The Tigers find themselves ranked in the top five in every national poll, even as high as No. 2 in several national surveys. A favorable schedule, an abundance of skill players on offense and a loaded defense all factor into the fact LSU could be playing for the national title come January.
But to assure the Tigers are playing for the nation's top prize come Jan. 7 in the Louisiana Superdome, some things have to happen. We address several of these questions below.
1. Can Les Miles win the big one?
His critics contend he has won with
Nick Saban's talent, but that isn't the case. Les Miles has compiled a 22-4
record in two seasons at LSU. Sure at least half of the players on the Tigers'
roster came to LSU under the Saban regime, Miles and his staff has coached them
the past 26 games and done so brilliantly. Back-to-back, 10-plus win seasons is
a first in the LSU history and impressive blowouts of national powers Miami and
Notre Dame in consecutive bowl games ranks Miles' performance so far among the
best coaching performances in school history. However, missing in the midst of
these 22 victories? A championship. Miles has notched his fair share of "big"
wins: the biggest of the bunch was the Tigers 16-13 overtime upset of No. 3
2. Can the Tigers replace JaMarcus Russell?
Going into the 2006 season, there
were some Tiger fans who weren't sure JaMarcus Russell was the best quarterback
on the LSU football. By the end of the year, the critics had been silenced.
Russell's 332-yard, two touchdown performance against Notre Dame in the Sugar
Bowl not only locked up a 41-14 rout of the Fighting Irish, the dazzling
performance led to Russell supplanting Brady Quinn at the top of the NFL Draft
board. Russell leapfrogged his gold domed counterpart into the top spot in the
3. Can the necessary holes be filled to make a national title run?
Everyone is aware of the gaping
hole under center. Russell leaves quite a vacancy in the shape of 6-5,
260-pounds in the quarterbacks spot. But Flynn is perfectly capable of leading
the Tigers offense. The only thing is can Tiger fans grasp the fact Flynn isn't
nearly the physical specimen, freak of nature that Russell was. Beyond the
quarterback position, LSU lost its two top receivers in Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis. Early Doucet is being touted as a high, first round draft pick and had
Brandon LaFell not been slowed with injury last season, he'd have been more in
the mix in 2006. Brian Johnson and Peter Dyakowski were solid veteran linemen
from a season ago, but the Tigers get preseason all-American Will Arnold back
from an injury. The Tigers also brought in a sluice of freshmen offensive
linemen last year that should be ready to go. On the defensive side of the ball,
it seems almost irrelevant to mention Chase Pittman's departure at defensive
end. While Pittman was a quality player for Bo Pelini's defense last season, the
Tigers have as many as 10 defensive linemen ready to go. The most notable holes
are at the safety spots. Gone is all-American LaRon Landry and three-year
starter at strong safety Jessie Daniels. Craig Steltz split time with Daniels
last season and even started the Sugar Bowl. Landry will be a tough one to
replace, but Curtis Taylor has been chomping at the bit to get in the game. Colt David should provide a solid replacement for Chris Jackson on kickoffs as will
prep standout newcomers Josh Jasper and Andrew Crutchfield. However, it won't be
as easy to replace
4. Can Les Miles keep his feet on the floor instead of in his mouth?
The past seven months have been
dotted with several incidents concerning coach Les Miles and comments he has
made in public forums. Most notably was Miles' slip of the lip at the Bayou
Recruiting Bash last February when he dropped the "F" bomb when talking about
former coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide. He later apologized via
e-mail to the LSU student newspaper. Last season, trailing 10-7 at halftime,
Miles, still upset about a missed call by the official, took out some
frustration on CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson. Following LSU's four-point
win, Miles apologized to reporters in a postgame press conference. In June,
Miles made more than a few remarks about the scheduling of Pac-10 teams, most
notably the USC Trojans, and said "I can tell you this that they (USC) have a
much easier road to travel. 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."
Miles had been criticized early in the 2006 season (following losses at
5. Can LSU beat former coach Nick Saban on Nov. 3?
Is there any doubt this is the most
anticipated game in decades by LSU fans? The Tigers have played in some big
games over the past seven or so seasons, the reason – Nick Saban, of course?
With Saban now on the opposing sideline wearing crimson, Tiger fans are seeing
red! Miles has a far superior team talent-wise and should handle the ex-LSU boss
in the first meeting between the two coaches.