Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans leaps past a fallen teammate as Mississippi defensive back Cody Prewitt tries to during their game on Oct. 6,. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Monday, October 15, 2012 9:33 PM
BATON ROUGE — It was just after midnight — early Sunday morning, actually — before Texas A&M finally held off Louisiana Tech by the moon-shot score of 59-57.
This week, the Aggies can almost go straight from their famed midnight yell practice to the kickoff for a key SEC game against No. 6-ranked LSU.
The Tigers will have a little more of a logistical challenge.
ESPN giveth and the four-letter network taketh away.
Neither school’s fans seem particularly happy about moving the SEC renewal of what was once a long-standing non-conference rivalry to the eye-opening hour of 11 a.m. at Kyle Field in College Station for ESPN.
The LSU team will have an especially early morning, as they’re spending Friday night at a resort on Lake Conroe, a good hour from the stadium.
But head coach Les Miles wasn’t complaining.
“The early morning game, I think we’ll also look forward to that,” he said Monday. “Get in, get it going. We’ll get home (earlier) after the game and maybe watch some SportsCenter.”
Fans are blaming SportsCenter’s parent ESPN, even to the point of a clandestine theory.
The conspiracists say ESPN balked at a 6:30 p.m. start because the game might then draw Texas viewers away sister network ABC’s prime time telecast of the Baylor-Texas game.
CBS, which had first choice with its SEC contract, understandably took this week’s South Carolina-Florida game for its 2:30 p.m. time slot.
That left ESPN to choose between the LSU-Texas A&M and Alabama-Tennessee games for its 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. slots.
The Alabama-Tennessee game got the night billing.
If keeping the Aggies from bumping up against the other big game in Texas this Saturday was just a glimpse behind the scenes into the strictly business world of college telecasts, LSU can take heart that the Tigers have also benefited from the wheeling and dealing.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said that playing a night game in a rocking Tiger Stadium last week contributed greatly to LSU’s 23-21 victory over the then-No. 3 Gamecocks.
That game being at night was a product of the network deal that also will allow LSU to host Alabama at night as it prefers for the Nov. 3 showdown rather than the afternoon CBS time slot.
To get the prime time slot for LSU-Alabama — instead of 2:30 p.m. — CBS had to give up something to ESPN, which normally has the rights on the nighttime spot.
That something was giving ESPN first choice over CBS last week, which is why the latter had to put the less attractive Alabama-Missouri game at 2:30 p.m. Otherwise, CBS surely would have picked LSU-South Carolina as its marquee afternoon game.
At any rate, LSU will have to wake up early on the road this week — a half-hour earlier, even, than the morning games that Tiger fans dread for the SEC Network 11:30 a.m. syndicated games.
“I think our guys will understand that 11 o’clock is plenty,” Miles said. “I think (any time) before that could be a problem. It will be a nice time to roll out and play.”
It won’t be the earliest game LSU has played under Miles.
The Tigers opened the 2008 season against Appalachian State with a 10 a.m. kickoff in Tiger Stadium. But that game, originally scheduled for 4 p.m., was moved up to get it out the way as many in Baton Rouge were evacuating later that afternoon for the approaching Hurricane Gustav. LSU won the battle between the defending FBS and FCS national champions 41-13.
Miles has had three other morning starts at LSU, including last year’s 35-7 victory over Kentucky in Tiger Stadium, and has won them all.
The only other 11 a.m. road game, however, was a 2007 struggle in the Superdome before the eventual national champions finally woke up in the second half to beat Tulane 34-9 (a 40-point favorite, LSU led only 10-9 at the half).
“We’ll examine some of our work schedule and see if we can put them in a position where they’re comfortable there,” Miles said. “I don’t think it’s going to take much.
“Certainly the style of (Texas A&M) will challenge us, and I think we’ll meet that challenge no matter what time we kickoff.”