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Just The Sports: Les Miles Has Virtually Matched Everything Nick Saban Did At LSU

Just The Sports

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Les Miles Has Virtually Matched Everything Nick Saban Did At LSU

The next time someone questions LSU Tigers head football coach Les Miles' coaching acumen, he should ask them what else they expect from him. Miles might not be the greatest college football head coach to ever walk the planet, but under his tenure, his LSU teams continue to be nationally prominent and perhaps most importantly, in multiple statistical categories, Miles' LSU teams (2005-present) have either surpassed, matched, or come very near to matching the performance of Nick Saban's LSU teams (2000-2004).

Nick Saban is generally agreed upon to be one of college football's best two or three head coaches and for good reason, since he has won two BCS championships. Therefore, it is no great leap to draw the conclusion that another head coach who was able to largely match what Nick Saban did with a school's football program must be a pretty good head coach in his own right.

Offensively, Miles' LSU quarterbacks have been statistically significantly better in completion percentage with their 58.9 completion percentage, bettering the 56.0 completion percentage Saban's LSU quarterbacks had; Saban's LSU quarterbacks have been statistically significantly better in yards per completion (13.8 to 12.6). Saban's LSU quarterbacks can also claim superiority in avoiding sacks with a 5.2 sack percentage; Miles' LSU quarterbacks have not been as proficient in avoiding sacks as their 6.5 sack percentage indicates.

Other than in those three categories, there are really no great differences between the two coaches' passing offenses. Despite having that extra 1.2 yards per completion in their pockets, Saban's LSU quarterbacks have only the slightest edge over Miles' LSU quarterbacks in yards per pass attempt (7.7 to 7.4). Also, the two different sets of quarterbacks have been identical in touchdown percentage, with Saban's LSU quarterbacks and Miles' LSU quarterbacks both posting a 5.9 touchdown percentage, and virtually identical in interception percentages as Saban's LSU quarterbacks have a 3.2 interception percentage to Miles' LSU quarterbacks' 3.1 interception percentage.

For all that is made of the recent struggles of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, it is important to remember that Saban's LSU quarterbacks struggled just as mightily and never set the world on fire with efficient passing.

When it comes to rushing, Miles' offenses and their 4.4 yards per rush are only incrementally better than Saban's offenses and their 4.3 yards per rush.

As a complete team, Miles' LSU squads have scored 30.8 points per game, almost two points per game better than Saban's LSU squads' points per game average of 28.9.

Defensively, it is almost the same story with the two coaches' teams nearly matching each other step for step. The biggest difference is in favor of Miles' LSU teams. They have been statistically significantly better in sacking opposing quarterbacks; their 8.1 sack percentage on opposing quarterbacks is a big improvement over Saban's LSU defenses' 6.4 sack percentage.

In other categories, the two teams are remarkably similar. They are most closely identical in completion percentage, with Saban's LSU defenses allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 50.0 percent of their passes compared to Miles' LSU defenses allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 50.5 percent of their passes, and also yards allowed per pass attempt, with Saban's teams allowing 6.0 yards per pass attempt and Miles' teams allowing 5.9 yards per pass attempt. Miles' teams have a small edge in yards allowed per completion (11.6 to 12.1).

The two coaches' teams have also nearly duplicated each other in touchdown-to-interception ratio. Saban's defenses have allowed a 4.0 touchdown percentage and 3.9 interception percentage so they have come very close to intercepting as many pass attempts as they allowed to be turned into touchdowns (85 touchdowns to 82 interceptions). Miles' defenses have a 3.6 touchdown percentage and 3.6 interception percentage as they have intercepted as many passes as they have allowed to turn into touchdowns (86 touchdowns to 86 interceptions).

Saban's teams and Miles' teams are mirror images of each other when it comes to yards per rush allowed; each coach's teams have allowed 3.3 yards per rush.

In terms of points allowed, Sabans' LSU teams have allowed opponents to score 17.7 points per game, slightly better than the 18.3 points per game that Miles' LSU teams have allowed. Still, Miles' LSU teams have a small advantage in overall point differential since they have outscored opponents by 12.5 points per game; Saban's LSU teams outscored opponents by 11.2 points per game.

When it comes to only SEC games, the same differences in the same categories that occurred in their overall statistics exist, with the exception of yards per rush for the two coaches' offenses and overall point differential.

Miles' LSU quarterbacks still have their statistically significant advantage in completion percentage (58.0 percent to 55.2 percentage) and are still within spitting distance when it comes to yards per pass attempt (7.2 to 7.6). Saban's offenses continue to have a statistically significant advantage in yards per completion (13.9 to 12.3).

Both coaches' quarterbacks get sacked more in SEC games and Saban's quarterbacks continue to get sacked less (5.6 sack percentage to 6.9 sack percentage). Also, Saban's quarterbacks have a small advantage in touchdown percentage (5.6 touchdown percentage to 5.3 interception percentage) while Miles' quarterbacks have a small advantage in interception percentage (3.4 interception percentage to 3.6 interception percentage) so it basically evens out in the end.

Against SEC teams, Saban's running backs still averaged 4.3 yards per rush just like they did against all teams. Conversely, Miles' running backs have seen their overall yards per rush drop from 4.4 per carry to 4.0 per carry.

Defensively, Les Miles' LSU teams and Saban's LSU teams see their defensive performances continue to exhibit more similarities than differences. Miles' defenses maintain their statistically significant edge in sack percentage (8.9 sack percentage to 6.1 sack percentage), but in all other areas, the differences are minimal.

With Les Miles' LSU defenses' statistics listed first, here are how the two coaches' teams stack up against each other defensively in SEC play: completion percentage allowed (51.3 percent to 50.8 percent), yards per pass attempt allowed (6.4 to 6.4), yards per completion allowed (12.4 to 12.6), touchdown percentage allowed (4.4 percent to 4.5 percent), interception percentage allowed (3.9 percent to 3.9 percent), and yards per rush (3.5 to 3.6).

Nick Saban's teams do have a tiny lead in overall SEC point differential; they outscored their SEC foes by 6.7 points per game while Miles' teams have outscored their SEC opponents by 6.0 points per game. Still, that is no great discrepancy by any means.

With what Les Miles has done during his tenure at LSU, either matching, surpassing, or almost matching virtually everything Nick Saban's LSU teams did, he deserves a lot more credit for his coaching ability from all college football enthusiasts.

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