As if these 2012 LSU Tigers needed any more expectations piled on them.
Fresh off the first practice of fall camp, LSU players entered their first media session to a torrent of questions about their newfound No. 1 ranking in the first USA Today coaches' poll. LSU's 18 total first-place votes were fewer than both No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 USC, but the Tigers edged into first place with 1,403 total votes -- four more than the Crimson Tide and 15 more than the Trojans.
It's LSU's first preseason No. 1 ranking since the Tigers were the defending national champions in 1959. For a team that is already expected to hoist that trophy again this season, it's not likely to go unnoticed in Baton Rouge.
If that distinction means anything inside the Tigers' locker room, they did a good job of hiding it. Nearly all of the dozen or so LSU players to attend the interview session were asked about the preseason poll, and they rebuffed it to a man.
"It's a huge honor that the coaches think we should be the best team in the country, but it doesn't really mean a whole lot," junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger said. "Being No. 1 at the beginning of the year means nothing; we want to be No. 1 at the end of the year."
That was about as good as it got. Other players, such as preseason All-American defensive end Sam Montgomery, didn't acknowledge the lofty ranking at all.
"I really don't pay attention. It couldn't matter less to me who we're playing or what rank we are," Montgomery said. "Some people frown upon not looking at ESPN, or not looking at stuff like that. But then again, it always gives me an edge because I don't listen to the hype."
Instead, Montgomery said he keeps his TV tuned to Cartoon Network.
However unimportant it might be, one has to admit that a No. 1 ranking is a lot more enjoyable than the Tigers' last ranking of 2011 -- perhaps the most unsatisfying No. 2 finish in history. Even at the dawn of a new season, LSU players answered tireless questions about their emotions nine months after the 21-0 BCS Championship Game loss to Alabama. Even more noteworthy were the team's SEC championship rings, which Les Miles inscribed with a No. 2 ranking as a reminder of the disappointing ending.
"I was surprised, but I'm proud that he did -- that's a motivational thing," Montgomery said. "That lets our guys know that we accomplished a lot of great things, but there's still more out there."
With Alabama at No. 2 in the preseason poll, it's a safe bet the Tigers and Tide will be the topic of many conversations this fall. The prospect of a third straight top-ranked meeting between the pair on Nov. 3 is intriguing, but LSU is content to ignore the hype -- for now.
"We're looking forward to playing that game again, but we've got North Texas and I think eight other games before we play them," Mettenberger said. "We've got to take care of business every day, one period at a time at practice, and hopefully we'll be 8-0 when we get to that game."