Miles to go?

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

BATON ROUGE, La. – There are as many athletes down here as there are giant live oak trees. It's like they come in two sizes – 6-6, 330-pound man-eaters and 4.4 burners with hands of glue.

There are 92,000 lunatics willing to sit through a rain so Biblical in its intensity the animals were pairing up. When not screaming or drinking (or both) they'll raise enough money to pay their coach however many millions it takes and, well let's face it, if you asked they'd pay the tailback too.

The thing is, with just Tulane to recruit against in the state, all that Texas talent just across the border and a campus atmosphere second to none (have you seen the Golden Girls?), extra benefits might not even be needed to clean up.

"LSU is a big time program," marveled Steve Spurrier, and that was before the Tigers laid a 28-16, not-as-close-as- it-sounds victory over South Carolina. The Gamecocks were merely the 12th-ranked team in the country and afterward the LSU defense had to practically apologize for even letting them score.

"(The expectations) are crazy, but I take it in stride," shrugged Glenn Dorsey, who nearly decapitated half the South Carolina backfield at one point or another.

Needless to say, Les Miles is sitting pretty here at Louisiana State.

The second-ranked Tigers (4-0) lost four first-round draft picks last spring – including No. 1 overall JaMarcus Russell – and somehow got better. They are so deep that they have outscored their victims 165-23 and they don't even start their best QB, Ryan Perrilloux (although you might see plenty of him in a couple weeks when Florida visits).

To put it simply, a coach would need to drink too many hurricanes to be so insane to ever leave LSU.

Except that is exactly what Miles might do at the end of the year, when his alma mater Michigan likely asks him to replace Lloyd Carr.

Ten, 15 years ago, he would have gone without a second thought, the chance to take over that massive Big Ten program and walk in the footsteps of his former coach, the legendary Bo Schembechler. Back then, places like Michigan were everything; places like the SEC were full of passion, but often lacking potential.

But times change and power shifts. Whether it was Spurrier who forced offensive innovation, society's full acceptance of the black athlete or a realization that Alabama doesn't have to be the only great program, the SEC finally started firing on all cylinders.

And in one great decision, college football may be reminded just how far the SEC has come.

Three years ago it was Urban Meyer, son of the Midwest, who turned down a chance to return to Notre Dame, to coach Florida. In terms of all those old bedrock football values – tradition, history, echo wakening – it was a stunner.

No offense to UF, but they make commercials about the Gators(ade). They make entire movies about the Irish.

But Meyer saw the reality of the sport. The South is where the game is these days, where the players are, where football is bigger and better than anywhere else. Other leagues may take turns arguing the SEC's dominance on a given year (it's currently the Pac-10’s turn) but the SEC is in the discussion every fall.

Meyer chose Gainesville, turned his back on one of those old Midwestern powers and two years later his team destroyed another one of them, Ohio State, to win the national title. What became of Notre Dame? Ah, don't ask.

And so Miles should face the same decision. This is probably going to be it for Carr, especially now that after the humiliation of Appalachian State and the 0-2 start. Michigan is getting into the easy part of the schedule (league play). The Wolverines should be 7-2 by mid-November.

Carr will be able to go out on top (or close to it) and then the attention will turn to Miles. In Michigan, they all think he'll drop everything and come. Miles won't discuss it. Only time will tell.

Michigan and the Big Ten do have one significant advantage over SEC teams. Getting the chance to play in the BCS title game is a heck of a lot easier on that side of the Mason-Dixon than this one.

Former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer may have designed the BCS, but it is a horrific system for the league now. There is a reason Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany will fight to the death to prevent a playoff from ever happening – the BCS is a dream come true for leagues with just one or two good teams that can run the table with regularity.

Just last season the BCS almost produced an all Big Ten title game, as laughable as that sounds now. It took a last-minute political push from one loss Florida to give them the chance to blow out the Buckeyes.

For Miles, once he puts the emotional pull of returning to bucolic Ann Arbor aside that may be the most difficult thing to remedy. His teams at LSU will almost always be superior. But at Michigan he's got a better chance of winning the title.

Only in college football could that make sense.

But consider that LSU already owns easy victories over two top 12 teams yet was hardly even celebrating. Miles talked about trying to enjoy it Saturday night, but he didn't sound too convincing.

"We've got a few things to work on," said the coach of the most impressive team thus far.

Like what?

"We had a hand up on our punt. So that's got to get fixed."

You'd laugh but he's probably right. There is just no margin for error in the SEC. One slip and it could be over because trying to make the title game with one loss is playing with fire.

If the Tigers win out they'll take at least eight games from teams that have been nationally ranked this season. That includes defeating No. 3 Florida not once, but probably twice.

The BCS is so anti-SEC – and a playoff so perfect for it – that it makes no sense that commissioner Mike Slive hasn't manned up, stopped being bullied by the Big Ten and led the charge for change.

Of course, maybe that's Delany's plan too. As the Midwest sags and the South rises, all his schools have to offer these hot coaches is lots of memories and a road to the BCS game that perhaps even Appalachian State could navigate.

When you stare down LSU's upcoming schedule, when you see a guy apologizing for handily beating No. 12, you'd understand why Miles might find that appealing.

Michigan can only hope it's enough.

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