Tigers ranked No. 1 in preseason USA Today poll
“We’re thankful, but again, our team recognizes that we have to earn our spot. There are a lot of games to be played between now and being the actual No. 1.” LES MILES, LSU coach
LSU made history on the first day of preseason practice Thursday as the Tigers were voted No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches poll.
It’s the first time since 1959, when reigning national champion LSU was the top choice in The Associated Press’ inaugural poll, that the Tigers have been the No. 1 team in a major preseason poll.
The coaches poll is significant because it comprises one-third of the formula that determines the Bowl Championship Series rankings, but as a practical matter, LSU or any team that wins the Southeastern Conference championship is likely to play its way to the top of the BCS rankings, regardless of its standing in the preseason poll. SEC teams have won the last six BCS titles.
“It’s a great honor to be preseason No. 1, but it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” Tigers junior defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. “No. 1 doesn’t matter until the end of the season. No. 1 is not gong to be given to us; it has to be earned. We learned that last season.”
LSU, which was No. 4 in the coaches and Associated Press preseason polls last season, quickly ascended to the top of the AP poll after beating three ranked teams in September. LSU moved into the No. 1 spot in the AP rankings on Sept. 25, a day after a 47-21 victory at then-No.16 West Virginia improved its record to 4-0, but it needed four more victories before grabbing the top spot in the coaches poll on Oct. 23.
The Tigers stayed on top of the polls and were No. 1 in the BCS rankings, which debut in October, until they lost to Alabama, which is No. 2 in the preseason poll, 21-0 in the BCS Championship Game.
“We still have to give our all every week,” Logan said. “(Even though) we’re No. 1, (even though) we’re LSU — we still have to go out there and compete.”
LSU opens this season against North Texas on Sept. 1 in Tiger Stadium. That will mark the 11th consecutive game that the Tigers will play as the No. 1 team in the country. They won their last eight regular-season games after becoming the top-ranked team last season, then defeated Georgia 42-10 in the SEC Championship Game to complete a school-record 13-0 regular-season prior to the BCS title game.
The Tigers and the Crimson Tide are joined by five other SEC teams in the top 25.
The school record for most consecutive games played as the No. 1 team in the country is 13 set during the 1958 and 1959 seasons. The 1959 team won its opener against Rice 26-3 and was No. 1 for eight consecutive games before losing at Tennessee 14-13 in Week 8. The Tigers wrapped up that season, in which Billy Cannon became the school’s only Heisman Trophy winner, by losing to Ole Miss 21-0 in the Sugar Bowl.
The Associated Press preseason poll will be released Aug. 18, but the only rankings that really get LSU’s attention nowadays are the ones that will come out after the BCS title game in Miami on Jan. 7.
“I think it’s a complement to our program and the body of work that has been accomplished here,” LSU coach Les Miles said of the ranking after practice Thursday evening. “We’re thankful, but again, our team recognizes that we have to earn our spot. There are a lot of games to be played between now and being the actual No. 1.”