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Rabalais: Hard to imagine LSU football 'could be any richer' heading into next season

Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith pressures Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II during the Texas Bowl on Dec. 29 in Houston. Beckwith is among 18 starters returning to the Tigers for next season.

This better be good. With middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith and safety Tre’Davious White deciding to return to LSU for their senior seasons, it’s hard to imagine the Tigers could be any richer heading into the 2016 season unless they’d nabbed a piece of that mega Powerball prize last week. Their return means LSU has 18 starters… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Tigers predictably unpredictable in win over Arkansas — but awfully fun to watch

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- From left, LSU forward Brian Bridgewater (20), LSU forward Aaron Epps (21), LSU center Elbert Robinson III (3), LSU guard Keith Hornsby (4), and LSU center Darcy Malone (22) celebrate after LSU forward Craig Victor II (32) scored the game winning goal against Arkansas, Saturday, January 16, 2016, at LSU's PMAC in Baton Rouge, La.

I think I may finally have this LSU basketball team figured out. The Tigers need to turn the ball over to gain possession. They need their best player to have what he called his worst game (though he still finished with a double-double). And they need to play a cold-fish first half devoid of intensity… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Four questions about the future of the CFP final four

Associated Press photo by Morry Gash -- Alabama coach Nick Saban added to his collection of national championship trophies with his fifth tile Monday night after the TIde beat Clemson 45-40 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A final four of sun-drenched questions in the wake of Monday night’s CFP National Championship Game: 1. Is the SEC is back on top? Sort of. After a two-year championship “drought,” Alabama’s pulsating 45-40 victory over Clemson gives the Southeastern Conference its eighth national championship… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Alabama didn’t roll to this win over Clemson, which had to make it even sweeter

Alabama running back Derrick Henry (2) breaks free for a touchdown as quarterback Jake Coker (14) celebrates during the first half of the Playoff Championship NCAA football game against Clemson, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Glendale, AZ. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Deshaun Watson ran evasive maneuvers and threw pinpoint passes to someone named Hunter Renfrow. Derrick Henry just ran and ran in his steamroller way, while Jake Coker rained bombs out of the sky on the Clemson defense. In a bowl season filled with duds and routs,… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: With a shot at yet another national title, Nick Saban is unquestionably college football’s best — and maybe the best ever

Alabama head coach Nick Saban speaks during a news conference for the NCAA college football playoff championship game Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

If you coach Alabama to a national championship, you get a statue outside Bryant-Denny Stadium. Even if it’s a lame national championship, like the one Alabama claims in 1941 from something called the Houlgate System for a Frank Thomas team that went 9-2 and finished No. 20 in the AP poll. Oh,… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: There’s positively no doubt — Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is one upbeat coach, and it’s no act

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney listens to a question during media day for the NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship in Phoenix, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016. Clemson will face Alabama in Monday's game. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The constant, upbeat intensity. The homespun catchphrases, like “B.Y.O.G.” — which stands for “Bring Your Own Guts.” (T-shirts are available.) The locker-room dance craze that’s sweeping the nation known as “The Dab” — not actually named for him, but he has made it so popular he probably could lay claim. Or admit responsibility.… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: As LSU’s defense goes modern under new coordinator Dave Aranda, it’s up to Les Miles to modernize the offense, too

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- LSU football coach Les Miles, center, answers media questions following a news conference introducing new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.

Taken simply on the merits of trying to get the best person for the job, LSU’s hiring of Dave Aranda to be its new defensive coordinator is significant enough. If Aranda didn’t trade Wisconsin red for LSU purple and gold — and the green of a three-year contract that will reportedly pay him $1.3 million next season… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: As Ole Miss cruises to a Sugar Bowl rout, it’s clear the SEC is flexing its muscle again

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Mississippi Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10), center, and Mississippi Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze celebrate their victory against the Oklahoma State Cowboys next Carey Wick, left, during the Sugar Bowl in the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Friday, Jan. 1, 2016.

The Ole Miss faithful who encircled roughly two-thirds of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on New Year’s night cleared their throats and sang along lustily as the school’s band belted out a brassy “Battle Hymn of the Republic” before the Sugar Bowl kicked off. Glory, glory, hallelujah, indeed. This time last year, the SEC’s bowl reputation was in… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: In season marked by wrong turns, LSU finishes right way vs. Texas Tech, has much work ahead for 2016

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette holds his MVP trophy as head coach Les Miles is interviewed before presentation of the bowl trophy, after the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl on Tuesday. LSU won 56-27.

It was finesse against force, razzle-dazzle against relentless pressure, sleight of hand against size and strength. You knew coming in that this Texas Bowl between LSU and Texas Tech would be a captivating contrast in styles. But, given the way this season has gone for the Tigers, you just didn’t know… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Texas Tech, LSU ready for lift-off in explosive Texas Bowl

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU tight end Foster Moreau (84) celebrates the 50-yard touchdown catch by LSU wide receiver Malachi Dupre (15) during the first half Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in Tiger Stadium. LSU won 35-28.

HOUSTON — We are go for launch. For a month now there’s been a hold in the count as LSU and Texas Tech, two programs from bordering states who have completely missed each other on the football field for nearly 60 years, got ready to light the candle in the Texas Bowl. Candle? More like Roman candle. The… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Believe it or not, LSU’s crazy football season had plenty to be joyful about

Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette breaks free from South Carolina pursuit on Oct. 10. LSU's hospitality to the Gamecocks and their fans in the wake of severe flooding, as well as Fournette's nation-leading 158.3 rushing yards per game, were among the highlights of the Tigers' season.

Even by LSU standards, 2015 has been a crazy, tumultuous year for LSU football. Cam Cameron recovering from prostate cancer this summer. Les Miles getting rushed to the hospital the Monday before the McNeese State opener, then no McNeese State opener at all in the first LSU football game canceled since 1918. Moving the… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: After another disappointing loss, is it time to start wondering about Sean Payton’s future with the Saints?

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton watches time wind down against the Detroit Lions in the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Monday, Dec. 21, 2015.

A comedy of Saintly errors erased a New Orleans touchdown just before halftime. Only the Saints, it would seem, could get in the end zone three times and come up empty. About half the fans in the already three-fourths-full Mercedes-Benz Superdome decided they had enough, or perhaps remembered they had some Christmas shopping left to do,… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Welcome to The Hitter’s House, the latest jewel in Marucci Sports’ growing empire

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- From left, former LSU Tigers Alex Bregman and Aaron Hill join former coach and athletic director Skip Bertman, Friday, December 18, 2015, during the grand opening of the Hitter's House, a Marucci Sports facility, off of Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge, La.

When Kurt Ainsworth was working his way up through Baton Rouge’s youth baseball ranks, on his way to LSU stardom and an Olympic gold medal and the major leagues, he and other local youngsters had Skip Bertman’s Grand Slam when they needed to go work out in a climate-controlled setting. The Bertman-owned facility was in the Industriplex area… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Past few weeks 'embarrassing' for LSU, Texas A&M; Les Miles appears 'elevated'

Associated Press photo by JONATHAN BACHMAN -- LSU coach Les Miles greets Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis, who had been LSU's defensive coordinator, before the Tigers and Aggies played Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

Let’s agree to say that LSU and Texas A&M have had better public relations days than Thursday. LSU had to admit in court that it altered the 2012 contract of former defensive coordinator John Chavis, a finding that could have a huge impact on its lawsuit against the coach. A&M, Chavis’ current employer, saw its second quarterback transfer this… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Saints’ throwback win Sunday at Tampa Bay proved that pride still means plenty to this team

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston (12) celebrates after his 1-yard touchdown reception during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

To quote that great fictitious New Orleans Saint Forrest Gump (he played for the club in the book sequel, “Gump & Co.”), it was like olden times again Sunday for the guys in black and gold. Drew Brees was throwing touchdown passes to Marques Colston and marching up the NFL record book.… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Leonard Fournette’s sophomore season was flat-out remarkable, regardless of the Heisman Trophy voting

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette keeps his eyes on the ball while making the one-handed catch in the end zone during pregame warmups Oct. 17 in Tiger Stadium.

At the LSU Board of Supervisors meeting Friday, the theme was putting the focus back on academics and taking it off of athletic controversies, the Les Miles saga having pre-empted such news as the hiring of LSU’s new provost, the No. 2 position on campus. Leonard Fournette can relate. Before Miles and his job status became a cause… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: For the fun of it, embrace ground-and-pound LSU’s Texas Bowl matchup with high-scoring Texas Tech

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette (7) shakes off the Texas A&M defenders for a good gain during the first half Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Tiger Stadium.

Let’s not make LSU’s trip to the Texas Bowl something it’s not. It’s not part of the College Football Playoff or even one of the CFP’s big six bowls, a game the Tigers had a real shot at before their three-game November skid. It’s a bowl game that exists because people can’t get enough college… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: The Panthers found a way to stay perfect ... and the Saints again found a way for things to go wrong

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton disputes a call in a game against the Carolina Panthers in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015.

The Carolina Panthers are still the NFL’s only undefeated team 12 games into the season. The New Orleans Saints are 4-8. It seems like an enormous gulf separates these two franchises, and it does. The Panthers are talking home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Saints are talking about jockeying for first-round draft… Continue reading →

Rabalais: It’s not easy to do what Nick Saban does ... and it’s not easy for SEC teams to compare themselves against him

Associated Press photo by DAVID GOLDMAN -- Alabama coach Nick Saban leaves a news conference in Atlanta on the eve of the Southeastern Conference Championship Game between his Crimson Tide and Florida.

ATLANTA — Four or five decades have passed, depending on how you choose to reckon it, and the issue for Southeastern Conference football coaches is still the same. Carthage must be destroyed. Carthage was a seafaring power that dominated the Mediterranean centuries ago. In our current context, Carthage is Alabama. At least… Continue reading →

Rabalais: True to himself, sharing with others -- it’s easy to be happy for Les Miles

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU coach Les Miles acknowledges the cheers from the Tiger student section after LSU beat Texas A&M 19-7 in Tiger Stadium. Moments after the game, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said Miles is staying on as the Tigers coach.

Some opinions and observations in the wake of the “Coach stays” scene from “Hoosiers” that played out in real time at LSU … It’s no surprise that Les Miles’ players carried him off the field after Saturday’s landmark 19-7 win over Texas A&M. There is no disputing Miles’ players have always loved playing for him, so… Continue reading →

Rabalais: LSU-Michigan matchup in Citrus Bowl is possible, but much is still up in the air

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU head coach Les Miles shouts on the sideline in the second half of the LSU-Texas A&M football game in Baton Rouge, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. LSU won, 19-7.

The clouded November ending to LSU’s regular season could give way to a sunny January finish. Maybe. Jonathan Gorman, a scout for the Citrus Bowl, told some media members waiting to head into LSU’s locker room after Saturday’s 19-7 win over Texas A&M that his bowl game was a strong consideration for the Tigers with a… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Quite a 'heartrending' moment Monday when Les Miles called Baton Rouge 'home'

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Les Miles holds his weekly press conference amidst growing speculation of his dismissal.

For a coach who has been so embattled almost from day one, so second-guessed, so subject to such withering criticism, Les Miles took on a new persona Monday: That of the sympathetic figure. Miles was asked during his weekly Monday media luncheon — by all indications, his last such gathering as LSU’s football coach — what… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: 'If the writing isn’t on the wall for Les Miles, the pencil is at least being sharpened'

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- A fairly somber LSU head coach Les Miles ponders a question during his post-game press conference, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 in Oxford, Miss. Ole Miss won 38-17.

Whatever Les Miles needed to boost his job security, to help his cause, to prove he is still the man to lead this LSU football program now and into a nationally competitively future, whatever he needed to prove and however he needs to be judged, what happened here Saturday against Ole Miss was the… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Evidence mounting Les Miles coaching for his job next 2 weeks; three scenarios to decide his LSU fate

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU head coach Les Miles, center, waves to fans in the stands before the game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Tuscaloosa. Alabama won 30-16.

There are basically two things that can happen after something like Wednesday’s column about Les Miles’ job being on the line in LSU’s next two games makes the rounds. People can come forward and say, “You’re wrong,” at which point you start considering why people are saying such great things about living in Costa Rica. Or… Continue reading →

Rabalais: 'Strong indications' LSU's Les Miles coaching for his job vs. Ole Miss, Texas A&M

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU head coach Les Miles waves to fans as he brings the team down Victory Hill before the game Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Tiger Stadium.

Les Miles has survived a series of crises during his decade at LSU, each calling into question his worth in the opinions of its ambitious purple and gold masses as to whether he was truly the right man for the job. From his second game here, when LSU frittered away a substantial halftime lead and… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: To catch up with Alabama, Tigers must turn the tide in the recruiting battle, especially up front

Photo by Michelle Trip/The (Monroe) News-StarNevile defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence, rated the No. 1 prospect in Louisiana for much of the year, picked LSU.

LSU will beat Alabama again in football. Beating Bama again soon is the real question. The key is in recruiting. That’s where LSU lost to Alabama this year. Not on Saturday night, but back in February on national signing day and on the several signing days before that. Alabama has stitched together the past five… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Classic come-from-ahead loss for Saints, who dash momentum from past three weeks

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton reacts to a play against the Tennessee Titans at the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015.

One of the first things I learned from my father about sports was the Saints’ penchant for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The phrase, or something like it, should be on a T-shirt they could sell in Champions Square after games like the one Sunday. Blowing the unblowable game seems, despite the Super Bowl championship and… Continue reading →

After this one, it’s time to bid some dreams goodbye

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette (7) finds running tough against Alabama  in the first half Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 in Tuscaloosa.

An appropriate Hollywood movie title for LSU’s constantly flammable circumstances here much of Saturday night would have been “Our Brand is Crisis.” By the time the Crimson Tide was done with LSU, balling up so many of the Tigers’ hopes and chucking them into the recycle bin, a… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: It’s not the Game of the Century, but Saturday’s LSU-Alabama showdown has all the makings of something great

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette (7) skips downfield in the first half at Tiger Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.

Lewis Neal was bouncing on the balls of his feet, twitching and straining like a fighter plane about to launch off an aircraft carrier. And it was only Monday. “We’re very eager,” LSU’s defensive end said with a smile that could light up his hometown of Wilson, North Carolina. “I’m excited. I’m ready. I can’t wait.” There are… Continue reading →

Rabalais: New Orleans bit the odds in landing 2020 CFP championship game

The first two choices Wednesday by the College Football Playoff folks for the 2018 and 2019 national championship games were completely predictable. The 2018 game went to Atlanta. The city will have a shiny new pinwheel-shaped retractable roofed facility by then called the Mercedes-Benz Stadium — an abomination for Saints fans, knowing it will be… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Tigers take first step on road to winning national championship, but there’s still a long way to go

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU wide receiver Travin Dural (83) runs after the catch for a 67-yard gain as Western Kentucky defensive backs Branden Leston (31) and Marcus Ward (8) give chase during the first half Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in Tiger Stadium. LSU won 48-20.

So much accomplished. Such a long way to go. The LSU Tigers earned a highly respectable No. 2 spot in Tuesday’s first College Football Playoff rankings, nailing down that lofty perch based on a 7-0 start that includes a big win over CFP No. 10 Florida. But if the Tigers are to reach their goal,… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Saints’ wild win over Giants was unforgettable All Saints’ Day 49 years in the making

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates his NFL record tying 7th touchdown with New Orleans Saints running back C.J. Spiller (28) against the New York Giants at the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015.

Forty-nine years ago Sunday, the NFL awarded New Orleans a franchise. In all those years, from that All Saints’ Day to this one, there was never a game to match the indoor fireworks show the Saints and New York Giants put on display. What is the appropriate gift for a 49th anniversary? Paper? Crystal? Billy Crystal delivering… Continue reading →

Rabalais: As LSU navigates playoff path, starting in Alabama, outside observers seem more confident than Tiger fans

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Alabama place kicker Adam Griffith (99) makes the score 13-10 Alabama with this field goal during the second half, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014 in Baton Rouge. LSU lost 20-13 in overtime. LSU safety Ronald Martin (26), LSU defensive end Danielle Hunter (94) and LSU defensive tackle Davon Godchaux (57) can't make the block.

“Once more we play our dangerous game, a game of chess against our old adversary.” — The Hunt for Red October The hunt is on. LSU. Alabama. Prime time on Nov. 7 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with Southeastern Conference, SEC West and College Football Playoff stakes in play on a national… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Saints mix desperation, aggressive play calling to defeat Colts in key win

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) greets Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis (98) following an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015. The Saints defeated the Colts 27-21.  (AP Photo/R Brent Smith)

Midway through the fourth quarter, during a lull as Mark Ingram was being tended to with a minor injury, Drew Brees trotted over to Sean Payton on the sideline to discuss the upcoming third-and-8 play from their 3-yard line. They knew what was happening. A 27-0 lead that could have… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: Conservative but cunning, 'Lion'-Hearted Les Miles keeps winning at LSU

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU coach Les Miles sings the LSU alma mater with his players after the Tigers beat Florida 35-28 Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

Momentum, Big Mo, had made her choice, and she was building a split-level condo on the Florida sideline. The Gators were feeling it. They’d survived a 28-point LSU second quarter, roared back to tie the game 28-28 and had just thrown Colin Jeter for a 5-yard loss to the Florida 16, forcing the Tigers to settle for… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Some late hits, extracurricular punishment on LSU running back Leonard Fournette have gone too far

LSU running back Leonard Fournette (7) carries against Florida in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Leonard Fournette took the handoff from Brandon Harris, drove full speed into the crowded line of scrimmage and was met by an orange and blue Florida wall. Then he was pushed back. And back. And back until Florida had shoved him down onto the turf, well after his forward progress had ended. There was a whistle… Continue reading →

Rabalais: With Tom Cruise in the house, a little risky business helps LSU win a drama-filled thriller

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU quarterback Brandon Harris (6) slaps hands with fans in the tunnel going to the locker room after the second half of the LSU-Florida game in Baton Rouge Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. LSU won 35-28.

Tom Cruise sure picked a heck of a night to attend his first college football game. And he may have drawn some inspiration if he is ever called on to play a quirky football coach whose team has to overcome some big and at times self-inflicted adversity. The famous actor, in New Orleans to film… Continue reading →

Scott Rabalais: This Saturday night in Tiger Stadium is a dream for LSU — and could be a nightmare for Florida

Associated Press photo by JONATHAN BACHMAN -- LSU players celebrate during the game against Alabama last year

How different will Tiger Stadium be for Saturday night’s LSU-Florida game compared to last Saturday’s impromptu encounter with South Carolina? Like night and day. Simple, no? But when it comes to the difference between Death Valley and a giant concrete bowl where football is played, those four words are leaden with meaning. The South Carolina game was a… Continue reading →

Rabalais: This Saints victory was as stunning as it was sweet — and the Steve Gleason parallels made it all the more memorable

Former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason  is given the PFWA's George Halas Award before an NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The New Orleans Saints’ season had reached a point by Thursday night where it seemed that it would take some sort of exorcism or Eastern mysticism to get them a win. Or, perhaps, an appearance by the most sainted of former Saints, Steve Gleason. Gleason was on the field before Thursday night’s game with the Atlanta Falcons… Continue reading →

Rabalais: LSU’s Ben Simmons holds center court at media day

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Freshman Ben Simmons is surrounded by cameras and voice recorders Wednesday at media day for the men's and women's basketball teams at LSU.

There’s a fairly huge football game being played at LSU on Saturday, but Wednesday it was basketball that literally held court. About 40 NBA scouts sat along the sideline in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and dozens of media, including a TV crew from the SEC Network and another crew working on a documentary. Collectively, call it the Ben… Continue reading →