BATON ROUGE, La. -- Les Miles allowed Brandon Harris to speak to reporters for the first time all season after Saturday's 63-7 rout of New Mexico State.
LSU's coach did it in his own oddball way. In his postgame press conference, Miles instructed a local TV anchor who requested to interview the freshman quarterback to say "pretty please" and then told the reporters in the room not to ask Harris any difficult questions. It was fitting, as he has handled the Tigers' quarterback battle in uniquely Miles fashion.
No matter what Miles says to the contrary, that battle is over. By letting Harris face the media, Miles all but admitted -- even if he refused to confirm -- Harris will start ahead of sophomore Anthony Jennings when No. 15 LSU (4-1, 0-1 SEC) visits No. 5 Auburn (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday.
"We have always done things in a measured fashion," Miles said. "We will go back, look at the film, communicate with our team and not do so through the paper. ... That's not necessarily the splash you want, but that is how we do things."
Fine. Miles is doing the respectable thing by taking Jennings' psyche into account while making the inevitable quarterback switch.
Jennings is a 19-year-old kid who seemed to say and do the right things throughout his competition with Harris, and he might not have played his last important snap as a Tiger. Jennings is also 5-1 as LSU's starting quarterback -- including wins against Iowa and Wisconsin -- so he deserves far better than the boos that rained down each time Miles sent the struggling starter back into Saturday's game before ultimately benching him in favor of Harris.
The fans who booed and chanted "We want Harris!" at Tiger Stadium were ultimately proven correct, at least in their expectations for the freshman quarterback. Harris was nothing short of phenomenal and led LSU to seven touchdowns in seven drives and 429 yards of total offense in roughly two quarters of work.
Miles can publicly handle the situation however he sees fit, but aside from on-field experience (and nobody would describe either of them as a veteran) there is no measure that indicates Jennings is a superior option to start over Harris -- not the scoreboard, not the stat sheet and certainly not the eye test.
Mississippi State shut down the Jennings-led LSU offense for the first 56 minutes two weeks ago before Harris came on and nearly led the Tigers to what would have been a miraculous comeback win. Miles showed loyalty to his starting quarterback -- and more than a little stubbornness -- when he started Jennings for the sixth consecutive game against New Mexico State and left him in despite three turnovers and two three-and-outs in LSU's first seven possessions.
Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron have given Jennings every opportunity to claim this job, and he simply hasn't been able to get it done. Harris has, and sometimes in spectacular fashion, with the Tigers scoring points at a far greater rate with him under center.
That's perhaps the most important point to consider. The Tigers will probably need to post prodigious point totals to beat teams such as Auburn, Texas A&M, Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas. Their offense bogged down at times against the likes of Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico State with Jennings under center, and it looked completely dysfunctional for most of the Mississippi State game.
A super-productive outing against a horrible New Mexico State defense and a couple of late, garbage-time touchdowns -- even the ones against Mississippi State that nearly built an LSU comeback win -- might not be enough to anoint Harris as the starting quarterback for the rest of the season, but Jennings' continued ineffectiveness is more than enough proof his backup deserves a chance.
Miles and Cameron don't have to make a public proclamation for this to be obvious. Auburn's coaches will surely prepare for both quarterbacks, but Gus Malzahn's staff isn't dumb enough to expect Jennings to start. Besides, what would be so difficult about adapting, even if they prepare all week for Harris and get Jennings instead?
There is no good reason for LSU to avoid pulling the trigger on this decision now. It will not be ideal to give Harris his first career start at Jordan-Hare Stadium, yet Jennings hasn't started a game in an opponent's home stadium, either. His dismal performances of late before heavily partisan crowds at Tiger Stadium shouldn't provide Miles and Cameron with any confidence he would play any better in front of 87,451 screaming East Alabamians on Saturday.
They've done right by Jennings in slow-playing this change, though with the SEC West meat grinder approaching, LSU's coaches must start worrying about winning games. Their chances to win are simply better with the more dynamic player at quarterback, even if he will almost certainly make mistakes along the way. Switching to Harris couldn't be a more obvious choice at this point.