Cloudy with no mud for LSU in Cotton vs. Texas A&M
ARLINGTON, Texas -- LSU played its bowl game last season in mud and muck. This time, the weather isn't what is clouding things for the 11th-ranked Tigers.
Coach Les Miles' name is again being mentioned in connection with the head coaching vacancy at Michigan, his alma mater, as his Tigers get ready for the 75th Cotton Bowl. They play No. 18 Texas A&M in climate-controlled Cowboys Stadium on Friday night.
The 50th meeting between the border-state schools likely is only a brief renewal of a rivalry that has been dormant for 15 years. For LSU (10-2), this is also a preview of sorts for its 2011 season opener in the same showcase stadium against Oregon.
"We do see some carry-over," Miles said. "Beyond the great opportunity to play here, looking at the second game we play in Cowboys Stadium will certainly be a benefit."
As for whether Miles will be part of that game against the Ducks, the two-time Michigan letterman and former Wolverines' assistant coach said this week that his only focus was on LSU.
"I very much enjoy where I'm at," said Miles, who is 61-17 with a national championship in six seasons. "I don't think anybody has any reason to be concerned in any way."
Texas A&M (9-3) won its last six games and will play in January for the first time since the 2005 Cotton Bowl.
"Coach (Mike) Sherman came in with a plan, had a couple of tough years, but never lost focus. He said we're going to win games," said junior quarterback Ryan Tannehill, 5-0 since taking over as the starter. "We showed our fight after the first six games. ... We're setting a foundation. We're just happy to be back in the spotlight a little bit."
Before the winning streak that included wins over Big 12 division champs Oklahoma and Nebraska, the Aggies had a three-game losing streak that included a loss to Arkansas in Cowboys Stadium. They have lost eight of their last nine bowl games.
Miles was considered a top candidate for the Michigan job three years ago, during LSU's national championship season.
In an unusual pregame news conference before the 2007 Southeastern Conference championship game, Miles expressed his intention to stay at LSU and later signed a contract extension through 2012. Michigan eventually hired Rich Rodriguez, who was 15-22 when he was fired this week.
LSU and Texas A&M last played in 1995, the final Southwest Conference season before the Aggies became part of the Big 12. They had played regularly before that, often in season openers, though many current players had to be told about that tradition.
"I think both fan bases will remind us Friday night," Tigers linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said.
The only other postseason meeting in the series was LSU's 19-14 victory in the 1944 Orange Bowl.
When Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller was asked what he knew about the rivalry, the All-American responded with an inaccurate reference about past conference affiliation between the two schools.
"Well, I guess I don't know a lot about it," Miller said with a smile after being corrected.
During the conference shifting last summer, there were some discussions about Texas A&M jumping to the SEC. But the Aggies stayed in the Big 12, which next season becomes a 10-team league after Nebraska and Colorado leave.
Miles and Sherman both said they like such rivalry games. Still, don't expect any regular-season matchups between LSU and A&M anytime soon.
Texas A&M is already committed to a lengthy series with Arkansas in Cowboys Stadium, where they have played two of 10 scheduled games.
"Then you add in the SEC schedule and who LSU plays, I don't envision this happening at this point," Sherman said. "Maybe down the road, it's a possibility."
LSU had won four consecutive bowl games under Miles, including the BCS national title game three years ago, before a 19-17 loss to Penn State last January in the rain-soaked Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
"I don't even like talking about that game. That was a rough game for this LSU program," All-American cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "But it's a new year."
The junior likely is playing his last game for LSU. His next game at Cowboys Stadium could be in the NFL since he is expected to be a top pick in April's draft.
But there are 16 other underclassmen starters on LSU's depth chart who could return to the Dallas Cowboys' home in September against national championship-contending Oregon in what is sure to be one of the top opening-week games.
"Coming to a stadium like this, it could be overwhelming, like (for opponents) in Tiger Stadium," junior running back Stevan Ridley said. "You're going to have to get used to those things. So it's big for us to end here, but also to start here next year."
Both teams got to practice in Cowboys Stadium all week. Texas A&M already has played there twice, though the Aggies would like a better result this time since they lost both games to Arkansas.
"It's good that we've played here before," said Tannehill, who wasn't yet the starting quarterback in October. "It gives us a baseline that we've already seen it."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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