Miles, Nutt prepare for one last showdown

Rebels' coach was fired two weeks ago, so this will be the final time Nutt and Miles match wits

When LSU and Ole Miss tangle Saturday in Oxford, Miss., it will mark the last time Les Miles and Houston Nutt will match wits for the foreseeable future.

That means the end of what has been one of the most interesting and at times bizarre coaching matchups in the SEC the last seven seasons.

Miles and Nutt have split their first six meetings, with a triple-overtime game and an infamous late-game meltdown mingled in – arguably two of the toughest losses in the 17 the Tigers have suffered in Miles' seven-year tenure.

With the final showdown looming in three days, Miles and Nutt both touched on what's made their head-to-head matchups so fun to watch during the weekly SEC coaches teleconference.

"We've always enjoyed a great competitive game and his guys always seem to be prepared to play and play well," Miles said. "I would expect that wouldn't change.

"We recognize that this is tremendous rivalry and really expect that Ole Miss will play their best and we're looking forward to a very competitive game."

Said Nutt, "I have such an awesome respect for Les Miles, and even when Nick (Saban) was there. They have such great athletes. When you go against a competitive team and your team is ready and very focused, it makes for a great game. I'm hoping we can make that a same type of game."

That will hinge on which Rebels team shows up.

On the way to a 2-8 record that gave the Ole Miss administration the final ammunition it needed to dispatch Nutt before his fourth season was over, the Rebels have battled hard at times.

They have hung around in games with Georgia and Arkansas. They have also endured blowout losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky and last week lost at home to Louisiana Tech 27-7.

Nutt was informed his tenure was over after the loss to UK, the first time he's been fired.

Instead of fading into the background, the former Arkansas coach asked to ride out the season. He reflected on his tenures with the Razorbacks and Rebels Wednesday saying he "goes to sleep at night knowing you did a lot of good things in the SEC."

Houston Nutt.

"This was a shock and I didn't expect it but you go on," Nutt said.

"I've always taught our guys to finish. This is my first experience with this situation. I don't think I'd do it any other way."

Miles said he expects Nutt to land on his feet.

"I think Houston will end up in a like position and do well," he said. "You enjoy competing against quality guys. I hated it when (former Florida coach) Urban Meyer left. I felt like his teams, it was an honor to play against a very quality team, and Houston is in a like position in my mind."

Both coaches touched on other topics during their phone sessions with the media.

Les Miles

  • On the proliferation of trash talk:

    "When I played there was very little conversation between (players). There were very great rivalries and it was physical, but there was a line drawn where really you did not talk.

    "There is time when it's too much. But I think there's a fine line there that says I'm ready to compete. If someone speaks to you, you certainly are encouraged to retort."

  • On whether he's in favor of the possibility of a rematch with Alabama or Oregon:

    "If some way we end up where we'd like to be, we would enjoy any quality opponent. It's obvious to me that one-loss teams can be very much a quality opponent. I don't think there's anybody that can foresee the landscape as we go forward."

  • On the fans unrest with the LSU two-quarterback situation:

    "The great thing about athletics any style is that there are quality opinions offered that are on the perimeter of the program and perimeter of the team. Certainly their observations are sound and solid to them and they're allowed to voice them. And frankly we don't care. We understand it. At some point and time we're going to make the best call that we see fit for the opportunity for our team to win and that's always been the case here and will always be the case.

    "It's great speculation for who's this and who's that and they're very much entitled to their opinion, but that opinion has little effect on the decisions that are made within this program."

    Houston Nutt

  • On whether he's disappointed to have to suspend players this late into the season:

    "It's tough when they say your head coach is not going to be next year. That's when you hone in and tell them to keep making good decisions and go to school."

    Miles after practice...

    LSU has just two games left on the regular-season schedule, beginning this weekend with a trip to Oxford, Miss.

    Sitting at 10-0, the Tigers have a chance to avenge an excruciating loss from their last road trip to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

    It was the time when time ran out, but revenge is not something on LSU coach Les Miles' mind this week.

    But what does it say about the head man, who was able to bounce back from a potential back-breaking moment like the 2009 Ole Miss game and return two years later with the No. 1 team in the country?

    "I think it's a compliment to this team," Miles said. "It has not to do with the coach, it has to do with how this staff and this team has prepared. It has to do with how they work and how they prepare and what they want to be."

    What other topics are on the mind of the Mad Hatter as LSU prepares for the Rebels?

  • On how the suspension of starting quarterback Randall Mackey and running backs Jeff Scott and Korvic Neat affects the Ole Miss offense:

    "We have gone back and looked, and we kind of see their offense and we expect that there will be pieces of the best of their offense on display," Miles said. "We recognize there are some guys who won't be running those plays, but those plays will still be run. ‘By who?' would be the question."

  • On what Ole Miss backup quarterback Zach Stoudt, who was recruited to Louisville by current LSU quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe, brings in place of Mackey:

    "I can tell you that he can throw it, and he's a talented player and that we will look forward to that matchup."

  • On the health of his team, particularly senior defensive end Kendrick Adams, who has been hampered with an MCL sprain for the entire month of November…

    "I think that everyone is going to be healthy for the game, to be honest.

    "Ken has practiced. He played the first play of last week's game; he just didn't play beyond that. He practiced today and we anticipate he will be ready for the game."

  • On Morris Claiborne, who was one of only two defensive players (15 total) selected as a semi-finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year award:

    "Isn't that a wonderful piece of news? I can tell you this, it couldn't come to a more deserving guy and a great leader on our team. If you watch Mo, he represents us, and he does so in an honorable and straightforward fashion.

    "The reason is because he does so much. He's a kick returner and plays a lot of special teams. He's a really talented guy.

    "If you watch Mo compete, you have to enjoy what you saw. There has never been a time where he wasn't very productive."

  • On the team staying focused with the potential of an SEC Championship Game berth on the horizon:

    "I am not noticing distraction in how we practice. They come to work and it's the same, they are interested and plugged in and enthusiastic and wanting to be better."

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