Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 2 LSU. The Tigers are coming off a disappointing performance in the national title game, but the roster returns nearly intact.
Is Les Miles One of College Football's Best Coaches?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
For a few months in 2011, it was not fashionable to dump on Les Miles. For the first time since Miles arrived at LSU, even the skeptics had to watch Miles as the Tigers beat Oregon, West Virginia, Arkansas and Alabama (the first time around) and relent that maybe Miles is more than just a lucky eccentric with heaps of talent. Then came the drubbing in the national championship game, and Miles’ star fell from elite coach to simply very good. The 21-0 loss in the title game and how woefully underprepared LSU was in that game remains a mark against Miles. But shouldn’t we at least consider that Nick Saban is just in a league of his own, especially in these revenge situations? After all, no one seemed to hold it against Urban Meyer when the Tide answered Florida’s 31-20 SEC championship victory in 2009 with a 32-13 drubbing in the rematch a year later.
While there may be better coaches than Miles in the SEC -- if Bobby Petrino were still at Arkansas, there were at least two better in the West alone -- Miles is a top-10 coach nationally. We can chuckle as Miles sometimes struggles to put together coherent sentences in front of the cameras. We can deride him as lucky on fourth-down attempts or fake kicks. We can say it would be tough to lose with that much talent on defense. All of which may be true, but we’re talking about a coach who hasn’t had a losing season since his first at Oklahoma State and has led LSU to a top-10 finish in five of the last seven seasons. (Funny, though, how Saban seems to get a ton credit for setting the table for Miles at LSU while Miles gets none of the credit for setting the table at Oklahoma State for Mike Gundy). Miles will always be in the shadow of Saban, but so are 123 FBS coaches right now. Take Miles on his own merits and he’s clearly a top-10 coach.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Define 'best?' Is Les Miles one of the top 10 coaches in the nation? Absolutely not. Is he one of college football's better coaches who is capable of winning a whole lot of games? Yes. Miles took the foundation that Nick Saban laid and maintained an elite level of success with four 10-win seasons in six years. With a national title, multiple SEC titles and various national awards, the resume is about as complete as it gets nationally. He certainly is a character whose personality wins over players and leads to massive success on the recruiting trail. Having built arguably the best roster in America, The Hat has a reputation based on energy, flamboyance, swagger and an uncanny ability to entertain.
However, he has also developed another reputation based on bizarre eating habits, poor end-game management, vocal gaffes, and now, the worst BCS performance in the series' 14-year history. Questions about his teams’ mental focus, discipline and overall ability to adjust were beginning to subside after the 13-0 romp through the regular season last fall. However, those issues resurfaced after the most under-prepared, poorly managed title game of the BCS era. Relatively speaking, Miles is one of the better coaches in the nation. But in the Southeast, the stakes — and standards — are higher (sometimes unfairly so), and after LSU became the first and only two-loss team to win a BCS title, that team from Tuscaloosa has clearly been the best program in the SEC. Miles has lost 12 games in four years, and with what could be perceived as the best roster in the nation, three losses per season cannot be perceived as the "best in the nation."
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
When it comes to ranking college football coaches, Les Miles is perhaps one of the most polarizing points of discussion. He has amassed a 75-18 record in seven seasons in Baton Rouge and led LSU to three BCS bowl appearances. In addition to his success with the Tigers, Miles does not get enough credit for his tenure at Oklahoma State. He inherited a team that won 13 games from 1998-2000, but led the Cowboys to at least seven victories in three out of his four years in Stillwater.
Despite his success with Oklahoma State and LSU, Miles still has plenty of detractors. His 17-9 record from 2008-09 was surprising for the recruiting classes he has amassed in Baton Rouge, while there have been some questionable game management situations throughout his tenure. Miles’ team was also embarrassed mightily in the national championship game against Alabama.
Is Les Miles the best coach when it comes to developing gameplans? Probably not. But he can certainly recruit and his players love playing for him. Nick Saban sets the bar high for the rest of the coaches in the SEC, so it’s impossible for Miles or any other coach to challenge him for the No. 1 coach spot in college football.
Miles can be a little wacky at times, but let’s give him some credit for going 75-18 in seven seasons. I wouldn’t place him among my top five coaches in the nation, but Miles probably gets too much criticism and not enough credit for his success at LSU.
I will admit I am not a Les Miles fan and generally would be the last to defend him. However, in this case, I think we need to give the "Mad Hatter" his due. Love him or loathe him, the man has won 103 games in 12 seasons as a head coach. He went 28-21 in four seasons at Oklahoma State, which may not seem like much, but remember this was before the Mike Gundy era, which has produced the most successful football seasons in Cowboys' history.
He took over at LSU in 2005 and all he did was win 34 games in his first three seasons including a the BCS National Championship in 2007. He took the Tigers back to the national title game last season, and yes they laid an absolute egg in losing ugly to Alabama, but that was still the only game they lost all season. Bottom line is he's 75-18 in seven seasons in the Bayou with two SEC titles and one national title on his resume.
Miles may not be one of top tacticians in college football and he has certainly made his share of game management errors. He also may not be the smartest guy in the room, although you can bet he's usually one of the more quotable ones.
However, he's also never had a losing season, won more than 72 percent of the games he has coached in his career and has done so in two BCS conferences, including the SEC, the nation's toughest. Most importantly, he's one of six current head coaches who have won a national championship. Put it all together and I think we should all give a tip of the hat to Miles, one of college football's top head coaches.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Absolutely. Many critics around the college football world will focus on Miles’ funny quotes, grass-eating or the bad game plan against Alabama in the national championship, but his accomplishments in Baton Rouge are on an elite level. The Mad Hatter has gone 75-18 in seven seasons at LSU, winning 11 games or more five times and going 5-2 in bowl games. Miles has one national title and two SEC Championships in Baton Rouge, and he owns 13 victories over coaches who have won a national title.
Obviously LSU has a ton of tradition and a fertile recruiting base, but Miles’ track record in seven seasons stacks up with any of the past Tigers coaches. One underrated aspect of his teams is their physical nature with the running game and defense. That attitude to punish opponents into submission does not just happen — it starts with the head coach. Even though the Tigers lost in the BCS title game last season, they did win at Alabama, smacked around the Pac-12 and Big East champions and blew out 10-win teams in Georgia and Arkansas. Those feats require more than just talent on the roster. While his entertaining personality on and off the field gets a lot of attention, Les Miles has proven to be one of the best coaches in college football.
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