1 all time against each other. The USC win came after a very controversial blown facemask call in 1979. But, I do give them a lot of credit in that game - it was likely the most hostile environment I ever witnessed in TIger Stadium. That game prompted Brad Budde to say "This place makes Notre Dame look like Romper Room." I guess this means that I expect them to square off against USC in the post season. I also hope that this is the case, so that there's a heck of a lot of fun ribbing between me, Conquest Chronicles, and DCTrojan. But no billboards.