|Miles, LSU try to put aside distractions and focus on Tennessee for SEC title|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 01 December 2007 00:17|
Plus, LSU is coming off a loss that blocked its best chance at playing for the national championship.
Not exactly the prime way to get prepared for the Southeastern Conference title game.
``There will be no distractions,'' coach Les Miles insisted.
No matter how Miles saw it, there sure seemed to be a lot swirling around the No. 5 Tigers as they got set to play No. 14 Tennessee on Saturday.
During his interview session Friday, Miles was asked six times about leaving for his alma mater. Miles said he had ``no firsthand knowledge in any way'' that Michigan wants to talk to him about its vacant coaching job.
``Certainly, they have not contacted me, and I have not contacted them,'' he said. ``The reports are that they have asked for permission to speak to me. I'll allow that after this game.''
As for his LSU players, he said, ``I'm their coach.''
``This is about this team,'' he said. ``I promise you, if you think that it's a conversation that I can have with my wife, I can't, OK? It's not something I talk about. It would be certainly be a distraction to me and be cheating my team. I wouldn't do it. So we'll get beyond this game, and we'll see what happens.''
For him and his staff. There were increasing indications that Bo Pelini, who served as interim coach at Nebraska for a victory in the Alamo Bowl after the 2003 season, could return to the Cornhuskers on a permanent basis.
While Miles tried to focus on the Volunteers (9-3) and an outside shot at getting a chance to play for the national championship, his situation remained the main topic.
A few hours before LSU (10-2) practiced, a black pickup decked out in Tennessee orange pulled into the Georgia Dome parking lot. A sign was painted on the back: ``840 Miles to Knoxville. 630 Miles to Atlanta. 1 Miles to Ann Arbor.''
At that exact moment, Miles and Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer were attending a big SEC luncheon for fans and officials. Miles drew a standing ovation from the LSU faithful when he was announced and didn't have to field any questions about Michigan.
Fulmer acknowledged that on a team with 100 or so players and a raft of coaches and support staff, there were bound to be off-the-field issues.
``That's absolutely the case. I mean, they have all got personal lives going on. I had a young man come in and see me yesterday that this godfather is deathly ill and he is trying to make a decision,'' he said. ``We had a long personal and I guess somewhat spiritual talk about all that.
``The distractions are what you make of them. I'm sure coach Miles has handled it the very best he can,'' he said. ``Sometimes when you get upset or disappointed at the end of the season, that's hard to bounce back from.''
The Tigers twice stumbled when they were ranked No. 1 this year, in triple overtime to both Kentucky and Arkansas. LSU's 50-48 loss last week to the Razorbacks left it needing a lot of help to reach the BCS title game.
``A lot of people are expecting us to have a letdown considering we did lose last week and they think we have nothing to play for,'' running back Jacob Hester said. ``I know us, as players, we'll be ready. But as far as the fans go, I'm sure it's a little bit harder for them to move on.''
To make it to the Superdome for the national title game, LSU needed No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia to lose Saturday. Plus, the Tigers must post a convincing win over Tennessee that would enable them to jump over No. 4 Georgia in the BCS standings.
Otherwise, a win will mean a visit to the Superdome for the Sugar Bowl. A loss could leave the Tigers in the Cotton or Capital One bowls.
As of Friday, it was uncertain whether Matt Flynn or Ryan Perrilloux would be at quarterback. Flynn has started every game except one, but he hurt his right shoulder diving for a two-point conversion last week.
If the injury impedes Flynn's ability to throw, then the scrambling Perrilloux will play.
``That will be a gametime decision,'' Miles said. ``I think that we don't want a tender quarterback that's trying to get a ball there. We want to be able to sling it.''
For quarterback Erik Ainge and the Vols a trip to the Sugar Bowl is the goal, while a loss might land them in the Outback Bowl. Tennessee lost two of its first three games, regrouped to win its final five and now faces the talented Tigers.
``Obviously they're a great football team, regardless of what happened last week and what happened when they played Kentucky. They're one of the best teams in the country from a talent standpoint,'' Ainge said.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, La., and Associated Press Writer Beth Rucker in Knoxville, Tenn., contributed to this report.