A few years ago, I penned this Pulitzer-caliber post about Les Miles and his uncanny inability to cover the spread (or more accurately his team's inability to cover the spread). Since we are looking at the SEC this week and since Miles' SEC career is over, I decided to reexamine his performance against the spread relative to his conference contemporaries. Let's get degenerate.
Miles coached at LSU eleven full seasons and parts of a twelfth beginning in 2005. In that span, 22 other coaches have spent at least four seasons as SEC head coaches. The following table lists those 23 coaches ranked by their winning percentage against the spread (ATS) in conference games (championship and bowl games excluded). I cheated a little and included Ed Orgeron even though he does not quite have four full seasons under belt since he did succeed Miles at LSU.
- Despite being forced to pay a premium as the most recognized team in college football, backing Nick Saban and Alabama has been a winning proposition for gamblers. Since coming to Tuscaloosa, Saban has covered over 58% of the time against SEC opponents.
- Look at the three Auburn coaches since 2005 with the exact same ATS records. Eerie.
- While he never quite had the reputation in gambling circles of Miles, Mark Richt didn't exactly inspire a lot of ATS confidence for Georgia backers.
- Miles had a winning ATS conference record in just one season, but it was quite a doozy. His 2011 team went 7-1 ATS. If we remove that outlier year, his ATS conference record drops to 29-49-4 (a .372 winning percentage).
- While Miles does not quite bring up the rear, his career is more than double the length of the two men with a worse conference ATS wining percentage.
- And speaking of the guy in last place, he may join Miles in the unemployment line soon if the Aggies continue to struggle relative to their expectations.
Let's look at one more angle. How did his teams perform ATS at home and on the road against SEC opponents?
Miles entertained college football fans for over a decade in Baton Rouge. He brought us a two-loss national champion, one of the best teams to not not win the national title, the Tennnessee Waltz Game, tried to call a timeout on a change of possession (this was one season before the ill-fated rule that mandated the game clock start when the play clock started between possessions went into effect so maybe he was just ahead of the curve), a lot of grass eating, and of course, the final play (thus far) of his coaching career. I could never tell if he was a college football genius or the football equivalent of Homer Simpson living a charmed life despite being overwhelmingly incompetent. The truth was probably somewhere in the middle, but regardless, college football won't be as fun with him not around.