The LSU football team has been so busy preparing for the Chick-fil-A Bowl that coach Les Miles said he and his players haven’t had time to notice Christmas fast approaching.
Miles got a reminder when he stopped by a Christmas party Thursday night to see everyone wearing red and green and spreading holiday cheer.
After 15 minutes of mingling, Miles split to study game film.
“I realized there is a whole world of people that are Christmas partying and having fun, and they’re not practicing football,” Miles said.
“I looked at them and I said, ‘What team do you guys represent? How come you aren’t practicing?’ ”
Miles was asked who the people were.
“Normal people,” he said. “Civilians, you might say.”
Miles said the Tigers did take a few minutes to sing Christmas carols during a team meeting Friday.
But it has been all business otherwise.
LSU faces Clemson at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 31 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
“It’s a football Christmas,” Miles said.
Bowl preparations that began Dec. 14 will continue with an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday. Then the Tigers get three days off to return home, finally trading their football equipment for Christmas sweaters.
“They’re itching to get home for Christmas,” Miles said. “They’re itching to Christmas shop.
“They’re itching to do what everybody else in America is doing right now — not practicing football. They’re looking forward to shopping and eating too much and smiling.”
The Tigers depart for Atlanta on Wednesday.
A day after LSU announced Brad Wing would be suspended for the bowl game for a violation of team rules, Miles said he expects backup punter Jamie Keehn to pick up where his Australian countryman left off.
Keehn subbed for Wing in the season opener against North Texas, averaging 41 yards on three punts with a long of 51 and one downed inside the 20.
“We’re very fortunate to have very talented punters and big legs,” Miles said. “I think Jamie’s ready to do this. The great news is that he’s already kicked and has been with us all year and taken a bunch of second-team snaps and understands our regimen. Really, we wouldn’t expect much difference.”
Wing is a sophomore but has the option to enter the NFL draft because he’s been in the program for three seasons. Miles did not say whether the suspension was for the bowl game only.
“I’m really focusing on what I have on this team and coaching this team,” Miles said.
Miles had a similar response when asked whether sophomore tight end Nic Jacobs would be invited back for the 2013 season. Jacobs was suspended from the team last month for violating team rules and will not play in the bowl game.
As the most prominent spokesman for Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Miles acknowledged, tongue in cheek, that playing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl creates a conflict of interest.
But he makes no bones about it: He’s a Raising Cane’s guy through and through.
“The only thing I can tell you is I like the sweet tea and the secret sauce,” Miles said. “I’m kind of partial to chicken. I do understand the thing that other chicken group (Chick-fil-A) represents. I understand why cows would be for eating chickens.”