Miles, Saban talk about Saturday’s LSU-Alabama game

Alabama coach Nick Saban, left, and LSU’s Les Miles

In preparation for Saturday’s showdown against No. 1-ranked Alabama, LSU coach Les Miles said technique is the key for the No. 5 Tigers to pull out the victory.

“We talk about this being a technical game,” Miles said during Wednesday’s SEC coaches’ teleconference. “We’re working on our technique and the things that make each player better.

“There’s no edge to this game. You have to earn everything you get.”

While many of his players have talked about looking back to LSU’s 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game as motivation, Miles said he’s looking forward.

“I recognize that’s a history some guys on our team carry with them,” Miles said. “But that’s a last-year issue. We have a lot of new guys playing on both sides of the ball. This will be a different LSU team and we look forward to playing well.”

Miles said “all hands” were at practice Tuesday, indicating that guard Josh Williford was among them. Williford has not played since suffering a concussion Oct. 6 at Florida, but Miles said Monday he expect him to be available against Alabama.

Miles also had praise for freshman running back Jeremy Hill, who he said has picked up the college game faster than most freshmen. Hill has led LSU in rushing the last two games with 124 and 127 yards, respectively.

“You really wonder how quickly he will emerge,” Miles said. “Jeremy picked up the offense quickly and has a high football IQ.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban, who spoke later in the teleconference, also had high marks for LSU’s stable of backs: Hill, Michael Ford, Spencer Ware and Kenny Hilliard. He said the Tigers probably possess the most physical ground game Alabama will have played this year.

“They’ve played four guys very successfully and in their own ways they’re all very good players,” said Saban, who turned 61 Wednesday. “Physical, tough, fast. I think the quality of all those guys makes it really difficult.”

Well versed as he is in Tiger Stadium’s famous atmosphere as LSU’s former coach, Saban was asked about what he thought it would be like for Saturday’s game.

While Saban said it will be a difficult place to play, he stressed that it is LSU’s players that will make Tiger Stadium a test moreso than Tiger fans.

“We’ve played in Tiger Stadium before and we know it’s a difficult place to play like most places,” said Saban, Miles’ predecessor from 2000-04. “They’ve got enough good players out there that it will take our best effort to play well against them.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Saturday on CBS, the second straight year the LSU-Alabama game has been shown in prime time.

In-game chat during the Alabama at LSU football game

LSU football chat with Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais

Football chat with WBRZ sports director Michael Cauble

Tigers need help from the team they love to hate

If you’re an LSU, fan you should consider cheering up Lane Kiffin with a cookie bouquet, or sending Matt Barkley a “hang in there” tweet.

If you think LSU still has a shot at playing for the national championship, the Tigers will need help in a big way from the team Tiger fans love to hate the most – next to Alabama.

Despite being “buried” at No. 5 in this week’s BCS standings behind four undefeated teams – Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon – the Fighting Tigers still have a fighting chance at playing in the BCS National Championship Game.

Those hopes hinge on two key things:

1. Running the table, which means beating No. 1 Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas and now probably Georgia in the SEC Championship Game

2. Getting an double helping of an assist from Southern California.

USC dropped to 6-2 Saturday with a 39-36 loss at Arizona, and has hardly looked the part of a preseason No. 1 team on the road as it has in losses to the Wildcats and earlier this season at Stanford.

But the Trojans are better at home, and that is where they will have No. 4 Oregon this Saturday and No. 3 Notre Dame to wrap up the regular season on Nov. 24.

USC may look a bit shaky at the moment, but it still has the superb pass-and-catch combo of Matt Barkley and Marqise Lee, and still has a lot to play for itself. It can win the Pac-12 South and still go to the Rose Bowl. And of course beating Notre Dame is always an added bonus.

LSU fans love to cheer loudly in Tiger Stadium when the Trojans lose, but they’ll need to be cheering them on this Saturday night if they want to enhance their team’s chances of reaching the BCS top two.

Of course, beating Alabama is the top and toughest priority. LSU is a 9.5-point underdog against the Crimson Tide, a huge number for a home team that has won an NCAA-best 22 straight home games (longest active streak).

If LSU doesn’t win, it doesn’t matter one bit what USC does against the Ducks and the Irish. The big point spread speaks to the excellence with which Alabama has played this season and LSU’s offensive struggles.

It will be a difficult task for LSU, though not impossible, especially with the home crowd on its side.

ESPN going ‘inside’ LSU Tuesday

ESPN will go “Inside the Program” Tuesday with the LSU football team as the Tigers continue their preparations for Alabama.

ESPN sideline reporter Jenn Brown will conduct interviews with Miles, defensive coordinator John Chavis, Mettenberger, defensive end Barkevious Mingo and safety Eric Reid.

Tuesday’s schedule is just part of ESPN’s blanket coverage of the LSU-Alabama game.

ESPN’s “College GameDay” TV show will air live from LSU’s campus Saturday morning, while the “College GameDay” radio show will broadcast nearby.

ESPN the Magazine is also devoting an entire upcoming issue to the LSU-Alabama game.

The ESPN schedule Tuesday is as follows:

7 a.m.: Brown rides to work with Miles
8 a.m.: Brown live open for SportsCenter
9 a.m.: Miles interview (live)
10 a.m.: Chavis interview (live)
11 a.m.: Mettenberger interview (live)
Noon: Brown tour of LSU football operations building
1 p.m.: Mingo and Reid interview (live)
1:25 p.m.: Mingo and Reid (ESPNU)
2 p.m.: Brown on SportsCenter (Live)
2:30 p.m.: Brown on College Football Live


Six-day hold on LSU-Miss. State game

CBS has exercised a six-day option on next Saturday’s LSU-Mississippi State game in Tiger Stadium, LSU announced Monday.

That means the LSU-State game will either be at 2:30 p.m. on CBS or at night on ESPN. The other game being considered by CBS is Texas A&M at Alabama.

CBS did pick Arkansas at South Carolina for the first half of a doubleheader on Nov. 10, set for 11 a.m. There is also a pair of games on the SEC Network kicking off at 11:21 a.m., with Louisiana-Lafayette at Florida and Missouri at Tennessee.

Here’s the SEC TV schedule for Nov. 10:

  • Arkansas at South Carolina, 11 a.m. (CBS)
  • Louisiana-Lafayette at Florida, 11:21 a.m. (SEC Network)
  • Missouri at Tennessee, 11:21 a.m. (SEC Network)
  • Georgia at Auburn, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Vanderbilt at Ole Miss, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)


LSU football chat with Advocate sportswriter Les East

LSU AD Joe Alleva issues apology for crosses removed from photo of Tiger fans

In a letter posted on LSU’s athletic website Wednesday, athletic director Joe Alleva apologized for the decision to edit crosses painted on a group of LSU students out of a recent promotional photo the university sent out.

The altered photo of the “Painted Posse” made national headlines and has earned widespread criticism for LSU. Each of the four young men in the photo had their bodies painted yellow with a purple cross painted near their left shoulders that was edited out.

Alleva said the university would not attempt to edit photos in a similar fashion in the future.

Here is the text of Alleva’s letter regarding the photograph:

“On occasion after a football game, we will send out a promotional email to fans asking for feedback on their experience in Tiger Stadium.  LSU recently gained media attention for a photo that accompanied one of those promotional emails sent after the South Carolina game.

“A photo was used of a group of young men called the “Painted Posse.”  They paint themselves purple and gold and play a significant role in the energy in the student section.  They also paint crosses on their shoulders as an expression of their religious beliefs.

“As a public institution, we are careful not to imply endorsement of any particular religious belief, but a mistake was made in editing the crosses out of the photo before sending it out as part of the promotional photo.

“We apologize for making this edit and in the future we will not make this kind of edit.  This was an error in judgment and we have communicated our apologies to the group of young men represented in the photo whose school spirit is second to none.”

Members of the Painted Posse issued a statement Tuesday asking that people wear crosses Nov. 3, the date of the LSU-Alabama game, though the statement does not specifically ask people to wear crosses to the game.

Alleva’s letter also urges fans to arrive early on campus and to carpool when possible for the Alabama game, and that LSU will continue to fight for what is “best for LSU” in terms of football scheduling.

On Oct. 18 the SEC released its 2013 football schedule, which for LSU includes a road game at Georgia and a home game against Florida, the Tigers’ permanent SEC East opponent. Meanwhile Alabama, which is again likely to be LSU’s chief rival in the SEC West, hosts Tennessee and plays at Kentucky, teams that are currently a combined 0-9 in SEC play.

“We don’t know what SEC scheduling will look like from 2014 and beyond,” Alleva said.  “LSU will always fight for what is best for LSU, but ultimately we are but one vote among 14 in determining what is best for the SEC.”



Les Miles: LSU addressing passing issues during open date week

By Les East, Advocate sportswriter

LSU has time during this week’s open date to scout itself and break tendencies that might have become apparent to opponents during the first eight games of the season.

One tendency the Tigers surely want to break is their tendency to be inconsistent if not ineffective in the passing game. They passed for a season-low 97 yards (completing 11-of-29) passes in a 24-19 victory at Texas A&M last Saturday.

“It’s a point where we really need to execute better and continue to practice it and grow it,” Miles said Wednesday morning during the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. “We know we can make the very effective deep throws and the intermediate throws and the throws to move the chains.”

LSU threw several deep passes against the Aggies, but didn’t connect. Its longest completion was a 29-yard touchdown from Zach Mettenberger to Kadron Boone, which gave the Tigers a 14-12 halftime lead.

“If we’re going to progress there can’t be a short commitment to it,” Miles said. “We’re going to have to throw the football. We’re doing that aggressively this week. If we hit three deep balls in that game it’s a completely different game. We recognize it. We’re going to continue to press it, coach it with time and effort and energy with the team. We’re looking to coach it to that effect.”

Miles said he sees progress from Mettenberger, a first-year starter, despite the inconsistency in the passing game.

“I see him coming and progressing,” Miles said. “I think he was smart with the ball in that game more than in the past. I expect him to continue to develop. It’s his first year starting, his first series of big games in a row. It’s the first time he’s lining up in Tiger Stadium again and again and again. I see some growth there.

“I don’t know if you can necessarily put all the passing woes on the quarterback. Some balls were pretty well thrown.”

LSU is practicing three times this week before returning to a game-week routine on Monday to prepare for No. 1 Alabama, which visits Tiger Stadium on Nov. 3.

Miles said the Tigers are mostly practicing “LSU versus LSU” this week and “we’ll save next week for the game plan.”

The Crimson Tide plays host to No. 13 Mississippi State on Saturday in a game that matches the last two unbeaten teams in the SEC West Division.

“They look like the Alabama teams we’ve played in the past, I promise,” Miles said.

He added that he’ll watch the Alabama-State game on TV and maybe even jot down a couple of notes if he sees something he wants to emphasize when he looks at the coaches tape of the game later.

The anticipation for the Tigers’ third game against the Tide in 12 months will surely build until kickoff.

“I think our guys translate that pretty effectively,” Miles said. “They realize this is about what goes on inside the lines in those 100 yards and what you’re asked to do by your team. It cannot take on more than that.”