Leslie Miles – the 2008 view

As the guy still holding the No. 3 spot at Google for Fire Les Miles, I feel a need to re-address my feelings toward Leslie. Googlers will continue to arrive at pieces I wrote three years ago, but for those of you who manage to find this piece, my current view of the guy standing at the front of the 2007 National Champions is as follows: – Winning isn”t what makes somebody a good coach, and losing isn”t what makes somebody a bad coach. Good coaches tend to win and bad coaches tend to lose, but the measure of that comes over many seasons and depends on circumstances. I think Mark Richt has proven himself a good coach for building Georgia back. Ray Goff showed himself to be a bad coach for letting Georgia slide to mediocrity. But is George O”Leary a bad coach because he went 12-24 in his first three years at Central Florida? His 10-3 record this year would suggest otherwise, but if you are to deem Les Miles a good coach simply for going 34-6 in his first three years at LSU, you have to call O”Leary a bad coach – at least until this year. It”s more complicated than that.

- I believe Leslie was ill-prepared to take over a program like LSU when he arrived. He talked nonsense when he was hired, he lacked good judgment early on, got completely outcoached in his first SEC Championship Game and was fortunate to draw an uninterested Miami team in the 2005 Peach Bowl. The 2006 season was frustratingly successful.

- It”s a bit of an understatement to say LSU was fortunate to play in the BCS Championship Game this season. Leslie had his share of moron moments all through the season as well. Holding that Crystal Football will silence a lot of critics, and that”s understandable.

- That said, I think Leslie is growing into the job. Compare Leslie”s first game in Tiger Stadium – where his Tigers sat on the ball with two minutes left to force overtime with Tennessee to five-for-five on fourth down against Florida and the surprise touchdown pass to beat Auburn this year. Much of that could be the difference between Jimbo Fisher and Gary Crowton, and Fisher wasn”t Leslie”s man. But while Leslie still seems to be dumber than wood much of the time, the overall execution has improved tremendously. The Florida and Auburn games this season were the first performances that left me respecting Leslie, so that”s progress.

- Leslie is making the transition from winning with Nick Saban”s players to recruiting and winning with his own. LSU is a powerhouse program again, which gives it a huge advantage in recruiting. If Leslie can keep winning and keep recruiting, that”ll show him to be a great coach. So far he”s won and he”s recruited well. But it takes time to prove his greatness.

- And for better or worse over time, Leslie is LSU”s man now. Do I buy this “loyalty to LSU” stuff as the reason he”s still in Baton Rouge? No. He wanted to go to Michigan, but the Wolverines and Leslie both were incapable of not bungling their talks, and the timing sucked. He”s right that LSU is a great job and he”s lucky to have it, but he”d rather be in Ann Arbor right now. Michigan”s big hire of Rich Rodriguez, though, means we have Leslie for as long as he keeps winning or until the Michigan job opens up again.

I support LSU, and I”ll support Leslie. He”s shown me signs of promise this year, and you can”t deny the power of the Crystal Football. I don”t consider him to be a great coach yet – but I”ll call him good. But every game is a chance to show what a coach is made of, so I won”t hesitate to criticize or praise in the future.

LSU bad enough to destroy Ohio State

Last night”s BCS Championship Game started bad for LSU. Real bad. And that turned out to be good. Real good. Four plays into the game, Ohio State was up seven. LSU”s first possession went like this: Three-yard run / incomplete pass / misfired shotgun snap / punt from the six on fourth-and-24. Ohio State opened their subsequent drive with a 44-yard pass to the LSU 15.

Things were bad. And that was good.

The Tigers held Ohio State to a field goal to find themselves down 10-0 five and a half minutes into the game. And the shock of such a horrible start was just what the Tigers needed to get back into focus.

It shouldn”t be this way, and LSU knew that. Without the catastrophic beginning, the Tigers might have slogged along playing halfass football like they did against Tulane in the same building three months ago. Had Ohio State been up 7-3 at the end of the first quarter, LSU might not have found the fire.

But they did – in a big, big way.

After the Buckeye field goal, LSU rolled off touchdown drives of 80 and 66 yards and unleashed a ferocious defense that led to a blocked field goal on one OSU possession followed by the combo monster safety blitz / big hit on the QB / pick downfield thing of beauty on the next Buckeye drive and a beautiful sack on Ohio State”s final drive of the first half.

And there you had it. 24-10 LSU at the half. In a normal circumstance, this turn of events would demoralize the victim. In Ohio State”s case, it crushed them. OSU was uniquely positioned to be sent into a state of depression by such a thing, having seen it happen last year against Florida and living the past 364 days vowing to not let it ever happen again.

But it did. Once again the Buckeyes went from feeling like they owned the game to realizing they were being schooled. Yes, the SEC is much better than the Big Ten. Case closed.

Any hope OSU still had was removed by LSU”s 80-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. Killing themselves with penalties couldn”t have helped the Buckeye spirit much.

By the time Ohio State stopped the 31-point LSU run with a pick of Matt Flynn and a fourth-down TD pass, the game was already done. More indignity followed in the form of huge sacks and interceptions before the Buckeyes were able to score again against LSU”s backups.

So Ohio State limped out of the Superdome realizing their position in life relative to the SEC and these Tigers.

It was a beautiful thing.

BCS Championship Game Prediction

Trying to get past the knee-jerk analysis of “Ohio State is slow, hasn”t played anybody, has sat around too long, etc.”, I”ve been poking around season stats and other things to get a handle on what to expect in the BCS Championship Game. And there are some good stats to back up Ohio State”s chances. Each team has won 11 games. Ohio State has lost once, LSU twice. LSU is stronger on offense (20th in total offense, 12th in scoring offense) than Ohio State (58th in total offense, 36th in scoring offense). Ohio State is a solid No. 1 in total and scoring defense; LSU No. 3 in total defense and No. 21 in scoring defense (LSU would be tied for 5th in scoring defense without OT points being counted).

On those counts, I think the edge has to go to LSU. With the defense healthy, LSU will be stronger than their season ranking, and LSU clearly out-performs Ohio State on offense.

I will say this, though. Ohio State dominated its competition, while LSU struggled in a number of games.

I like to look at how teams perform against their competition relative to the opposing teams” other games. Scoring 40 points against a team that gives up 50 on average, for example, isn”t that great. Neither is holding a team to 6 points if they average 3.

And this is where Ohio State is really, really strong defensively.

In seven of its games, Ohio State held opponents to 25% or fewer points than those teams scored in their other games. And Ohio State didn”t allow any opponent to score more on them than they averaged in their other games (Illinois was the only team to get more than 54% of their average and got 97% of their average against the Buckeyes). All told, the Buckeyes allowed 36% as many points as their opponents averaged in other games.

The Tigers, on the other hand, let both Alabama and Ole Miss score more than their average and had just three games where they held opponents below 35% of their average. On average, LSU allowed 56% as many points as their opponents averaged.

I don”t, therefore, poo-poo the Buckeye defense. It hasn”t been sufficiently tested, but it has clearly been dominant.

If you look at the two teams” scoring averages and points allowed, Ohio State has the advantage, with past performance suggesting they will hold LSU to 13.17 points (36% of LSU”s OT-discounted scoring average of 36.4 points per game). LSU would be expected to give Ohio State 17.93 points (56% of Ohio State”s 32-point average). That doesn”t add up to a win for LSU.

Offensively, LSU shows a very similar dominance. In all but two of its 13 games (discounting overtime points), the Tigers scored more points than their opponents” average allowed. And seven times LSU scored 150% or more of the average. Ohio State beat its opponents” average just seven times and scored 150% of the average five times.

Plug in similar formulas and past performance suggests LSU scoring 16.01 points (150% of the 10.7 points per game Ohio State allows) and Ohio State scoring 21.18 points (127% of the 16.7 OT-discounted points LSU allows). Again, that”s not in LSU”s favor.

But those stats don”t tell the whole story. As has been mentioned quite often, Ohio State has played a weak schedule, while LSU has played in the SEC (read: tough schedule) as well as going out of conference with Virginia Tech. And LSU played the second half of the season with a gimpy All-American anchoring the defense.

LSU beat two teams sitting in the top 10 of Sagarin ratings before bowl season and a total of four in the top 20. Ohio State”s best win was over Michigan, 27th in Sagarin ratings. Two of LSU”s wins came over teams rated below 100 by Sagarin; Ohio State claimed four wins over sub-100 teams. The average Sagarin rating for LSU”s opponents is 50.5 and the average of Ohio State”s opponents is 67.2.

Sagarin puts LSU”s strength of schedule at 21 and Ohio State at 62.

Against a much weaker schedule and one fewer game, Ohio State came out a good ways above LSU in defense and a good ways behind LSU in offense. But you just can”t ignore Youngstown State, Akron, Minnesota and Kent State when judging Ohio State”s season.

So I see things this way – Ohio State is very good defensively, and LSU will have to gameplan to their weaknesses and execute well. The Tigers have had five weeks to put together an offensive plan for this game, and they know what to expect from the Buckeyes. I think that”s very much to LSU”s advantage: strong offense that can throw a bunch of looks at you and knows what it”s up against.

On the other hand, Ohio State has to prepare for a defense LSU hasn”t used since the Auburn game. Glenn Dorsey”s injury at the hands of Auburn”s oh-so-innocent offensive line changed how the Tigers played defense. And Ohio State can”t like what it sees in the pre-chop-block defense. The only team to put up good numbers before the Auburn game was Florida, and Ohio State doesn”t have a Tebow. What they have is a more traditional offense like those rolled out by Mississippi State (45-0), Virginia Tech (48-7) and Kentucky – which LSU lost to in holding traditional QB Andre Woodson to a season-low 219 yards (in regulation) and Kentucky to season-low 250 yards of offense (in regulation).

I like both LSU”s chances of doing better offensively than Ohio State”s other opponents and the Tigers chances of shutting down Ohio State”s mediocre offense. It”ll take a strong gameplan and good execution (hold down the penalties and turnovers, guys), and whenever Leslie is prowling the sidelines that prospect makes me nervous.

But I like our chances. LSU 24, Ohio State 10

IBuyStrays.com – real?

So this ad shows up on Craigslist from a website called IBuyStrays.com. The Craigslist posting and the site are pretty straight-forward: earn cash by selling stray dogs and cats you happen to come across. Seriously? There”s not much out in the world about IBuyStrays.com, and the site is just recently created, so I have a couple of theories.

1) This is somebody opposed to animal research / cruelty, etc. and has set IBuyStrays.com up as a satirical “business” to point out the cruel fates suffered by animals taken away for research.

2) This is somebody looking to make a buck (via the Google ads placed all over IBuyStrays.com), and creating a completely reprehensible site and getting publicity via posting at Craigslist – and having people get outraged and pass on the link to others – is his way of generating visits, pageviews and ad clicks.

The second theory is an interesting one. As somebody who looks to generate visits, pageviews and Google ad clicks, I”ve hit upon a few winners tinkering around with strategies. Search is a good one, but “viral” visits can also be good. I seed things at message boards when appropriate (try posting a picture of Nick Saban”s Mercedes with an LSU sticker on it at a Bama fan site sometime …), and that can be good for business.

But the fake-site outrage angle would be interesting. I”ll be watching out to see if the IBuyStrays outrage grows (hardly anything on Google at the moment), and I”d be curious to see what kind of traffic and revenue is being generated from just a little Craigslist post.

Bob Griese sums Petrino up nicely …

Arkansas gets its pig

The sneaking out of town by Bobby Petrino to become Arkansas” new coach is being spun as a quality coach leaving a sinking ship and as a coup for the Hogs, who have been rebuffed by every decent college coach they”ve approached. But that”s not it at all.

The Razorbacks are suckers desperate for a “big name” coach. And Petrino is a worthless sleazebag. Petrino has shown himself to be two things – a sleazy opportunist and a coach not in control of his programs.

I noted the lack of control he exhibited at Louisville three years ago when rumors were LSU was considering him to replace Nick Saban, and his track record during his brief stop in Atlanta was more of the same. He doesn”t command respect, and he doesn”t deserve it.

As for being an opportunist, Petrino”s sleazy reputation is legendary. It”s not that the Arkansas job will be Petrino”s 15th stop in 24 years (opportunistic Nick Saban has been at 13 places in 34 years), it”s that he”s willing to screw people and lie to advance himself. His midnight talks with Auburn, the supposed flirtation with LSU and ultimately his bailing for the Falcons after signing a new contract with Louisville and vowing to stay there show his character.

He”s just sleazy. If Michigan called this afternoon, he”d bolt Fayetteville in a heartbeat.

And I still question his head-coaching credentials. At Louisville, he took over a healthy program in a weak conference and didn”t run it into the ground. Awesome. With the Falcons – pure incompetence. Yet Arkansas is so excited to bring in the NFL”s worst coach that they tossed a huge bag of money at him and hustled him out of Atlanta for a night-time press conference.

If the Hogs did have the chance to hire Will Muschamp, they blew an opportunity. A young, defensive-minded SEC veteran poised to lead a program vs. the disloyal, disrespected and disgraced NFL washout. A poor choice by Arkansas.

More good news for New Orleans

Just 977 short days after the city was flooded by the failure of federal levees, UNO”s Lakefront Arena will re-open next May with a Disney High School Musical / Ice Extravaganza.

See, Katrina wasn”t that bad.

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.


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.


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?

On the BCS mess

Split-screen picture-in-picture was never more fun than last night. Watching West Virginia struggle in Pitt”s death grip on one side, Oklahoma rolling Missouri on the other was truly fun. And the mess made by the two latest pretenders falling on the last night of the season is stunning in its complexity. First off, I”ll be OK with it if LSU doesn”t make the BCS Championship Game. There”s a strong case to make for the Tigers, but there are good cases to make for a couple of other teams as well. LSU had it right there in front of them a week ago Friday and blew it. If we get back up, great. But LSU isn”t owed anything.

The safe assumption is that Ohio State is in. And that”s the biggest travesty of this whole mess. The Buckeyes have no case to be there except for “one loss”. Their sole win over a top-25 team came against current No. 18 Wisconsin, and their opponents” combined record is 60-55. And they”ve played only 12 games. But they”ll get in because the “won” a “major conference” championship and they”ve just lost once. That”s a shame, because there are three conference champions out there who have matched or bested Ohio State in every single category except for “losses”.

Before I get to that, let”s wipe Kansas and Georgia off the board. Georgia is only ranked No. 4 right now because of the timing of their losses. Their current social-promotion ranking is the only argument the Bulldogs have over the other two-loss teams. It”s just not going to happen for Georgia when LSU is conference champion and right there in the mix. And Kansas? Also benefiting from social promotion. The one loss is their shining star, but they”ve played a really weak schedule and also couldn”t win their division, much less their conference.

So we have Va. Tech, LSU, Oklahoma, USC, Missouri and West Virginia to consider as two-loss teams. I”ll discount the social-demotion effect that Missouri and West Virginia will face for losing on the last weekend.

- West Virginia: Beat Cincinnati and UConn. Seriously, those are their marquee wins. But they lost to 5-7 Pitt and won only 10 games.

- Missouri: Beat Kansas, and that”s about it. They did win 11 games, though and lost twice to Oklahoma. So they stay ahead of West Virginia in consideration, for what that”s worth.

- USC: Oh, everybody loves USC now. Boy, they”re great. Two wins (yes, two) over teams with winning records, lost to Stanford and only won 10 games. Bye.

- Oklahoma: They”ve got a strong case if you believe Missouri is any good. They beat Mizzou twice and absolutely destroyed them in the Big 12 title game. Conference champions and in the 11-win club. Maybe not as deserving as they will appear to be to human voters, but I would not be surprised if they vault up to No. 2 based on the impressive win over “No. 1″ yesterday. And I”d be OK with that.

- Va. Tech: If not for the fact that LSU spanked them 48-7, the Hokies would be the slam-dunk choice among the 11-2 teams. It would come across as a huge slap against LSU for the Hokies to make the title game, but Va. Tech”s two losses were to 11-2 and 10-3 teams. I think the humans will drop Va. Tech behind LSU because of the head-to-head match, and that may be the right thing to do. But there”s more to consider than just the blowout loss to LSU. I”d be less OK with Va. Tech making the game than Oklahoma, but there would be a case to make for them.

- LSU: Leslie should lay off the “undefeated in regulation” stuff a bit, but LSU does have a strong case to make that both of its losses came in the unpredictable world of overtime, and both were the hard-fought, triple-overtime variety. And unlike USC, LSU doesn”t seem to get credit for having played with a lot of injuries and all that. Basically losing Glenn Dorsey after the Auburn game and winning the SEC Championship Game with your backup QB playing with a bloody stump on his throwing hand should not be overlooked. The Tigers aren”t pretty all the time, but they”ve won with a lot of adversity in the nation”s best conference and lost only hard-fought SEC battles against two teams with winning records. The Tigers would deserve it if they make the leap to No. 2, but they will also deserve it if they don”t.

My prediction? The chatter among ESPN analysts and BCS experts is that LSU deserves to get in and probably will. I think that “conventional wisdom” will roll over to the actions of the human voters and LSU will squeak in past Oklahoma.

In any case, LSU is SEC Champion again, and that”s what matters more than anything. A hard-fought season through the adversity of injuries and questionable coaching ending with a trip to New Orleans. I”ll take that.

Les Miles press conference video

Straight from the TVs to the Internets to you …

Please note:

- This was not a press conference to announce a contract extension with LSU. This was a press conference to deny a specific ESPN report from earlier today.

- Les Miles did not, in fact, say he’s signed any kind of extension with LSU. Neither did O’Keefe or Bertman.

- Les Miles did not say he’s going to stay at LSU. He “will be” the head coach – which could mean at 4 p.m. today he “will be” the head coach.

- Was Leslie lying today when he said he has no interest in talking to any other teams or yesterday when he said “”Reportedly, they have asked for permission to speak with me. I will allow that after this game.” Or did his “interest” change between yesterday and today.

I think this saga is far from over. A writer for the Times-Picayune said his information is that no deal has been signed with LSU, which is quite contrary to the reports today (which were quite contrary to the original reports today). So we shall see.

Update: So on LSU radio, with CBS and after the game in the press conference, Leslie said in no uncertain terms that he is staying at LSU and not taking the Michigan job. Fair enough. He’s either not going to Michigan or he’s upping the Saban jackass quotient. I think it’s probably true that he’s staying at LSU. The whole drama that’s been playing out is fishy, though. I’d like to hear the truth of what went on in Baton Rouge, Ann Arbor and Atlanta someday.

But I’ll give Leslie this: At his post-game press conference, he spoke of his love for Michigan, how he would love to coach there and that it pains him that he won’t be. I think that was real and genuine, and I’ll give him credit for that. And he spoke very, very highly of LSU and what the place means to him and his family. Well done.

I still doubt Leslie’s coaching abilities and I will continue to criticize him when I see fit (and praise him when I see fit). But if he’s sticking with LSU, then let’s go from here.

Live version presented here for the reaction of O’Keefe and Bertman.

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