I nearly forgot about this completely, but I’ve just updated my LSU/Texas A&M Rivalry blog. The win marks LSU’s fifth straight over the Aggies.
Also, here are my new computer ratings of all the teams.
As I told everyone, the threat to Les Miles job was exaggerated since before the Ole Miss game.
One coach who wasn’t so fortunate was Mark Richt, fired less than three years after the Bulldogs lost a close battle against Alabama in the default national championship game in 2012. Georgia had a tough stretch this year as well, going 1-3 (the 1 being a 3-point win over Missouri) in the month of October.
After making 3 SEC Championship games (2-1) and 3 BCS bowls between 2002 and 2007 (also 2-1), Georgia has only returned to an SEC Championship game twice, winning neither. Contrast this with Miles, who won the SEC and made the actual national championship game (which Richt had never made) only four years ago. I wonder if Les would have been a candidate for that job or perhaps a bit up the road in South Carolina.
One of the criticisms of Les is that he is 0 for 5 against Alabama (though I keep reminding people we did beat them just over 4 years ago and the year before that as well), 6-5 against Arkansas, and 7-4 against Ole Miss.
On the other hand, Les is 5-0 against Texas A&M, has beaten Florida 5 times in 6 attempts, and has beaten Auburn 7 times in 9 attempts.
Compare that with Nick Saban at Alabama: 3-1 against Texas A&M, 4-1 against Florida, and 6-3 against Auburn. Saban has not lost to Arkansas though and was undefeated against Ole Miss until dropping the last two.
In the early part of Miles’ tenure, Florida and Auburn were LSU’s big rivals. Arkansas, Alabama, and Ole Miss were not. I always cared about the Alabama game, but it hadn’t been considered a must-see game annually for several years before the Saban hire. I think a lot of coaches would have lost more of those Florida games especially given the dramatic conclusions to many of them.
Anyway, turning back to the recent drama, it didn’t help Les’s cause that the offense was often ineffectual when it mattered, but despite what the chattering classes told us, there was a serious attempt at running the offense differently in the Ole Miss game. Sometimes completing only 50% of your passes (Harris completed 51% against Ole Miss) isn’t good enough, especially when an interception gives the opposition the ball at the 11 when they’re already up 17-0.
Of course the passing percentage was even worse yesterday. Texas A&M (and former LSU) Defensive Coordinator John Chavis seemed more worried about guarding against the big play than the other recent opposing defensive coordinators were. My guess is he knew the Aggie offense wouldn’t have an easy time making up for a quick LSU touchdown, so he couldn’t take the chance of a long touchdown strike like Alabama could. Even though the Tigers did call passing plays on first down multiple times, none resulted in a completion. The Aggies allowed 244 rushing yards.
People have been assuming that AD Joe Alleva was mistreating Miles by not letting him know he was being fired, but that would have only been true if Miles were actually being fired.
This has put a bit of a cloud over what was recently a #1 recruiting class. I’m sure some coaches would mention there is no guarantee Miles will be staying beyond next year, but almost anyone’s job is in jeopardy every year. Who thought Spurrier, Pinkel, and Richt would all be gone now at the beginning of the year?
It’s not a secret that if you lose five games one year and three (or four) the next at a program like LSU, you may not survive another mediocre (by LSu standards) year. I’m sure the three-game losing streak put a damper on some of the enthusiasm too; but if you have fickle recruits who want to give up easily, that’s not who you really want anyway. That said, I have no problem with player de-committing in order to look around and make sure. I think that shows they want to take the decision seriously.
Alleva said that an evaluation about Miles continuing would take place after the season, but local media people like Scott Rabalais and Jim Kleinpeter thought they could just make more and more dramatic statements, and if it wasn’t specifically contested by Alleva, it must be true.
I’m not discounting the idea that a conversation was had with Jimbo Fisher and his representatives. If it were even a possibility at some point that Miles were going to be fired after the A&M game, it would not have made sense to do that without at least a good possibility of a replacement that would have met our standards.
Of course, some people’s standards are completely ridiculous. In the last six seasons, we had three years with conference records of 6-2 or better. That’s the same as Urban Meyer’s six seasons at Florida. In the past five seasons, LSU has a better overall record than Nick Saban’s five seasons in Baton Rouge.
It’s not enough that Miles has been coaching at a level no one coached at LSU before. Fans want a coach to do better than Saban is doing at Alabama now. I mentioned a couple other points of comparison here.
Another coach who seemed feasible was Chip Kelly, who went 46-7 at Oregon and isn’t exactly doing great in the NFL.
However, moving to the spread would be major overhaul and would not be easily done in one season. Also, the kind of quick-strike offense he ran at Oregon probably would not complement LSU’s current defense, which thrives when it is able to spend a lot of time off the field.
I’m not a big fan of those offenses, partly because it seems like there are a couple of games every year where they just don’t work and you have to struggle through. For instance, in 2009, Oregon lost to Boise St. 19-8. In 2010, they beat Cal 15-13 and lost to Auburn 22-19. LSU was the only team to keep the Ducks below 34 in 2011, but Stanford beat them 17-14 in overtime in 2012. I think it would be more than one or two such games a year against SEC defenses though. It could work though provided we could have better defenses than those Oregon teams. As I’ve said, we will need a new approach without some improvement next year, so I wouldn’t rule it out.
A lot of people are also saying we can revamp an offense similarly to the way Oklahoma has in recent years. This could be done next year obviously without a new head coach. Again, it’s not a perfect analogy to LSU, but it is the same basic idea.
Both sides of the Miles argument seemed to rush to judgment last night. Miles keeping his job is not a big victory for the program, nor is it a permanent enshrinement of mediocrity. It’s simply another chance for the person who’s done the best job as head coach in the history of the program to reach the levels of success he has reached before. There is a lot of hard work over the next 60 weeks to see if that will happen. I’m sure Miles has a want do that work. I’m not certain it’s his last chance, but I don’t think anyone who wants Miles to stay is inclined to risk it.