RABALAIS: Pressure of being No. 1 not all bad

You’ve heard the talk among Tigers fans.

Perhaps you’ve uttered the words yourself.

The news Sunday night that LSU was opening at No. 1 in the season’s inaugural BCS rankings was met in Tiger Nation with as much trepidation as celebration.

The concern is this: Being the BCS No. 1 makes this LSU team even more of a target.

It’s as though those Nike Pro Combat uniforms LSU will wear Saturday against Auburn incorporate a big purple and gold bull’s eye into the design (not true, though I think one of Oregon’s uniform combinations does).

It’s a fair concern, but I have news for you:

LSU is already a target.

Its players certainly know that quite well by now.

“It’s LSU,” cornerback Morris Claiborne said. “Every team is keyed up to play us.”

Generally, LSU football fans fall into two schools of thought these days.

There’s the younger set who can’t remember a world without WiFi and blogging and taking off your shoes to go through airport security who think LSU has always won like it has the past decade.

Then there’s the older set who can remember a world with HiFi’s and typewriters and when skyjackers like D.B. Cooper were folk heroes.

They remember the bad, old days and worry that LSU’s winning ways exist in a fragile state of reality, like someone will wake them from a dream only to find that Curley Hallman is still the coach.

To the younger fans, I say winning is not a birthright. It has to be earned. The other guys (like Auburn) are trying just as hard to win, too. And nothing lasts forever.

To the older fans I say, this LSU football freight train isn’t some new fad.

The numbers back it up.

Over the past 10 years, LSU has won more games than any other Southeastern Conference program. The Tigers go for their 100th win since 2002 against just 26 defeats.

In the past decade, only Florida is LSU’s equal in terms of BCS and SEC titles (two each).

And only Georgia and Florida have finished every season in a bowl.

Over the past five years (since 2007), only Florida has equaled LSU’s 47 wins. Only Alabama (45-11, .804) has a better winning percentage than LSU’s .783 (47-13).

Saturday’s game will be the 1,166th football contest in LSU’s 120 seasons. In all those years, it will be just the 21st time that LSU plays as the No. 1 team in The Associated Press poll - which by the way started 75 years ago Wednesday.

It will also be just the third time LSU has played as the No. 1 team in the BCS poll (which started in 1998).

So if you root for LSU, it’s not a time to fret, it’s a time to savor.

And you can bet Oklahoma or Alabama would gladly take the No. 1 BCS ranking off your hands.