SEASON OVERVIEW: How will you recall 2006?

Les Miles will always have his skeptics. There are some fans who still aren't sold on the second year head coach.

There are those who still long for Miles' predecessor – Nick Saban – and the accomplishments he achieved at LSU during his five-year stay in Baton Rouge.

 

But it is hard to argue with what Miles has gotten done in the capital city the last two seasons.

 

Heading into the second straight bowl game under Miles' watch, the second year head coach holds a 21-4 record overall, a 13-3 record in SEC play and back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in the program's history. Plus, he has LSU poised for back-to-back top five finishes in the final polls for the first time since the 1958 and 1959 seasons.

 

Miles' list of achievements at LSU is long and distinguished. To that list he has now added the Tigers' first BCS bowl game appearance in three seasons. However, the 2006 football campaign will most likely be viewed as a season "that could have been."

 

LSU opened the year being touted as the most talented team in America. Ranked No. 8 in the initial preseason poll, Tiger fans knew this could be a special team. But standing in its way was a brutal road schedule.

 

At Auburn.

 

At Florida.

 

At Tennessee.

 

At Arkansas.

 

No one could have imagined just how difficult that road slate would play out to be.

 

At the time LSU eventually played each team, all four would be ranked in the top eight in the nation, three of which (Auburn, Florida, Arkansas) would be ranked in the top five.

 

And if the quality of the team wasn't enough, the opposing venues ranked among the best in the nation. Jordan-Hare Stadium, The Swamp, Neyland Stadium, War Memorial – all regarded as some of the most intimidating settings in all of college football.

 

With early losses at Auburn and against the Gators, the Tigers were all but out of the SEC Championship race after the sixth week of the season. However, Miles' team never gave in and battled back to win its last six straight games.

 

By season's end, the Tigers picked up wins at No. 8 Tennessee and against the SEC title game bound Arkansas Razorbacks landing in the nation's top five. Although those same Hogs got to play Florida for the whole ball of wax the next week, LSU was sitting pretty with a No. 5 ranking the BCS standings.

 

Excitement built as LSU was poised to make its first-ever appearance in the Rose Bowl as a BCS at-large selection. But USC's loss to UCLA on the last day of the season sent the Trojans to the "Granddaddy of Them All." LSU had to settle for a Sugar Bowl date with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

 

While some Tiger fans will always view 2006 as a season of missed opportunities, it will go down one of the most memorable and most successful in the program's history. The second season of Miles' tenure in Baton Rouge will go along way in terms of the continued growth and future success of the LSU football program.


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