At No. 1, the University of Southern California Trojans. At No. 2, the LSU Fighting Tigers.
That’s how the final AP poll for the 2003 college football season appeared. That’s how the 2007 preseason USA Today Top 25 Coaches’ Poll appears.
LSU and USC haven’t played each other since 1984, but they are forever linked by the controversy of 2003, when the Tigers won the BCS national championship and the Trojans won the AP national championship.
Now they’re as close as can be atop the preseason coaches’ poll.
Forty-five of the 60 coaches on the USA Today panel voted USC at No. 1 in the preseason poll released Friday. Four voted LSU at No. 1.
LSU coach Les Miles more than downplayed the response at the football operations facility, where the Tigers reported Friday for preseason camp.
“I don’t think there was any response,” Miles said Friday afternoon, 10 hours after USA Today posted the Top 25 on its Web site.
“I just had somebody tell me about it not 30 minutes ago. I don’t know that there’s a response necessary.”
The No. 2 ranking is LSU’s highest in the preseason coaches’ poll in the 10-year history of the BCS. The coaches ranked LSU at No. 3 to start the 2004 season after the Tigers won the BCS in 2003.
LSU opened the 1959 season as reigning national champion and the No. 1 team in the AP poll. LSU finished No. 3 in 1959, the same ranking the Tigers finished with last year after their second consecutive 11-2 season.
Miles, 22-4 in two seasons at LSU, sounded a familiar refrain about outside expectations of his Tigers.
“It’s nice to be close enough (to No. 1) so that if you’re successful in your season and you take care of the work that’s in front of you, you can play in the game,” Miles said. “That’s the good news about the position that we’re in.
“That makes no difference to anybody in our program other than we understand what’s before us and what we have to accomplish.”
Miles, one of the coaches who votes on the poll, said he was not one of the four who listed LSU at No. 1.
“It’s hard for me to vote for us No. 1 based on the fact that we haven’t won a game yet,” he said before declining to say where he ranked the Tigers.
The coaches’ poll and the Harris Interactive Poll each represents a one-third component of the BCS formula, which determined the two teams that will play for the national championship Jan. 7 in the Louisiana Superdome.
The other component is a composite of computer rankings.
The Harris rankings are not released until after the season starts. The first BCS rankings will be released Oct. 14, according to the BCS Web site.
Two Southeastern Conference teams are in the top three of the USA Today Top 25. Florida is right behind LSU, ranked No. 3 after receiving nine first-place votes.
Texas is No. 4, followed by Michigan, which received the other two first-place votes.
West Virginia is sixth, followed by Wisconsin and Oklahoma. Virginia Tech, LSU’s opponent for the Sept. 8 home opener at Tiger Stadium, is ninth. Ohio State completes the top 10.
In addition to LSU and Florida, four other SEC schools are in the coaches’ top 25: No. 13 Georgia, No. 14 Auburn, No. 15 Tennessee and No. 20 Arkansas.
The Associated Press, which withdrew from the BCS formula before the 2005 season, will release its Top 25 media poll Aug. 18, the day LSU completes fall camp with a scrimmage in Tiger Stadium.
Miles said he expects the players to handle LSU’s high ranking responsibly.
“Great expectations puts everyone on the same page,” Miles said. “I think everybody in our program understands that there’s an opportunity in front of this team, that if they do their role, if they work hard, if they perform, that in fact this team could accomplish some special things.
“I want to coach at a place where there’s great expectations.”
This is going to be another exciting year for LSU Football!!!
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Update - August 18:
The AP has released its Top 25 poll and the LSU Tigers are #2 behind USC on their list, as well!