BATON ROUGE, La. -- With Les Miles opening his 10th season as LSU’s head coach this week, we’ll use each day to review the decade under the eccentric Miles. Today we look back at the five best seasons of the Miles era.
5. 2010: Thanks to a series of heart-stopping wins early in the season -- most notably last-second victories against Tennessee and Florida in consecutive weeks -- LSU started the 2010 season with a 7-0 record. Eventual BCS champion Auburn handed the Tigers their first loss in an exciting 24-17 ballgame, but LSU bounced back by knocking off defending BCS champ Alabama in its next game. The Tigers dropped their regular-season finale, 31-23 at No. 12 Arkansas, but rebounded to beat Texas A&M 41-24 in the Cotton Bowl. LSU finished 11-2 in a season that set up what would become a huge 2011 under Miles.
4. 2005: Miles’ debut season provided glimpses of what would become staples of the coach’s LSU tenure: wild outcomes (including three overtime contests, a crazy comeback win over Arizona State in Miles’ first game and seven games decided by seven points or less), five wins over ranked opponents and the first of his three SEC West titles. The Tigers finished the season 11-2, capped by a 40-3 destruction of No. 9 Miami in the Peach Bowl.
3. 2006: The Tigers could make a case as the hottest team in the SEC West by the end of 2006 as they bounced back from a loss to eventual BCS champion Florida by winning their final seven games. That run included road wins against No. 8 Tennessee and No. 5 Arkansas and a season-ending 41-14 win against No. 11 Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. Although starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell would leave to become the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL draft, this 11-2 season -- much like 2010 -- helped LSU build toward an appearance in the BCS title game the following season.
2. 2011: Led by Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, Morris Claiborne, Eric Reid, Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan, Kevin Minter, Brandon Taylor, Michael Brockers and seemingly a defensive cast of thousands, Miles’ 2011 LSU club was one of the best college football teams of the 2000s. There’s just one problem: the Tigers’ sputtering offense laid an egg in the BCS title game, a rematch against Alabama -- a team the Tigers had beaten 9-6 in overtime in the fall. That spoiled what had been an undefeated season. The Crimson Tide’s 21-0 victory in the rematch was probably the most miserable night of the Miles era, but this still goes down as an incredible team even if the 13-1 season ended with a thud.
1. 2007: Miles had to know he had something special on his hands when the Tigers obliterated No. 9 Virginia Tech 48-7 in the second game of the season. And he did. One of the most exciting seasons in school history ended with a second BCS title in four seasons -- with the Tigers navigating through insane wins against Florida, Auburn and Alabama, bouncing back from triple-overtime losses to Kentucky and Arkansas and eventually throttling top-ranked Ohio State 38-24 in the BCS title game. Once again, LSU featured a fearsome defense that included defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, safety Craig Steltz and linebacker Ali Highsmith -- all of whom earned All-America distinction from at least one organization. The offense was led by quarterback Matt Flynn, running back Jacob Hester and a deep group of productive receivers en route to Miles’ first SEC title and the third national title in school history.