Miles: "Never Gave Up On Championship Hopes"

Les Miles said he never gave up national-championship hope after LSU lost to Arkansas.

He said he told the Tigers "if they could get me to the podium after a victorious event in Atlanta that I would do my best to tell the country how good we are."

And so they did, beating Tennessee to win the SEC Championship Game. Miles stumped for LSU, the voters responded, and now LSU is playing Ohio State for the BCS crown.

But Miles knows how unlikely it was.

"How it unfolded could not have been scripted," Miles said Sunday night almost two hours after he and his team watched the Fox Sports broadcast that revealed the BCS field.

The second-ranked Tigers (11-2) play top-ranked Ohio State (11-1), the team Miles adored as a young boy before he went to play for the Buckeyes' arch-rival Michigan.

"We're excited and honored and play a great Ohio team," Miles said. "They're talented, well-coached and we look forward to playing our best."

He acknowledged that having more than a month off till the January 7, 2008 meeting in the Louisiana Superdome will help his banged-up Tigers.

Miles thought his team, ranked seventh before the weekend, would leapfrog fourth-ranked Georgia, which was regarded as the hottest team in the SEC but didn't win the Eastern Division.

"The idea that we won our conference championship against Tennessee, and that Tennessee was one of the teams that beat Georgia as well as South Carolina, who was on our schedule who we beat, I really thought we had a chance to get to that (championship) game."

Miles is 33-6 as he enters the last game of his third season at LSU. Sunday night's activities capped an unforgettable day and a half for him and the team, a time that included Miles' hastily called news conference barely two hours before the SEC title game to clarify, rather defiantly, that he wasn't leaving for Michigan.

Then LSU got the breaks it needed, when Pitt upset No. 2 West Virginia – "shocked me," Miles said – and Oklahoma defeated No. 1 Missouri.

"I've been doing this for 45 years, athletics, and this is the most astonishing 36 or 48 or 72 hours that I've ever seen," LSU athletic director Skip Bertman said. "Plus it turned out to be magnificent for LSU. Not only do we keep the coach, but we get a chance at the national championship"

Miles, however, wasn't looking back at the Michigan wooing but rather ahead to playing Ohio State. First, he said, the Tigers would take some time off without pads and footballs. The healthy players will begin running, while the injured with work out on elliptical machines and the like. Miles said he didn't have a practice timetable as of Sunday night, because he admitted he didn't know that his team would be playing a week later than everyone else.

After all, LSU is the first two-loss team playing in the BCS title tilt.

"I think this has been great college football," Miles said of the most unpredictable season ever. "From the beginning to the end every week had a story, a game where injury was at risk, and teams had to overcome adversity, exhaustion, fatigue, pain and play well enough to win. I think it's the greatest game in America and when you get to the back end of it, next year it might be a three-loss or four-loss team that gets in."

LSU lost both of its game in three overtimes and on each occasion it was ranked No. 1. It started the season ranked No. 2, a spot it gladly holds again when it matters. Whereas Miles claims he felt LSU had won titles in his first two years – the SEC West and two bowl games – this is rarified air.

"The national championship is a hold different bird," Miles said. "Very rarely do you have a chance to win one of those games. They hold it only once every year and you have to be fortunate to be in it."

But don't expect to see him get nuts about it.

"I routinely say 'Yahoo,' I dance without prompting, and look forward to getting up in the morning and preparing. And that's the truth."

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Miles said he hopes former LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini will rejoin the Tigers later in the month after he settles in as head coach at Nebraska and a recruiting dead period begins.

"I think Bo will coach in the game. We talked about it on the plane ride home (from Atlanta)" Miles said. "It would probably do him some good as well as Nebraska. He is a part of our team. He was with us from the start and our players enjoy him and our coaches enjoy him and we would want to give him that opportunity."


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