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VOL. 131 | NO. 195 | Thursday, September 29, 2016

Miles Never Fully Escaped Shadow of Saban

By Don Wade

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The early in-season firing is much more typical in the NBA or baseball than it is college football, but LSU punted on Les Miles after a 2-2 start and last week’s 18-13 loss to Auburn that included some horrific clock management.

Even with three SEC titles, a national championship and a .770 winning percentage, LSU head coach Les Miles could not survive a 2-2 start to this season.

(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

Miles, who turns 63 in November, takes his leave with a 114-34 record at LSU over 11-plus seasons and a .770 winning percentage. He won three SEC titles and the 2007 BCS championship and reached the title game another time.

For all that success Miles couldn’t overcome the shadow of Nick Saban, who gave LSU a national championship in 2003, jumped to the NFL, then returned to the SEC to lead Alabama to four national titles since 2009. Miles was nearly fired last November – he was commonly referred to as “Dead Man Walking” – but survived and came back with a preseason Top 10 team.

Miles, of course, also failed to make some obvious moves with this second chance. He didn’t replace offensive coordinator Cam Cameron when it was obvious he needed to do so and quarterback woes basically had the Tigers playing 10 against 11.

Assistant and former Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron is LSU’s interim coach; meanwhile, Miles said on Dan Patrick’s radio show that he does plan to coach again, saying he’s not a golfer and enjoys shooting a gun, but “I don’t necessarily like to point it at animals.”

The LSU administration did allow Miles to meet briefly with the team after giving him the news last Sunday.

“You could feel the pain in his voice,” senior wide receiver Travin Dural told reporters. “He almost broke down, but you could tell he loves this program, he loves this school. He loves every one of us. He’s a players’ coach. If anybody tells you different, I don’t know what their experience was with him. I have nothing but great memories with him. Everyone has great memories with him.”

As for the candidates to become the next LSU head coach, the big names mentioned most frequently are Houston coach Tom Herman, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin (that could lead to a new Grisham novel), Michigan State coach Tom Dantonio, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino (also novel material) and TCU coach Gary Patterson.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, like Miles, always has fit into the odd duck category. Now come new reports that his relationship with OSU heavy-hitting booster T. Boone Pickens is more strained than ever. Also worth noting: Gundy coaches his home games in Boone Pickens Stadium.

Anyway, an Austin American-Statesman story quoted Pickens on Big 12 expansion (he’s against it) and also on his relationship with Gundy. Said Pickens: “Mike doesn’t handle people relationships very well. And he gets mad about things. I’ve heard he’s written some notes about me that weren’t very complimentary.”

Gee, that doesn’t sound petty at all. But if the guy whose name is on the stadium is unhappy, well, that can’t bode well for job security. The Cowboys are 2-2 and next play host to No. 22 Texas.

The Tennessee-Georgia game in Athens this Saturday now feels less like an SEC East showdown and more like the next step in the Vols in taking control of the division race.

While No. 11 UT (4-0, 1-0) is coming off a win over Florida, breaking an 11-year losing streak, No. 25 Georgia (3-1, 1-1) is fresh off a 45-14 beatdown at Ole Miss and will send out true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason behind a shaky offensive line, with running back Nick Chubb hobbled by an ankle injury.

“We’ve got to be able to block really well,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “To try to cover that up … you don’t cover that up. You confront it.”

The Week 5 Associated Press Top 25 includes seven SEC teams: No. 1 Alabama, No. 9 Texas A&M, No. 11 Tennessee, No. 16 Ole Miss, No. 20 Arkansas, No. 23 Florida and No. 25 Georgia.

The Big 10 boasts three Top 10 teams, with Ohio State at No. 2, Michigan No. 4 and Wisconsin No. 8. Nebraska checks in at No. 15 and Michigan State at No. 17.

The Big 12, by the way, has just three Top 25 teams: No. 13 Baylor, No. 21 TCU and No. 22 Texas.

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