RABALAIS: Being picked behind Tide not so bad for Tigers

The LSU Tigers have earned their measure of respect going into the 2011 season. Some preseason rankings even have LSU perched all the way up at No. 1.

But more common is LSU’s ranking BEHIND Alabama in the Southeastern Conference West Division, much less the preseason national polls.

Behind Bama is exactly where the Tigers found themselves in the preseason rankings by the attending media at last week’s SEC Football Media Days.

Tigers and Tiger fans can take heart that the people voting at media days have traditionally been as good at picking winners as I have at picking winning Powerball numbers (if you’re reading this, it’s a good bet this mild-mannered sportswriter hasn’t struck it rich quite yet). Since 1992, the last time the SEC expanded by two (some say Oklahoma and Texas A&M could be on the SEC’s horizon, but that’s another column), the voters at media days have correctly picked the conference champion only three times.

There are three reasons LSU wasn’t picked first at SEC media days:

1. The place was crawling with media types from Alabama, many of whom think a lot more highly of the Crimson Tide than the Tigers (take that as you will).

2. LSU plays at Alabama on Nov. 5, a mighty harsh setting for a showdown that could well decide the SEC West.

3. Despite the favorable experience of LSU’s quarterback corps compared to Alabama’s green duo of Phillip Sims and A.J. McCarron, there are a lot of skeptics out there who simply don’t have much faith in Jordan Jefferson to captain the Tigers to a treasure trove of championship hardware.

Understandable, since it’s also a reasonable assumption that LSU went 11-2 last season mostly in spite of its chronically spotty quarterback play.

The other way to look it at is that the Tigers occupy a bit of a sweet spot when it comes to preseason expectations.

If you saw the thanks-for-making-me-eat-this-lemon look on Alabama coach Nick Saban’s face Friday when he was asked about his team being picked to win the SEC, you’d immediately understand. Saban knows that despite its wealth of talent, his Crimson Tide, like every college team, has some holes to fill, especially at the critical position of quarterback. Having to play an inexperienced underclassman at quarterback may be worth at least a loss or two when the games are at their toughest.

For certain, big things are expected from LSU this season. But perhaps it will serve the Tigers’ championship hopes best to let Alabama sail into the season with the heavier burden — fine line though that may be.

All glory and respect due to the Crimson Tide. Well deserved and good on Alabama’s boys.

But figuring on winning an SEC championship just because the SEC media predicted has usually proven to be a losing proposition.

Uneasy lies the head that has already been predetermined to win the crown.

Sometimes it’s better to be the one waiting to scoop it up as it falls.