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11/28/15 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

At 6:30 tonight the LSU football team will conclude its regular season with a game against Texas A&M that will surely be overshadowed by a much bigger story line. Based on all the chatter out there, it would be surprising if this were not Les Miles’ last game as LSU’s coach, regardless of the game’s outcome. Combine that with the fact that this will be the last game in Tiger Stadium for 14 seniors, and the first in which LSU faces its former defensive coordinator, John Chavis, and it’s clear to see that emotions will be running high. 

If you’re making plans to attend tonight’s game, please note the following Times of Interest

As promised, today we’ll give you our Keys to an LSU Victory.

Establish the run
We’ve been saying LSU needs more balance all season, but with Texas A&M giving up 202.5 yards per game (13th in the SEC), the Tigers need to pound the ball against the Aggies. I’m not saying LSU should abandon the pass by any means, but Fournette and the other running backs should be given the ball early and often to move the chains, eat up the clock and wear down the A&M defense. LSU ran the ball 57 times for 384 rushing yards last season vs A&M, and while I don’t believe they’ll have that level of success this year, I still think it’s imperative to lean heavily on the run this Saturday.

Avoid negative plays and costly penalties
LSU has committed way too many costly penalties this season and allowed too many sacks and tackles for loss. Against Ole Miss last week, the Tigers had 10 penalties for 95 yards, including a costly holding penalty early in the game that wiped out a 62-yard run by Fournette. In LSU’s 35-28 win vs Florida earlier in the season, the Tigers only committed three penalties for 20 yards and gave up zero sacks. A similar performance for the Tigers tonight would greatly increase the likelihood of a victory.

Prevent explosive plays
Two weeks ago vs Arkansas, LSU held the Razorbacks to 239 yards on 53 of their 56 offensive plays. Unfortunately, the other three plays went for 201 yards and three TDs. Last week vs Ole Miss, the Tigers gave up five receptions and two runs that totaled 197 yards, an average of 28 yards per play. Ole Miss’ other 58 plays totaled just 235 yards. For the Tigers to end the regular season on a high note, they’ll need to avoid allowing such big plays today.

Win in the red zone
As noted a few days ago in our stat comparison, Texas A&M’s red zone TD percentage is only 55%. Last week vs Vanderbilt, the Aggies kicked six field goals, three of which were in the red zone. In fact, A&M failed to score a TD in the red zone last week, as their only TD was a 95-yard pass from Kyle Allen. So holding the Aggies to field goals when they reach the red zone (hopefully there won’t be too many of those trips) will be another critical factor for LSU to win this game.

Home crowd needs to be loud and supportive!
The crowd was electric and extremely loud in the Florida game less than six weeks ago, and that had a big impact in the game as the Gators’ offense was often rattled and struggled communicating. Two weeks ago at home vs Arkansas, the Tigers fell behind 21-0 and fans never really got back in the game. Regardless of how this contest starts, LSU needs the fans to pack the stadium and make it extremely difficult for A&M’s offense to communicate the entire night. A strong and supportive crowd will serve not only as a difference maker in the game, but as a fitting way to pay tribute to the 14 seniors who’ve given their all for the last four or five years, and a coach who has given LSU football its best 11 years in school history.

Today’s closing tidbits: 

• A lot of you have emailed me about reports of Les Miles speaking to the Gridiron booster club about his future. What I make of it all, based on reports like this one and emails I have received, is that Coach Miles realizes that this could indeed be his last game and wanted to express his sincere gratitude to his boosters in case he doesn’t have another chance to do so. As reported by the Advocate, athletic director Joe Alleva has declined comment until after the season and Miles says Alleva hasn’t yet told him anything about his job status. 

• The LSU Lady Tigers basketball team dropped to 3-3 on the season with a 69-52 loss to undefeated Purdue (4-0) in the first round of the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida. More on that game, including video highlights, can be found here. The LSU men’s team will return to action Monday at Charleston.

• All of last night’s LA High School Football Playoff Scores can be found in our statewide scoreboard.


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11/27/15 5:55 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

First off, I want to thank all of you who responded to my Thanksgiving Message yesterday. I hope you all had a wonderful, memorable day.

Somewhat lost in all the madness of the Les Miles saga and the Thanksgiving holidays is the fact that LSU has a big game to play tomorrow as the Tigers are set to take on Texas A&M at 6:30 p.m. in Tiger Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network with Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Jesse Palmer (analyst) and Maria Taylor (sideline reporter) calling the action. LSU will be looking to end the regular season on a high note and avoid suffering four straight losses for the first time since 1999. Of course, the bigger story line is that many, including Scott Roussel of FootballScoop.com, are saying the game will be Les Miles’ last as an LSU coach. Roussel is known as being one of the most connected sources in the industry on such matters, and in this article on BleacherReport.com he expresses 100% certainty that Miles will be out and that Jimbo Fisher will almost surely be LSU’s next coach. All I can say about that is I’ve heard nothing that would lead me to believe otherwise, although in matters like these nothing can ever be assumed.  

In today’s report, we’re going to carry on as if it’s business as usual and focus on the game ahead by comparing LSU and Texas A&M in terms of offense, defense, special teams and intangibles. As always, your comments and feedback are welcome, but I hope you’ll understand that I may not be able to answer all of your messages individually due to the overwhelming amount of email I’ve received in the last few days.

LSU offense vs. Texas A&M defense

Take away the outside storylines surrounding Les Miles and John Chavis, and you’ll find an intriguing matchup in Saturday’s contest when the Tigers take the field on offense. After John Chavis left LSU to join Texas A&M, the Aggies have improved on defense, as evidenced by the fact that they are allowing an average of 370 total yards per game this season, whereas last year they allowed an average of 451. Texas A&M still struggles to defend the run (the team isn’t built to stop power running attacks) but has improved dramatically in pass defense, allowing the second lowest passing yards per game in the conference (168). They’ve been able to put up such impressive pass defense numbers with improved play in the secondary and one of the premier pass-rushers in all of college football in Myles Garrett, who is tied for fifth in the nation with 10.5 sacks on the year. As a team, the Aggies are 13th in the nation in sacks with 32 on the season. What these numbers tell me is that LSU would probably be best suited to play to its identity as a power running team and dish out a heavy dose of Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. A pretty telling stat from earlier this month was the rushing success Auburn had against Texas A&M. The Auburn Tigers gave it to Jovon Robinson 27 times, and Robinson was able to rack up 159 of Auburn’s 311 rushing yards. I see no reason why LSU shouldn’t be able to have similar success against a team whose rushing defense is ranked 13th in the SEC, especially if offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins, who is listed as probable, is able to play in the game. 
Slight advantage LSU

LSU defense vs. Texas A&M offense

The Aggies’ offense has looked explosive at times (wide receiver Christian Kirk is the real deal, folks), but has lacked consistency. As LSU fans, we can relate. The biggest reason for the Aggies’ struggles with consistency has been a lack of leadership at quarterback from Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray. Against West Carolina and Auburn, Murray threw five total interceptions, and Allen has been battling a shoulder sprain that he suffered against Alabama, which led to him missing open receivers against Ole Miss. Allen has been named the starter for Saturday, but should LSU get pressure on him and aggravate that injury, an appearance by Murray wouldn’t come as a shock. Texas A&M is second to last in the SEC in sacks allowed, while LSU’s Lewis Neal and Arden Key have proven more than capable of giving chase. What worries me most in this matchup is the play of LSU’s secondary, as it will be looking to defend  one of the best pairs of SEC receivers in Christian Kirk and Josh Reynolds, who each rank in the top six in the conference in receiving. Besides Ole Miss, this might be the most talented receiving corps the Tigers will have faced all season long. Because of the issues LSU has had with busted coverage in the secondary, I’m hesitant to give LSU the advantage here, but if the Tigers can generate pressure it could make for a long night for the Aggies.

Special Teams

Tiger fans may be holding their breath when the punt unit takes the field Saturday. Kirk, as mentioned earlier, is an electrifying player with the ball in his hands, and he leads the conference in average yards per punt return. Kirk is averaging 24 yards per return and has two punt returns for touchdowns this season. On the flip side, A&M punter Drew Kaser leads the conference with a 47-yard per punt average. So although LSU’s special teams have improved a bit over the last few weeks, the Aggies’ special teams are talented enough to not only shift the field but win the game with a game-changing play. Aggies hold a strong advantage here.
Advantage Texas A&M 


Playing the game at night in Tiger Stadium is an obvious advantage for LSU, but the big question here is how LSU’s players will respond amidst all the negativity surrounding Les Miles. Can they channel it into positive energy and win one for their beloved coach? Or will the off-field distractions lead to further mistakes and unexplainable miscues on the field? Only time will tell. 

Tune in tomorrow for our keys to an LSU victory.

Below are my final regular season weekly predictions. Last week I went 9-3, and on the season I’m 102-31 (.767) straight up.

Tennessee 21 Vanderbilt 7
Arkansas 28 Missouri 14
Georgia 27 Georgia Tech 21
Kentucky 21 Louisville 30
Clemson 38 South Carolina 10
Alabama 41 Auburn 17
Mississippi State 31 Ole Miss 28
Florida 17 Florida State 31
UL-Lafayette 17 Appalachian State 30
UL_Monroe 30 Hawaii 24
LSU 27 Texas A&M 23 

Closing tidbits: 

•  A reminder to all of you participating in our LA High School Football Pickem contest: The deadline for making this week’s picks is today at 5 p.m.

• Here are a couple of good reads to go along with your Friday after Thanksgiving late-morning coffee: John Chavis' return to Tiger Stadium not completely unwelcomed, by Nola.com, and LSU’s treatment of Miles is shameful, by GridIronNow.com.


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11/26/15 5:40 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

The first thing I’d like to do today is wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I’d also like to thank all of you who emailed me with your kind words concerning the Thanksgiving message I posted yesterday. It’s great to know that so many of you can relate to the recollections, observations and values expressed in my Dad’s stories of simpler times in the 30s and 40s, or to my stories of growing up in the 70s and 80s. For many of you, reading those stories brought back magnificent memories of family and all the things we have in our lives for which to be thankful, and to me that’s what today is all about. If you missed it in yesterday’s report, I hope you’ll take a moment to click here and read my annual Thanksgiving message.

Now for our normal order of business… 

Speaking on the SEC coaches teleconference yesterday, Coach Miles did his best to keep the focus on this weekend’s regular season finale against Texas A&M. He said he has not spoken to Athletic Director Joe Alleva since last Sunday and declined to defend or make a case for himself, saying only “I love the place. I'm going to work hard. I’m not going to get into what is my view.” With today being Thanksgiving, I am going to kind of play my hand similarly and instead of spending too much time speculating about Les Miles’ future, all I’ll say at the moment is this: I think Joe Alleva’s silence in this matter is very telling. If the wheels were not already in motion to replace Les Miles, I would like to think Alleva would have already come out and shown his support of a coach that has given 11 years of his life to the betterment of LSU football. I could say more, but out of respect for all parties involved, and for this special day, I will simply say that right now all signs point to big changes coming our way in the very near future. 

Signs of change were never more evident than in last night’s Les Miles Radio show, and man, what it an emotional show it was. I’ve got to admit, it really tugged at my heartstrings for several reasons: 1) The distinct possibility of it being Les Miles’ last show; 2) The realization that it was Jim Hawthorne’s last regular season show; and 3) The memories it brought back of the first time I wrote the recap for my Dad from the lobby of MD Anderson as he received chemotherapy a few doors down. I remember sitting at my father’s bedside, waiting for the nurse to come back to administer his next shot, when Dad looked up at the clock and said, “It’s 7:00. Time for the Les Miles show.” I regarded him inquisitively, as if to say, “what are we going to do about that?” His answer was an affirming nod toward the door, one that said, “Go ahead. You can do it.” I walked out to the lobby with my laptop and earbuds to give it my best shot, and before the show was over I noticed him standing over my shoulder watching with an approving smile as I typed away. In the nearly four years since that time, I’ve recapped every one of Les Miles’ shows except two - once when a family obligation didn’t allow, and last night when I was visiting with family who have come in to celebrate Thanksgiving. Instead of taking notes throughout the broadcast as I usually do, my brother and I sat and listened to the show together, and I’m really thankful that I didn’t miss what turned out to be a touching tribute to Les Miles. For those of you who did miss it, don’t worry. Mark, my assistant, volunteered to recap the show for me, and you can find his very thorough write-up below.

Les Miles Show - November 25, 2015

Coach Miles began the show by noting that there is lots to be thankful for - his coaches, the great community, and especially the great players. He noted his team is a little heartsick over the recent losses,and said they would like to see the stadium filled this Saturday for what will be fifteen seniors’ final game.

The first caller of the night was Ron from Kenner who thanked Miles for all the wonderful memories. Ron then asked why Coach Miles would run the same play six straight times and why Brandon Harris was having problems getting plays in. Miles said they’ve never run a play six straight times, but noted if they can get good yards out of a play consistently, they will run it until the opponent adjusts. Regarding Harris’ trouble getting plays in, there was a 3rd and 8 where they committed a penalty and Ole Miss used some of the clock deciding whether to accept the penalty. Miles felt they should have had that time back. Harris signaled for a timeout at the last second, but the referee failed to see it.

Ricky from Birmingham called and said reports of Miles’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. He then asked if the problems with the line are related to technique or strength. Miles said the guys are strong and capable. It’s an issue of youth. 

A gentleman from Pineville congratulated Hawthorne on his retirement and said he has enjoyed listening to him for many years, then expressed his gratitude to Les Miles for all that he’s done and wished him the best of luck. The caller’s question was whether quick slants or bubble screens would help keep defenses from stacking the box against the run. Miles said they did run some slants for small gains and had a screen for a good gain, but two other screens didn’t go well. Miles noted they moved the football for 500 yards.

John asked if Miles tried to recruit Chad Kelly, and if not, why? Miles said Cam Cameron looked at Chad Kelly and liked him very much but didn’t have success in “making the connection.” 

Kevin from Baton Rouge called and wanted to know whether we can showcase our wide receivers’ talent more and asked what the typical game day regiment is. Miles said he’d love to showcase the wide receivers’ talents more but weren’t able to have the type of success they wanted last week. Miles said the team typically sleeps in until 10, has chapel at 10:15, eats brunch at 11:30-11:45, meets as a team to go over specific game plan items, returns to their rooms to rest, has an early afternoon dinner, gets dressed, gets on the bus and goes down Victory Hill.

The next two callers gave very touching statements of gratitude to Coach Miles for all he’s done, but it was after those two that things really got emotional. Sadie, the young girl from Denton, Texas, who is almost always the first caller of the show, made a special trip down to Baton Rouge to be in the live audience this time. Many in the audience, and on the listening airwaves, were brought to tears when she began crying while asking Miles a question about the offense. Miles reached out for her, brought her onto the stage and answered her face-to-face.

Another regular on the show, The Big Ragoo, was next to take the mike and he also got choked up while telling Miles what a good man and class act he is. Ragoo then asked about the status of wide receiver Travin Dural. Miles said Dural’s leg snapped back and stretched his hamstring very significantly and required surgery. (It was noted earlier in yesterday’s report that Dural will require three months to fully recover).

Back to the phone lines, Brant from New Orleans told Coach he's an Ohio State grad but thinks Miles is a great coach and that it would be a big mistake to get rid of him. He also stated that the school should spend the $15 million buyout money on education instead. He then told Miles that if they don’t keep him, he should keep the money, retire, take his family around the world and have fun. Miles said it’s not in his nature to not do anything, and that vacations are not on his list.

Sidney from Baton Rouge called to express his anger for the way Miles has been treated through this whole affair and said the AD should “man up” and speak to Miles. He then said he hopes Miles is back next year, but if not, “thanks for everything.” Miles said it’s never been about the coach; it’s always about the players, making sure they showcase their talent, play defense, offense and special teams and do the other things they’re supposed to do. It’s about the team, the school, and this great opportunity. 

Bradley from Kentwood noted he fell in love with LSU football the last 11 years with Miles as the coach and thanked him for being a great example. He added that Miles is on the “Mount Rushmore” of football coaches and appreciates everything he’s done. He asked Miles what he thinks about the renewed rivalry with A&M. Miles said he respects A&M and the rivalry, and that LSU better be ready to play.

Ben from Gonzales called to show his support and said Miles deserves at least one more year. He noted the adversity Miles had to face with unexpected travel to Arizona State in his first season after Hurricane Katrina and beating Miami in the bowl game that same year. He also noted that LSU is the only SEC team to beat Texas A&M every time since they joined the league,  and implored Miles to beat them one more time. Miles ended that portion of the show with a very fitting line, saying, “that’s a great idea –  beat them one more time.”

Say what you will about Les Miles, but he’s handled this whole ordeal with great class, and for that I am very thankful. Whatever may transpire in the next week, I hope the administration handles it likewise.  

Since this is Thanksgiving Day, I hope you don’t mind if I cut this update short. It’s time for me to head to the kitchen and begin preparing for the big day. Thank you once again for your readership, and have a great day.


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