LSU will face Texas Tech in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl on Dec. 29 at NRG Stadium in Houston. The Tigers enter ranked No. 22 overall after winning eight games and finishing the regular season fourth in the SEC West.
But that wasn’t enough to keep Les Miles from facing a season-long hot seat that nearly losing his job. Seriously, it seemed like LSU’s athletic director Joe Avella decided that Miles would return as he announced it during the Tigers’ postgame press conference in Week 14, which provided one of the most awkward moments of the college football season.
Sure, LSU failed to live up to expectations after going undefeated through its first seven games, then losing three straight in November. The Tigers’ final win against Texas A&M may have saved Miles’ job but it doesn’t mean the coach’s job security is certain.
Miles’ entire tenure has been riddled with both praise and criticism. Despite being one of the SEC’s best coaches of the past decade, he’s always lived in the shadow of the conference’s best coach, Nick Saban, who led LSU to a national title in 2003 before leaving for the Miami Dolphins after the 2004 season and later returning to the SEC as Alabama’s coach in 2007.
Despite having led LSU to another national championship in 2007–as well as two SEC Championships–Miles’ early success was marred with the criticism of having Saban’s players while his recent years of falling short have brought even more doubt. He’s also earned the moniker of a “mad hatter” after making a career of having questionable and risky decisions somehow work in his favor.
Regardless of whether he’s as good of Saban or just lucky, Miles is one of the SEC’s best coaches and would be difficult to replace had LSU made the decision to end his tenure after the season. Instead, the Tigers will be able to cap off a disappointing season with a bowl win in a game that admittedly isn’t up to the par of the program but would still end the year on a high note.
But Texas Tech shouldn’t be overlooked. The Red Raiders have a high powered offense and pulled off an upset against SEC West rival Arkansas–which defeated LSU 31-14 in Week 12–early in the season.
“I know Texas Tech, since I was in the Big 12 conference and they are very talented on offense, move the football well against everybody,” Miles said during a teleconference earlier this month. “I think they are second ranked nationally on offense. They have a 1,400 yard running back, and a very capable quarterback and receiving core.
Their defense is very sound, plays on top, plays to the strength of the offense, very capable on special teams, so we recognize this is going to be a great challenge. I think our guys will look forward to that challenge and that will add to the preparation of the bowl game.”
LSU should be favored in Tuesday’s bowl matchup but needs to play to its strengths. Leonard Fournette — whose Heisman campaign sunk with his team’s winning streak — should end his sophomore campaign with a big performance. The Tigers secondary should be able to slow down Texas Tech’s receivers and jump out to a big lead.
Miles and his team need to end 2015 with a bowl win to keep momentum heading into what should be a better 2016 campaign.