BCS title game, Michigan A.D. on a boat, and other thoughts

Lots to absorb in this week of BCS Championship Game Glow and Les-will-stay euphoria. Some thoughts about some things: It”s swell to be asked to play for the BCS title. It really is. But this isn”t like 2003, when LSU was one of three undeniable monsters in college football. That year it was a question of who to leave out (Georgia fans take note: the human politics you believe kept you out of the title game is a result of humans wanting USC and computers wanting Oklahoma that year. Computers won the battle, but humans won the war. And, by the way, the computers also put you 5th).

This year it was a question of who to put in. Ohio State (the weakest of the five conference champions who might be considered) got their free Big Ten, one-loss pass, and then it came down to a question of which two-loss team to put in. Rightfully, the three teams that lost two games but won 11 – not 10 – and won their conferences finished 2, 3 and 4. Cases could be made for Va. Tech or Oklahoma, but the collective human and machine mines settled on LSU. And that”s fine. Great, even. But it”s not like 13-1 in 2003. That was a really amazing year.

But we”ll be back in the Superdome playing for the national championship for the second time in four years. It doesn”t get better than LSU playing for all the marbles in New Orleans. I”m working on how I can get myself down there now.

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Details are now coming out about what went down with Michigan and Les Miles – which is to say, not much. If you believe the Michigan A.D., he was waiting until Sunday to engage in any discussions with or about Leslie, and by that time LSU had sewn up the details on a nice, new contract for Miles.

As many a Michigan blogger has pointed out, this was either gross incompetence on the part of Michigan A.D. Bill Martin or a calculated strategy to avoid having to pretend they wanted to hire Miles by giving LSU plenty of time to wrap him up. It seems clear that Leslie wanted the job.

So is Michigan stupid? Or is LSU stupid for throwing a deal at Miles thinking he was talking to Michigan when he wasn”t? It”s hard to say, but clearly Leslie isn”t stupid – he jumped at the sweet deal LSU was offering when they (incorrectly) thought they were in a battle for his services.

But here”s the thing – as Ann Arbor News writer Jim Carty reports today (saving me from running down the numbers) – Miles” pay was already automatically going up for winning the SEC title (to about $2.8 million at least) and will go up to about $3.4 million if he beats Ohio State next month. It”s the same sort of incentive-based arrangement Nick Saban had at LSU. Of course, Miles gave his word to stay at LSU before his Tigers beat Tennessee to lock in the first bump, and if he foresaw LSU being in the title game, he probably made well in excess of $3 million betting on Pitt.

LSU is extending Leslie”s contract by one year – to 2012 – but an extension such as that would be pretty much automatic for a guy who”s gone 33-6 so far. There are hints that other, unspecified changes are in order for Miles” deal, but it”s hard to imagine they affect his ultimate decision.

So what caused Miles to blow off Michigan Saturday afternoon before he or his agent had even spoken with his beloved alma mater? I have a hard time believing it was just a sure-thing raise vs. a likely raise. He”s a Michigan Man, after all. Could he have been so pissed of at ESPN that he closed the door on Michigan right then and there? I can”t imagine that”s the case.

My best (uninformed) guess – Miles realized during the week, and especially when Bill Martin wouldn”t return calls Friday and Saturday, that Michigan wasn”t just going to hand the job to him. They were going to make him apply for it.

Him – A Michigan Man who played and coached for Bo; who has paid his coaching dues at places like Oklahoma State; who talks glowingly of the program at every opportunity and who had gone 32-6 following in the footsteps of Nick Saban in the toughest conference in college football.

Miles doesn”t need to prove himself to Michigan. They should want him like Ole Miss wanted Houston Nutt. And when he realized that wasn”t the case – and when LSU showed him how much he was wanted in Baton Rouge – he was done with the Wolverines.

Maybe someday he”ll coach Michigan, but I think Bill Martin will have to be gone and the Wolverines will have to grovel at his feet. For now, he”s an LSU man, and I”m behind him all the way. I”ll still criticize, but his rejection of Michigan”s games in favor of LSU”s commitment impressed me.

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Bo Pelini will be on the sidelines calling LSU”s defense one more time. Can Pelini put together a gameplan and coach his guys up while splitting duties as Nebraska head coach? I dunno. Sounds like a tough thing to do, but this is Bo”s defense and I don”t know who would be able to step in on short notice in his absence. It”s probably better to have half of his attention than all of somebody else”s.

And congratulations to Pelini for landing the Nebraska gig. That”s a big-time spot for a rookie head coach to land at age 40. I expect a defensive genius to be found to replace him. Will Muschamp, anybody?

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