Friday, August 17, 2007

Saban vs. Miles vs. The Media

No two coaches in the SEC, or perhaps any conference, will be under any closer observation this season than Nick Saban and Les Miles. This is not because their teams are loaded with the most talent, nor because they are on the bubble of being fired. It is because of the controversy surrounding both of them, individually and as a pair.

Every football fan and sportswriter in the country will be keeping tabs on Nick Saban this season. Just as his every comment was carefully examined while he was denying his interest in the head coaching position at U of A while still at Miami, his every decision on the field (and off the field) will be scrutinized by the media and general football public. And understandably so - he is the highest paid coach in college football thanks to a new job in which he denied any interest. With the big paycheck comes high expectations and a band of naysayers that will be sitting back and waiting for him to fail. His cocky attitude and unique personality help to make him an easy target. I would bet you a stadium seat that someone in the bunch already has a one-liner prepared for Saban's first loss as the Tide's coach.

One coach who has worked hard the last few months to take the focus off of Nick and put the crosshairs on himself is Les Miles. His comments about the PAC-10 Conference left alot of ripples in the water. Many writers have said that he called out USC with these comments, but I agree with Pete Carroll who was asked to comment on Miles statement. Said Carroll:

"He's really taking a shot at all the other schools we play. Maybe the comments should come from the coaches at the other schools, including Charlie (Weis) at Notre Dame. He didn't slam us. He slammed all the other schools we play."

Too bad that we will have to wait until the end of the season to see if LSU will be matched up against USC or any other team in the PAC-10 in a bowl game.

When Alabama hired Saban earlier this year, the long-time Alabama-LSU series certainly became a rivalry overnight. While the media folks wait to take turns at bashing them, Saban and Miles may physically deliver blows to each other in November. If not for the state of Mississippi separating them, it might come sooner.

As you will recall, Saban almost immediately stole Miles' championship joy when he claimed responsibility for the starting players on LSU's championship team. This lead to Miles dropping the "F-bomb" in front of fans by saying, "...we have a new rival in (expletive) Alabama!" Later, he said this to another group of fans:

"It's funny, my entire coaching career, I've never enjoyed the color red. Ohio State, Indiana. Shoot, when I was with the (Dallas) Cowboys, it was the Redskins. I just see it as another opportunity to go back to my roots and kick the crap out of another team in red."

I think it is safe to say that the intensity and meaning of the Alabama-LSU game has been cranked up a notch. The interviews and articles leading up to the game will be as interesting as the game itself.



Let’s start with the SEC v Pac-10. Overall, I think this year (before the season starts) I like the PAC-10. But it’s close. The two conferences are very different. The PAC-10 is an offense driven conference and the SEC more of a defense driven conference. The SEC has more loyal & rabid fans and better rivalries. That said, I think a 4 loss PAC-10 team in the SEC would also lose 4 and visa versa. I’ve heard all the ways to judge a conference (stats, pro players, bowl games…) and none of them impress me. A few years ago I watched a lousy OSU team vastly outplay LSU at LSU. Then, last year Cal was humbled by Tenn. So which conference is REALLY better? It’s impossible to say. Now, all that to say it would really be interesting to see a couple of conferences have a “conference challenge” some time. For example, these two conferences would set aside their 7th or 8th game of the season for an open no conference game. The PAC-10 #1 would play the SEC #1, PAC-10 #2 v. SEC #2... All at alternating sites chosen by a flip of the coin. THEN we’d see who was the best conference.

As to Saban, there is no questioning he’s a very good coach. Period. It’s also fair to say he’ll get as much from the Tide as anyone possibly can- regardless of their ending record. I never judge a coach until he has had 3 recruiting years. Weiss at ND won’t really have ‘his’ guys starting until the 2008 season and then we’ll see just how good he is. Willingham left him with, overall, terrible players. Yes, there were a few good gems, but overall it was poor talent- especially on defense.

As to the newly formed LSU/Alabama rivalry, great fun. However, I think coaches should act a little more dignified.

431cruiser said...

Great post, blazer. I agree with you 100% percent on all of it.

There is really no way to judge if one conference is better than an other until equal teams play equal teams...not just one season, but a couple of seasons.

Like you, I believe Saban is a good coach and will get as much out of the team as the team has to offer. But you do have to wait a couple of years to see how good a recruiter he is, and being a good recruiter is vital to being a good coach. The true value of a new coach shows up later in his tenure instead of sooner.

Good post. Thanks for the comments.


Of course, the REAL question about Saban is if he'll stay around for that third year. Alabama boosters are probably one of the 5 most difficult to please in the country according to what I've read. And now the expectations for him are near the miraculous level.

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