Presumably, Les Miles won’t be driving the LSU team bus from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa Saturday.
Well in advance of Saturday’s Alabama game, Miles went into his famed Mad Hatter routine and now his driving habits have become just the kind of distraction no team can afford at such a critical juncture of the season.
By now surely you’ve heard that, as part of the its saturation coverage this week, ESPN’s Kaylee Hartung (apparently risking life and limb) rode to work with Miles Tuesday with cameras rolling.
Call it media overkill, if you will, but the fallout is threatening to overshadow the game.
Among the keen insights into the game, viewers learned what each of the Miles brood had for breakfast that morning (Raisin Bran for Miles).
But the shocking part came when, well into the trip to campus, Hartung noticed that Miles WAS NOT WEARING HIS SEAT BELT.
That disregard of printed traffic laws was quickly rectified, but moments later Hartung, with a look of sheer terror, accused Miles of blatantly running a red light.
The video review was inconclusive because the light wasn’t visible and, although the car seems to come to a brief stop, its Hartung’s view that he treated it more like a common stop sign.
“It wasn’t me in the video,” Miles said Wednesday before changing his story to “I watch the light, the electrical mechanism that suggests go and stop. I do anticipate change. I’ve never stopped at one where it stayed that way (red) the entire time.
“With me anticipating change, I rolled cautiously through the intersection appropriately. I did not run the light. What I did was roll very quietly and slowly, but the light has changed at that time.”
Under further questioning by the media, Miles cut them off with: “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
So it has degenerated into a he said-she said argument.
Nick Saban, of course, would have handled this delicate matter much differently.
Ever the perfectionist, leaving nothing to chance, the hands-on Saban would have dispatched a graduate assistant to scout his route to work several days in advance, checking the synchronization of the red lights and calculating the exact speed a car needed to maintain so as to cruise through nothing but green lights.
If a red light should rear its ugly head in his journey, somebody in the Alabama Highway Department better have some answers for it. Or else somebody in the Texas Highway Department might make a better offer.
But that’s another distraction.
What this points out, of course, is the difference between Saban and Miles, one of them at least.
Saban, with careful planning, would never have let it become a distraction. Miles just ran the danged thing.
A preview of things to come?
Is there more of Miles’ reckless, devil-may-care attitude brewing under that tilted ball cap for Saturday’s game plan?
If the last two regular-season meetings are any indication, maybe both should play it closer to the vest.
Nobody has ever figured out what Miles was trying to do in the game in between, the BCS championship game, so we’ll toss it from the discussion.
Miles made his reputation with double-downs and all-in gambles during the 2007 national championship season, always seemingly able to hit that inside straight.
It was high entertainment.
But last year, against Alabama, he was accused of not realizing that his team was doing a pretty fair of job of beating the Tide straight up. It may have been a shock and not in the game plan, but that was what was happening.
Most of the tomfoolery he unloaded blew up in his face — most notably a fake field goal on fourth-and-12 that the Tide destroyed, also a onside kick to start the second half.
It may have cost them the game.
Not that Saban is immune.
The previous regular-season game, the famed “Game of the Century” in Tuscaloosa, was perhaps the last public criticism of Saban.
He kept calling for hope-and-prayer field goals that weren’t close, giving LSU field position in a field position game. But mostly he rolled the dice and called a tricky first-down halfback pass deep in LSU territory and it became the play of the game when LSU’s Eric Reid intercepted it at the goal line.
Saban was accused in the Alabama media the next day of outsmarting himself or, worse, trying to out-Les the Mad Hatter in a game the Tigers famously won 9-6 in overtime.
So it’s obvious in this series that you have to pick your spots when throwing caution to the wind.
But LSU is a double-digit underdog for the first time under Miles in this game.
Can we expect all manner of joy buzzers and hot foots directed at Saban and the Tide?
Miles isn’t even buying into the underdog role, at least not publicly.
“This team does not take on an underdog’s mentality,” Miles said. “It’s a team that really feels like it can play with anybody. So I don’t know that we use that as motivation. It’s certainly not been … any rallying cry that we wanted to make.”
That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.
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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org