They call him Lucky Les because any time LSU is involved in a close football game, Les Miles has this habit of taking risks that no one else would take to turn the tables in favor of the Tigers. Remember those four fourth down conversions against the Gators at Tiger Stadium in 2007? Or the fake field goal that led to a first down and the game-winning touchdown against the Gators in 2010? And then there was another fake field goal against UF last year, this one for the game-winning touchdown with 10:40 left in the game.
Les does have this way of pulling out close games – he’s done it 46 times in his coaching career, 39 at LSU – but percentage-wise the best in the SEC is Florida coach Jim McElwain, who has a 13-4 career record in games decided by 7 or fewer points, 5-1 at Florida. Mac’s only close game loss at UF was last year’s 35-28 decision at LSU.
Last year, Mac went 10-4 with five of those wins coming in games decided by 7 or fewer points including three straight. In games 2-5 last year, the Gators beat East Carolina 31-24, Kentucky, 14-9, and Tennessee, 28-27. There were also wins over Vandy (9-7) and Florida Atlantic (20-14). McElwain was 8-3 in close games at Colorado State from 2012-14.
Surprisingly, Nick Saban is middle of the pack with a 42-28-1 career record. In SEC games, Saban’s head is barely above the water at 17-14.
If you check out the bottom four in the SEC (Kirby Smart and Barry Odom of Mizzou aren’t included since they’ve never been head coaches before), you’ll find Butch Jones (Tennessee) at #9 followed by Bret Bielema (Arkansas), Will Muschamp (South Carolina) and Mark Stoops (Kentucky).
(Data from CBSSports.com)
1. Jim McElwain, Florida: 13-4 (.765; 5-1 at Florida)
2. Gus Malzahn, Auburn: 15-7 (.682; 12-7 at Auburn)
3. Les Miles, LSU: 46-25 (.648; 39-18 at LSU)
4. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: 16-9 (.640)
5. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: 5-3 (.625)
6. Nick Saban, Alabama: 42-28-1 (.599; 17-14 at Alabama)
7. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: 21-15 (.583; 11-8 at Texas A&M)
8. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: 13-11 (.542; 7-9 at Ole Miss)
9. Butch Jones, Tennessee: 21-21 (.500; 6-9 at Tennessee)
10. Bret Bielema, Arkansas: 24-25 (.490; 3-10 at Arkansas)
11. Will Muschamp, South Carolina: 8-10 (.444; all at Florida)
12. Mark Stoops, Kentucky: 5-7 (.417)
5 coaches with outstanding records in close games:
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State: 34-13 (.723; 13-2 at Ohio State)
2. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: 16-7 (.696)
2. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame: 78-38-2 (.669; 22-13 at Notre Dame)
3. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati: 60-31 (.659; 8-5 at Cincinnati)
4. Kyle Whittingham, Utah: 34-19 (.642)
5. Gary Patterson, TCU: 43-25 (.632)
UF AD SEARCH UPDATE
From an impeccable source: University of North Carolina Bubba Cunningham, a native of Naples who has both bachelors and masters degrees from Notre Dame, was indeed interviewed last week for the Florida job. Whether or not he was actually offered the job is sketchy, but no matter, he’s staying in Chapel Hill.
FROM STATE ATTORNEY BILL CERVONE RE: ANTONIO CALLAWAY
State Attorney Bill Cervone weighed in on the sexual assault allegations leveled at wide receiver Antonio Callaway by attorney John Clune, who represented a UF student in a Title IX complaint. Speaking to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, Cervone’s comments seemed to back up the assertions by Callaway’s defense attorney Huntley Johnson, who says his client is not only innocent but there is plenty of proof. Cervone said, “I had a conversation with officers at the university to see whether it was going to come this way. Based on what I knew then, I didn’t think there was even a remote possibility of criminal charges. It would have been totally un-prosecutable based on the facts given to me. It would have never risen to sexual assault or sexual battery.”
Elsewhere in the SEC:
Alabama: AL.com is reporting that graduated defensive back Maurice Smith and family met late last week with Nick Saban to discuss Smith’s desire to transfer to Georgia. Reportedly, Smith’s mom Samyra asked for an opportunity to speak to Saban alone and that a “verbal battle” ensued and lasted 20 minutes before Saban stormed out of the room.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks plan to go with the best five regardless of position to make up their O-line. Right now that looks like LT Colton Jackson (6-6, 302), LG Hjalte Froholdt (6-4, 314), C Frank Ragnow (6-5, 312), RG Jake Raulerson (6-4, 295) and RT Dan Skipper (6-10, 340). Raulerson is a graduate transfer from Texas who could also play center if the Hogs need Ragnow to go back to guard. Froholdt is a native of Svendborg, Denmark.
Auburn: Graduate transfer CB Marshall Taylor is expected to return to practice sooner and not later. Taylor, who played at Miami (OH) last year, was injured at a party that was also attended by former AU running back Jovon Robinson. AL.com is reporting that the party brought out the worst in Robinson, who was dismissed from the team last week.
Georgia: In a much-publicized break from mentor and former boss Nick Saban, Georgia HBC Kirby Smart says he won’t block graduates from transferring within the SEC. “If they have an opportunity to go to graduate school at another place, I certainly think that’s something we’re going to let them do.” Maurice Smith, who has graduated from Alabama, is being blocked by Saban in his attempt to transfer to Georgia.
Kentucky: DT Reggie Meant, Kentucky’s most experienced D-lineman, has left the team to deal with a personal issue. HBC Mark Stoops said Monday that Meant (6-4, 302) might not return during the 2016 season.
LSU: NT Travonte Valentine (6-3, 340) is back with the team and that might be a good thing since senior DT Christian Lacouture suffered what appears to be a serious knee injury. Valentine was academically ineligible in 2014 and was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules last year … Also injured is DE Isaiah Washington, who suffered a major knee injury.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have a new DC (Peter Sirmon) and a completely new defensive staff. They also have seven or their top 10 returning tacklers from last season including stud MLB Richie Brown (109 tackles, 6.5 sacks last year).
Missouri: Even with DT Harold Brantley academically ineligible and De Walter Brady dismissed, the D-line figures to be a real strength for Mizzou. Charles Harris has All-SEC ability at DE and tackles Terry Beckner Jr. (6-4, 300) and huge Josh Augusta (6-4, 345) are experienced and talented. HBC Barry Odom is quite confident that Marcell Frazier can make up for the loss of Brady.
Ole Miss: OT Jeremy Liggins, who sometimes doubles as a TE or a FB, is being held out of fall camp because of a violation of team rules HBC Hugh Freeze announced Monday.
South Carolina: Everybody knows former QB Lorenzo Nunez can run with the ball. The question is can he catch it? If he can the Gamecocks may have a game changer on the outside, something they desperately need now that Pharoh Cooper will be playing on Sundays. Nunez ran 59 times for 375 yards and two touchdowns last year when he split time with Perry Orth at QB.
Tennessee: Heath Shuler, who was the #3 choice in the 1994 NFL Draft (one of the great busts in NFL history), has a rather high opinion of UT’s senior QB Joshua Dobbs. “I’d rather have him than any other quarterback playing in the SEC or in the NCAA right now … he plays havoc with defenses right now.” Dobbs isn’t bad, but I can think of at least 10 QBs I would rather have starting with Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.
Texas A&M: Now that he’s at TCU where he is eligible in the fall, former Aggie QB Kenny Hill has found a home and a bit of sympathy from co-offensive OC Doug Meacham. Regarding Hill’s days as an Aggie, Meacham said, “It’s kind of unfair. You’re a young kid, you roll into a school where the Heisman Trophy winner (Johnny Manziel) is a guy that misses meetings and does whatever he wants to, and in your mind you think, ‘Well, that’s just how you’re supposed to do it.’ So, I don’t think that helped him a whole lot.” In eight games as a starter for the Aggies in 2014, Hill threw for 2,649 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Vanderbilt: Former LB Khari Blasingame, seems to have found a home in Vandy’s offensive backfield. Blasingame was in on 13 tackles last year, but now he’s a fullback and lead blocker for 1,000-yard rusher Ralph Webb.
GRIDIRONNOW.COM RATES SEC SPECIAL TEAMS
2. South Carolina
4. Mississippi State
7. Ole Miss
11. Texas A&M
My opinion: Tennessee? Really? The Vols have the best return game with All-American Evan Berry (38.3, 3 TDs on KOR) and Cam Sutton (18.7, 2 TDs on PR) but punter Trevor Daniel consistently outkicks his coverage and Aaron Medley is the same guy who missed a potential game-winner against UF. Auburn should be #1 with PK Daniel Carlson (23-27 FG) and punter Kevin Phillips (only 7 punts returned). South Carolina is good but #2 is a stretch as is Alabama at #5. If Eddie Pineiro is anywhere close to living up to the hype, the Gators will be top three thanks to big leg P Johnny Townsend and Antonio Callaway, who ran two punts back for TDs.
The top 5 countries medal count:
1. USA 19 (5 gold, 7 silver, 7 bronze)
2. China 13 (5 gold, 3 silver, 5 bronze)
3. (Tie) Japan 10 (3 gold, 7 bronze) and Russia 10 (2 gold, 5 silver, 3 bronze)
5. Italy 9 (3 gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze)
Former Gator Kelly Murphy had a huge role in Team USA’s come from behind volleyball win over The Netherlands.
Team USA battered outmatched Venezuela into submission Monday evening, 113-69. The 44-point margin is rather astonishing when you consider it was an 18-18 game at the end of the first quarter.
I think I would rather watch a giant 3-toed sloth take a nap in the Costa Rican rain forest than watch synchronized diving. If this weren’t the Olympics and Americans David Boudia and Steele Johnson weren’t winning a gold, I wouldn’t watch. I have to wonder if they pay NBC analyst Cynthia Potter by the word? I finally had to mute my TV.
What an amazing story for 100M backstroke silver medalist Kathleen Baker, who has battled through Crohn’s Disease to have a moment in the sun.
Considering Russian Yelena Efemova was banned from competitive swimming for 16 months and just this year tested positive for another banned substance, it was rather satisfying to see American Lilly King score a split second win over Efimova for the gold in the 100M breaststroke.
Tonight’s 200M butterfly showdown between Michael Phelps and South African Chad Le Clos will be must see TV.
The US women’s field hockey team scored a 2-1 upset over a second world power on Monday. Saturday, the US knocked off Argentina and Monday they beat Australia.
I started watching women’s rugby 7s and was riveted to the TV. It’s like watching wishbone option football – only more vicious. Those women maim each other.
There is a verbal feud going on between former Ohio State teammates Alex Boone and Terrell Pryor, who is trying to hang on to his NFL career as a backup QB with the Cleveland Browns. Boone, an outstanding college OT but now a starting OG with the Minnesota Vikings, said about Pryor to KFAN, “Unfortunately, I could not stand any minute with him. The kid was so arrogant. I mean, I hated everything about him.” Do you remember when Pryor was being touted as a potential winner of two Heismans?
And speaking of the Cleveland Browns, Robert Griffin III was named the starting QB on Monday. RGIII is staging a career comeback after a disastrous last couple of years in Washington.
LGBT advocacy groups are urging the Big 12 to look elsewhere beside BYU for expansion. Is this political correctness at its absolute worst?
Missouri’s new AD is Jim Sterk, who was poached from San Diego State.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If you had one college football game to win and you could choose any coach to get your team ready and direct the game from the sidelines, who would you pick?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
About the closest thing to the soul music of Otis Redding is St. Paul and the Broken Bones, a Birmingham band that just nails it with every live performance. I never saw Otis Redding in person, but I did see him live on television several times. Lead singer Paul Janeway reminds me so much of Otis.
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