DESTIN, Fla. — As Les Miles lowered himself into a seat surrounded by reporters Tuesday, he picked up a printout of an ESPN.com article on the table in front of him.
Its headline: “LSU faces smooth road to title game”.
“How about that Johnny?” Miles called out to new LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones across the room. “We don’t play anybody!”
Miles knows better, of course. He’s surrounded here at the Southeastern Conference Spring Meeting by a band of rival football coaches intent on knocking off the team that so far has grabbed most of the preseason No. 1 accolades in the early online articles (like the one Miles grabbed) and preseason magazines.
“I think it’s a real compliment to our body of work,” Miles said. “The kids understand that they’ve earned nothing.
“It’s like saying to your wife 10 years before you marry her, ‘Boy, you sure are cute.’ It’s one of those compliments that no one remembers before you get to the wedding.”
When it comes to remembering the end of last season, Tiger fans everywhere would probably love to get an annulment.
In a game that had the LSU faithful punching the erase button on their DVRs without even taking a second look — or, just punching their DVRs — the Tigers were humbled 21-0 by Alabama in an all-SEC showdown for the national title.
It’s Miles’ job to rewind the carnage, though, as unpleasant as that task was for the quietly competitive coach.
“I have watched it several times,” he said. “We finished second in that game. It was miserable.
“We hadn’t watched any games like that in quite some time. Certainly not the 13 before (during last season). I think there’s a good, solid honesty to playing a quality team at the back end. You have to step in and play. I think our guys understand that maybe better today.”
Pressed later about the game, Miles continued to maintain he wouldn’t change LSU’s game plan, just the game.
“We would have called the exact same plays,” he said. “We would have just executed them better.
“The plays would have been really good plays. We didn’t execute well.”
He expects his team to play with an attitude this season, a major chip on their shoulder pads to prove they were they team that started 13-0 last season, not the one that finished 0-1.
“They already have that,” Miles said. “There’s a want to play.”
It’s a new playmaker who will be running the show this season, junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Though the junior wound up at LSU after being dismissed from the team at Georgia for some off-the-field issues two years ago, he has the confidence of his head coach.
“I’m really enjoying the way Zach’s starting his career,” Miles said. “I think Zach is a great teammate and is a guy who certainly understands the position he’s in and he’s much better for the experience he’s had.”
Miles discussed a variety of other topics Tuesday, among them:
Cross-divisional games: Miles restated his support of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s proposal that only games within a division count toward the divisional title.
“The best team in the West should play for the championship,” Miles said.
“The best team in the East should play for the championship,” Miles said. “I think there’s a view of a loss in a crossover game that it could be detrimental and not allow the best team to come into the championship game.”
Playing Florida: Miles only wants to continue to play Florida, its permanent cross-divisional opponent, if that game doesn’t count toward the divisional title.
“It’s wonderful competition if it helps them win the divisional championship.
“But I think it’s a mistake,” Miles said.
“Let’s build a structure that’s desirable and helps build toward a champion.”
Honey Badger for Heisman: Miles was asked if he might consider letting Tyrann Mathieu run some plays on offense to enhance his chances of winning the Heisman Trophy after being a finalist last year.
As is often his way, Miles played coy.
“We’ll, he’s played some offensive plays before – when he gets the ball on punt returns.”
Playoff format: Miles said he doesn’t have a preference between a plus one game and a “final four” type format, which appears most likely.
“Anything that can be fit into the academic calendar. I could be happy with either. You have to realize this a college team, and it isn’t set up to play an excessive number of games.”
Miles just wants to make sure the playoff includes the best teams in the country, not just four conference champions.
“We wanted to play the best team in the country when we got there (to the 2012 BCS championship game) and doggone it we did.”
The SEC spring meeting continues through Friday.