Miles or Spurrier?

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Which achievement would be more impressive this season?

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MILES' NATIONAL
SPURRIER'S SEC

Multitude of hurdles

Aschoff By Edward Aschoff
ESPN.com
Archive

For all of the wins that LSU has accumulated during Les Miles' seven-plus seasons as the Tigers' head coach, there have been some very trying and quirky times on the Bayou.

He might be one of the best coaches in America -- his national championship and 80-19 record at LSU say as much -- but Miles has had this unconventional way that has always been perplexing.

From snacking on grass during games and his odd "language" to his peculiar clock (mis)management skills, you never really know what you're going to get from Miles.

And that's a major reason why Miles winning a second national championship at LSU would be so impressive. He literally has to get out of his own way to coach sometimes.

There were the five fourth downs he called and watched his team convert in a thrilling win over Florida during LSU's national championship run in 2007, and the bizarre last-second, 22-yard touchdown heave with the game tied against Auburn two weeks later.

There was also the confusion-filled ending to LSU's 16-14 win over Tennessee in 2010, where a rushed play and botched snap were nullified by a silly, last-second Vols penalty.

But Miles hasn't always escaped. You had the blown 16-point lead against Arkansas in 2008, the baffling clock management during the final minute of a two-point loss to Ole Miss in 2009, and last season's disaster in the national championship against Alabama in which the play calling was abysmal.

Every season, something happens with Miles that just can't be explained, whether good or bad. LSU's odd offensive play calling against Florida last weekend is a perfect example, and there's sure to be another Miles moment -- or more -- that will leave us scratching our heads this fall. But they could also leaving us smiling in astonishment.

Miles also has to deal with a mound of personnel and conference obstacles. LSU has already lost the dynamic Tyrann Mathieu, dealt with ineligible players, been marred by serious injuries, including losing its top offensive lineman and left tackle Alex Hurst, and displayed an inept offense the past few weeks.

Oh, and No. 1 Alabama, which has basically yawned at its opponents this fall, is still on the schedule. Add the fact that this season's East opponent in Atlanta will be much stronger, and another national title run will be more challenging for LSU this year than it was in 2011.

Escaping all that might be Miles' greatest feat on the Bayou.

The HBC's masterpiece

Schlabach By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com
Archive

South Carolina isn't supposed to be this good.

Before Lou Holtz arrived as the Gamecocks' coach in 1999, they had won only one bowl game -- the 1994 Carquest Bowl -- in more than 100 years of playing football.

South Carolina still has only one conference title in its trophy case -- the 1969 ACC championship. The Gamecocks even lost four games during their lone championship season, including a 14-3 loss to West Virginia in the Peach Bowl.

If Steve Spurrier guides the Gamecocks to an SEC championship this season, it would be more impressive than LSU's Les Miles winning a pair of national championships. Heck, it might even be more impressive than what Nick Saban has done at Alabama over the last four seasons.

Alabama and LSU have grown accustomed to competing for national championships. South Carolina fans have long hoped to win bowl games.

South Carolina isn't supposed to be ranked No. 3 in the country, ahead of the sport's heavyweights like Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas and USC. But that's where the Gamecocks are ranked after blasting then-No. 5 Georgia 35-7 at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.

Spurrier took a mediocre program, which had largely been an afterthought in the SEC since joining the league in 1992, and guided the Gamecocks to their first SEC East title in 2010 and then their first 11-win season in 2011.

Alabama and LSU have more tradition, financial resources and fertile recruiting grounds. For too long, South Carolina's best high school players, like former Penn State defensive lineman Courtney Brown, Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton and Georgia defensive tackle Richard Seymour, left the state to play college football.

South Carolina and rival Clemson fought for the recruits that decided to stay home, but there were seemingly never enough players to build a national power.

At age 67, Spurrier has done some of his best recruiting. Perhaps motivated by his failure in the NFL as the Washington Redskins' coach, Spurrier has landed players the Gamecocks have rarely signed before -- defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, tailback Marcus Lattimore and ex-receiver Alshon Jeffery.

The Gamecocks still have a long way to go to win an SEC championship. They play at No. 9 LSU on Saturday and then play No. 4 Florida in the Swamp in Gainesville, Fla., on Oct. 20.

If South Carolina wins the SEC East and earns a trip to the SEC championship game in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, it will have certainly earned it.

And it would be one of the most remarkable achievements in SEC history.