Alabama, LSU have what everyone else wants: great coach

(AP photo)

Nick Saban and Les Miles again find themselves the centers of attention. (AP photo)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Nick Saban turned 60 on Halloween, and his players – tempting fate and possibly their scholarships — turned off the lights in a meeting room and yelled, “Surprise!” when their coach walked in. As it turned out, even in the week of the Alabama-LSU game, the little curmudgeon showed a humorous side.

After acknowledging, “It’s hard to think about birthdays,” Saban referenced the No. 60 jersey that was presented to him and cracked, “I wasn’t thinking about age. I was thinking I’m a skill player. There’s no way I can sport this 60. I’ve got to have a lower-than-50 number of some sort.”

Might as well give Saban and Les Miles jersey Nos. 1 and 2. They coach the two best teams in the nation. They’re probably the two best coaches.

Maybe we think of them differently: Saban as cold, evil, I-hate-him-I-hate-him-can-I-get-him-on-my-team brilliant. Miles as goofy, grass-eating, Mega-Millions-lottery-lucky brilliant. But they give Alabama and LSU the things every other college football program wants: identity, direction, championships.

They are the reason the SEC looks down on every other conference. Saban and Miles (and, before his career timeout, Urban Meyer) are why so many other coaches wonder about job stability.

Because if Saban and Miles hadn’t set the bar so high, other fans bases wouldn’t scream, “Why can’t you win like them?”

We have waited two weeks for Alabama vs. LSU. It’s like a Super Bowl, only without the Hollywood-on-steroids halftime show, and a trophy when it’s over.

This game won’t decide a championship, but it will set the GPS. Saturday’s winner at Bryant-Denny Stadium will win the SEC West. The winner of the SEC West almost certainly will win the SEC title. The winner of the SEC will be an overwhelming favorite to win it all.

The loser from Saturday will be somewhere else come bowl time. That’s about the only downside of this. The two best teams should not be deciding this much on Nov. 5. But barring an unforeseen series of losses by other teams, and an unforeseen series of votes in human polls to somehow make a rematch happen, this is as good as it’s going to get.

Regardless, this game is why no other conference has an argument about superiority. We can talk about how the SEC is down this season (and it is). We can point out that schools from the Big 12 and the Pac-12 (numbers subject to change) and even Boise State have legitimate chances to win the BCS title.

But only the SEC — in a down year — can give us a No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the first week of November and lead some to wonder, “Why can’t they play again in January?”

Saban and Miles don’t win championships every season. But they make everybody believe they’re going to contend for them. They are why so many other coaches, particularly in the SEC, wonder about their own job stability. If these two didn’t set the bar so high, other fan bases wouldn’t scream, “Why can’t you win like them?”

Players for these coaches know how to win conference games, road games and games with national ramifications. You never expect either to crack. Imagine what that feels like.

“I want the players to enjoy the glare and the light of the big stage,” Miles said earlier this week. “I want them to enjoy the opportunity to play for a big victory. Once I’ve prepared the team and after I feel I’ve done a quality job, I want the players to play with freedom.”

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers this week. Alabama has won eight games by an average score of 39-7. LSU 39-11.

Alabama’s defense has allowed 359 yards rushing all season. That’s 44.8 per game and 1.7 per carry.

LSU has trailed has for only 6 minutes, 33 seconds all season (6-3 against Oregon in Week 1. The Tigers went on a 30-7 run and won 40-27.)

It’s two teams and everybody else in the SEC, and the nation, and it’s not hard to figure out why. Look at the sideline.

By Jeff Schultz

• Earlier: Weekend Predictions: Guaranteed winners (I’m serious this time)

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

165 comments Add your comment

...... I'm flying a Georgia Tech flag right now

November 4th, 2011
2:06 pm

Gefilte Fish Schultz

November 4th, 2011
2:07 pm

Gag…… I’ll bet you were bashing Miles not too long ago Schultz.

WDE

November 4th, 2011
2:08 pm

Great article

Old School

November 4th, 2011
2:10 pm

Good read Jeff. Do you think Muschamp will be able to cut it in Gainesville?

ShootmeShcultz

November 4th, 2011
2:11 pm

Comical Schultz – tell me was Miles a great coach after back to back 8-5 (3-5) and 9-4(5-3) seasons in 2008 and 2009? YOU and every other journalist are such PRISONERS OF THE MOMENT!

You probably would have been on the FIRE MILES bandwagon during those underachieving seasons!

Urban Meyar

November 4th, 2011
2:12 pm

Why do you think I bailed after last season? Taking on these two guys without Tim Tebow around to make me look smart? No thanks.

reebok

November 4th, 2011
2:16 pm

I know LSU is the popular pick, but I’m thinking the Tide will Roll…it’s such an even match I’m picking them based on homefield. Should be an incredible game.

Dawglasville

November 4th, 2011
2:17 pm

Fair enough.

War Dang Dawg

November 4th, 2011
2:17 pm

I might be the only one, but something tells me that the Alabama-LSU winner will not be a lock to beat the SEC East rep. in the SECCG.

Whenever the narrative is that perfect, something comes along and messes it up. And to think that a South Carolina or Georgia team that finished 7-1 in the conference wouldn’t be a threat in that game hasn’t watched too much SEC football.

All it takes is a couple of costly turnovers and a bad day for your quarterback for you to get beat in this league.

Doc

November 4th, 2011
2:18 pm

LSU wins because of their offensive line.

Dawglasville

November 4th, 2011
2:19 pm

Every one wants to believe that there are 5 more out there just like them but who are they? These 2 are already spoken for.

Les W. Moore

November 4th, 2011
2:22 pm

I disagree Jeff. Mutt nation wants the guy they have. Religious man who is good father and a good husband. He signs the majority of great in-state high school talent and he can sing a mean “Happy Birthday” to a 17 year old boy. Yep. He’s bonafide, he’s a keeper.

Mtn Dawg

November 4th, 2011
2:28 pm

I hate this. Neither team should be elliminated from championship game consideration. The BSC sux!!!

Mtn Dawg

November 4th, 2011
2:28 pm

That would be BCS sux.

robodawg

November 4th, 2011
2:29 pm

I don’t think of Saban as brilliant. (Certainly not at all the way Spurrier was the Evil Genius at Florida.) Saban gets great talent and he knows how to use it, but in a pretty straightforward, businesslike way. He runs the tightest ship in the business. He doesn’t do more with less (like the coaches of Boise St or TCU, or Urban Meyer at Utah), but he does the most with more.

Miles definitely has that “goofy, grass-eating, Mega-Millions-lottery-lucky” thing going for him.

Milk

November 4th, 2011
2:30 pm

LSU’s O-line will maul Alabama’s front 7 and that will be why LSU wins the ballgame. Spencer Ware will have a better game than Richardson. Richardson will get his, but LSU will eventually stop him front treading all over them. LSU has Ware, Blue, Ford, & Hilliard…while Alabama only has Richardson & Lacy. LSU wins by 7.

Scott

November 4th, 2011
2:31 pm

they’re also able to oversign and bring in 30 more players than a typical program over a 5 year span, which helps a bit in the talent department

Milk

November 4th, 2011
2:32 pm

Oh and Alabama also has Jalston Fowler but I doubt he’ll be much of a factor in this game.

This will be a great game, it’s strength vs. strength. Alabama is bigger and looks more powerful than LSU…while LSU is quicker, swifter, and has more depth along the D-line than Alabama. Alabama wants to smash you into the ground, while LSU does as well but takes a different approach.

It’s power vs. power and sure to be a great game..I just think LSU wins.

WDE

November 4th, 2011
2:34 pm

@Les W. Moore thanks we think he’s a keeper too. And I think Bama wins this one..why cause they are both pretty equal in all 3 phases of the game, but Bama is at home.. Bama 17 LSU 14.

True Dawg

November 4th, 2011
2:36 pm

SimpleDawg

November 4th, 2011
2:39 pm

Nick Satan = The Real Evil Genius

Les Miles = The Mad Hatter

Each different but effective.

Wish we had one.

SEC Fan

November 4th, 2011
2:40 pm

What SEC coach is worried about job security other than Nutt, Dooley, and is it too early for Muschamp????

SimpleDawg

November 4th, 2011
2:41 pm

….instead of the Captain of The Salvation Army.

What?

November 4th, 2011
2:43 pm

LSU wanted Les Smiles FIRED last year…you have a short memory. Must be the DOPE you are smoking.

JSS

November 4th, 2011
2:50 pm

College football is all about the pageant. And this pageant is full of toothless, ill-mannered, and socially irrelevant contestants.

Have you missed me you dolts? I’m back, flying on Saturday and will be home on Sunday to watch some real “football!” Not that spoon feed CBS-ESPN drivel being passed off as important!

JB

November 4th, 2011
2:53 pm

Richt,Bobo and the Dawgs licking their chops waiting for the winner of this Circus in the
Dome…………………OK, it was just fun typing it.

JB

November 4th, 2011
2:55 pm

After 2013. Nutt,Dooley,Richt, Spurrier and Muschamp will be gone.

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2011
2:56 pm

Gefilte Fish Schultz — I’m sure I’ve jabbed him for strange decisions, being goofy and that whole going/not going to Michigan thing, but can’t deny the man’s success.

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2011
2:56 pm

WDE — thanks.

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2011
2:57 pm

Old School — Thanks, and I’d say it’s impossible to judge Muschamp right now. Not sure what shape the program was in, and losing Brantley this year obviously hurt.

Moobs Johnson

November 4th, 2011
2:59 pm

Don’t forget about St Richt. BWahahahahaha

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2011
2:59 pm

ShootmeSchultz — Tell you what Sparky. If you can find anywhere where I wrote Les Miles needs to be fired, I’ll bow to you. But that’s not going to happen. Any other baseless accusations, sir?

JB

November 4th, 2011
3:00 pm

Schultz……………you don’t have to judge Muschamp………..Read the Florida Message boards. The Loons have spoken.

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

November 4th, 2011
3:00 pm

No no no

We dont love championships at UGA

We only love 10 win seasons and beating Tech

Thats all

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2011
3:01 pm

JSS — “College football is all about the pageant. And this pageant is full of toothless, ill-mannered, and socially irrelevant contestants.”

<<< And what would you call a Dolphins-Colts game?

JB

November 4th, 2011
3:02 pm

The mark of a great coach is knowing when to bail….Good job Meyer

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2011
3:03 pm

JB — I know. It’s just silly. How can you judge a head coach in one season, especially when his starting quarterback gets injured? The problem isn’t that it’s the lunatic fringe screaming, the crime is that people are paying attention to the lunatic fringe.

david

November 4th, 2011
3:05 pm

I agree War Dang Dawg–did anybody give Texas Tech a shot AT Oklahoma? I think they were 28 point dogs. On any given Saturday.

JB

November 4th, 2011
3:07 pm

Damn Jeff, that’s low. Reading blogs is not a crime. I read you.

david

November 4th, 2011
3:07 pm

I hear ya Flat Tire

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

November 4th, 2011
3:11 pm

Alabama is without a doubt the best run college football program in the country as of today. Until Nick retires to the lake then you will have to go thru the Bama program to get to the top. You UGA folks that continue your bashing of Nick and the numbers are so stupid. Your coach is not capable of managing the numbers and you can see that in the number of folks you have on scholly!!!! Stop signing every good players best friend and you might get up to speed. Players leave the program because many would like playing time and not because Nick told them to get gone but again you’re so stupid you can’t see the truth. You can look and you will find one player that was unhappy about his deal and this was a kid Shula signed trying to bribe Tebow to come to Bama. The guy never played a damn down in 4 years!!!

dawgfan

November 4th, 2011
3:12 pm

Another not-so-subtle jab at Richt and UGA. What a shock.

Its hard to argue with Miles’ success? What success Schultz? First of all, LSU hasn’t won a single thing yet this year. Miles hasn’t won a championship since 2007 (that’s 4 years ago Schultz) and he did that with two losses. It took the biggest and most fortuitious cluster-F in the history of college football to get his team in the BCS title game that year. The guy is good but not great. Get real.

Now Saban is another story. That guy is a maniac and is flirting with legendary best ever status.

Somebody has to lose this game and it will be LSU. Trent Richardson takes over the game in the 4th quarter and Bama wins by a touchdown. Bama’s just a more balanced team.

Thanks.

Scholarship

November 4th, 2011
3:15 pm

Doc

November 4th, 2011
2:18 pm
LSU wins because of their offensive line.

You must not be watching. Their cut and paste OL is decent not better than Alabama’s.

Go back and watch The MSU and LSU game. Shut down LSU.

A Head Coach is only...

November 4th, 2011
3:15 pm

…as good as his assistants – both LSU and AL have GREAT assistants, something UGA does not have.

Than being said, there are coaches out there that are just as good as these two – they include Jim Harbaugh (when at Stanford, and proving it now in the NFL, which Saban could not do); Gundy at OKState; Stoops at OK (even WITH “the best friend); the guy at Oregon; probably Brady Hoke at MI(turned around in the first year the mess Rich Rod left); Dantonio at MIState; Bielema at WI; probably Peterson at Boise State.

If UGA would get some decent asst. coaches they might be pretty good, too…

Saban is overrated

November 4th, 2011
3:18 pm

The almighty Saban finished 4th in the SEC west last year with Julio, a Heisman Trophy winner, NFL back-up QB, Marcel Dareus, and all of those players that are still on their D this year, and he blew a 24 point lead at home to his arch rival. Sounds like he’s in genius category to me.

ARdawg

November 4th, 2011
3:22 pm

Schultz

I have noticed some already whining for a rematch. Ironically, most of them Bama fans. Maybe they know something we don’t.

No re-matches Bammers. This game IS (or just as well be) the NCG. Few would dispute that. Beat them now or forget it and consider it chances blown

TampaGator

November 4th, 2011
3:24 pm

Old School…….

As I recall, Coacg Saban and Bama lost to Louisana-Monroe during his first year in wonderland. Then he went to work building his type of team.

I would expect Muschamp will do the same (based on the recruiting class that is addressing the pro style and depth on the roster needs Florida has)thing in the coming years. But he has to improve his game day coaching, which has been highly questionable so far.

But….I know Dawg fans….the Gators on their way down and will lose every year for the rest of time…..to the Dawgs.

SCAR GO!

November 4th, 2011
3:33 pm

Some schools (and fan-bases) just don’t deserve a quality Head Coach.

Oh well… That life, eh?

Father of 5

November 4th, 2011
3:37 pm

Ask anyone in Miami if Saban is a genius. He is a manipulative type A guy who knows how to intimidate talented college kids to his advantage, but I don’t consider those qualities as the foundation for greatness.

I would never send any of my athletic kids to play for Saban — his priorities are totally out of whack. He holds up Freddy Krueger as a model of perseverance for 8 year olds. Give me Bobby Bowden or Chan Gailey or Mark Richt any day — their players are successful, and the win/loss record is not the preeminent way to define that term. Those coaches are great on the scale that really counts.

Scholarship

November 4th, 2011
3:37 pm

Saban is overrated

November 4th, 2011
3:18 pm
The almighty Saban finished 4th in the SEC west last year with Julio, a Heisman Trophy winner, NFL back-up QB, Marcel Dareus, and all of those players that are still on their D this year, and he blew a 24 point lead at home to his arch rival. Sounds like he’s in genius category to me.

Finished 4th in the West but 10 in the final BCS standing.