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October 10, 2008

LSU's Miles is better coach than most realize

Tell me I'm wrong, but isn't there a perception – or should I say misconception – that Florida's Urban Meyer is one of the best football coaches in the business and that LSU's Les Miles is pretty good but just fell into a good situation.

I think Meyer is one of the best, and Miles did step into a great situation. However, the more I look at wins and losses I'm convinced, in this case, perception and reality are two different things.

Both took over great football programs in 2005, both have won SEC titles and both led their teams to the national championship.

However, it always has seemed a little different with Meyer. He is the quintessential make-$1 million-by-the-age-of-40 success story. There is this urgency about him that makes you feel he is the differentiator wherever he goes.

At 36 years old, he became one of the youngest head coaches in America at Bowling Green and in two years has one of the biggest turnarounds in the NCAA. He gets the Utah job and in two years goes undefeated. Then, he goes to Florida and in two years leads the Gators to a national championship.

Now, he is sitting there at Florida with a starting quarterback he recruited who just happens to be the only player in history to win the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore.

Miles, on the other hand, took over a football program at LSU full of top recruits that Nick Saban left him. Then, Miles didn't mess up the hand he was dealt.

Not only is this a massive understatement, but it also couldn't be further from the truth. He didn't just "not mess it up." He won more games in his first three years at LSU than any coach in SEC history.

One would be hard-pressed to find a better three-year stretch in major college football. The results are impressive and staggering: 34 wins, 20 SEC victories, 14 wins over top-25 teams, eight wins over top-10 teams, three bowl victories (including a win over Ohio State in last year's BCS national championship game), an SEC title and three consecutive top-five finishes.

However, my recollection of his coaching prowess goes back before his arrival at LSU. I remember when he took over a struggling program at Oklahoma State in 2001. Cross-state rival Oklahoma was coming off a national championship, and OU coach Bob Stoops was being crowned the undisputed best coach in college football. All Miles did was go out and knock off the No. 4 Sooners in Norman in his first year, and then did it again against the second-ranked Sooners the next year.

The truth is both of these coaches are very, very good. Other coaches may have been able to step into these two great football programs and had the same kind of success, but nobody could have done it better.


Now that we know the coaching factor is a wash in the Florida-LSU game, who wins it?

I have to go back to the second most important position on the field, and that is the quarterback. Although Florida's Tim Tebow has not had the year that he would like to have had up to this point, he is a big-game player - and this is a big, big game. LSU redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee, who had a huge second half on the road against Auburn, will not fare as well down in The Swamp.

The Gators, 28-24.


Now that we're getting into the meat of the season and significant battles are being fought every weekend, has anyone started thinking about how unfair it is to have to play a conference championship game when it comes to making it to the BCS championship?

Only three of the six BCS conferences have a conference championship game. That means after we've asked every team to play their hearts out for 12 games to determine who, under like circumstances, best deserves to play for the national championship, we are then going to make some of those teams go out and win another game against a very highly ranked team. What is fair about that?

I know, I know…it's all about the money.


Finally, I guess I need to put in my two cents about the situation at Auburn, where Tommy Tuberville fired his offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin, before practice on Wednesday. Suffice it to say, this was a very unfortunate situation that I have to believe nobody wanted to happen.

However, this hire just seemed like a bad one from the very start. Tuberville hired an offensive coordinator to put in an offensive system that goes against the very grain of his core philosophy. Tuberville is an old defensive coordinator who likes to win games with great defense, a great kicking game, field position and the ability to run the football.

The version of the spread offense that Franklin tried to put in, even if the Tigers had waited for it to succeed, was not going to ever be a comfortable fit at Auburn. Once you decide to spread people out, if you are not willing to throw it every down to force the defense to spread out with you, you are never going to be able to run the football. You can't just go back to the run when things start getting tight.

And, believe me, they always are going to get tight in the SEC.

Terry Bowden is Rivals.com college football analyst. For more information about Terry, visit his official web site. Click here to view previous articles. To send Terry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

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