ENGSTER: Auburn is pivotal game for LSU and Miles

By JIM ENGSTER
President, Tiger Rag Magazine

Much work remains for Les Miles as he plots strategy for LSU’s SEC road opener against Auburn. LSU is favored by a field goal over the War Eagles even though the Tigers were far from overpowering in a 23-20 decision over a Mississippi State, likely the least of the brethren in the SEC West. Based on a 29-16 setback at Jordan-Hare Stadium to Texas A&M, it appears Auburn is not much better than State. Gus Malzahn is fighting for his job just three years removed from guiding Auburn to a BCS runner-up position.

The good news for Malzahn is that the most beautiful village on the plains has been no garden spot for his counterpart. Les Miles has directed his troops to Auburn five previous times, compiling a 2-3 mark and having his team outscored by a margin of 103-65. LSU has averaged just 13 points per game at Auburn under Miles. The Tigers will not win Saturday unless that point production improves.

[table]Year;Score

2006;Auburn 7 LSU 3

2008;LSU 26 Auburn 21

2010;Auburn 24 LSU 17

2012;LSU 12 Auburn 10

2014;Auburn 41 LSU 7[/table]

If LSU survives this week, the Tigers will be solid favorites to whip Missouri on Oct. 1 and be 4-1 heading to Florida. The loser of Saturday’s clash faces an almost certain firing squad in a few months. The winner lives for another week or a few more years in a conference not designed for coaching longevity.

Miles is the reigning Dean of his fraternity with 12 years at LSU. Three SEC coaches are in their rookie seasons in the conference, and it is a good bet there will be at least that many new head coaches in the SEC in 2017.

Miles, Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M, Derek Mason of Vanderbilt and Mark Stoops of Kentucky are under the gun. Only Sumlin has had a sunny September.

Jimbo Fisher loses by 43 points to Bobby Petrino

LSU President King Alexander and Athletic Director Joe Alleva must have dodged a bullet by not making Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher the highest paid coach in the land at the end of last year. Fisher is feeling heat at Tallahassee after his No. 2 Seminoles were pulverized 63-20 by Bobby Petrino’s Louisville juggernaut.

Bad boy Petrino has again established himself as one of the best coaches in the game. He wins big everywhere he goes and does so in tough places. Fayetteville and Louisville are not exactly Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge. Before his self-inflicted departure at Arkansas, Petrino had improved the Razorbacks from 5-7 to 8-5 to 10-3 to 11-2 from 2008-11. After a year on the sidelines due to putting his side friend on the Arkansas payroll, Petrino was back as a head coach at Western Kentucky where he went 8-4 in 2013. Then it was back to Louisville where he is 61-18 in two tours of duty.

Petrino is competing for a national championship after being left for dead in the profession when a motorcycle accident almost sent him into oblivion. At 55, there is redemption for the son of a preacher man. If Petrino can stay away from swift vehicles and fast women, he may return to the SEC sometime down the line.

The Louisville coach has a $10 million buyout after abrupt departures at other places. As hard it is to believe, athletic directors courting Petrino will be not be deterred by this price tag. Times have changed since 1995 when LSU’s Joe Dean hired Pat Sullivan of TCU to succeed Curley Hallman, then backed away from Sullivan because of a buyout clause of a few hundred thousand dollars. Sullivan had just led TCU to its first Southwest Conference championship in 35 years. But the buyout provision caused Dean to dump him and hire Gerry DiNardo, who had just lost his farewell assignment at Vanderbilt 65-0 to Tennessee.

Best coaches often learn trade at obscure colleges

Bobby Petrino is a graduate of Carroll College in Montana while Jimbo Fisher is an alumnus of Samford. Most of the elite coaches in the country did not graduate from football factories with Les Miles being a prominent exception. LSU has graduated few high profile coaches but boasts a plethora of doctors, lawyers and business executives who played at Death Valley.

Here is a list of the SEC football coaches and their alma maters.

[table]Coach;Current School;Alma Mater;Location              

Nick Saban;Alabama;Kent State;Kent, OH

Les Miles;LSU;Michigan;Ann Arbor, MI

Hugh Freeze; Ole Miss;Southern Mississippi;Hattiesburg, MS

Gus Malzahn;Auburn;Henderson State;Arkadelphia, AR

Kevin Sumlin;Texas AM;Purdue;West Lafayette, IN

Dan Mullen;Mississippi State;Ursinus;Collegeville, PA

Brett Bielema;Arkansas;Iowa;Iowa City, IA

Jim McElwain;Florida;Eastern Washington;Cheney, WA

Butch Jones;Tennessee;Ferris State;Big Rapids, MI

Kirby Smart;Georgia;Georgia;Athens, GA

Barry Odom;Missouri;Missouri;Columbia, MO

Derek Mason;Vanderbilt;Northern Arizona;Flagstaff, AZ

Mark Stoops;Kentucky;Iowa;Iowa City, IA

Will Muschamp;South Carolina;Georgia;Athens, GA [/table]

Heisman is kiss of death for SEC quarterbacks

SEC quarterbacks who win the Heisman Trophy have been mostly disappointing as NFL performers. Steve Spurrier of Florida (1966), Pat Sullivan of Auburn (1971), Danny Wuerffel of Florida (1995), Tim Tebow of Florida (2007), Cam Newton of Auburn (2010) and Johnny Manziel of Texas (2012) won the top honor in college football, but only Newton emerged as an NFL standout.

SEC quarterbacks who did not win the Heisman have been more notable. Joe Namath, Bart Starr and Ken Stabler of Alabama are Pro Football Hall of Famers as are Y.A. Tittle of LSU, Fran Tarkenton of Georgia and George Blanda of Kentucky. Bert Jones of LSU was an NFL MVP. Eli and Peyton Manning have won two Super Bowls each and are future Hall of Famers.

Add Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott to the list of NFL quarterbacking standouts from the SEC. After two games with the Dallas Cowboys, it is apparent the Sulphur native who played prep ball at Haughton is destined for a successful career in the league.

Remembering the man who kept returning to LSU

Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of Paul Dietzel’s first return to Tiger Stadium. Dietzel left LSU at the close of the 1961 campaign as the SEC champion Tigers closed the regular season at home with a 62-0 blanking of Tulane on Nov. 25, then beat Colorado 25-7 in the Orange Bowl.

After four lackluster years at West Point with a record of 21-18-1, Dietzel moved to South Carolina as head coach and athletic director. His first assignment with the Gamecocks was a visit to LSU to face his former top aide Charles McClendon. Mac prevailed 28-12 on the night of Sept. 17, 1966 as fans both booed and cheered Dietzel. Twelve years later, Tall Paul was back in TigerTown as athletic director. He was fired as AD four and a half years later, but couldn’t resist the charms of Baton Rouge where he died on Sept. 24, 2013 at the age of 89.

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