Assessing Les Miles: Les in Preparation & Game Planning

Chris Graythen

We've talked recruiting, but how does Les stack up in preparation and game planning?

In part one, I analyzed the recruiting under Les Miles. It's unequivocally a strong point of the Miles regime. LSU is not sending players to the NFL in high numbers, a high number of their players are showing out on All-Conference and postseason award lists. Evaluating success in recruiting is a relatively easy task. You either recruit well or you don't. There's enough empirical evidence to illustrate whether a program's recruiting is excelling or failing.

Preparation, on the other hand, is a bit more speculative. We can use results to argue a point, but they can't be full proof. Even the best preparation can go awry for any number of reasons. The coach's job is to get his team ready to play, but so few of us have access to locker rooms and meeting rooms, so we can't fully know what they did or did not do. The coaches can't play the games for the players, so there's a dimension of human accountability in play as well. Further, football is inherently a competition between opposing teams, so sometimes the other guys are just better. Game results (I'm speaking specifically of wins and losses), therefore, aren't indicative of whether the team was successfully prepared.

For the purposes of this piece, I will lump game planning into the discussion. I understand the two can be exclusive of one another, but they are also largely linked. We can tie the notion of "preparation" to a coach ensuring his team is mentally and emotionally engaged for the upcoming opponent. Though preparation is also very much making sure there is a good plan in place, offensively and defensively, so that the coach's players are put in the best position to achieve. Thus, game planning.

As such, we've got to dig a little deeper to evaluate here. The best approach, from my view is to try and pull the most outstanding examples of good and bad preparation, discard the middle and go from there. You may disagree with my methodology, but given the evidence provided, I think it may be the best way to proceed.

The Games

2005

@Arizona State

The Case for Bad Preparation: No. 15 Arizona State was a good, but not great, opponent that took LSU a miracle 4th and 10, 39-yard TD pass, with 1:23 left on the clock to put them away. The first game of the Miles era was marred with 11 penalties for 100 yards, a pair of fumbles (including one on 1st and GL from the 7), and a host of drops from Early Doucet. Whether it's true or not, the overall perception is that we should have played better. They out gained us 560 yards to 431.

The Case for Good Preparation: This was originally scheduled to be a home game, and was obviously surrounded by the terrible events of Katrina, which took a toll on our community. Further, our opening cupcake warm-up, was canceled, so LSU didn't have a game to "iron out the kinks," so to speak.

Summary: Hard to put this heavily on poor preparation. The excessive number of penalties and poor defensive performance could be identified as sore spots. But I think most are willing to give it a pass due to the insane circumstances this game was played under.

Tennessee

The Case for Bad Preparation: Tennessee, though ranked 10th at the time, turned out to be a miserable team. They limited LSU's offense to just 256 yards, while accruing 320 of their own. LSU turned the ball over three times, and Jamarcus Russell completed just 50% of his passes for 158 yards, despite a host of NFL talents at WR. Russell's 4th quarter INT put Tennessee on the 2-yard line for a score that cut the lead to three. The offense played miserably. LSU knocked star QB Eric Ainge from the game and allowed ho-hum back-up, and former Tiger, Rick Clausen, to efficiently dissect them and lead Tennessee to 30 second-half points.

The Case for Good Preparation: We can still relate this game to the dire circumstances of Katrina. We could argue that a lot of teams come out flat after a big, emotional win on the road in the previous week, but LSU did jump out to a fast start (21-0 lead), only to wilt away. So I think the argument would more be that the team was exhausted.

Summary: I think we all feel this one we can put mostly on the Katrina stuff. The debate then, would be, what then is good preparation? The negative side would say Miles didn't prepare the team well to navigate through the distractions. The positive side would be more lenient. I tend to put this one on the middle of the spectrum.

Florida

The Case for Bad Preparation: Florida was drubbed in Tuscaloosa by a very good Alabama team. Despite out gaining UF 361 to 206, the game remained tight into the 4th quarter. Jamarcus Russell again proved to be turnover prone, tossing two INTs and losing a fumble, while LSU fumbled the ball away two more times, for an astounding five turnovers. LSU committed 11 penalties for 84 yards.

The Case for Good Preparation: The defense played well against a pretty bad Florida offense. They held Chris Leak to an 11/30 line for 107 yards passing and no TDs. Florida was a good team that year, despite getting crushed in Tuscaloosa, and this game can always be expected to be close.

Summary: For me, I'll say bad preparation here. We were quite a bit better than them, but it became our M.O. to commit tons of penalties and turn the ball over. We can blame player performance for that for a bit, but after it happens so many games, it starts to look more like a trend that should be corrected through coaching.

Arkansas

The Case for Bad Preparation: Arkansas, despite having Darren McFadden, was really, really bad. The same mistakes in this game were what we saw all year. Turnovers (3) and penalties (8). Russell played poorly.

The Case for Good Preparation: There isn't much of one.

Summary: LSU had nothing to play for, as they already had a trip to Atlanta sewn up, but that's exactly the type of game a coach should get his team prepared for. No two ways about this one: bad prep.

Miami

The Case for Bad Preparation: None.

The Case for Good Preparation: LSU entered the game a heavy under dog, with a back-up QB, and completely wiped the floor with Miami. Superb job.

2006

@Auburn

The Case for Bad Preparation: Most of us will remember this game for the woefully miss pass interference call at the end of the game. The game was really marred by LSU mistakes, including a fumble on the goal line  that turned what could have been a TD into LSU's only three points of the day. LSU also committed seven penalties for 50 yards. There was a heavy level of criticism extended to the poor offensive game plan during the game, as LSU's potent offense only managed three points and seemed overly conservative at times.

The Case for Good Preparation: LSU went on the road against a team that was ranked no. 3 at the time and out gained them 311 yards to 182. The defense played sensationally, but the offensive mistakes proved damning. It was one of the worst officiated games in LSU history, including the late missed PI, there was also an obvious PI on a deep pass to the end zone to LaFell, where David Irons never turned his head, as well as a somewhat close 4th down try to Hester that was ruled incomplete, but the announcers seemed to believe was complete.

Summary: In terms of total preparation, it's hard to mark this one a net negative. I added to the list because I do remember a fair amount of criticism levied with how the offense was called. To me, this comes down to execution, so the perception of whether the preparation was good or bad will go to how much you believe poor execution is tied back to preparation.

Ole Miss

The Case for Bad Preparation: A really bad Ole Miss team came into Baton Rouge, played a one-loss Tigers team into OT. A miserable performance. No details required.

The Case for Good Preparation: None.

Summary: Very bad.

Arkansas

The Case for Bad Preparation: Not much. We did turn it over twice, and were out gained.

The Case for Good Preparation: LSU traveled to War Memorial to face a 1-loss, SEC Championship bound Arkansas team and ended their National Championship hopes. Despite LSU turning it over twice, and not effectively running the ball, they were able to win against a quality opponent on the road. Trindon Holliday's 92-yard KO Return TD sealed the victory in the 4th quarter.

Summary: Overall, this is a solid day of preparation. This was a really good Arkansas team with a lot to play for and we spoiled it.

Notre Dame

The Case for Good Preparation: Most expected this beat down and Miles handled it proper, not letting egos to interfere.

The Case for Bad Preparation: None. We smoked them.

Summary: See opponent. Smash opponent. We did as expected.


2007

@Kentucky

The Case for Bad Preparation: It's Kentucky, I don't care how "good" they were. LSU found something early with Charles Scott in the run game but went away from it. Flynn played miserably. LSU took a 13-point lead deep into the 3rd and blew it. We committed 12 penalties for 103 yards.

The Case for Good Preparation: Kentucky was solid, at least?

Summary: This is another bad one. Kentucky was a 1-loss team featuring a Heisman candidate at QB. There's no reason LSU should NOT have been amped up for it. LSU played poorly, made a lot of mistakes, and didn't stick with a game plan that was working.

@Alabama

The Case for Bad Preparation: Alabama came into the game average and rounded out the season terribly. They played LSU to a near standstill, mostly on the back of Flynn's three INTs and a gaudy 14 penalties for 130 yards. It took two late TDs for LSU to put Alabama away.

The Case for Good Preparation: LSU out gained the Tide 475 to 254. The offense moved the ball consistently and the defense mostly held Alabama in check.

Summary: Not good. Alabama wasn't any good, I don't care if they are Alabama. They probably weren't as bad as their season ended, but they were't good either. We kept them in the game with a huge number of mistakes, which again we can point to what seemed like a trend in early Miles teams.

Arkansas

The Case for Bad Preparation: National Title hopes hung in the balance, and LSU's vaunted defense took a beating, allowing 513 total yards, notably 385 on the ground.

The Case for Good Preparation: Not too much. Flynn was banged up and the defense had a lot of players nicked up as well.

Summary: LSU was pretty nicked coming into the game, but against a so-so Arkansas team, it's a game they should have handled. Pelini the defensive staff didn't seem to adjust to the Wildcat attack that Arkansas used from the year before.

2008

Alabama

The Case for Bad Preparation: The major argument would be that LSU, who well knew how bad Jarrett Lee was at this point, allowed him to throw the ball 34 times, four of which were intercepted.

The Case for Good Preparation: LSU played a much superior Alabama team to an OT loss. They out gained the Tide and played toe-to-toe with them the entire game, even blocking a late FG that would have put the game away.

Summary: Jarrett Lee was mishandled, as he was for much of 2008, but it's hard to see this as anything but positive.

Troy

The Case for Bad Preparation: Oh boy. LSU trailed 31-3 late into the 3rd quarter. They played flat, were out gained and didn't generate any offense until the 4th quarter.

The Case for Good Preparation: Not much. You can chalk it up to coming off a tough loss, but these type of performances aren't excusable.

Summary: Bad.

Ole Miss

The Case for Bad Preparation: Ole Miss completely outplayed LSU from the opening gun. The offense struggled with both QBs. The defense yielded 300+ passing yards to Jevan Snead. There was no running game to speak of.

The Case for Good Preparation: This was a "good" Ole Miss team (by their standards). That's about it.

Summary: Back-to-back poor performances. To lose is one thing, but to get smoked at home by Ole Miss is not good.

Arkansas

The Case for Bad Preparation: LSU blew a 16-point 2nd half lead to an awful Arkansas team for their 3rd straight poor performance. Eight penalties for 77 yards didn't help the cause. Arkansas' meager offense outgained LSU by nearly 100 yards.

The Case for Good Preparation: Not much.

Summary: LSU wasn't a good team in 2008, but this was a terrible Arkansas squad in Petrino's first year. It's not a game they should lose, even on the road.

Georgia Tech

The Case for Bad Preparation: None.

The Case for Good Preparation: LSU entered as significant underdogs, trounced a ranked Georgia Tech team and cemented Miles as a "great bowl game coach."

2009

Mississippi State

The Case for Bad Preparation: LSU got completely outplayed much of the game.The Bulldogs out gained the Tigers by 110 yards. LSU committed 8 penalties for 65 yards and needed a GL stop late to secure the victory.

The Case for Good Preparation: Jefferson played reasonably well, despite the lack of a running game. Not much else.

Summary: This is another bad one, as State finished 5-7 and shouldn't have played us to a near victory.

Georgia

The Case for Bad Preparation: Georgia wasn't terribly good this year, but they are always talented and winning between the hedges is never easy.

The Case for Good Preparation: LSU's defense did what they needed and limited Georgia's weak offense to 274 yards and 13 points. The offense put up 368 yards and battled to score a late TD to secure a tough victory on the road.

Summary: This one can be ruled as a preparation victory. This isn't an easy place to win and LSU outplayed Georgia, then rebounded after yielding a late TD to score and win.

Florida

The Case for Bad Preparation: LSU's offense looked one-dimensional, predictable and bad all night. UF's offense, despite a wounded Tebow, still doubled LSU's production. This game wasn't nearly as close as the score indicates, as LSU never threatened on offense.

The Case for Good Preparation: Florida was simply better.

Summary: I think the game plan for this game was ill-devised, but Florida truly was a better team, so hard to mark this as a major negative in terms of preparation.

Louisiana Tech

The Case for Bad Preparation: A very bad Tech team came into Tiger Stadium and lost by only eight. LSU looked flat and indifferent all night, trailing at half time. Tech out gained the Tigers by nearly 80 yards. Jarrett Lee went 7/22, playing poorly.

The Case for Good Preparation: The week after a tough loss to Alabama, it's hard for kids to get "up" for Louisiana Tech.

Summary: It's the coach's job to get his team to focus and play right. I can't WHOLLY fault him, because I think most coaches struggle here, but it's more bad than good.

Ole Miss

The Case for Bad Preparation: Ole Miss out gained LSU by 130 yards and completely snuffed out our run game. Jevan Snead, while not throwing any TDs, efficiently worked over the Tigers defense, not turning it over and keeping his offense on schedule much of the afternoon. It took a late TD and an onside kick recovery for this game to even be "interesting" for LSU in the 4th, and then the clock debacle ensued.

The Case for Good Preparation: Hard to draw too many positives. We got out played, but Ole Miss wasn't awful, I guess.

Summary: Let down performance, which I guess we can continue to chalk up to a tough Bama loss, but the bottom line is that these types of games shouldn't happen.

Arkansas

The Case for Bad Preparation: Arkansas wasn't very good and played us to OT at home. LSU committed nine penalties for 80 yards and turned the ball over twice. Arkansas out gained LSU by 50 yards.

The Case for Good Preparation: The defense played reasonably well and kept Ryan Mallett in control, despite the yardage discrepancy.

Summary: Another bad performance against a middling Arkansas team. LSU didn't have grand hopes for the season, but it's a poor performance nonetheless.

Penn State

The Case for Bad Preparation: LSU couldn't move the ball, turned it over three times, and committed to 10 penalties. It was a bad, bad day.

The Case for Good Preparation: Well... the weather was yuck?

Summary: Miles 1st bowl loss looked horrendous. Poorly prepared and executed.

2010

Tennessee

The Case for Bad Preparation: Tennessee was really bad, came into Tiger Stadium and kept it close on the scoreboard by limiting mistakes and causing a few for LSU. This should have been a loss.

The Case for Good Preparation: LSU out gained Tennessee by over 200 yards. They should have won the game going away.

Summary: Hard to ignore the inability to put the ball in the end zone. The offense seemed to get a jolt when Lee came in, but it was an uninspired performance for a team clearly looking ahead to Florida.

Florida

The Case for Bad Preparation: Florida wasn't especially good and coming off getting trounced by Alabama. LSU turned the ball over twice and continued to use a puzzling QB rotation, to the detriment of both players. It took a miracle fake FG bounce for LSU to get the win.

The Case for Good Preparation: Beating UF in the Swamp isn't easy, no matter how bad they are. LSU out gained UF by 140 yards and really should have won the game going away, until they yielded an 88-yard KO return TD.

Summary: Florida wasn't good, but this is no easy win. I think at worst, this is neutral, at best a solid job in preparation.

McNeese St.

The Case for Bad Preparation: Lackluster performance against a team LSU should beat up on. LSU scored three times in the final 21 minutes to make it look worse than it actually was. Jefferson and Lee were woeful.

The Case for Good Preparation: Hard to get a team up for McNeese, obviously, but LSU should blow the doors off teams like this.

Summary: Doesn't look good in the preparation department.

@Auburn

The Case for Bad Preparation: The defense looked ill-prepared to defend Malzahn's rushing attack and Cam Newton. Auburn rushed for 440 yards in route to a close victory. The offense couldn't manage much all day long, mounting only 243 yards and never consistently moving the football.

The Case for Good Preparation: Auburn was stinkin' good and winning there is tough.

Summary: Normally, I'd be extremely frustrated if LSU allowed a single player to completely beat them, but Newton was a once-in-a-generation type of special talent that absolutely no one could stop. I'll put this as a negative, because the defense looked so helpless.

Alabama

The Case for Bad Preparation: None.

The Case for Good Preparation: LSU outplayed Bama. We out gained them by 100 yards. We rushed for 5.0 YPC, they only rushed for 4.6 with a Heisman winner. We ran a masterful trick play. Our bad QBs didn't make any egregious mistakes and kept the chains moving.

Summary: A big victory for Les, even if it was Bama's worst team in their recent run. Big win all around.

Ole Miss

The Case for Bad Preparation: Yet again, a completely outmatched Ole Miss pushed LSU to the limit. LSU turned it over twice and committed seven penalties. They trailed until just 44 seconds were left in the game. The defense allowed 420 yards of offense and allowed two plays of 50+ yards.

The Case for Good Preparation: The defense forced three turnovers. The offense moved the ball with ease, generating 470 yards and 43 points.

Summary: Another one of those inexcusable games, as Ole Miss was a miserable team that season. LSU wound up winning because Ole Miss made a couple fewer mistakes.

Arkansas

The Case for Bad Preparation: A win secured LSU a BCS bowl bid, so they had everything to play for. They turned it over three times, and committed seven penalties for 51 yards. LSU allowed three 35+ yard TDs, two of which were 80+. The defense yielded 450+ yards of offense for the second week in a row.

The Case for Good Preparation: Arkansas was very good, and we were playing on the road.

Summary: I'll go slight negative on this one, just because it's a team we should have beat, though a good one at that.

Texas A&M

The Case for Bad Preparation: LSU started slowly. That's it.

The Case for Good Preparation: Even if it was an 11-point game in the early 4th, it never felt that close after the 1st half. LSU ran the ball well and picked off Tannehill three times.

Summary: Good bowl preparation and performance overall.

2011

Oregon

The Case for Bad Preparation: None.

The Case for Good Preparation: Highly ranked opponent with an offensive style we've struggled to stop under Chavis. Game was out of hand by the beginning of the 4th quarter and not as close as the stats and scoreboard would have you believe. Defense forced four turnovers and corralled Oregon's run game all night.

Summary: This game put our 2011 team on the map. We physically dominated Oregon. Excellent job in preparatio.

@West Virginia

The Case for Bad Preparation: None.

The Case for Good Preparation: Walked into a rowdy environment and blew their doors off from the get go. When they crawled back in, we responded and never looked back. WVU outgained us by nearly 200 yards, but it was mostly cosmetic, as they also turned it over 4 times. Lee was fairly efficient and they had no answer for our run game.

Summary: Big game against a quality opponent on the road and we dismantled them. Very good preparation.

@Alabama

The Case for Bad Preparation: Our offense was nearly non-existent, and we asked Jarrett Lee to do things we shouldn't.

The Case for Good Preparation: The defense stood up all night, particularly in tough spots. The coaches spotted the success of the option game and stuck with it.

Summary: Alabama out-mistaked us in this one, particularly a few of Saban's puzzling FG try decisions. The offense did just enough in the 2nd half to secure victory. Good job in preparation by the staff realizing that protecting the ball was more important than developing a passing game to winning this one.

Georgia - SEC Championship

The Case for Bad Preparation: The defense looked shaky early on and the offense came out completely flat. Jordan Jefferson played miserably.

The Case for Good Preparation: The staff didn't panic, stuck to the gameplan and LSU won in a rout.

Summary: We were simply better and there was no reason to hit the panic button just because we couldn't get it going early on. Good job in preparation overall.

Alabama - National Championship

The Case for Bad Preparation: Nothing needs to be said.

The Case for Good Preparation: There is nothing.

Summary: We all know what happened. Maybe the least prepared we've ever been.

2012

@Auburn

The Case for Bad Preparation: Auburn was really bad and we kept them in the game all night through penalties and turnovers.

The Case for Good Preparation: It was this team's first road game and the last game Auburn really tried in all season.

Summary: Not a good effort, and from what I remember, a puzzling game plan.

Towson

The Case for Bad Preparation: We were flat and apathetic.

The Case for Good Preparation: Nothing.

Summary: Unacceptable.

@Florida

The Case for Bad Preparation: We played with no pride. After a couple of semi-successful 1st half drives, our offense did nothing. We turned it over three times and committed eight penalties for 83 yards.

The Case for Good Preparation: Defense played tough, though wore down by Gillislee.

Summary: I don't think this was a complete preparation failure. UF's defense was legit and winning in the Swamp is tough. They simply outplayed us.

Texas A&M

The Case for Bad Preparation: Very slow start offensively and defensively. Yielded 400 yards. 13 penalties for 102 yards.

The Case for Good Preparation: Forced five turnovers. Defense adjusted at the half and really limited the future Heisman winner.

Summary: No offense to speak of. 96 of our 316 yards came on three plays. Overall, a solid job.

Alabama

The Case for Bad Preparation: End of half and end of game drives cost us a victory.

The Case for Good Preparation: We out played them most of the night. We out gained them  by 100 yards. They converted only one 3rd down in nine tries. Mettenberger played near flawlessly.

Summary: Very good coaching effort. The team was focused and motivated. The one black mark is that the defense couldn't hack it in hurry-up situations, which is ultimately why we lost.

Ole Miss

The Case for Bad Preparation: You've heard this story before. Completely outmatched yet we still need a 4th quarter comeback to win this game. The defense played miserably. Mettenberger played poorly. We turned it over three times. We were never able to get our running game going consistently.

The Case for Good Preparation: None.

Summary: Yet again, ill prepared against Ole Miss.

Arkansas

The Case for Bad Preparation: John L. Smith-led Arkansas took us deep into the game with a chance to win. Arkansas out gained by 150 yards and bottled up our run game.

The Case for Good Preparation: LSU had nothing to play for.

Summary: Another poor performance against Arkansas.

Clemson

The Case for Bad Preparation: Clemson doubled LSU's offensive production, mostly on the back of Tajh Boyd. LSU's pass protection suffered all night. Despite Hill getting what he wanted, we only handed him the ball 12 times. We seemed ill-equipped to handle a mobile QB again.

The Case for Good Preparation: All phases of the STs looked good. The offense and defense stayed home, though. The defense harassed Boyd all night, but he just kept making plays.

Summary: Not a ton to like here, even though we had a chance to win this game. Tajh Boyd did some amazing things, which is mainly why we lost. Yet again, we failed to stop a late drive.

2013

Georgia

The Case for Bad Preparation: Not too much. Lack of a pass rush proved a pain point.

The Case for Good Preparation: We knew our defense wouldn't get many stops, so we turned Mettenberger loose early and that paid off.

Summary: Tough place to play, but I don't preparation cost us here, really. UGA just made more plays than us that day.

Ole Miss

The Case for Bad Preparation: That familiar theme again. How much worse could you do? No one reigned in Mettenberger, despite the repeated, ill-advised throws. The defense hardly even slowed Ole Miss all night, allowing 525 yards. We turned it over three times.

The Case for Good Preparation: Well, um....

Summary: Miles himself took the blame. Odell Beckham said that was nice of him, though not true. We didn't show up in Oxford. It's Miles' job to get the team ready to play and they were not ready to play against an extremely undermanned Ole Miss team. Inexcusable.

What Does All This Mean?

I'm not sure. Writing and researching these in such quick succession, without doing anything further than glancing over box scores and operating from memory a few trends stand out to me.

We tend to make a lot of penalties and turnovers, even in games we win. If you want to know why the 2011 was able to dismantle most everyone but Alabama, I'd start with the fact that they only turned it over 10 times. Now, the knee-jerk reaction is to blame turnovers on the players, but could this point to something more systematic? Or is there even anything to it? Let's go to history. Where does LSU rank, by season in Turnovers Lost?

2012: Cannot find

2011: 1st

2010: 71st

2009: 7th

2008: 34th

2007: 10th

2006: 37th

2005: 71st

I'd say, historically, we can point to a lack of turnovers as something LSU's favor rather than detriment. Only twice were we truly terrible, most of the time we've been superb. Naturally LSU is going to lose games where they turn the ball over at a high rate. Is there a way we can link that to bad preparation? Probably. But I'm not sure it's something systematic to the point where we can say it's a problem area for Les Miles' teams.

If you go through all of the games listed above, an admittedly small sample, you'll see a lot of bad preparation, a handful of good and a few neutrals. This is only 46 games of his 106 at LSU. We can fairly safely assume that the other 60 were either games in which we were well prepared or that it didn't matter because we won (mostly) or lost handily any how.

I do think penalties may be a problem area. Here's how we've fared in Fewest Penalties Per Game in the Miles era:

2011: 68th (49.00 yards per game)

2010: 60th (46.38 yards per game)

2009: 78th (48.69 yards per game)

2008: 75th (49.92 yards per game)

2007: 117th (62.86 yards per game)

2006: 86th (50.54 yards per game)

2005: 100th (69.77 yards per game)

On average, we're giving opponents 53.88 yards a game back, through penalties. This is through three different offensive and defensive coordinators and a couple of STs guys too. I'm not sure if there has been any work done showing a strong correlation between penalties and losses, but I would imagine it doesn't have a positive impact on the team's performance. Penalties are typically given responsibility to poor coaching and preparation. That's not likely always the case, but I do think we see the numbers such as above, we might be able to infer it's something a little more systematic to LSU.

I didn't spend a host of time on game plans in the brief summaries, quite frankly, because I don't remember the specifics of each and every one. I will say just about every game under Crowton was an offensive adventure that seemed to have no real intention or forethought. Under Studrawa/Kragthorpe, we pretty much just ran out the same power rushing attack, and if it wasn't present, we didn't tend to know what else to do. Both were different kinds of bad. Under Cameron, we have an identity and our offense has been mostly coherent.

The games that stick out as stinker game plans are 2010 vs. UF and the 2011 National Championship. In both cases, we seemed to keep banging our head against a brick wall, hoping to get through. Defensively, I think Les is generally more hands off, but the major thing that sticks out is how we've struggled against spread option attacks. However, that's something that could also be said about, well, all of college football.

The final piece of preparation is in getting guys mentally, emotionally and physically read. Les comes with a lot of fire in the locker room. Maybe against smaller opponents he's subdued? Maybe that rubs off on the team? We seem mentally and emotionally absent at times. Mostly we seem to tailor our play to the quality of our opponent. Outside of 2011, we rarely see Les Miles-led teams blow the doors off inferior opponents. Even when the end results are blow outs (like Furman last week), it's not a game we quickly handle business and get youngsters work.

There's also one long view piece where I think Miles has really made strides in recent years, and that's getting young players meaningful playing time. He doesn't always incorporate them as primary contributors, though some of them emerge as such. But it's about giving that experience and that taste, which I think he excels at.

Overall, I'm giving Les a solid 7/10. To me, I think he's slightly better than average at preparing his team's to play considering all the factors. This is undoubtedly entirely subjective. I considered a 6, but that seems unfair for a guy whose end results are 92 wins.

Recruiting: 8/10

Preparation & Game Planning: 7/10

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