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Can We All Agree? (Les Miles Edition)

We here at Dawg Sports attempt to be a unifying force in the intercollegiate athletics blogosphere. MaconDawg recently authored his first featured post on the SportsBlogs Nation homepage and attracted the attention of Fork Union Military Academy's Captain Dan, whereas I just completed The Sound and the GameDay (which recast the three brothers from William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury as the cast of "College GameDay": Benjy as Lee Corso, Quentin as Chris Fowler, and Jason as Kirk Herbstreit) to fairly favorable reviews. In short, we try to play the role of "uniters, not dividers" . . . although, hopefully, MaconDawg and I enjoy an approval rating somewhat higher than George W. Bush's.

In our effort to find common ground and reach consensus with fellow football fans of different backgrounds, we periodically offer installments of a feature known as "Can We All Agree?" Through this segment, we endeavor to dispense with red herrings, false dichotomies, and canards of every sort, casting aside ersatz disputes in order to facilitate discussion on actual points of contention.

Recently, Les Miles not only foolishly placed a dopey-looking baseball cap on his cinder block-shaped head, he also irresponsibly stuck his six-toed foot in his slackjawed mouth by maligning essentially everyone else in college football except the proud institution which is growing increasingly embarrassed to have this dufus misrepresenting its storied program.

This has provoked much discussion, both within and without the blogosphere, and there appears to be universal agreement that Coach Miles is better suited to performing a banjo duet with Ronny Cox than to leading a major college football team.

"Southern California only has to play a couple of tough banjo duets a year."

However, in the course of this discussion, a few ancillary issues have arisen which are in need of being addressed. Accordingly, I have put together a special Les Miles edition of this popular feature, in which I ask rhetorically: Can We All Agree . . .

. . . that you don't get to gripe about being robbed of the national title in a season in which your team won the national title? Much of the animosity existing between the Pac-10 and the S.E.C. is traceable to the dispute over the 2003 national championship. U.S.C. ended the regular season ranked No. 1 in both the A.P. and coaches' polls and won the Rose Bowl to earn the top spot in the final sportswriters' poll. L.S.U. made it into the B.C.S. championship game and won the Sugar Bowl to earn the top spot in the final coaches' poll.

Everyone without an axe to grind readily acknowledges that this produced a split national title in which both teams have equal claims to No. 1 rankings in the two recognized historic polls, as was the case in 1990, 1991, and 1997. The sentiment to which Coach Miles ill-advisedly gave voice stems from the brouhaha over that divided title.

Enough is enough. No one has ever expected that a team that finished first in one poll without finishing first in the other won a tainted title that obliged it to brand its merchandise with the phrase "Co-National Champions." Colorado and Georgia Tech shared a title without comparable rancor, as did Miami and Washington, as did Michigan and Nebraska, and as should L.S.U. and U.S.C.

Can't we all just get along?

Auburn fans get to gripe about 2004. Penn State fans get to gripe about 1994. Notre Dame fans get to gripe about 1989.  Auburn fans get to gripe about 1983. Alabama fans get to gripe about 1966. Georgia fans get to gripe about 1946. Those teams were not ranked No. 1 in either of the major polls and each of them has an argument.

When you win the national championship in one of the two traditional polls, though, you lose the right to complain about not finishing first in both. You got to print T-shirts and caps reading "National Champions." Cope.

In a related item, however, Can We All Agree . . .

. . . that no one knows the outcome of a football game that hasn't been played? I am a firm believer that Auburn got lucky in 2004 by not having to face Southern California in the Orange Bowl. While I believe the Plainsmen would have given the Trojans a better game than the Sooners, I do not believe any college football team could have beaten U.S.C. on that field on that night.

Quit whining, Tuberville; all that was waiting on you in Miami was a whipping.

However, I do not believe the same holds true for the preceding season's Bayou Bengals. In 2003, as in 2004, Oklahoma undeservedly received a berth in a national championship game that, by rights, should have pitted the Pac-10 and S.E.C. champions in a battle for No. 1. In 2003, unlike in 2004, the two most deserving teams were much more evenly matched.

Some commentators have taken it as a given that Southern California would have beaten Louisiana State in the Sugar Bowl. I believe L.S.U. would have gotten the better of U.S.C., but, at a minimum, conscientious college football fans must acknowledge that the outcome remains in doubt because the contest was never played.

Weren't we equally certain that Florida State would beat Oklahoma for the 2000 national title . . . or that Miami would beat Ohio State for that honor in 2002 . . . or that Southern California would beat Texas in the 2005 national championship game . . . or that Ohio State would beat Florida last year? Not just some, but all of those "certain" outcomes turned out to be mistaken. Likewise, anyone who tells you that he knows which team would have won an L.S.U.-U.S.C. battle for No. 1 is mistaking his conference pride for actual information.

This brings us to the final question that I put forward for the good of the order: Can We All Agree . . .

. . . that any coach whose attempt to lower expectations gives every opposing team bulletin board material is a coach who has no business running an elite program in any conference?

Anyone else remember Howard Schnellenberger's stint at Oklahoma?

What Les Miles said wasn't just stupid and wrong, although it was that. It also was offensive to everyone. It was offensive to the Pac-10 in general and to Southern California in particular. It was offensive to the Big 12. It was offensive to other national title contenders.

Because it effectively took an S.E.C. championship and a top two ranking for granted, it was insulting to the rest of the Southeastern Conference, as I suspect Alabama's Nick Saban, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, Florida's Urban Meyer, Georgia's Mark Richt, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, and Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer are not yet ready to concede conference supremacy to Les Miles, who has not done what all of them have done . . . win an S.E.C. title.

Stewart Mandel has surmised that Coach Miles was laying the groundwork for making the excuses that are sure to follow if the Fighting Tigers do not win their second national championship in a five-year period . . . or, worse yet, if they do not capture their third conference crown in a seven-season span (and particularly if they lose to Coach Saban's Crimson Tide in the process of falling short of that goal).

That is as logical an explanation as any for Coach Miles's thoroughly idiotic decision to antagonize and alienate whole conferences and fan bases en masse. A quick glance around the S.E.C. reveals that the league's coaches have different approaches toward making public utterances. Steve Spurrier uses his sharp wit to cut opponents to the quick and get inside their heads. Nick Saban is impatient in his public statements, so singleminded is his focus on preparing his team to win football games. Mark Richt's subdued remarks to the media are of a piece with his stoic demeanor on the sideline.

How can I be The Man when Mark Richt is The Man?

There is no inherently "correct" way to address the press or the public, but Les Miles's more successful coevals all have found a manner of speaking that operates to their respective teams' advantage. Coach Miles, by contrast, comes across as a caricature from a "Saturday Night Live" sketch whose expressions appear calculated to work to his team's maximum disadvantage.

Les Miles, like Jim Donnan before him, may be capable of winning at a lower-tier program in a small media market, where his dumber utterances are able to slip by unnoticed. At an elite football school like Louisiana State, however, his every outburst of idiocy is magnified and a program that has always had the respect of its Southeastern Conference peers is being made to look bad undeservedly.

Les Miles is out of his depth. Every time he finds himself in front of a microphone, the Clueless Coach inadvertently dispenses incentives to every other team in college football to beat him. A man who has demonstrated such a singular ability to guide 13-0 talent to an 11-2 record needs to learn to keep his mouth shut until he actually manages to notch a win that counts for something more than proving that Miami and Notre Dame are spent volcanoes.

Les Miles is the Keystone Koach, but his imbecilic utterances sometimes guide the rest of us to the discovery of greater truths, reminding us that even a blind hog occasionally chances upon a truffle. Can we all get behind the foregoing findings? Let me know in the comments below.

Go 'Dawgs!