Tigers taking top ranking in stride

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2005

It’s not like they were chanting “We’re No. 1!” around the LSU football complex Monday.

Head coach Les Miles even tried to fend off the speculation it might happen immediately after the Tigers’ 47-21 victory Saturday night against West Virginia.

But now that the deed is done, and the Tigers have indeed leapfrogged Oklahoma for the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press writers’ poll, LSU will try to make the best of it.

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“To be honest, we take it as a compliment to the program and to this team,” Miles said Monday.

Does the team embrace the ranking?

“I enjoy the position,” Miles said. “I think we will try to play to that. It is a position that allows a college-aged man to go to bed and wake up with the thought that there might be a special spot for this.”

Miles, unlike some coaches sticking to the one-game-at-a-time dogma, has made no secret from the start that the BCS championship game being in New Orleans this season makes for a convenient ultimate goal for this team.

But Miles was quick to point out the season is young and there is still much to accomplish.

“It is not a final achievement or the spot that we’ve earned at the end of the season,” Miles said. “It is a compliment to the work they’ve done. I think we’ll try to play to the eventually.”

The voters were likely swayed by LSU’s three victories against teams ranked at the time, all of them away from home. No other school in the country has even played three ranked teams.

Miles isn’t sure it made the Tigers No. 1. But he knows it made them a better team.

“It is interesting to start the season three of four weeks on the road,” he said. “You understand the road regimen, what you are supposed to do and how to play in close quarters.

“I think we’ve got a real strong team identity (because of it).”

Asked what has made his team so good on the road, Miles was blunt.

“They are a damn good football team,” he said. “That is what makes them a good road team. I think our team is a confident and good football team.”

But he’s also realistic.

“I know that we haven’t arrived and our team understands that we are imperfect in a number of ways,” Miles said. “We’re going to keep preparing with the idea that maybe we can get there. The best way to do that is to prepare this week.”

LSU has been here before. Twice during the 2007 regular season the Tigers were voted No. 1. They ended that season No. 1 as well, but not before getting a lot of fortunate breaks that put them in the BCS championship game after twice losing the No. 1 ranking during the regular season.

Oddly, one of the teams that knocked the Tigers off the top perch was this week’s opponent, Kentucky.

The Wildcats, who visit Tiger Stadium for Saturday’s 11:20 a.m. kickoff, won a wild 43-37 triple-overtime thriller in Lexington the week after LSU was named No. 1 in both polls.

“It humbled a very talented team,” Miles said. “We recognize that a talented team being named No. 1 (in 2007) didn’t necessarily fare too well the next week.”

But he said the team doesn’t feel any extra pressure, nor does if feel like it has a No. 1 stamp on its back — at least no more so than the last two games where the Tigers came away from ultra-hostile environments with comfortable victories.

“Every time LSU comes to play, someone is going to try to beat you and they are going to give you their best effort,” he said. “We don’t feel that it is an extra burden. We’re not going to wear an extra target.

“Our guys embrace that.”

Lee agreed.

“We know we’ll be getting everybody’s best shots,” the Tiger quarterback said. “We know we’ll get everybody’s ‘A’ game. We’ve got to go in and not worry about being No. 1 and just play our ball.”