There are a lot of can’t-miss attractions out there when you start talking SEC football.
I mean, you’ve got players, traditions, stadiums, tailgating, even iconic pubs.
Who could ever forget the old Purple Porpoise just a Danny Wuerffel throw away from the Swamp? There are probably more than a few of us who would like to forget about it back in the day when they still handed out halftime passes at the Swamp, transforming the Purple Porpoise into the SEC’s version of “Animal House” for about 30 minutes.
In the present-day SEC, we don’t need pubs. We’ve got LSU coach Les Miles.
The Mad Hatter is must-see TV. He’s pure entertainment.
And believe it or not, in the immortal words of Miles, he’s also a “damn strong” football coach.
Listen, Miles really has become that coach everyone around the country tunes in to see.
They want to see what he’s going to say next ... and then try to figure out what he just said.
They want to watch his football team play, because thanks to Miles’ recruiting prowess, the Tigers are always laden with talented players.
They especially want to watch the Tigers play on fourth down, because Miles loves to “let it ride” and go for it on fourth down.
They also don’t mind watching the Tigers try field goals, because Miles also has a penchant for running those over-the-head fakes -- occasionally with a bounce -- that come when nobody else is expecting them.
ESPN analyst Rece Davis gets credit for the “Mad Hatter” nickname. He’s the one who pinned it on Miles a few years back, and it’s taken on a life of itself.
Even some of the LSU players, namely star cornerback Patrick Peterson, made good-natured “Hat” references last Saturday following LSU’s 24-21 win over Alabama.
“Coach Miles isn’t out there as far as a lot of people think he is,” Peterson said. “The guys on this team enjoy playing for him. He’s been good to us and not only as just a football coach. But we have faith in him as our coach. We like playing for a coach who’s not afraid to take chances and has enough confidence in us that he knows we’re going to get it done when he makes those calls.”
As much as any current coach in the SEC, Miles has been one of those guys whose popularity with his own fans has gone up and down.
In the last couple of years, it’s been mostly down.
Part of that is because Miles had the audacity to win a national championship in 2007. It was LSU’s second in the last five years. Nick Saban won one in 2003.
When you win at that level, anything less is never going to be acceptable again.
Miles also hasn’t helped himself with some of the end-of-game blunders committed by LSU's offensive staff, not to mention the offensive struggles that have gripped the program the last two years.
Until the second half of the Alabama game, when LSU erupted for 338 total yards and 21 points, the Tigers’ offense had been painful to watch the last two seasons.
Here they are now, though, on the brink of possibly landing an at-large berth in a BCS bowl, and they’re at least hovering in the national championship picture if the right teams lose.
It’s not conventional with Miles. Never has been and never will be.
Has he gotten his share of lucky bounces and fortunate breaks? Absolutely, he has. Show me a coach who's won at the level Miles has who hasn't.
Somehow, I don’t think Miles really cares how he's perceived as long as LSU continues to get the same results as last Saturday in Tiger Stadium.