LSU finishes its regularly-scheduled season with games against Ole Miss and Arkansas, so naturally I thought about one Houston Dale Nutt, Jr., who presumably the SEC will be without next year for the first time since the 1997 season.
The first thing I noticed when looking up information for this was that Houston Nutt makes $2.5 million per year. No wonder they fired him. I have more respect for him than most do, but I’m not sure he ever earned that kind of salary.
But he did do a pretty good job against LSU, in recent years especially. His teams have beaten LSU in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008, and 2009.
LSU was heavily favored from 2003 to 2005, but in 2005 (the first time Les and Houston squared off), Arkansas (who would finish 4-7) nearly beat an LSU team that won the SEC West and finished 11-2 (one of the two losses being in the SEC championship). It was only 19-17, and the game was played at Tiger Stadium. LSU also barely beat the Hogs in 2006 (31-26), a win which would give the Tigers a Sugar Bowl berth.
Those two games set up Arkansas’s win over the #1 Tigers in 2007, at which point Houston was on his way out the door for not doing more with Felix Jones and Darren McFadden that season. I don’t know if it was Bo Pelini or what the situation was, but LSU could not handle those guys. It was a miracle the Tigers had won in 2006, when Jones and McFadden each averaged over 8 ½ yards per carry. LSU gave up over 300 yards rushing before sack yardage was subtracted, and the Tigers also gave up 33 passing yards to McFadden in two attempts (more yards than the Hogs got in Casey Dick’s 17 attempts). In the 2007 game, Arkansas gained 385 yards on the ground, albeit with the aid of three overtimes to pad its numbers. Dick did better as well, which forced LSU to pay more attention to the pass. Given this, the final score was surprising again.
So since 2000 (Saban’s first year with the Tigers), LSU only had easy wins against Nutt’s teams in 2003 (when LSU won the national championship and Arkansas went 9-4, which included a 55-24 loss to LSU) and in 2004, when Arkansas went 5-6 to LSU’s 9-3 and the Hogs lost, 43-14. So despite that finish, Saban was only 3-2 against Houston when he was at LSU. The only Saban-era win not covered was when LSU beat Arkansas, 41-38, in a fairly evenly matched game. With the win, LSU won the SEC West and would win the SEC and the Sugar Bowl. Saban has not lost to a Nutt team since taking over at Alabama, although he did have close calls in 2007 (41-38) and 2008 (24-20).
In 1998, LSU was in the middle of a 3-15 stretch covering two seasons and they lost to Arkansas, 41-14. LSU had won the previous four games in the series. My absolute favorite win over a Nutt team was in 1999 when LSU ended that run, with an interim head coach on the sidelines, beating a bowl-bound Arkansas team, 35-10. Arkansas finished 8-4, and LSU finished 3-8. The Tigers have not had a losing season (or even lost more more than 5 games in a season) since. I’m guessing Saban would have taken the job anyway, but it meant so much to me as a fan because I knew we had a much better team than that, and it was something to give us hope going forward. By the way, Gerry DiNardo, who was fired as head coach before that 1999 Arkansas game, was once on the same staff with Les Miles in Colorado. Gary Barnett, another big name in coaching in the 1990s, was also on that staff. It’s interesting that Miles took so much longer to get a major head coaching opportunity.
In total, Houston is 6-7 (2-1 at Ole Miss) against LSU going into Saturday. He’s 3-3 against Les Miles.
Let’s compare to some other coaches vs. LSU since 1995:
Jim Donnan, 2-0*
Steve Spurrier, 6-3*
Bob Davie, 2-1*
Bobby Petrino, 2-1
Tommy Tuberville, 7-7 (2-2 at Ole Miss)*
Urban Meyer, 3-3
Mark Richt, 3-3
Hal Mumme, 2-2*
Mike DuBose, 2-2*
Phillip Fullmer, 2-4
Nick Saban, 2-4
(only coaches with two wins or more are included)
*-at least one win was during the 3-15 stretch mentioned above (in the cases of Donnan, Mumme, and DuBose, both wins were during that stretch; Spurrier and Tuberville also got two wins apiece during that period)
Vs. Les Miles (2005 to present):
Joe Paterno, 1-0
Bobby Petrino, 2-1
Mark Richt, 2-1
Urban Meyer, 3-3
Rich Brooks, 1-1
Nick Saban, 2-3
Gene Chizik, 1-2
Phillip Fullmer, 1-2
Tommy Tuberville, 1-3
Steve Spurrier, 0-2
(coaches in the first category or with at least one win are included)
So Nutt and Urban Meyer are the only two coaches that beat a Les Miles team 3 times in the last 6 seasons. You can see why Les compared Nutt to Meyer here. It’s interesting how Les appreciates it when he has trouble with an opponent.
Only Tommy Tuberville has more wins against LSU since 1995 than Nutt does. Steve Spurrier, who is tied with Nutt, is the only other coach who is close. Only Meyer and Richt have even half as many wins over LSU in that time (although of course neither has coached continuously in the SEC since 1998).
Teams against Les Miles with LSU (two games or more)
Ole Miss 2-4
Appalachian St. 0-2
Louisiana Tech 0-2
North Texas 0-2
South Carolina 0-2
West Virginia 0-2
Mississippi St. 0-7
I noted that Les’s Oklahoma St. teams only played one SEC team while he was there, the 2003 Cotton Bowl, which the Cowboys lost to Ole Miss. So the Rebels are actually 3-4 against Les as head coach.
Les was 1-1 against Louisiana Tech while at Oklahoma St. and 1-0 against UL-Lafayette.
And not that this has anything to do with the above, but he was 1-1 against Iowa St., the loss coming in Ames in his first season.