The Southeastern Conference regular season can throw everything at you.
Check out LSU’s resume.
Final-minute wins, goal-line stops, an overtime win, losses to both teams that played in Atlanta last Saturday for the conference title, a loss that the head coach shouldered all blame for, and even a slew of injuries to starting talent – all wrapped into 12 games.
So when December arrives, not many teams are ever perfect, and the talk turns to what could have been.
For LSU fans, it is what if Patrick Peterson would have been in the game on Julio Jones’ winning touchdown grab, or what if the interception Peterson later made would have been given to the Tigers and not the Tide?
That’s just one of many.
The “what ifs” from 2008 came too often to recall – the most tossed around having likely involved Ryan Perriloux, a one-time five-star quarterback prospect who Miles kicked off the team for repeated bad behavior. Mind you, many Tiger fans surmised he was the guaranteed ticket back to the top.
But, LSU’s fan base is like any other. There is, as Miles would tell you, a want to have more wins – to achieve the highest highs and never the lows.
In 2007, you were talking about what would have been had Demetrius Byrd not caught Matt Flynn’s last second heave.
In 2006, it was chatter about Jamarcus Russell’s pass for the winning touchdown against Tennessee (there were only nine seconds left in that one).
The list of memories to reflect back upon is miles long, but Miles does not rethink and rehash.
When the season ends, Miles thinks of just one thing.
How can his LSU side blow their bowl competition out of the water?
On Sunday, when Miles accepted the Capital One Bowl bid alongside LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, one reporter got straight to the point.
It played out like a scene pulled from Rushmore, where a curious Herman Blume asked a young Max Fisher, “What’s the secret?
Much like Fisher’s, Miles’ response was a puzzled one. “The secret?”
“Yeah, you seem to have it pretty figured out,” Blume responded.
For Fisher, it was never graduating, who despite bad grades could slide by with a smile and a heavy list of extra-curricular achievements.
These days, Miles seems a lot like Fisher.
The week-to-week grind might not always impress, but worry not – a big finish is in store.
For Miles, it has been winning in bowl season – and he has played in a National Championship game, a second Bowl Championship Series game, and two Peach Bowls.
In Miles’ first go with the Tigers, his team dropped No. 9 Miami 40-3. What was hyped as one of the best bowl matchups of the season quickly turned into one of the biggest routs.
His offense went over 40-points again when the Tigers rolled over Notre Dame in 2007.
Then, he fought back and put away No. 1 Ohio State with a 38-24 win in 2008, and LSU finished as National Champions at 12-2.
Then came his worst regular season finish, a five-loss conference season that sent LSU to Atlanta – and not for the SEC title game.
Typical Miles, the unranked Tigers blew No. 14 Georgia Tech and their feared triple-option offense away, taking a 38-3 win in the Yellow Jackets’ own backyard.
So, what’s the secret?
After a few weeks of preparation for a single opponent, Miles is almost unbeatable.
When you think of what games could fall into the “extra preparation” category, you could go with season openers, games following the team’s bye week, conference championship games and certainly bowl matchups.
Miles’ record: 14-3.
His lone losses came against Tennessee in 2005, in the SEC Championship game against Georgia later that year, and last season in the Swamp against Florida – a team that went on to win the National Championship.
With a couple of weeks to get ready, Les Miles can get LSU to beat nearly anybody. He calls the bowl session a “second spring,” an extended period for him to get in around 15 practices.
So, seems like the secrets out, which means that when it comes to 2010, Penn State might not enjoy how their team rings in the New Year.