<
>

Winning and differences power Miles & Saban

Les Miles and Nick Saban differ in methodology and personality, but they share a winning mentality that has turned their programs into powerhouses. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Separated by more than 340 mostly rural miles, Nick Saban and Les Miles are giants of their time.

Their footsteps shake the southern ground and their wins stack as tall as Atlanta's Bank of America Plaza.

Saturday, the two will meet for the ninth time at their current jobs, with Saban holding a 5-3 lead in this wildly exciting series. Two coaches who thrive on winning and captivated the SEC after stints and upbringings well outside the confines of the country's most polarizing conference.

Miles went from being a Michigan Man to a Cowboy before settling in Cajun country. Saban went from a Michigan State man to Cajun to Dolphin then T-Town. Cross-country journeys brought these two to the Deep South and winning binds these iconic coaches.

Think Hayes-Schembechler with a little more southern hospitality.

While their personas are poked, prodded and overanalyzed countless times each season, and their methods and personalities are sometimes worlds apart, there's no denying that they share an equally impressive winning attitude.

Saban has a 172-58-1 (.747) collegiate record with four national championships -- three at Alabama and one at LSU -- and five conference championships. Miles is right behind him with a 130-47 (.734) record with a national championship and two conference titles.

Miles won 10 or more games seven times in his first nine seasons at LSU, while Saban did it in six of his first seven years at Alabama.

They are the class of the SEC, a conference that has only gained strength since their arrivals. Even with the SEC saying hello and subsequently goodbye to a handful of coaches since the arrival of Miles and Saban, they've stayed put, despite growing pressure and enormous expectations.

"It's really impressive to see how focused, driven and prepared he is every day," Alabama center Ryan Kelly said of Saban. "As you get older, that kind of wears off on you as well."

Saban's rough exterior can overshadow a fun side that Miles seems to embrace more openly. Miles is the quirky genius, while Saban is the evil genius, but Saban knows how to keep things loose, players say.

"He's funnier than you would think," Alabama receiver DeAndrew White said.

There are jokes cracked in practice and his well-known love for Motown and Michael Jackson. There are even multiple videos of him dancing that have come close to breaking the Internet.

It isn't quite repelling off the side of a building or eating grass, that's Miles' territory, and he's perfected off-the-wall .

"I've never seen anyone eat grass," LSU safety Ronald Martin said. "I guess that's his good luck charm."

Miles knows when to be serious, too. He's had emotional news conferences defending his players and his status as LSU's coach. The jokes die during games and when he has to, he isn't afraid to line up with his offensive linemen at practice – knees bent and trusty hat backward -- to show them what perfect technique looks like.

"It's always a great time being coached by him," LSU offensive lineman Vadal Alexander said. "He definitely gets down and dirty with us every now and then."

What makes them great is their undeniable coaching ability, but what makes their interaction that much more enjoyable is how different they really are.

People scratch their heads and often giggle at his sometimes indecipherable jargon, while Saban's dry humor is actually hilarious because it's so smart, even if it can come across as smug.

Saban has "the process" and Miles has "the want."

There are palm claps versus near headset destruction.

There's Miles hat, barely sitting atop his head, and Saban's glare, piercing through his own players and coaches, along with opponents.

There's Saban's meticulous attention to detail and Miles' off-the-cuff, Mad Hatter coaching style that can teeter on improbable bliss and disaster.

They differ in methodology and personality, but they share a winning mentality that has turned their programs into powerhouses.

Their teams mimic them in so many ways, and that's why Saturday is once again a huge deal. Excellence has bred success with these two coaches, making every encounter exemplary.