HOOVER, Ala. – Eight is not enough.
LSU fans know it after the Tigers went 8-5 last season, just treading water at 4-4 in the SEC then losing the Music City Bowl to Notre Dame.
LSU coach Les Miles and his players know it as well, and made it a recurring theme of their appearance here Thursday at SEC Media Days.
While schools like Arkansas and Tennessee are using last year’s 7-6 seasons as springboards to renewed respectability, at LSU an 8-5 campaign is fueling a burning desire to do better in 2015.
“For our team, eight wins is certainly not enough,” Miles said. “We played some really good ball clubs in that eight-win season and played them very close.
“But our goal is the (CFP) playoffs. Our goal is the SEC championship. We were shy of our goals, and we want more.”
Linebacker Kendell Beckwith was on board with the Miles’ message. Certainly, this wasn’t the first time bettering last year’s record has been mentioned in the LSU camp.
“We’re going to use that 8-5 record as motivation,” Beckwith said, an undercurrent of determination in his words.
LSU has enjoyed 15 straight winning seasons since 2000, the longest such current streak in the SEC. Only four times in that span – 2000 and 2002 under Nick Saban, 2008 and 2014 under Miles – have the Tigers won as few as eight games. Pretty impressive record overall.
But as a program, LSU hasn’t trended in the way anyone would like the last few seasons.
After going 8-0 in the SEC in 2011 before losing the 2012 BCS national championship game to Alabama, LSU has gone 6-2 in the SEC in 2012, 5-3 in 2013 and 4-4 in last season. It’s a trend alright, and a disturbing one for anyone who gives a flip about LSU football.
Contending for championships of course remains the macro goal for the Tigers. But at least reversing that trend, getting back into a contender position in the SEC West, has to at least be the bedrock goal.
Offensive tackle Vadal Alexander said the Tigers think they underachieved in 2014.
“We feel we were better than an 8-5 team,” he said. “We have a lot to improve.”
The shorthand view of the Tigers is that they have top-10 potential but must be better in the passing game.
“That’s my view,” Miles said.
The offseason disquiet of having starting quarterback Anthony Jennings arrested on a charge of unauthorized entry along with two teammates would have to qualify as a major distraction for the Tigers. Miles said he’s optimistic Jennings will return, along with suspended Maquedius Bain and Dwayne Thomas, while backup quarterback Brandon Harris has been the No. 1 guy in summer 7-on-7 workouts.
For LSU to move north of nine wins, the quarterback position has to settle out, with the passing game coalescing either around Jennings or Harris. My money is still on Jennings in the long run because of his experience.
Otherwise, the Tigers could well be here at SEC Media Days next year, talking about another underwhelming season.