Finales are a strange thing. I mean yeah, we don't associate saying goodbye with a lot of positive things, but when something you've loved and enjoyed goes away, and you have that last chance, you should be able to get some sort of catharsis out of it. The experience should feel fulfilling.
On TV, they almost never work. Most of the time, things have just drawn out too long, and you're just ready for it to be done.
It's sad that we've come to that place with the Les Miles Era at LSU. What will almost certainly be the final game, as the wildest, most wonderful show in college football, is cancelled.
What to Watch For on Saturday
I've thought a lot about the end of this era. Particularly as LSU continued to recruit kids for the classes of 2017, 18, etc... Would Les even coach them? Would he be there for their entire tenures?
Certainly never thought it was coming this soon. I never put much stock in the hot-seat talk this summer, barring a complete disaster, which I classified as a sub-.500 record. And that's not what has happened.
What has happened, is a completely inexplicable slide. The Tigers became the prey of that whole Hunt thing I talked about. Domination at Alabama. Confusion and frustration at home versus Arkansas. A complete lack of composure at Ole Miss. All three losses by double-digits, with an offense that has evaporated to just 5.13 yards per play, a full two yards under the rate it put up the previous month. Leonard Fournette's Heisman campaign, which seemed like a mere formality, is all gone.
And whether you want LSU to retain Miles beyond this season or not, it's pretty tough to believe that he's going to pull the team out of this, and start fresh with multiple new assistants again this offseason.
Of course, after the way the last two weeks have played out, none of that really matters anyway. There's no putting the toothpaste back in the tube. Athletic Director Joe Alleva really only has one choice here, and that's to fire Les Miles. Keeping him would involve a show of support, like an extension, that seems impossible to sell to the rest of the university power structure, and a large portion of the fan base.
Despite an eight-figure buyout. Despite 110 wins, two Southeastern Conference championships and a national title, Les Miles will almost certainly be coaching his final game in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night.
Maybe we can even get him win No. 111.
Oh Yeah, There's a Game to Play
Hey, if all that emotion wasn't enough, LSU's ex-defensive coordinator is sitting on the other sideline after an abrupt and unprofessional departure that is still tied up in litigation.
In that way, the on-field matchup for LSU may be the best the Tigers have had since November. The Aggies have had an up-down season with a fairly one-dimensional offense, and while John Chavis has made some marginal improvements on defense, this is still an outfit allowing more than 220 yards rushing per conference game.
Frankly, the talent just isn't there for the style of defense Chavis likes to run, and the Aggies just haven't figured something out yet: toughness can't be brought in with assistant coaches, or individual players. It comes from the top. If the Aggies are a soft team, it's because that's the mentality Kevin Sumlin has instilled in them.
On offense, they offer a fairly similar look to Ole Miss last week. Spread, Air Raid focused, heavy on the screens and short passes to set up shot plays down the seams. Freshman Christian Kirk has kind of jumped the line on the receiving corps, but there's enough talent that they still spread the ball around a bit, with Josh Reynolds and Rickey Seals-Jones both over the 30-catch mark.
Kyle Allen has retaken the starting job after his October meltdown, but Kyler Murray could still get on the field as a bit of a change of pace.
Over on defense, it's what we know from Chavis. 4-3, over front, heavy dose of man-free coverage with a safety up to stop the run. The Chief has these kids playing a bit faster, probably because of the simplicity of his scheme. And they've found a way to create more big plays -- having a defensive end like Myles Garrett will do that. But they've still allowed 200-plus rushing yards six times this season, including 311 to Auburn.
Play the Hits
I always say if you're going to fail at something, do it on your own terms. And while I would disagree with the general idea of Les Miles as a failure, this much I am sure of. If this is going to be his final game, he should go out coaching the way he loves. Be physical, run power and push this Aggie team around.
People may hate the I-formation, and the toss-power, but it is absolutely what the Tigers should work to establish first this week, just like they tried to against Ole Miss. A few less penalties would be nice. At this point, we have to expect that LSU's defense will give up some plays. There's no Laquon Treadwell on this team, but the Aggies will almost certainly find ways to create some space for Kirk and the rest. LSU's best chance will be to pound the ball with Fournette and the other backs, keep pace when A&M does score and try to protect the defense by keeping them off the field. A&M runs the ball better this year, but they're still a pass-heavy outfit. Put them in a hole, and they'll have to force the ball down the field and become that much more one-dimensional.
A strong running game would also continue to protect Brandon Harris. The Aggies aren't a great secondary, but they limit big plays. LSU doesn't want to force things down the field, and they definitely don't want to give Garrett too many pure rush opportunities, especially with a gimpy Jerald Hawkins.
The Tigers may not be able to save their coach's job, but they can give him one final moment to sing the alma mater with a smile on his face.