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"What Are They Doing???": The Les Miles Story

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The talk of the SEC this week has of course been the bizarre and thrilling finish to the Ole Miss-LSU game when, after getting pushed around the field for nearly 4 quarters, the Tigers suddenly found themselves in a position to pull out the win until Les Miles & Crew unleashed an incredible series of play-calling and clock management blunders that left them at the threshold of victory but with no time left.

I watched that sequence several times, and perhaps my favorite part was Verne Lundquist's frantic "What are they doing? WHAT ARE THEY DOING???" call when he realized that the field goal team wasn't on the field. Truly classic stuff.

Anyway, from a Razorback perspective this game would simply be an interesting match between two of our rivals if not for one key fact: the Hogs play LSU next week. So, what impact will the Tigers' last game have on their next one? Follow me after the jump for some thoughts.

The one thing that seems clear to me is that the Ole Miss-LSU finish will have some affect on the Battle for the Boot. In a highly scientific poll, 38% of ArkansasExpats.com readers think it will help the Hogs this weekend, and 46% think it will hurt us (with 15% claiming no effect). Let's break that down a little further:

It Helps the Hogs:

Miles wasn't exactly a universally beloved figure in Bayou country before the Ole Miss debacle, and now he seems to be veering dangerously close to inspiring an outright fan revolt. In this theory, the constant pressure on the coach becomes a distraction for the staff and players, causing them to take their eye off the true objective of figuring out how to stop Ryan Mallett and the Hogs. Furthermore, can the players really trust their coaches after this? Seems like some dissension in the ranks would be expected at this point...after all, the LSU players came up big in the closing seconds, only to see their coaching staff blow it. That has to sting a bit.

It Hurts the Hogs:

Looking at the situation a different angle, if the players still believe in Miles and his staff, it's easy to see the team rallying around their embattled leader. It's certainly not uncommon for something like this to inspire greater focus and resolve among the troops - for example, think back to the 2007 Arkansas-LSU game when D-Mac and crew "brought that wood" on behalf of Houston Nutt. And, setting aside the way they lost, the fact that they lost means that the Tigers now have their backs against the wall - they know that getting beat by Arkansas would officially send their season off the rails. No margin for error anymore, in other words.

My Take:

Because, in true Razorback fan fashion, I tend to assume the worst (it's really just a defensive mechanism...I've been burned too many times) I'm leaning towards "the LSU players will rally around Miles and play with renewed focus" scenario.

But, no matter what the impact is from the Ole Miss finale ends up being, the Hogs are going to have to march into Death Valley on a Saturday night and do their offensive thing against a talented defense while trying not to make the LSU offense look like the 1989 49ers. I think it's definitely possible, but regardless of how the Miles incident shakes out, it's going to be a battle.