Despite 8-5 record, Miles remains among nation’s coaching elite
by Jim Engster
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
For the first time since the 1994-97 span of Curley Hallman and Gerry DiNardo, LSU has won its season football finale four years in succession.
More impressively, LSU has collected four consecutive bowl victories for the first time.
Les Miles and crew have out-pointed Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Georgia Tech by a score of 157-44 as LSU has posted two wins in Atlanta, two in New Orleans and captured a BCS title last year. The occasionally maligned Miles boasts a bowl record at TigerTown that is envy of his industry.
After posting a 1-2 post-season mark at Oklahoma State against Southern Miss (W, 33-23) in the Houston Bowl, Ole Miss (L, 31-28) in the Cotton Bowl and (L, 33-7) against Ohio State in the Alamo Bowl, Miles has become Mr. December and January in his fraternity.
Miles’ 5-2 bowl record is superior to Nick Saban’s 4-6 post-season ledger at Michigan State, LSU and Alabama. In the last two years in which he was compared to Saban every second of his existence, Miles is 20-7 and Saban is 19-8.
The men are dead-even in two games of head to head competition, but Miles enjoys BCS and SEC championships attained in the last two seasons while Saban’s hardware is highlighted by a 2007 Independence Bowl trophy. Saban sycophants can point to Nick’s 12-5 conference record the past two seasons; Miles was 10-7 in the SEC in 2007-08.
Based on the 38-3 New Year’s Eve thrashing of Georgia Tech, Miles should be rewarded with a salary boost to keep him ahead of Saban on payday. It looks bad for LSU if Saban is compensated more than Miles, so it’s time for athletic director Joe Alleva to dig into his war chest and elevate the LSU coach to the $5 million per season club.
The bowl victory over the Yellow Jackets was the 70th win in Miles’ eight years as a college head coach. He is 70-32 overall and 42-11 in four years with the Tigers. Since Miles was named LSU coach in 2005, he ranks among the nation’s elite in winning percentage.
The list of major college coaches with records superior to that of Miles in the past four years is miniscule.
The 2008 season could have been better than the 8-5 finish, but it is doubtful that Ryan Perrilloux would have directed the Tigers to an SEC West title. The mercurial Perrilloux was less than spectacular this past season as the quarterback at Jacksonville State.
Perrilloux, who was booted from the LSU squad after numerous infractions, tossed for 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for JSU—not remarkable statistics. He also rushed for 368 yards and seven touchdowns, but he averaged a paltry 3.1 yards per carry.
Ryan was intercepted five times in one game by Eastern Kentucky and passed for only 136 yards on 37 attempts in a 41-14 loss to Georgia Tech in the season opener. Chances are strong that Perrilloux would have been hard pressed to surpass the numbers (both good and bad) recorded by Jarrett Lee in 2008.
Perrilloux was erratic on an 8-3 team that played against less than SEC quality opposition while Lee was erratic against top flight opponents. Lee’s 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions versus major college defenses are arguably superior to Perrilloux’s lackluster stats against teams that LSU would crush.
It appears the most athletic quarterback (including Perrilloux) in the stable of Les Miles for 2008 was the man who ended up as No. 1 at season’s end. Jordan Jefferson showed great promise and was awarded the MVP trophy in the Chick-fil-A rout of Georgia Tech.
Counting the bowl showing, Jefferson completed 36 of 73 passes (49.3 pct) for four touchdowns and one interception. The freshman rushed 49 times for 134 years (2.7 yards per carry) and one score.
The statistics for Jefferson are modest, but he displayed enough confidence and versatility to make him the solid pre-season No. 1 player at the position.
Credit goes to Louisiana Network Assistant News Director Sue Lincoln who asked Les Miles after the first practice in August if Jefferson would be the starter for 2008. At the time, it was considered an off the wall inquiry from a reporter not on the LSU beat.
In the end, Lincoln savored the last laugh.
Jim Engster is the general manager of Louisiana Network and Tiger Rag. Reach him at email@example.com.