The last Saturday of November started with LSU coach Les Miles reportedly fighting for his job, or at least that's what a few rogue Tigers boosters wanted us to believe.
The night ended with Miles being carried off the field by his players after a 19-7 victory over Texas A&M at Death Valley. Once they finally put him down, he embraced his wife and children, as LSU's fans passionately chanted, "Keep Les Miles! Keep Les Miles!" Then he interrupted a live SEC Network on-field interview to sing LSU's alma mater, as only Les Miles would do, and tipped his hat to the crowd when he was finished.
Now please tell me again why a handful of LSU boosters wanted to pay Miles $15 million to go away?
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed in Baton Rouge. Thankfully, the people who are paid to make important decisions are more intelligent than the people who pay a lot of money to try to influence them. Finally, LSU ended what had become a very embarrassing internal tug-of-war.
Less than an hour after Miles was carried off the field, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said during a news conference: "I want to make it very clear and positive that Les Miles is our football coach and he will continue to be our football coach."
It has been quite a couple of weeks for Miles, after reports surfaced at ESPN and other media outlets that the Tigers were preparing to part ways with him, even though he's 111-32 in 11 seasons and guided LSU to the 2007 national championship. According to the reports, the Tigers were prepared to fire him and pay him a staggering $15 million buyout to leave.
There had to be at least some credence to the reports about his demise. Alleva and the rest of LSU's administration left Miles twisting in the wind, as speculation mounted that the Texas A&M game might be his last as LSU's coach. It wasn't until after the Tigers beat the Aggies to end a three-game losing streak that Alleva and LSU chancellor F. King Alexander informed Miles he'd be returning as the Tigers' coach next season.
When Miles was asked how he was told the news, he answered in a way we might have expected.
"Telegraph," he said.
"It's nice to have them come and say the job you've been doing you can continue to do," Miles said.
Until Alleva made the announcement about Miles' future, it sure seemed that he might be coaching his final game at LSU. He seemed to soak up his surroundings as he and his team made their way from their team buses to Tiger Stadium through the "Tiger Walk." He was serenaded by fans on the team's Senior Day festivities during pregame ceremonies, and then, of course, was carried off the field on his players' shoulders when the game was over.
"I now know what it's like to ride an elephant," Miles said. "It scares you to death, and you just try to grab onto ears. I thought if I fell off the back, I'd break my neck. If I fell off the front, I'd bust my nose."
Unfortunately, Miles also now knows what it feels like to be a racehorse sent to the glue factory. If a certain faction of LSU boosters had their way, he would have been fired and replaced by Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Alleva and the others did nothing to stop the rampant speculation until late Saturday night.
"There are probably a couple of guys I'd like to meet in an alley and have a little street talk with, but I'm not built that way," Miles said.
It was evident the rumors took a toll on his players and probably Miles' family as well.
"I'm a Miles," he said. "I've got clear focus and I'm not distracted easily."
There's no question Miles has problems to fix in LSU's program. Since losing to Alabama 21-0 in the BCS National Championship at the end of the 2011 season, the Tigers have dropped at least three games in each of the past four seasons. They're 16-8 in the past two, including a 9-7 mark against SEC foes.
LSU's struggling offense has been the biggest issue. The Tigers have scored 19 points or fewer in each of their past four games. Entering Saturday, LSU ranked 105th in FBS in passing with 182.1 yards per game. They've thrown only 12 touchdowns in 11 games, which is 32 fewer than Western Kentucky and 30 fewer than Bowling Green.
LSU's inability to develop a quarterback has largely made tailback Leonard Fournette a one-man offense. The past month proved that not even Fournette, who set an LSU single-season rushing record with 1,741 yards, can do it alone. Against Texas A&M, quarterback Brandon Harris completed only 7 of 21 passes for 83 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. It was the fourth time this season he threw for fewer than 100 yards in a game.
Miles hinted Saturday night that changes are coming to LSU's offense. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is in the final year of his contract, and Miles might be inclined to reshape his staff on that side of the ball. He stopped short of saying there would be a complete overhaul of his offense.
"Does the serious overhaul of this offense include Leonard Fournette? Are we taking away the running game?" Miles said. "There's not a serious overhaul because the engine seems to be pretty freakin' strong. Do we want to consider changes? You betcha. But I think an overhaul is a bit much."
There's still time for Miles to turn it around. A couple of years ago, many Oklahoma fans felt Bob Stoops' brand of football had become stale. Before this season, he hired East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, an "Air Raid" disciple, who installed a wide-open offense at OU. Now the Sooners are Big 12 champs, ranked No. 3 in the country and will probably have a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Wouldn't it be less embarrassing -- and, oh, about $13.5 million cheaper -- to hire an offensive coordinator like TCU's Doug Meacham or Sonny Cumbie or Arizona State's Mike Norvell to fix the problems on offense? Of course, Miles is going to have to swallow his pride a bit and completely turn over his offense to someone else. After the last couple of weeks, he has probably seen the writing on the wall, though.
At the end of the day, the LSU fans who wanted Miles to leave were most upset about his 0-5 record in the last five games against Alabama. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban preceded Miles at LSU and guided the Tigers to the 2003 national championship.
It's funny that LSU fans can't seem to remember Saban left them for the Miami Dolphins. When Michigan tried to hire Miles as its coach in 2007, he didn't leave for his alma mater.
Miles wanted to stay at LSU, and that should damn well count for something.
Playoff teams after Week 13
1. Clemson: The Tigers were far from perfect in a 37-32 win at rival South Carolina, but they still improved to 12-0. They've won 15 straight games for the second time in school history (they also did it from 1947 to '49), and their 12 wins are the most in a season since going 12-0 during the 1981 national championship season. Up next: a showdown against red-hot North Carolina in the ACC championship game.
2. Alabama: The Crimson Tide had to fend off a pretty good fight from Auburn in the Iron Bowl before pulling away for a 29-13 win on the road. Alabama rode tailback Derrick Henry to improve to 11-1 and will play Florida in next week's SEC championship game.
3. Michigan State: The Spartans looked determined not to waste a golden opportunity and blew out Penn State 55-16, clinching the Big Ten East. Spartans quarterback Connor Cook returned from a shoulder injury and completed 19 of 26 passes for 248 yards with three touchdowns. That's good news heading into next week's Big Ten championship game against Iowa.
4. Oklahoma: The Big 12 has its "One True Champion" and it's the Sooners, who beat Oklahoma State in emphatic fashion. OU scored 44 points in the first half -- their most in a Bedlam game since 1970 -- en route to a 58-23 win. The Sooners rushed for 344 yards and are averaging just under 300 rushing yards a game since losing to Texas.
Next four in contention
1. Iowa: The Hawkeyes wrapped up a 12-0 regular season with a 28-20 win at Nebraska on Black Friday. While I still like Michigan State's body of work better, Iowa can make its case by knocking off the Spartans. If the Hawkeyes are 13-0 and Big Ten champs, there's no way they'll be left out of the playoff.
2. Ohio State: After complaining about the play calling in last week's loss to Michigan State, Buckeyes tailback Ezekiel Elliott ran the ball 30 times for 214 yards with two touchdowns in a 42-13 rout at Michigan. It was OSU's most lopsided win at the Big House since 1961. Without a Big Ten championship, though, the Buckeyes are going to have to hope for upsets in other conference championship games.
3. Stanford: The Cardinal drove 45 yards in 30 seconds, and Conrad Ukropina kicked a 45-yard field goal as time expired to beat Notre Dame 38-36. The loss knocked the Fighting Irish out of playoff consideration, but might have given Stanford new life. The Cardinal play USC in the Pac-12 championship game.
4. North Carolina: I still have a difficult time believing the CFP selection committee would take a team that lost to South Carolina and played two FCS opponents. But the Tar Heels are playing really well of late, and teams in front of them (Notre Dame, Florida, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Michigan) keep losing. They defeated rival NC State 45-34 and play Clemson in next week's ACC championship game.
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama: Henry carried the load in the Iron Bowl, setting a school record with 46 carries for 271 yards with one touchdown. He set an Alabama single-season record with 1,797 rushing yards and tied Heisman Trophy winners Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson for the most 200-yard games (four) in a single season in SEC history.
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: McCaffrey set the Pac-12 single-season record for all-purpose yards, moving past Reggie Bush (2,890), with 228 all-purpose yards in the Cardinal's win over Notre Dame. McCaffrey also became only the third player in FBS history to eclipse 3,000 all-purpose yards, joining Oklahoma State legend Barry Sanders and Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews.
3. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Watson is now 16-1 as the Tigers' starting quarterback, 15-0 when he starts and finishes a game. He accounted for four more touchdowns against the Gamecocks, running for three scores and throwing for one more. He completed 20 of 27 passes for 279 yards, also running 21 times for 114 yards.
4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Mayfield threw for two touchdowns without an interception in the Sooners' rout of Oklahoma State. He has 35 touchdowns and five interceptions on the season, the highest differential among Power 5 quarterbacks and third in FBS.
Tweets of the night
1. Was that an executive order?
.@LSUCoachMiles is a great coach and a better man. He is a fantastic ambassador for our state. I hope he remains our coach.— Gov. Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) November 28, 2015
2. Now, that's some shade.
Another year, another "The Game." No love lost between Ohio State and Michigan. pic.twitter.com/yTj3U5ez5P— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 28, 2015
3. Seminoles have the last laugh after Rubio's dig at Florida State..
Thoughts? @marcorubio— FSU Football (@FSU_Football) November 29, 2015
4. Come on Zeke, we thought you learned your lesson. He's obviously a little envious of Derrick Henry's workload.
40+ carries ... Must be nice lol— EzekielElliott#⃣1⃣5⃣ (@EzekielElliott) November 29, 2015
1. After Virginia Tech beat rival Virginia 23-20, Hokies coach Frank Beamer ended his locker room speech in style. The 69-year-old retiring coach hit the "dab" dance.
Frank Beamer dabbing defines "going out on top". https://t.co/sUaxvSG7E2— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) November 28, 2015
2. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, was back at Auburn for Saturday's Iron Bowl.
Cam Newton is back on the Plains as honorary captain of the Iron Bowl. pic.twitter.com/akSuQljAxP— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 28, 2015
3. Denied! A Michigan hotel trolled Ohio State's players by giving them room keys that wouldn't work. Welcome to Ann Arbor, boys.
Quotes of the night
1. "Life goes fast. Time goes fast. Again, we have a lot of momentum. I believe we are one of the best teams in the country, and our players believe that." -- Tennessee coach Butch Jones, after the Volunteers beat Vanderbilt 53-28 to improve to 8-4
2. "I haven't spoken to anybody in the university. Nobody has given me any indication that I wouldn't be the football coach. I fully expect to be the head coach here for a long time." -- Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, after the Scarlet Knights blew a 21-point lead in a 46-41 loss to Maryland to finish 4-8
3. "I've been very fortunate to be around some big-time games. From the bottom of my heart, I told these players that might be the best one I've ever seen. To come back from that kick to the stomach we took last week, it was an awful week of practice, not awful [in execution] but in the way everyone felt." -- Ohio State coach Urban Meyer
4. "We weren't worried about the national championship. We were just worrying about this game, achieve one of our goals and be state champs and that's what we did. The national championship will take care of itself." - Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson
Stats that matter
7: Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch tied an FBS record by throwing seven touchdown passes in the first half of a 63-0 win over SMU. He completed 9 of 14 passes in the game.
23: Virginia Tech's 23-20 win over Virginia ensured the Hokies of playing in a 23rd consecutive bowl game, which is the longest recognized streak in FBS. Florida State will play in its 34th straight bowl, but the NCAA doesn't recognize its 2006 Emerald Bowl appearance because of NCAA sanctions.
1,672: With 214 rushing yards against Michigan, Ezekiel Elliott became only the second Ohio State player to run for more than 1,500 yards in multiple seasons. Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin is the other. With 3,812 career rushing yards, Elliott passed Eddie George for No. 2 in OSU history, behind only Griffin.
21: Both Louisville and Maryland overcame 21-point deficits to beat Kentucky and Rutgers, respectively. Entering Saturday, FBS teams were 6-322 in games in which they trailed by at least three touchdowns this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.