NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Brian Kelly and LSU face much higher expectations going into his second season as coach.
He can look in the mirror for raising those standards after winning the Southeastern Conference ‘s Western Division title in his debut year. The success of fellow LSU coaches in their second seasons didn’t help either.
Not one little bit.
“Certainly at LSU, all we can think about is championships after what Jay Johnson did in baseball and Kim Mulkey in basketball,our success in gymnastics,” Kelly said Monday at his second Southeastern Conference Media Days.
Kelly views the challenge as opportunity going into the SEC’s final season with divisions as LSU and Texas A&M chase Alabama as most likely challengers to Nick Saban’s traditional stranglehold on the West before Texas and Oklahoma join the league in 2024.
He made clear his Tigers have to keep improving to compete in college football’s best conference. That won’t be easy no matter how excited they are about going 10-4 in 2022 and beating Alabama to reach the SEC championship game before losing to eventual national champ Georgia.
“The foundation of success is built in consistency,” Kelly said. “Alabama and Georgia continue to hold that mantle of consistency in terms of playing for championships, and that’s what we’ll be looking to be at LSU, is playing for championships consistently, year in and year out.”
The SEC kicked off the first of its four days talking football Monday in Nashville, an event postponed from 2021 so Music City could team together to throw a big party for the league where the motto is “It Just Means More” with a free concert in the Lower Broad entertainment district on Tuesday night.
Commissioner Greg Sankey opened up this event noting three SEC teams have combined to win four straight football national titles and five different teams have won 13 of the past 17 national championships.
Sankey also mentioned the SEC led all conferences for a 17th straight year with the most players drafted by the NFL at 62.
Everyone in the SEC and college football currently are chasing Georgia, the reigning back-to-back national champ. LSU will only have a chance to measure up against the Bulldogs if they defend their division title and reach the league title game in Atlanta on Dec. 2. They lost to Georgia 50-30 in that game last year.
“If we continue to do what we’re doing, we’re going to have a roster that can compete against Georgia, and then it’s just a matter of getting it done on the playing field so everybody then can assess they’ve closed the gap,” Kelly said.
One thing in LSU’s favor this season is the Tigers host Texas A&M on Nov. 25 after losing 38-23 on the road. That snapped a five-game winning streak for Kelly that included a 32-31 win over Alabama. But LSU also must visit Alabama on Nov. 4.
Kelly has quarterback Jayden Daniels among eight starters back on offense. The LSU coach has a bigger challenge on defense replacing seven starters. Running back Josh Williams said the national titles won by two other LSU coaches in their second seasons have brought a lot of expectations.
“We would love to make everybody happy and win the national championship and have that cycle continue,” Williams said. “It would be amazing.”
Coach Jimbo Fisher is going into his sixth season at Texas A&M and last before Texas becomes a league rival again. Fisher said that will be great for both college football along with Texas and the Aggies to renew an old rivalry.
First, he has to manage expectations and this final season in the SEC West, which Fisher called “the best league in ball, in the SEC period.” He has to guide Texas A&M through seven straight SEC games starting with Auburn on Sept. 23 and trips to Tennessee and Mississippi.
Fisher also hired Bobby Petrino in January as offensive coordinator. Asked who will be calling plays during games, Fisher said Petrino was hired for a reason.
Texas A&M is trying to bounce back from a 5-7 season where five losses came by a combined 19 points.
“I see a different chip on their shoulder, and I see a demeanor and a leadership within that group that’s been excellent,” Fisher said.