In a lot of ways, you could say the coaches standing on the sidelines for Saturday’s matchup between Auburn and LSU are polar opposites. In fact, they come from very different worlds. While they go about things quite differently, the results on the field have been similar.
Gene Chizik and Les Miles will meet for the third time in Baton Rouge on Saturday afternoon. As is typical, there will be national championship implications. While Chizik maneuvers a better than expected rebuilding campaign, Miles is looking to add a second title to his trophy case.
The Bayou Bengals enter the contest a whopping three touchdown favorite. Speaking at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Chizik says there’s nothing fancy about LSU’s potent offense.
“They don’t try to trick you,” said Chizik. “There’s not a bunch of tricks. They’re going to line up, and they’re going to run their plays. They’re going to out-physical you. They’re going to run the ball downhill. They’re going to play-action pass and hit you over the top.”
The LSU system mirrors its coach. Miles has a reputation for saying what’s on his chest, for better or worse. He hides very little. His quirky Michigan personality has caused something of a love/hate relationship among fans.
As recently as last season, he was widely believed to be on the hot seat. A year later, he’s the odds-on favorite to win this year’s BCS title and has NFL owners throwing his name around as a coach in waiting.
Some are even suggesting he could be the next Jimmy Johnson.
“He’s the most intriguing coaching prospect I’ve seen in a long time,” said one team executive to CBS Sports. “I think he has a great deal of talent and can deal with the modern athlete.”
That’s pretty high praise for a coach that earned the moniker “Mad Hatter” from Rece Davis at ESPN because of his zany sideline demeanor.
Chizik on the other hand, prefers to stay low key. Until his run to the national championship last season, he was a coach that was often overshadowed by other SEC colleagues like Miles, Nick Saban, Mark Richt and Steve Spurrier.
Even today, Chizik remains a reluctant public speaker, doing what he has to with media members, but continuing to keep a safe distance.
Miles says Saturday’s matchup will be a test for his newly minted top-ranked Tigers.
“We’re going to be challenged this week, says Miles. “Auburn at 5-2 and as the returning National Champion is a very talented football team. They have won 20 of their last 22 games. Coach Gene Chizik has done a great job. His teams are always prepared to play and play a physical style of ball.”
Rarely do you head into a matchup of two top 25 teams and have talk center on five quarterbacks. Like Auburn, LSU expects to use multiple quarterbacks during the game with the return of preseason starter Jordan Jefferson. Jarrett Lee will continue to be the starter, but like Auburn, they’ll look to bring Jefferson in as a change of pace guy.
“Jarrett Lee continues to do a great job of doing the things we ask him to do,” says Miles. “He throws the ball well and manages the game. I enjoy the fact that Jefferson comes in and certainly his team does. He gives us a different style or change up if you will offensively. We will continue to do that.”
Third year sophomore Clint Moseley will get his first college start for Auburn.
“I feel like we need a spark there,” says Chizik. “In the second half of the Florida game, Clint came in and gave us somewhat of a spark when we needed it. I think he’s earned the right for the opportunity to start.”
Look for Auburn to continue to counter with freshman quarterback Kiehl Frazier in running situations. And don’t rule out last week’s starter, Barrett Trotter getting another shot should things not go as planned.
With that said, Chizik sounds confident in his new quarterback.
“I think he’s really stayed focused along the way,” he said. “Certainly, in the last couple of weeks, I think he’s really tried to elevate his level of game in terms of really preparing like a starter. I feel like he’s come a long way in the last two or three weeks in that regard. Then again, I think he made some throws in the game on Saturday that were good throws.
“They came at the right time, one coming out of our end zone when we needed that for field position issues, another one on a big 2nd-and-21. Again, I feel like putting it all together and looking at where we are offensively and the spark that we need, we feel like this is the best decision.”
Auburn and LSU kickoff from Death Valley at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday. The game will be carried live by CBS Sports.
Don’t forget to show support for your favorite coach by voting him as the 2011 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year at www.coachoftheyear.com