You can't open a preseason football magazine lately without seeing LSU listed among the nation's top five teams.
No. 2 in Sporting News and Lindy's. No. 4 in Street & Smith's.
On Friday, the final day of SEC Media Days, the Tigers were the overwhelming pick to win the conference championship. With 14 starters returning from a team that went 11-2 (and was viewed by some as an underachiever), the Tigers are entrenched in the conversation on title contenders.
Which is why LSU coach Les Miles is spending a good deal of time these days reminding players not to get caught up in the hype.
"Coach told us all that is irrelevant until you actually do it," senior defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey said. "Nobody has won a national championship being a preseason favorite and just sitting on their behind and doing nothing. There's a long road to go. I would love to have these accolades at the end."
LSU had similar talent and expectations last season, but road losses to Auburn and Florida derailed its championship hopes.
"We think about that (UF game) all the time," receiver Early Doucet said. "Going into a season and being competitors you never want to lose any games, and that was definitely a letdown for us."
LSU is loaded again, with eight starters on defense and six on offense returning. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell is gone, taken as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft. But senior Matt Flynn, who played in 10 games last season, is poised to take over, and already has gained his teammates' confidence.
"He's going to be fine," said Doucet, who had 59 receptions for 772 yards last season. "Matt is a poised veteran; this is his fifth year. He knows how to handle tough situations. ... Matt Flynn is a great quarterback and he'll get the job done."
In two seasons under Miles, the Tigers are 22-4. Combine that with LSU's history of success and Miles said he feels confident the players won't fall victim to outside influences.
"I don't think our guys playing at LSU, the success they've had, in a great university where there are great expectations, play much into that," Miles said. "I think they all understand whether you're ranked, you know, fifth, first, second that at the end of the year you will have earned your position. Hopefully we'll get to the back end of this thing and find all those people that made the predictions about us finishing first are right."
Meanwhile, the players are preparing to prove the believers correct. Dorsey said he sees the national attention as motivation to make sure the Tigers play up to their potential every week.
"That's how we know we're doing good things, because we're getting noticed," he said. "So we want to come out and play hard and keep doing what we've been doing."
Antonya English can be reached at English@sptimes.com.
LSU West's best; UF favored in East
The defending national champion Gators are favored to win the SEC East as voted on by media covering the league. Tennessee was picked to finish second followed by Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. LSU, which is widely considered the most talented team in the league, was the overwhelming favorite to win the West and the overall SEC championship. The Tigers received 54 first-place votes as the overall champion, followed by Florida (seven) and Arkansas (five).