As you've probably come to expect with LSU football under Messrs. Saban-and-Miles, the Tigers enter the 2011 season ranked fourth in the AP and Coaches Polls, and have earned several dark horse votes for a national championship. Always a good bet to finish strong despite being coached by a registered agent of chaos, expect the Tigers' favorable preseason bettors to desert them in the wake of Thursday night's incident at Shady's Bar. (Players out after curfew at Shady's Bar. It's just too easy. The jokes do and have written themselves, as far as that one goes. Moving right along!)
Exactly what transpired in that Baton Rouge parking lot is still almost entirely unsubstantiated, but any episode that begins with a honking truck horn and ends with Jordan Jefferson (very, very allegedly) kicking a United States Marine in the head is bound to end in lively fashion. Any Monday news of real import has, for the moment, been postponed: The players have retained attorneys, and will be interviewed by the police Tuesday. Remaining options at quarterback, should Jefferson be disciplined, are Zach "Banned From Valdosta" Mettenberger and Jarrett "This Face" Lee. The only good news for the LSU faithful today comes in the form of the proffered innocence of T-Bob Hebert, which you have to appreciate, because large boys named T-Bob should always, always be allowed to play football.
And yet I say to you now: Do not abandon hope for a BCS berth for the Tigers. These headlines have only served to lower expectations for the team, and therein lies Les Miles' laughin' place.
High as my affection runs for all things Baton Rouge, I openly ridiculed LSU's lofty top five preseason ranking thanks to the Tigers' existence in an astonishingly deep SEC West, and the unlikelihood that any team would survive that lobster pot unscathed. The Bayou Bengals will play four preseason Top 25 teams without even leaving their own division, to say nothing of a cross-SEC visit from Florida and long trips to face strong squads from Oregon and West Virginia. They must traverse treacherous paths in hostile territories such as Morgantown, Tuscaloosa and Starkville (Dan Mullen's steely glare would like you to stop laughing and just wait; State's not the cakewalk it used to be) to reach one of two coveted January berths just 80 miles away in New Orleans.
But no more. There are few simple truths in college football, but two of them go as follows: Les Miles is a wizard who cannot be killed by garlic, crosses, or silver bullets, and LSU as a program is as unquantifiable as its head coach's offensive prowess. They'll give us a few scares, maybe doze off and put up a poor showing against Northwestern State in Week 2, turn in a soporific offensive performance that'll be blamed on the coordinator shuffle against Kentucky in Week 5. And none of it will matter a bit. There ought to be a mathematical property named after whatever power is going to get the Tigers to 10 wins this year, but somehow, some way, you won't be a bit surprised to see them at least in the Sugar Bowl, will you? Place your money now and call me an oracle when Lee and Stephen Garcia are somehow simultaneously over- and under-throwing receivers in the Georgia Dome come December.