MULE': Miles inserts foot into mouth

Whew. For a few minutes there, it seemed as if we'd taken a wrong turn.

All that was missing was cigarette smoke and drinks. From the tone of the conversation it was as if we walked into one of those old-time TigerTown watering holes where loud voices armed with half the facts would give expert opinions culled from juvenile reasoning.


Gobbledygook, in other words.


Except this was a luncheon at a respectable restaurant, and the voice belonged to a person who should have all the facts – LSU coach Les Miles.


There was something very unseemly hearing a college football coach publicly dissing another program's schedule, as Miles was doing to Southern Cal, the preseason favorite to win the national championship, and its conference, the Pac-10. He sounded a lot like a fan discussing football over beers.


"I can tell you this,'' Miles told a press gathering, "that they have a much easier road to travel,'' Miles said of USC. "They're going to play real knockdown drag-outs with UCLA and Washington, Cal-Berkely, Stanford – some real juggernauts – and they're going to end up, it would be my guess, in some position so if they win a game or two, that they'll end up in the title (game). I would like that path for us.''


Oh, really.


Of course, what Miles was whining about – or crowing about, depending on the point of view – is the SEC, where his team competes, has more strong teams than the Pac-10 - which is true. But not so much that USC can't be tested.


Look, that's what a program buys into a league – to compete with its members. The SEC is powerful right now, but there have been years when it was not as good. There have been times when the Pac-10 was better. There were many years when USC was going against great teams at UCLA or Washington, and there were some years when the SEC was pretty much a one-trick pony named Alabama.


Even now, with the SEC at its zenith, not everyone is especially feared. On a season-in, season-out basis, a third of the league are generally considered weak sisters. It's been a long time since schools like Ole Miss, Miss. State, Kentucky or Vanderbilt were thought of in the preseason as title-contenders. Note, with shaking knees, that two of those teams are regular LSU opponents, and that Miles will send his Tigers against three this fall.


Also note that LSU will also line up against Middle Tennessee State, Louisiana Tech and, in its strongest non-conference road game, Tulane.


Yeah, I'd say Miles should be scared from now through Jan. 7, when the national championship will be contested, hopefully against those pretenders from Troy. In the same vein, USC doesn't get points for its opening game against lightweight Idaho. But, rememeber, Idaho beat Louisiana Tech last season, 24-14.


Notre Dame may not be the program it once was – when year after year the Irish were always one of the very best, if not the best, college football team in America. USC played them annually, just as they will play the Irish in South Bend this year. Compare that to playing the Green Wave in New Orleans. Also remember the Trojans also go on the road to Lincoln to play Big 12 divisional champ Nebraska. Don't see any kind of defending champs on LSU's non-conference schedule.


Miles also seemed piqued that the winners of the two SEC divisions have to play the conference championship game, giving anyone who doesn't a postseason advantage. Maybe. Maybe not.


First of all, in order to have a championship game approved, the league needs to have 12 teams. Second of all, the Pac-10 doesn't need a title game. Everyone in that league already plays everyone else every year, a total of nine conference opponents – same as the SEC champion will have played. The Pac-10 champ has already proved itself at the end of the regular season, and can't avoid some of the stronger members of its own league – like in the years LSU doesn't play Georgia or Tennessee.


Remember, even though they were all at SEC schools, Tiger fans never got to see LSU play against Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson or Peyton Manning.


According to recent rankings, the schedules of every Division I-A schedule were compared - USC finished eighth; LSU was 18th.


Miles seems embarrassingly oblivious to some of those little facts.




Marty Mule' can be reached at

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