ENGSTER: Statistically Speaking

As Les Miles embarks on his sophomore season as LSU's head football czar, it is time to review the second year performances of previous Tiger mentors. In modern times, Mike Archer and Nick Saban captured SEC crowns in year two at LSU.

Gerry DiNardo posted a 10-win season in his second season while Bill Arnsparger enjoyed a nine-victory campaign.


At the opposite end of the spectrum, Jerry Stovall suffered through a 3-7-1 debacle in 1981 and Curley Hallman went 2-9 in 1992.


The six LSU football coaches since 1980, who have lasted two seasons have collectively posted a 42-27-2 record in their second year in command.


Seven victories per season has been the norm for an LSU grid boss in year two. Miles should easily exceed that barrier and will likely join DiNardo and Saban in the ten-win club for year two.


LSU will be favored in all eight home games against UL-Lafayette, Arizona, Tulane, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Fresno State, Alabama and Ole Miss. Miles should have the firepower necessary to split the SEC road tests at Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas. On paper, it looks like 10-2 is a good bet for LSU in 2006.


DiNardo and Saban improved on their victory totals in their rookie years at LSU. The other coaches were unable to better their first-year marks. Miles must lead his troops to 12 wins in '06 to better his 2005 debut.  He will face some potent challenges at Auburn, Gainesville, Knoxville and Little Rock.


Miles is blessed with a weak non-conference slate of opponents in UL-Lafayette, Arizona, Tulane and Fresno State. Fresno is the best of the bunch and managed to lose 40-28 to Louisiana Tech in last year's 8-4 campaign.


Miles directed Oklahoma State to an 8-5 ledger in his second season at Stillwater. The Cowboys doubled their victory total in Miles' maiden voyage as a head coach and recovered from a 2-4 start to win six of their last seven assignments in 2002.


LSU's non-conference schedule is getting weaker and weaker. Here are the records of the Tigers' non-SEC regular-season foes since 1979:


1979…USC, Florida State, Colorado, Rice, Tulane                                          33-21-1


1980…FSU, Kansas State, Colorado, Rice, Tulane                                          26-31-0


1981…FSU, Notre Dame, Oregon State, Rice, Tulane                                     23-33-0


1982…FSU, Oregon State, Rice, South Carolina, Tulane                                 17-37-1


1983…FSU, Rice, South Carolina, Washington, Tulane                                    25-32-0


1984…Wichita State, Arizona, USC, Notre Dame, Tulane                               29-28-0


1985…North Carolina, Colorado St, East Carolina, Notre Dame, Tulane         18-38-0


1986…Texas A&M, Miami(Ohio), North Carolina, Notre Dame, Tulane          33-24-1


1987…Texas A&M, Rice, Fullerton State, Ohio State, Tulane              30-27-1


1988…Texas A&M, Ohio State,  Miami (Fla), Tulane                          27-18-1


1989…Texas A&M, FSU, Ohio, Tulane                                                          23-23-1


1990…Texas A&M, FSU, Miami (Ohio), Tulane                                             28-17-2


1991…Texas A&M, FSU, Arkansas State, Tulane                                           23-24-0


1992…Texas A&M, Colorado State, Tulane                                                    19-17-0


1993…Texas A&M, Utah State, Tulane                                                           20-16-0


1994…Texas A&M, Southern Miss, Tulane                                                     17-15-1


1995…Texas A&M, Rice, North Texas                                                           13-21-0


1996…Houston, New Mexico State, Tulane                                                     10-24-0


1997…UTEP, Akron, Notre Dame                                                                  13-22-0


1998…Arkansas State, Idaho, Notre Dame                                                     22-14-0


1999…San Jose State, North Texas, Houston                                      12-20-0


2000…Western Carolina, Houston, UAB                                                         14-19-0


2001…Utah State, Middle Tennessee, Tulane                                       22-14-0


2002…Virginia Tech, Citadel, Miami (Ohio), UL-Lafayette                              23-29-0


2003…UL-Monroe, Arizona, Western Illinois, Louisiana Tech              17-32-0


2004…Oregon State, Arkansas State, Troy State                                             17-18-0


2005…Arizona State, North Texas, Appalachian State                         20-17-0                                  

In the past 27 seasons, LSU's non-conference opponents have combined for winning seasons only a dozen times.  The most ambitious LSU schedules came in 1979 and 1990, the last seasons for Charles McClendon and Mike Archer.


McClendon's 1979 team faced two Top Five teams outside the league in USC and Florida State. The Trojans and Seminoles posted a 22-1-1 record with LSU losing close to both, falling 17-12 to Southern Cal and 24-19 to FSU.


Archer's 1990 squad went 5-6, losing to powerful Florida State and upsetting Texas A&M. Archer enjoyed a 17-8 victory over the Aggies and bowed 42-3 to FSU.


Weak non-SEC foes in , 1982,  1985, 1996 and 2003 led to successful seasons for Jerry Stovall, Bill Arnsparger, Gerry DiNardo and Nick Saban.  LSU roared to a 40-8-2 record in those years, feasting on a group of easy marks, who combined for a record of 62-133-1.


The record shows that LSU usually does best overall when playing weaker non-league opponents. But fans tend to remember the 17-12 loss to USC in 1979 much more vividly than the 70-14 triumph over Arkansas State in 1991.


Hats off to the late Bear Bryant, who led Alabama to an 11-1 ledger in 1977 with a non-SEC slate featuring USC, Nebraska and Miami of Florida.


LSU fans should demand to see the best non-conference foes available. Tiger fans were once deprived of seeing Heisman Trophy winners in the SEC play against the Tigers. Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson never faced LSU. What a shame. Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past inside the SEC by having the Tigers feast on a plethora of punching bags outside the conference every year.




Jim Engster is the general manager of Louisiana Network and a featured columnist in Tiger Rag. Reach him at jim@la-net.net.

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