ENGSTER: LSU touted No. 1 as BallCoach visits

Three games into the 2007 season and LSU followers are comparing the current Tiger team to the most dominant units in the history of the college game.

LSU has outpointed a trio of legitimate foes by a score of 137-7 as the Tigers prep for old nemesis Steve Spurrier. Unbeaten South Carolina invades Death Valley several cuts above this season's early victims—Mississippi State, Virginia Tech and Middle Tennessee.

 

The golden boy, who won the Hesiman Trophy at Florida in 1966, is 11-1 vs. LSU as a coach and was 3-0 as the star quarterback at Florida from 1964-66. After a brief and disastrous tenure as head coach of the Washington Redskins, Spurrier returned to campus life at South Carolina in 2005, the same year that Les Miles took the reins of the LSU program.

 

Spurrier is 18-10 at South Carolina and 160-50-2 in 17-plus seasons at Duke, Florida and USC. At age 62, this could be the last stop on the coaching map for the most gifted SEC mentor since Bear Bryant. Spurrier is likely to be overmatched against Miles and Co. this Saturday, but he has no love for LSU.

 

The Tigers rebuffed his bid to become head coach in Baton Rouge in December of 1986. Spurrier interviewed for the post but was rejected by the school's Athletic Council.

 

Instead of offering Spurrier as one of three finalists to succeed Bill Arnsparger, an assortment of college professors with limited knowledge about football chose Mike Archer, George Haffner and Mike Shanahan as the three names to submit to the LSU Board of Supervisors for consideration.

 

Shanahan would have been the best choice among the nominees, but Spurrier would likely have guided the Tigers to national honors long before 2003 if he had been selected.  Florida went 20-16 in the three years prior to Spurrier's hiring in 1990. LSU had posted a mark of 26-8-3 in the three years that preceded Mike Archer's hiring in 1986.

 

It would seem the odds of a punishing victory over the Gamecocks are in LSU's favor, but Spurrier has never forgotten the snub of '86. Hell hath no fury like a spurned coaching legend.

 

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Les Miles has enjoyed an amazing first 29 games as head coach of the Tigers. In the history of the storied program, there has only been one 29-game stretch more productive than the 25-4 mark in the early tenure of Miles.

 

The final 15 games of Paul Dietzel's stint as LSU coach and the first 14 games under Charles McClendon produced a 25-3-1 mark. With his substantial collection of talent and the blessing of a schedule with most of the best opponents visiting Tiger Stadium, look for Miles to finish this season with the best three-year mark ever for an LSU coach.

 

This is a list of the best 29-game performances for LSU's football program:

 

 

Years                           Coaches                                                           Record             Pct.

 

1960-63                       Paul Dietzel, Charles McClendon                             25-3-1             87.9

 

2005-07                       Les Miles                                                           25-4-0             86.2

 

2003-05                       Nick Saban, Les Miles                                           24-5-0             82.8

 

1995-98                       Gerry DiNardo                                                     24-5-0             82.8

 

1968-71                       Charles McClendon                                               24-5-0             82.8

 

1907-10                       Edgar Wingard, John Mayhew                                 24-5-0             82.8

 

1971-74                       Charles McClendon                                               23-5-1             81.0

 

2002-04                       Nick Saban                                                          23-6-0             79.3

 

1957-60                       Paul Dietzel                                                         23-6-0             79.3

 

1985-87                       Bill Arnsparger, Mike Archer                                    22-5-2             79.3

 

1933-36                       Biff Jones, Bernie Moore                                         21-4-4             79.3

 

                                                           

The only coach with a better current 29-game span than Miles at LSU is Southern California's Pete Carroll. He is 26-3 in the last 29 games as the Trojans' boss. Carroll had one stretch from 2003-2005 when USC won 28 of 29 times. Not bad for a man fired by both the New York Jets and New England Patriots with a 33-31 NFL head coaching record.

 

Carroll is the hottest coach in America with a pair of national titles and a trio of Heisman Trophy winners to his credit. The collision between Carroll and Miles is coming. It should happen in the BCS title game on Jan. 7 in New Orleans.

 

Carroll turned 56 on Saturday, and Miles is less than two months from his 54th birthday on Nov. 10. In the old days, 50 was considered over the hill. Charlie Mac was fired in part because he was 56 years old in 1979, the same age that Nick Saban will be on Halloween.

 

With guys like Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden continuing to parade the sidelines at Penn State and Florida State, coaches in their mid-50s are kids in the profession. There is little doubt that the present is prime time for Miles, Carroll and Saban.

 

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


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