Embracing No. 1, but not overwhelmed

Unbeaten and road-tested Tigers like the challenge of sitting atop the Associated Press poll for the first time since the 2007 regular season

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By now it's old news that LSU has scaled to the No. 1 spot in one of the major polls.

But it's not old hat to the Tigers players and one challenge this week and moving forward will be how LSU handles the new bull's-eye on its back.

LSU coach Les Miles did his best to downplay the ranking. He's been here before, of course, at almost the exact same point of the 2007 season.

"I have to be honest, we take it as a compliment to the program and to this team," Miles said. "We don't feel that it's an extra burden or target on our back. Every time LSU comes to play, someone is going to try to beat you and they are going to give you their best effort. We're not going to wear an extra target. It's going to be the same."

For the most part, the Tigers players stuck to the same mantra Monday when they met the media for the first time since the new polls came out.

They said it was a topic of conversation Sunday when the news surfaced and several mentioned hearing about it on campus Monday.

A handful of LSU veterans were around in 2007 true freshmen on their way to redshirts.

Back then it was "pretty cool" to hear about being No. 1, quarterback Jarrett Lee said.

"As a young guy who wasn't playing yet, it was pretty cool," Lee said. "A lot of people calling you from back home and asking about it.

"Now as a player, it's a little different. You've got to understand it's an honor to be there. You look forward to being the top team when you prepare so hard and work so hard. We've got to put that to the perimeter because we know in this league, anybody can knock you off."

Michael Ford was a high school junior in Leesville the last time the Tigers vaulted to the top of the polls – one of the state's top running backs who had his heart set on wearing purple-and-gold.

"It did strike a chord back then because I wanted to come here," he said. "Being here right now, you have to grow up. You have to be humble and stay level-headed and not pay any attention to that."

For Brad Wing, this No. 1 stuff is a little foreign.

But it has elevated his status a bit back in his native Australia.

The LSU punter said friends of his brother in Melbourne don't differentiate between the NFL and college football, so they assume he's a professional across the pond.

"They didn't really understand, but as the weeks and months go on, and now that we have that No. 1 ranking, they've figured out it's a pretty big deal," Wing said. "They all think I'm playing in the NFL, so I just tell them ‘Yeah, that's right' and go along with it."

That's exactly how Miles wants his team to approach the newest feather in its collective cap.

When he had been asked about being No. 1 after wins against Oregon and West Virginia, Miles deflected the notion, saying where the Tigers finish the season is more important than where they're ranked now.

After a spectacular September run with three victories against ranked teams away from Baton Rouge, though, Miles seems comfortable with the lofty designation.

And since this isn't his first rodeo as the top-ranked team, he also seems better equipped to guide his team through the process – starting this week when Kentucky (2-2, 0-1) visits Tiger Stadium.

"I went through the learning process a little bit (in 2007)," Miles said. "We hold a spot in college football today. It's not a final achievement or the spot that we've earned at the end of the season. It's a compliment to the work they're done. I think we'll try to play to the eventuality."

The Wildcats know a little about playing – and beating a No. 1-ranked foe.

The last time they played one also happens to be the last time LSU climbed to the top of the heap during the regular season and that result was 43-37 triple-overtime win by UK in Lexington.

This week marks the third time the Wildcats meet a top-ranked Tigers team and will be UK's 13th game vs. No. 1 and the third time in five years they've the assignment. The 'Cats are 3-9 in the previous outings.


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