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Game 5 was must-win for Astros, not Dodgers

In College Baseball, History, MLB on October 30, 2017 at 5:26 PM

I’m going to say upfront I am cheering for the Astros, given their proximity to Louisiana (and shared understanding of floods), the fact that they’ve never won before, the fact that they have an exciting young player who recently played for LSU, among other reasons. However, I don’t want anyone to act like the rest of this series in just a formality.

Former LSU star Alex Bregman’s RBI in the 10th gave the Astros a 3-2 lead in the World Series.

The Astros had a great win, which will be memorable regardless of the outcome; but they had the pressure on them much more than the Dodgers did. I really thought the Dodgers’ bullpen would outlast the Astros once the game was tied, and the Dodgers may still have a stronger bullpen going forward.

Justin Verlander having a chance to put the Dodgers away is much different from merely having the chance to pull even. If it does go to Game 7, I think the Dodgers would have had the edge regardless. If going to Game 7 in Los Angeles were the Astros’ best-case scenario, it would be all but over.

Regardless of the specifics of this series, the response of most fans when they see a 3-2 series lead is that the team with the lead has the series in the bag. This may be in part because it’s more of a challenge in other sports where Game 6 and Game 7 are usually in different places. But in baseball, when the team who is behind has two games at home, half the time that team wins instead.

Just ask the Yankees, who went to Houston with a 3-2 lead this postseason. Many in my area were anticipating/bracing for the Yankees/Dodgers World Series. No doubt this was worse closer to Los Angeles and in New York. Ask Astros fans who remember 2004. The Astros went to St. Louis that year with a 3-2 lead.

David Freese hits the game-winning home run against the Texas Rangers in Game 6 in 2011. Including that one, the Cardinals have been involved in at least four postseason series since 1987 in which a team won Games 6 and 7 at home after trailing 3 games to 2.

Speaking of the Cardinals, another team in Texas took a 3-2 lead against them in 2011. Also, if you go back to 1987, the Cardinals won such a series for the NL title (over the Giants) before losing Games 6 and 7 in the World Series (to the Twins). The Twins also beat the Braves four years later under the same circumstances.

The World Series was also won this way in 1986 (Mets over Red Sox), 2001 (Diamondbacks over Yankees), and 2002 (Angels over Giants).

Scott Spiezio hitting a 3-run home run against the San Francisco Giants in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series.

This is not the full list, just the ones people might be likely to remember. I don’t remember the 1986 and 1987 series; but I remember almost all of the players, and I remember hearing and reading about those series from first-hand sources.

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Good News and Bad News for SEC Sports

In College Baseball, College Basketball, College Football, Other NCAA Sports, Track on June 28, 2015 at 3:06 PM

No championships, but some good performances in major men’s sports

If you missed it, this was my blog about LSU sports in particular over the 2014-15 academic year.

This section will discuss the SEC’s performance in the four traditional major men’s sports, which are football, basketball, outdoor track, and baseball in 2014-15. I made a chart dating back to the 2006-07 academic year when I wrote this blog on the same topic last year. Below is just a small version of the chart containing only this (academic) year’s results.

SPORT Title Runner-Up Semi #1* Semi #2
FOOTBALL Ohio St. Oregon Alabama Florida St.
BASKETBALL Duke Wisconsin Kentucky Mich. St.
TRACK Oregon Florida Arkansas LSU
BASEBALL Virginia Vanderbilt Florida TCU

*- For track, this is simply the #3 team. For baseball, it is the last team eliminated before the championship series. For basketball and football, it is the higher-seeded of the two semifinal losers.

I’ll start with the bad news for SEC fans and the good news for people who don’t like the SEC. This is the first academic year since 1987-88 in which the SEC did not win a championship (just assume when I say this in this section I’m talking about the major men’s sports).

Virginia baseball got revenge over Vandy and ended the 26-year streak of at least one major men's title per academic year for the SEC.

Virginia baseball got revenge over Vandy and ended the 26-year streak of at least one major men’s title per academic year for the SEC.

When LSU won the 1989 men’s outdoor track championship to begin the streak, that was actually the first major championship for the SEC since Georgia had won in football after the 1980 season.

That had been the SEC’s first men’s outdoor title since 1974 (Tennessee). The SEC did not win in baseball for the first time until 1990 (Georgia) but has been the clear leader among conferences since then. This also overlapped with droughts in basketball from 1978 (Kentucky) to 1994 (Arkansas) and in football from 1980 to 1992 (Alabama).

Arkansas and South Carolina football did not join the SEC until the 1992-93 year, but the winter and spring sports began SEC competition in the previous academic year. This was just in time for Arkansas to win its first of 8 consecutive track championships, and it saved the SEC from going 0/4 in the 1991-92 academic year.

There was also a two-week period in June of 2000 where the SEC was not the reigning champion of any of the four sports, but then LSU won the baseball title (by a run over Stanford) that year.

LSU won the CWS with a walk-off single in 2000 to keep the streak going.

LSU won the CWS with a walk-off single in 2000 to keep the streak going.

This year, the SEC had what was expected to be the superior team that went into both the College World Series and the Final Four but just couldn’t get it done. Of course, Kentucky had its only basketball loss the season in that semifinal game. In baseball, LSU only won a single game in the CWS, but both Vanderbilt and Florida made the semifinals.

Baseball was a bit of bad luck as well. I’m not saying Virginia didn’t deserve it, but in the formats of past years, Virginia would have been out with its second loss (which took place in the first game of the championship series). Until 2003, it was impossible to lose twice in the CWS without being eliminated. The Cavaliers had lost to Florida before the championship series began. So although the SEC didn’t win the CWS, they did get two wins against the champion. Also, had the Gators won their second game against the ’Hoos (which they lost by one run), there would have been an all-SEC final.

Still, having one of the top four football teams, one of the top four basketball teams, two of the top four baseball teams, and three of the top four track teams isn’t a bad year even without a championship. That would most probably be the best if there were three major conferences, and there are five.

Also, there were two other top-8 baseball teams (LSU and Arkansas), and two other top-8 track teams (Texas A&M and Mississippi St.). Football had two additional teams (Georgia and Missouri) finish in the top 14 of the final AP poll. Basketball didn’t have any other teams of note with only two wins (one of them a “first four” game) in the whole tournament not by Kentucky.

Successful year in other sports

The SEC did have some success worth commenting on in other sports.

The LSU baseball team had a disappointing CWS, but the golf championship was some consolation.

LSU baseball had a disappointing CWS this year, but the golf championship was some consolation.

The LSU men won in golf for their first championship in the sport since 1955, but Alabama had won the previous two titles. In total, the SEC has won four titles since the “stroke and match play” format was introduced in 2009.

In women’s basketball, South Carolina lost in the Final Four, and Tennessee reached the Elite Eight. South Carolina was the first SEC team to make the Final Four since 2008, which was the last time Tennessee won. At least one SEC team had made it every year from 2002 to 2008, when both LSU and Tennessee were regular participants.

Florida celebrates its second consecutive NCAA softball championship.

Florida celebrates its second consecutive NCAA softball championship.

In softball, the SEC did extremely well. Eleven teams made the tournament, eight made the super regionals, and five made the Women’s CWS. Florida won in the championship over Michigan, but the SEC had two other semifinalists (Auburn and LSU). Three of the last four softball championships have been won by SEC teams (Florida also won last year, and Alabama won in 2012).

As in men’s outdoor track, Oregon beat out several SEC schools for #1 in women’s outdoor track. SEC teams finished second (Kentucky), third (Texas A&M), fourth (Arkansas), fifth (Georgia), and eighth (Florida). SEC teams had won in 2012 and 2014 (Texas A&M), although LSU’s 2012 title was revoked.

LSU Wraps Up 2014-2015 Well; Football Is a Question Mark

In College Baseball, College Basketball, College Football, General LSU, Other NCAA Sports, Track on June 20, 2015 at 3:37 PM

I was getting ready to write about how encouraged I was with LSU sports over the last few months, and then I read this: http://theadvocate.com/sports/lsu/12689249-123/lsu-qb-anthony-jennings-two

I’ll talk about why that’s especially upsetting when I talk about the football team later, but first I wanted to talk about sports that actually competed in intercollegiate athletics recently.

It’s only been a few months since basketball ended, so I’ll start there. It would have been nice to have had a win in the NCAA tournament, but even making it was a big step forward for the program. Without an injury, NC State may well have been an Elite Eight team, so losing to them by one point was nothing to hang our heads about.

Nothing ever went quite how it was supposed to go under Trent Johnson, but it definitely seems on track with Johnny Jones, especially given that LSU got a few big recruits to come onto the team for next season.

Ben Simmons has already shown that he looks good in purple and gold.

Ben Simmons has already shown that he looks good in purple and gold.

I’m not a big follower of women’s sports, but although track and basketball were disappointing (only because those were until recently two of LSU’s best programs of either sex), I was happy for the softball team, which made it to the semifinals at the Women’s College World Series.

LSU softball celebrates a walk-off win over Alabama

LSU softball celebrates a walk-off win over Alabama

I was very impressed by the end results of the last three major men’s programs: golf, which won the first national championship in 60 years; men’s track, which finished fourth in both the SEC and the nation; and baseball, where LSU won its first game at the college World Series since winning the whole tournament in 2009.

LSU football Head Coach Les Miles and Athletic Director Joe Alleva congratulate the LSU golf team after its first national championship since 1955 (and first SEC championship since 1987).

LSU football Head Coach Les Miles and Athletic Director Joe Alleva congratulate the LSU golf team after its first national championship since 1955 (and first SEC championship since 1987).

This was the best combined finish in a single year by the LSU baseball and softball teams. Both made their respective CWS’s in 2004, but LSU baseball did not win a game in Omaha that year.

I’ll reluctantly shift gears to football. I didn’t lose any sleep at all over John Chavis’s departure. I appreciate what he’s done at both LSU and Tennessee over the past couple of decades, but it was probably best to look toward the future anyway.

From the moment I heard about it, I wanted us to find a way to bring in Ed Orgeron, which we managed to do. Orgeron isn’t the defensive coordinator, but I have confidence Steele will do a good job. Anyone with a bigger name may not have felt comfortable being potentially overshadowed by an assistant.

Some criticize LSU for taking Alabama’s leftovers (Steele was demoted from DC at Alabama when Saban decided to call the plays himself), but I couldn’t find much fault with any of the defensive performances in Steele’s tenure. Alabama’s problem in 2007 had been offense, not defense. They did have a little bit of trouble in an early win over Arkansas (giving up 38 points), but Arkansas’s offense was pretty good that year. LSU also put up big numbers against the Tide that year (41 points), but that so happened to be the last LSU team that won a national championship. Steele was also an assistant under Saban at LSU in 2004, also coaching alongside Will Muschamp, Auburn’s new (and old) Defensive Coordinator.

Speaking of unsuccessful head coaches, Steele never won more than three games as Baylor Head Coach, and Orgeron never won more than four games as Ole Miss Head Coach, but I think they both learned a thing or two about recruiting.

DC Kevin Steele (left) and Ed Orgeron are possibly the best combination of defensive coaches in college football.

DC Kevin Steele (left) and Ed Orgeron are possibly the best combination of defensive coaches in college football.

Steele had also served as Clemson’s defensive coordinator for four seasons. After being in the top 20 in total defense in 2009 and 2010, he had some problems in his third season there and the beginning of his fourth; but Clemson only allowed 3 of its last 7 opponents in 2012 (one of them LSU) to score 21 points or more and only 1 of those 7 scored 28 or more.

So why was that article I posted at the beginning so upsetting? What LSU has been missing for many years under Les Miles has been a reliable quarterback. Ryan Perrilloux should have been one, but that didn’t happen. Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee never seemed to reach their potentials. Zach Mettenberger had some success (as a transfer) in 2012 and 2013, but then Anthony Jennings had some hiccups last season.

One of the things I was encouraged with was Anthony Jennings. One of the things I was NOT impressed with was Brandon Harris, who mostly looked about as effective during the spring game as he had during the season.

Harris ran well in the spring game, but he only looked proficient as a passer when he was with the white (primarily first-string) team. That was mostly because of good plays by receivers and openings in the secondary you could drive a tank through.

(l to r) Brandon Harris, Anthony Jennings, and Brad Kragthorpe practice in the LSU indoor facility.

(l to r) Brandon Harris, Anthony Jennings, and Brad Kragthorpe practice in the LSU indoor facility.

I did not see the whole game, so I don’t know if last year’s third-string QB Brad Kragthorpe (who scored the apparent touchdown that was denied against Notre Dame) even played. LSU successfully recruited three-star QB Justin McMillan, but I would be surprised if he’s ready to lead the offense anytime soon either.

I do think the white defense was good and even parts of the purple offense looked good, I will be worried about the defensive secondary late in games though since the depth doesn’t seem to be there.

I expect LSU can have among the best rushing games, run defenses, and pass rushes in the country, but having a quarterback you can count on (which certainly makes running the ball easier) and having depth in the secondary (which can make the line and linebackers irrelevant) are two important areas.

I’m not saying Jennings is the answer to LSU’s problems or that he would have been had he not been arrested, but he certainly looked like the best hope at the position for next season. It won’t require greatness, but it will require some accuracy and good decision-making. Obviously the latter needs to take place off the field too.

My Solution to the College Baseball Controversy

In College Baseball, General LSU on May 30, 2015 at 7:00 PM

I’ve been following college baseball since 1989, about as long as I’ve followed the other major sports. There have been a few changes since then, and this year it seems a complication has developed. I’ll start with a little bit of background.

In the current system, there are 16 regional sites (which generally go to the best 16 teams in the tournament) with four teams at each site. The 16 winners then go to 8 super-regional sites–there is one for each of the national seeds.

I’ll just give one example from this year.

(national #2) LSU, Baton Rouge regional host
#2 UNC-Wilmington
#3 Tulane
#4 Lehigh

#1 Houston, Houston regional host
#2 Rice
#3 ULL
#4 Houston Baptist

If LSU wins the Baton Rouge regional, LSU will be the super-regional host against the winner of the other region. If Houston wins and LSU doesn’t, Houston will be the super-regional host. If neither wins, the better team between the two regional champions will host, assuming they have the right facilities available. If not, they can arrange for alternate facilities (for instance, the stadium of a local professional team) or allow the other team to host.

The view behind home plate at LSU's (new) Alex Box Stadium

The view behind home plate at LSU’s (new) Alex Box Stadium

In the previous system, there were 8 regionals of 6 teams apiece, and the 8 winners went directly to the College World Series. It was not unusual, however, for a host of a regional to be the #2 seed in that regional. For instance, LSU (at least since the 1990s) has consistently been the best college baseball site, so there were some years where LSU was a #2 seed in their region and still hosted the regional.

With twice the number of regional sites, the fact that some of them won’t exactly be packed hasn’t seemed to be as big of a deal, so it has since become expected that regardless of who they are, the best teams will play at home or somewhere near home.

This year, there were four SEC teams that were routinely considered among the best in the country: LSU, Florida, Vanderbilt, and Texas A&M. Every major ranking system had at least three in the top 8 at the end of the season, and some had all four in the top 8… except for the one that counts, the NCAA committee. Only LSU (regular-season SEC champions) and Florida (SEC tournament champions, who had only the 4th-best SEC record) made the top 7. Rather than making Texas A&M or Vanderbilt #8, the committee picked the Missouri St. Bears.

The committee tends to be a little bit more egalitarian as far as teams from less-accomplished areas and conferences, and I honestly do not have a problem with that. I want more people to enjoy college baseball, so even if they don’t pick the best teams in my opinion, I don’t mind that. If they picked someone who was clearly less deserving from the Pac-12 or Big XII, I wouldn’t be as happy, but I wouldn’t be making a blog post about it. I don’t think it would result in many people calling for some kind of change to the system.

The real problem is Missouri St. can’t host a super-regional. What the committee did was pair them with the closest site hosted by an unseeded team, which was Stillwater, home of the Oklahoma St. Cowboys. They’re not even in the top 10 of any major rankings, but they’re basically the de facto #8 national seed now since they would host the regional if they win.

To be fair, I don’t consider this is completely outrageous. I understand that the committee doesn’t want to punish Missouri St. for its inability to host by making them travel far, but there should have been some kind of alternative site for the super regional. For instance, I can’t imagine there isn’t a baseball field in or near Tulsa where this could be played. That’s roughly between Stillwater and Springfield, MO (in the Southwestern part of the state), where the Bears normally play. If Arkansas upsets Oklahoma St. to win the Stillwater regional, then Fayetteville would just be a few miles away from Springfield if that is where the super-regional is played. I also understand that the committee probably wasn’t primarily considering super-regional sites and was probably looking at the fair seeding of the tournament as a whole.

Hammons Field, home of the Missouri St. Bears and Springfield Cardinals

Hammons Field, home of the Missouri St. Bears and Springfield Cardinals

I do agree with the people who are complaining about this that Missouri St. should have been paired with either Texas A&M or Vanderbilt, neither of which is ridiculously far away. This doesn’t solve all future scenarios though. What if the 9th and 10th teams are on the other side of the country? What if instead of being a #8 national seed who can’t host, it’s one of the very top teams?

One “solution” that has been suggested is to seed teams #1-16. That would have solved the problem this year, but it doesn’t answer either of the questions I just posed. I also don’t agree with it. What if Oregon St. is #8 and Miami is #9? (These are both good teams of recent years, so this is a realistic scenario.) I don’t think Miami should have to travel to Corvallis when it could have been a very close choice between the two for #8. I’d much rather leave #9-16 more flexible. I’d rather Miami have a super-regional with Florida or Florida St. even if the Gators or Seminoles are in the top 4. I think most teams would rather play close to home than play a team a spot or two lower when there’s no guarantee those teams will be easier to beat anyway.

I think a good solution would be to have eight regional sites sort of like at one time the NCAA basketball tournament named regions after the cities they fed into. So you could still have Missouri St. be a #8 seed, but you could have had a Tulsa, College Station, or Nashville Super Regional. Of course, if the relevant team were to lose, you can always find a new super regional site, but it would work in making up the bracket more fairly.

It should also be made clear to teams that they’ll be treated like they’re not in the top 8 if they can’t host a super-regional, and they’ll be treated like they’re not in the top 16 if they can’t host a regional. That way teams can just say they’re not hosting at all, or like UC-Santa Barbara did in their regional (which is being played in Lake Elsinore, CA), they can pick a site somewhere else.

The committee can still pick the top 8 teams who are available as super-regional hosts and the top 16 teams who are available as regional hosts. I don’t think had the system been in place as I described it that the committee would have declared Stillwater to be a super-regional host. It’s also possible that Missouri St. could have come up with another suggestion or committed to come up with other arrangements should the need arise.

An example of a team surprisingly having to host a super-regional happened last year. Texas Tech was not selected as a regional host, but when both #1 seeds in that part of the bracket (Florida and Miami) lost, they ended up hosting the super-regional. Texas also hosted a super-regional after not hosting the regional (#1s LSU and Rice had both lost). They’re a more traditional power, so it was less of a shock, but it still strengthens the point that these scenarios do happen.

I’ve been meaning to post about various LSU sports, but I keep delaying it and then having too many other things to do. I’ll probably just combine it all into one blog once baseball is over.

Vanderbilt CWS win caps great academic year for SEC

In College Baseball, College Basketball, College Football, Track on June 27, 2014 at 3:52 PM

I know it’s been a while, but often in the summer I’m too busy watching sports to blog much about them. College football is just the perfect sport for me to blog about since you have all your games finishing up on Saturday night, and (even with the national semifinal system) each game is much more important than an NFL game. Then, aside from the mostly irrelevant early-week games, there are a good few days at least to ponder the results and the upcoming week with no new results coming in.

Anyway, what I’ve mostly been doing lately in my spare time is watching the World Cup and the College World Series (I’m about to replace the latter with Wimbledon). I’ll probably have something to say about the World Cup when it’s over, but for now I just want to sort of sum up the academic sports year, which ended with Vanderbilt winning its first ever national title in a men’s sport, and (surprise surprise) talk about the SEC.

In some respects, you could consider the year a disappointment for the SEC. Obviously, the SEC’s streak of BCS titles came to an end at 7 after Auburn’s loss to Florida St. in January. When Oregon won the men’s outdoor track title a couple of weeks ago, it marked the fourth consecutive major men’s sports title (I’ll just call them the four sports from now on) NOT won by the SEC. Had Virginia won the CWS, this would have matched the drought from January 2004 (LSU’s first BCS title) to June 2005 (when Arkansas last won the national title in track).

On the other hand, going into the CWS final, the SEC had been reigning runners-up in all four of those sports (that’s not really “reigning”, but you get the idea). In three of those four sports, the SEC had at least one additional team in the top four. Also, I mentioned the BCS title streak that came to an end, but it’s still 8 years in a row that the SEC had a team play in the championship game. In baseball, it’s now 7 years in a row than an SEC team has been in the championship series (4-3). The SEC only had two finalist in the seven prior seasons. Both lost.

This is actually kind of incredible, but this academic year, the SEC had 10 different programs finish in the top four of the major sports: Auburn football, Alabama football (I’ll explain), Kentucky basketball, Florida basketball, Florida track, Texas A&M track, LSU track, South Carolina track, Vanderbilt baseball, and Ole Miss baseball. I would be very surprised if any conference had ever done that before in those sports.

I know most have said good riddance to the BCS already, but there is an important thing to clarify in the way it worked. In short, the number 3 and 4 teams in the final BCS standings are the closest approximation to semifinalists. I’ll elaborate in the next paragraph, but feel free to skip it if you understand.

It did not narrow down the field to two teams after the bowl games. So in basketball, for instance, you got eliminated from title contention when games were played and you lost to the title team. But you got eliminated from BCS title contention after championship week and before the bowl games. If Florida and Wisconsin went and lost some kind of exhibition after the basketball season, that would not alter their status as basketball semifinalists. For BCS purposes, the bowl games were exhibitions for all the other teams. I know the AP title was theoretically still in play, but the BCS was the only championship system. You don’t have to remind me USC won the AP trophy after the 2003 season, but in the bowl game they were playing a team (Michigan) which was not vying for any kind of championship, so that’s not really a system where you must beat other teams that are trying to be champions. A team like Alabama last year made a really good run at the title and understandably only one team separated them from a berth in the championship game when it came time to decide who was to play in that game.

So while the SEC ONLY had one national championship in the four sports this year, the first time it hasn’t had multiple championships since 2007-08, having ten programs that high is an impressive feat, arguably even more impressive than 2011-12 when the SEC had 3 national titles, 3 runners-up and a seventh top-four team. As mentioned, three of the relevant programs were also runners-up this academic year.

Below is the chart of all these top fours beginning with the 2006-07 academic year, the beginning of the BCS-championship streak. 2005-06 was a good year for LSU (Final Four in basketball [won by Florida] and national runner-up in track), but I had to cut it off somewhere. If someone wants to compile results for other conferences, feel free. The only reason a fifth track team is included for this year is there was a tie in points for fourth, which obviously isn’t really possible for the other sports. The BCS has too many decimal places to tie, and in basketball and baseball, you’re only going to get four semifinalists no matter what you do. From now on, I will use the same format for football and just consider the losing semifinalists as tied for third.

SEC 2006 to present

Les Miles: “It must have been the shoes”; SEC teams in the CWS

In College Baseball, College Football on June 22, 2011 at 5:39 PM

I’ll get to the shoes, but before that even came up again, I was planning to write about Les’ coverage by the Oklahoma St. media. After last season, I wrote this blog about Les Miles’ tenure at LSU so far as compared to previous coaches. I didn’t write anything about that other school where he was the head coach. (By the way, let me know if my links are not to your liking. I know some people like to know where they’re going before clicking on a link.)

I found this tribute by “News OK”/The Oklahoman interesting. Check out the video and the article.

Miles “only” went 2-2 against “Bedlam” rivals Oklahoma, including a 52-9 loss, but a few notes about that series that the Oklahoma St. media didn’t care to remind people about (and I don’t blame them). The Cowboys have only beaten the Sooners 16 times in 97 games. Only 7 of those Oklahoma teams had winning records (1917, 1930, 1944, 1966, 1976, 2001, and 2002), so the only two of those instances in the last 34 years were under Miles. 1976 was the only other time Oklahoma had what I would call an impressive record (9-2-1). The best Oklahoma record in the other seasons was 6-3-1. The Oklahoma teams that the Cowboys beat under Miles were 11-2 and 12-2, respectively. You would never hear Les call this a success, I’m sure, but the Cowboys only lost to the Sooners by three points in 2004, a year Oklahoma would finish 12-1 (the only loss being in the national championship game). The Sooners have won every game against the Cowboys since, and 4 of the 6 games were by 20 points or more.

I don’t understand what he did in leaving to upset the Oklahoma St. fans, but maybe some of the resentment is because they miss him a little, at least during one game a year. Despite the one blowout, there had to be a better feeling going into Bedlam then than there is now or than there has been any time in memory. He told people goodbye? That seems like a nice thing to me. Maybe someone could explain to me what he did. It’s not like he pulled a Saban and started coaching another Big XII South team (the only ones comparable to Alabama would be Oklahoma or maybe Texas) a couple of years later.

Mike Gundy had his tirade (“I’m a man, I’m 40”), but I prefer a guy being funny because he doesn’t take himself too seriously rather than because he’s prone to drama. It might have even been somewhat calculated too. He had to show he was just as committed-to-the-point-of-insanity (or at least a high level of eccentricity) to his program and his players to replace Miles in people’s eyes.

The three consecutive winning seasons in Les’s last three years were the first such string since Barry Sanders and the 1988 campaign.

But I’m not sure a coach has to have a pulse to win a majority of his games with a running back who averages 7.6 yards per carry and over 200 yards per game. There was only one winning record (1997) between Sanders’ time as running back ended and Miles’ tenure as head coach began.

Something else that’s interesting is I didn’t know who Les was back then, but I knew his team, and I knew they were going to fight hard no matter the opponent. I don’t know if he really aspired to be in the spotlight to the extent he is right now, but he seems to be embracing it as a way to promote his team and the school as a whole.

Les Miles had a bit of a media blitz yesterday at ESPN. But there has been some interesting banter between Les and Scott Van Pelt as a background to this, so I’ll show it all in order.

This radio spot began the whole thing during the week after the Florida game last year:
?id=5674526&autoplay=1&callsign=WNXXFM

Then came a later addition to the Scott Van Pelt Show, this one with video (I couldn’t find it on YouTube, so I can’t embed it) after Van Pelt received a special delivery from Les:
http://www.collegesportsdirect.com/Video.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=5950&vid=728389

This is another interview with Van Pelt after the Cotton Bowl and the Michigan speculation where Les bargains for a return gift (which where this is headed):

And that led to this amusing video that Les shot with two of his children:

Les’ style and grace just speak for themselves.

Then, these are just highlights of his meanderings around ESPN. Jordan Jefferson (via recording) got into the shoe discussion with Les as well:
http://www.lsusports.net/mediaPortal/player.dbml?id=777260&db_oem_id=5200 (linked to immediately above)

I also liked how Les talked about how he tries to keep players out of trouble with boosters and the like. He can be a loose cannon at times, but given that, it’s incredible how he avoids singling out people for criticism. That was also mentioned in the “News OK”/The Oklahoman link.

College Baseball

They also talked about how insane the SEC is in football. A little bit of a change in topic (Les Miles is apparently a baseball fan though), but the SEC is not so bad in baseball either. The only losses by any SEC team in the Super Regionals or College World Series (CWS) going into today were to other SEC teams (Florida to Mississippi St. once, Mississippi St. to Florida twice, and Vanderbilt to Florida). Vanderbilt leads North Carolina, 5-1, going into the 9th inning (UPDATE: now final). Only two other conferences had two CWS teams (Texas and Texas A&M of the Big XII, and Virginia and North Carolina of the ACC), and the SEC has three. The Aggies and Longhorns were were both swept out of the CWS, with one loss each to an SEC team. The ‘Hoos (loss to South Carolina) and the Heels (loss to Vanderbilt…twice now) were both 1-1 going into today. The Pac-10, like the SEC, had four teams in the Super Regionals, but only one (the Cal Bears) made the CWS. Cal is 1-1, with a loss to Virginia and a win over Texas A&M.

Admittedly, the SEC did suffer some losses to other conferences in the regionals, but the three SEC teams who were seeded first in their regionals (the same who are in the CWS) all made it through without a loss, as did Mississippi St., who was actually seeded third in its regional.

Unlike in the BCS, an SEC team has only won the last two College World Series (LSU in 2009 and South Carolina last year), but if things keep going as they are, a third seems in reach. It’s very possible that the potentially three-game championship round will be played between two SEC teams.