Now that LSU has proved it can overcome
off-the-field distractions and win impressively enough to climb to
the top of the rankings, the Tigers have to see how they'll handle
The Tigers faced a challenging September schedule that included
three ranked teams away from home - Oregon, Mississippi State and
That is over and LSU finds itself perched as the No. 1 team in
the country after four comfortable victories.
"We take it as a compliment to our program and a compliment to
our team," LSU coach Les Miles said Monday. "Being No. 1 is no
burden. There is no extra target on our back. Every time LSU goes
to play, the other team is trying to beat us. We want to achieve. I
know we haven't arrived. We are not perfect."
The tribulations were many for LSU just prior to its
season-opening game against Oregon in Dallas.
Projected starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and reserve
linebacker Josh Johns were suspended indefinitely after felony
second-degree arrests stemming from a fight in a bar parking lot on
Starting wide receiver Russell Shepard was suspended for the
first three games of the season after he spoke to a teammate about
being questioned by investigators in the NCAA's probe of several
schools' relationships with scouting service provider and purported
street agent Willie Lyles.
In hindsight, Miles said, what took place in August seems to
have strengthened the resolve of his team.
"The off-the-field incidents were so uncharacteristic of this
team and these guys," Miles said. "We all were embarrassed. Some
things which we have talked about were suddenly emphasized again.
"The players on this team are committed to each other. This is
a close-knit group. They are ambitious. They understand that there
are going to be obstacles and adversity all the time. There is one
every year. It just so happened this year it was in the
By contrast, there has been little adversity on the field for
LSU. Both Oregon and Mississippi State were beaten by 13 points.
Last Saturday, LSU knocked off West Virginia 47-21.
LSU will return home for the first time in three weeks Saturday
when they take on Kentucky. Ironically, the Tigers took on Kentucky
after reaching the No. 1 spot in the country in 2007. LSU was upset
by the Wildcats in triple overtime in Lexington.
"I remember when we played a Florida team in Tiger Stadium,"
Miles said. "If we beat that team, we're No. 1 and we did.
Kentucky was right behind (Florida). Kentucky humbled a very
talented team. We want to improve. ... We hold the No. 1 spot in
college football today, but that it not the final achievement."
Senior quarterback Jarrett Lee has performed well in Jefferson's
absence, completing 64 percent of his passes (56 of 87) for 624
yards and six touchdowns. He has thrown just one interception. LSU
is scoring 38.8 points per game.
A decision on Jefferson's legal status may be known Wednesday,
when an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury is expected to make a
decision on whether Jefferson and Johns will be indicted. Miles has
said he would welcome the players back to the team if they were
cleared, but has been vague about what their roles would be.
"We'd reintroduce them to the team at the appropriate time,"
Miles said. "They would fall in to their expected contributions on
the team. At this time, it's speculation. Hopefully, it will be