Impact of bowl season far-reaching for LSU

The Tigers know there's a lot on the line over the next three weeks, more than just preparing for Notre Dame in Nashville.

There's no rocket science needed to figure out that winning a bowl game carries with it a plethora of benefits heading into the offseason for a program.

One of the best examples from an LSU perspective remains the Tigers' resounding 41-24 victory over Texas A&M in the 2011 Cotton Bowl, capping off an 11-2 run through the 2010 season, and all the spoils that came with that triumph.

In the months that followed that bowl win over the Aggies, LSU solidified a consensus top-10 recruiting class, continued to prepare underclassmen who had played but would soon grow into even bigger roles, and ultimately formed into a squad that took the SEC by hostage for 13 games, authoring the best regular season in program history.

Think Uncle Mo played any part in that?

Of course it did. And with many of the same coaches in place from four years ago, namely Les Miles at the top, LSU is keenly aware of the ramifications of the next few weeks.

It's about more than preparing to beat Notre Dame in Nashville on Dec. 30 in the Music City Bowl. It's about setting the tone for an offseason that again could lead to a special Tiger team.

"We need as many practices as we can with a youthful team," Miles told the media Sunday afternoon. "We need to grow them up. We look forward to a number of practices in preparation for this bowl. We’ll practice that second-team extensively, getting them prepared not only for this game but for the future."

LSU, at the beginning of exam week, will get back to work on the Ponderosa next Monday and toil through the morning of Dec. 27, when the Tigers will depart for Nashville following a morning practice.

Among the biggest areas where the Tigers will work in the second unit is the offensive line. LSU will lose at a minimum two starters in seniors La'el Collins, left tackle, and Elliott Porter, center. But the possibility lingers that one or both of the duo of Vadal Alexander, left guard, and Jerald Hawkins, right tackle, could depart as well.

With that kind of shakeup in a critical place, Miles and the coaching staff will not only be looking for future starters but teaching those players how to prepare when a lot is at stake.

"This is an experience that allows us to go into bowl season with a youthful team and understand what it is that LSU’s bowl responsibility is," continued Miles, "which is to prepare well and be very competitive in that game."

Of course the position most are concerned with is quarterback.

Miles confirmed that bowl practices will enable Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris to resume competition under center, something that for all intents and purposes came to a halt following Harris' struggles in his lone start of the season, a 41-7 loss at Auburn on Oct. 4.

"Absolutely it is (a time for QB competition)," responded Miles. "It’s that time you continue to compete, continue to press your quarterbacks to do the things we ask them to do. If they have designs on being a leader of this team and being that quarterback (of the future), this will be a very competitive time, even before the game."

Sophomore defensive tackle Christian Lacouture witnessed the juice that beating Iowa gave LSU heading into last offseason, and he feels that same sensation is possible, if not more amplified, with a bowl win over a program the stature of Notre Dame.

"It’s huge. We saw it last year," recalled LaCouture. "Guys now are full of energy, ready to get back out on the field and play another game and we’re only two weeks out of the season. So it’s something that gives you great joy, things that you’re excited to do and go out and play with your teammates.

"Getting a win is just something that makes you happy going into the offseason and you want to get more even right after the game."

LSU will be looking to get more than just happy. The Tigers will be looking to get ready for a 2015 season when 8-4 should be a distant memory.

Check out more of what LaCouture had to say about the matchup with Notre Dame, LSU's version of Rudy (and how it's not walkon Luke Boyd, an active duty Marine) and the similarities between Irish QB Everett Golson and Auburn's Nick Marshall.

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