theknightswhosay

Posts Tagged ‘Mark Richt’

Coaching Changes and SEC Wednesday #5

In College Football, General LSU, History, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on September 28, 2016 at 5:07 PM

This is going to be a little bit different from the other entries in this series of blogs. I really didn’t have enough time to reflect and gather information on Monday. I had work until fairly late that day and had not had much sleep over the weekend. I also don’t like to feature anything lengthy when I post my rankings.

I thought about maybe posting something on its own yesterday, but having posted blogs three days in a row, I didn’t want to do that either. I still have to write something tomorrow for my ratings site, so I needed the break. I won’t go into much detail, but the basic picks and recap for SEC Wednesday is at the bottom if you just want to get straight down to business.

With the housekeeping out of the way, I want to start by acknowledging all the well-wishes etc. that Les Miles and his family have received from fans and coaches throughout the SEC and college football as a whole.

I’m starting to get annoyed with Nick Saban trying to make me like him. A couple of weeks ago he tried to get in my good graces by yelling at Lane Kiffin. Then he had what seemed to be heartfelt remarks remembering his time at Kent St. and the shooting that took place there. Now he goes on for about a minute about Les Miles during his weekly press conference when they’re not playing LSU for over two months. He’s not normally someone who likes to go on about extrinsic information like that.

I know Saban is going to miss beating Les, but I also think Les is one of those guys that even Saban couldn’t help but like.

As an aside, apart from single comment in a forum, I haven’t heard anyone who met Miles say anything negative about the experience of meeting him or talking to him. Even if one assumes the story were true, I guess once in 12 years it’s allowable to momentarily not be in the mood to talk to a stranger.

I would disagree with Saban’s characterization of the decision that was made, but what he had to say about Les as a man and as a coach was fitting. There is some commonality with Georgia’s decision to fire Mark Richt at the end of last season, as Saban pointed out, but I think both Georgia then and LSU now were entering a kind of managed decline. I’ll get into that below.

I also wanted to share a fan tribute to Miles that was posted. I don’t know if I’m getting sentimental in my old age, so maybe it’s just me, but I dare LSU fans to watch these two videos without some kind of emotional reaction. The first link shows the Saban piece I mentioned, but several other coaches make contributions including Kirby Smart, Butch Jones (who never got to face Les), Mark Stoops, and Jim McElwain. These were coaches who happened to have been asked about it in their Monday press briefings. I particularly liked McElwain’s mention of the players and families.

http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=17645961

Gus Malzahn’s press conference wasn’t until yesterday, but he had good words to say as well. He said Les is a legend and one of the reasons the SEC is what it is today, and I agree. SEC defenses were getting spotty, traditional offenses had been eroded by those chasing Spurrier a few years before and were just about to be threatened by the emergence of the spread that Gus himself helped to pioneer. Of course the best offenses have elements of all of the above. I’m going to give the timestamp, so it won’t load the same way: https://youtu.be/QdqNqGKgKkk?t=15m28s

In the last year, the SEC lost all three coaches with longer tenures at their respective schools than Nick Saban has at Alabama.  It was fitting that Spurrier coached his last game against Miles last season.

In the last year, the SEC lost all three coaches with longer tenures at their respective schools than Nick Saban has at Alabama. It was fitting that Spurrier coached his last game against Miles last season.

Anyway, to get back to the decision, I first want to acknowledge again that Les Miles in my opinion is the best head coach of LSU in history.

There have been positive and negative trends at times. The first three years Les won 85% of his games. The Tigers went only 17-9 over the following two years, but then it was like nothing had ever happened. They went 44-9 (over 83% wins) over the following four years, improving Miles’ overall winning percentage to almost 80%. Had he stopped there, his tenure at LSU would have ended with a better winning percentage than his mentor Bo Schembechler had at Michigan.

Here is a list of the only notable major-college coaching tenures I can think of who did better with a comparable or greater number of games: Saban (Alabama), Carroll (USC), Switzer (Oklahoma), Parseghian (Notre Dame), Osborne (Nebraska), Devaney (Nebraska), Neyland (Tennessee), Wilkinson (Oklahoma), Bryant (Alabama), Spurrier (Florida), Tressel (Ohio St.). Urban Meyer hasn’t had a comparable tenure at one school, but of course combining Florida and Ohio St. puts him pretty high on that list. Pretty good company there.

There were a few other notable tenures who passed him up as his winning percentage decreased since then: Lou Holtz (Arkansas), Darrell Royal (Texas), and Mack Brown (Texas). Active head coach Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) is nearly 2 percentage points ahead of Miles, but it’s going in the wrong direction for him as well.

So despite a lot of young talent and despite an upset over Ole Miss and despite giving Alabama all they could handle, LSU went 8-5 the next year (2014). Combined with the 11-5 total between September 1, 2015, and now, that dropped Les to almost exactly 77%.

I’ve been thinking this was the year this group of LSU players would peak since two years ago, so I wasn’t that discouraged by the losses in 2014 and 2015 because we recovered when the same thing happened in 2008 and 2009.

I thought this year might have been like 2010 or even 2011. We would have recovered from the mediocre play of the previous two seasons and everything would have come together. I think those four games were enough to see that a similar resurgence just was not in the cards.

LSU had a spark around the second quarter of both the Jacksonville St. and Mississippi St. games, but with an experienced team like this, we would have run away with both of those games from beginning to end in past seasons. Either Wisconsin or Auburn might have been close, but I don’t think both games would have had to come down to the last minute, nor do I think we would have lost both.

I’ve defended Miles from people who wanted him gone for the last few years, but it just became clear that we were just going to get farther and farther away from that 80% mark I mentioned and the level of play (accounting for the normal ebbs and flows of experience that take place in college) was going to keep slipping.

That winning percentage was just going to keep going down. The same thing was happening to Georgia. I think Richt’s winning percentage would have continued to decline as well. He lost his job with just under a 74% total winning percentage, but that number was going down over the previous three seasons. In a couple more years without a change, I think Miles’ percentage probably would have fallen below Saban’s LSU winning percentage of exactly 75%.

Les Miles with TE Foster Moreau, who scored the only official touchdown of the game on Saturday.  (Moreau said he was not actually assigned a route on the play.)

Les Miles with TE Foster Moreau, who scored the only official touchdown of the game on Saturday. (Moreau said he was not actually assigned a route on the play.)

SEC Wednesday #5

Back to your regularly-scheduled programming…

Last Week

Alabama just had to get that extra touchdown. I could swear Lane Kiffin Is placing bets on the side. This has happened with Alabama a lot the past couple of years.

I was surprised by the Ole Miss margin of victory. I guess Saban was the driving force behind Kirby Smart.

I was also surprised how A&M pulled away.

Florida was way out ahead against the spread, but of course Tennessee had to score one too many times. It just turned out to be a big win weekend and I was expecting a series of close games. Why couldn’t this have happened with Auburn?

Well I thought South Carolina-Kentucky might be the magical bookie game, but I just couldn’t make a pick that didn’t make any sense to me.

I was right about Mississippi St. – UMass at least. The Minutemen are a little too good to lose by three touchdowns at home.

I saw final scores on the television or computer showing me that I picked the right team to win and the game was over! But they were both wrong somehow. At least I got the spread right in the Vandy game, but it’s another bad week in that category.

Missouri beat their FCS opponent as expected.

So given that I picked the wrong team to get credit for the last-second touchdown, I ended up with three losses straight-up, although the only genuine surprise for me was Kentucky.

Overall I fall to 36-8; against the spread I’m now 16-21.
SEC WED

 

Next Week

I’ll start with the easy one. If Arkansas can’t beat Alcorn St., they should just disband the football program.

Florida goes back to the state of Tennessee. I screwed up by taking the Gators with the points last time (but right winner), and I screwed up by not picking Vandy to win (but right on the point spread). On the other hand, neither team can be trusted week-to-week. Vandy can be mediocre at home after a win, and Florida has done really well with the lesser teams this year. Florida minus 10.

I don’t think ULM is a whole lot different from Arkansas St., so the Auburn offense should come back with a vengeance. I’ll take the War Eagle Plains Tigers -32.5.

I got burned by both Tennessee and Georgia against the spread last week. I don’t think Tennessee wins by 10 again, but 3.5 is too small to pick a team I don’t think will win, so the Vols -3.5.

I’m going to pick South Carolina and the points against A&M. I still think the Aggies will drop a couple, but they’ll be against the West. I just think South Carolina will keep it within 18.

If Lane Kiffin has Alabama throwing from the shotgun up 30, I’m not going to be happy; but I don’t think Alabama goes to Lexington and wins by 35 especially now that Kentucky has finally shown some fight.

Memphis made Ole Miss and people who pick the SEC look silly last year, but I don’t think the Rebels are resting easy this time, and they’ll be at home. The blue Tigers probably faced a tougher opponent in the spring game than they have since. I just think they’ll be out of their element. Ole Miss -14.5. 17 to 21 points seems about right.

My logic is similar with LSU-Missouri, but there is the added benefit that two touchdowns and two extra points would beat the spread. Missouri played Georgia to about the same level at home that Nicholls St. had between the hedges. SEC Network tried to sell me on the Mizzou offense based on the Tecmo Bowl performances against Eastern Michigan and Delaware St., but they only managed 11 points in Morgantown (3 points in the first 57:59 of the game). I think that’s the closest thing to a trip to Baton Rouge Mizzou has experienced this season.

If LSU is to be beaten it’s probably like they have been, one score in the teens against a slightly lower score in the teens. I haven’t seen any indication the black and gold Tigers can win a game like that.

If the most successful coach in program history getting canned isn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what is. Also, I’d bet Ed Orgeron is a hell of an alarm clock. I expect LSU to get a lead like they did in their last home game against Mississippi St., and then it will just be a question of keeping it.

Speaking of which, I had to post one more Les picture. This is him singing the Alma Mater for the last time in Tiger Stadium after Mississippi St.

lsu-football-6156_rs1

LSU’s Regular Season Ends; Miles’ Tenure Doesn’t

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game on November 29, 2015 at 6:19 PM

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.

Les Miles receives the crowd's blessing after the game.

Les Miles receives the crowd’s blessing after the 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.

Mark Richt's firing/resignation leaves Miles as the most tenured active SEC coach with one program.

Mark Richt’s firing/resignation leaves Miles as the most tenured active SEC coach with one program.

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.

Nola.com's Jim Kleinpeter responds to a comment about whether LSU should fire Miles.

Nola.com’s Jim Kleinpeter responds to a comment about whether LSU should fire Miles.

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.

les want

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.

The Mad Hatter and the Nutt

In College Football, General LSU on November 19, 2011 at 12:15 AM

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.

Feel free to check out the Arkansas and Ole Miss editions to my rivalry series, but this is going to be a little bit different.

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)
Georgia 2-1
Arkansas 3-3
Florida 3-4
Ole Miss 2-4
Kentucky 1-2
Alabama 2-5
Auburn 2-5
Tennessee 1-4
Appalachian St. 0-2
UL-Lafayette 0-2
Louisiana Tech 0-2
North Texas 0-2
South Carolina 0-2
West Virginia 0-2
Vanderbilt 0-3
Tulane 0-4
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.