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BATON ROUGE, La. – Les Miles figures it's time to start tinkering with his lineups as LSU aims to strike a balance between winning and building for the future.
"First and foremost, it's about victory, and that will not be overlooked," Miles said Monday as the 13th-ranked Tigers, still reeling from an upset loss at Mississippi, began preparations for its homecoming game against Furman this Saturday night.
"Do other guys get more snaps? You betcha," Miles added later. "It doesn't mean that we're wholesale change and it doesn't mean that we're throwing anybody out, but what it does mean is some of these young guys played well enough to deserve playing time, and they're going to get it."
This week, in particular, probably would have given Miles an opportunity to get a better handle on the future of his program even if LSU had won at Ole Miss. Furman is in the NCAA's second-tier Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), and the Tigers will be prohibitive favorites.
In discussing those who may see more playing time, Miles named backup quarterback Anthony Jennings; linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Lamar Louis; defensive back Rashard Robinson; and offensive lineman Josh Boutte.
This Saturday's contest is followed by a week off, then LSU will visit No. 1 Alabama for a game that likely won't be nearly the high-stakes affair it could have been if the Tigers (6-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) had beaten the Rebels.
Because the Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0) easily remained unbeaten in the SEC — and overall — last weekend with a 52-0 victory over Arkansas, the Tigers and another SEC team would have to upend 'Bama by the end of the regular season for LSU to have any chance of representing the SEC Western Division in the league title game in Atlanta. LSU also would need Auburn (6-1, 3-1) to lose one of its last four SEC games.
Miles doesn't seem to think there's much chance of Alabama losing twice, and conceded that the loss to Ole Miss left LSU "in a lesser position than they could be today, and they recognize it."
Still, Miles does seem to think the Tide could tumble at least once.
LSU "has the ability to win and play against any team remaining on our schedule, and we need to recognize that," Mile said. "We need to play like that, and frankly, that's what gets me up and sends me to the building every day."
As the Tigers prepared to resume practice Monday afternoon, several players sounded chastened by the notion that they might have motivation problems going forward.
"I have a lot of anger in me. I hope that's the mood at practice," defensive tackle Ego Ferguson said. "We have to bring some intensity back. Our goal is to win out."
LSU also has a home game against Texas A&M, headlined Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, left on its schedule, along with a home finale against Arkansas.
LSU's two losses each have come by three points — and in the final moments of SEC road games. The first was a 44-41 loss at Georgia. At Ole Miss, LSU rallied to erase a 10 point deficit in the fourth quarter, then allowed the Rebels to drive for a winning field goal as time expired.
LSU's offense was inhibited by quarterback Zach Mettenberger's three interceptions, but Miles has blamed himself for the loss, saying he failed to impress upon his players the need to be steady and patient, and to avoid trying to do too much.
"If you watch this film, you're going to see a quarterback who's trying to win the game with three or four throws that he shouldn't have thrown, and all we have to do is fit into the scheme, do the things you need to do and check it down or make the play that's just described," Miles began. "This football team is talented and they go to the field with the idea that they can make every play. Our weakness, in this game, was that they thought they had to make every play and that they needed to win the game with that play."
Miles stressed that his quarterback was not alone in making well-intentioned, but costly mistakes, which is why he ultimately blamed himself.
"I see it as, there's some collective focusing that needs to take place, OK?" Miles said. "That's done best by the head coach."