Calculated Gambles

By Adam Caparell - December 19, 2007

Les Miles is a gambling man and he proved that this year by having his Tigers go for it on fourth down 15 times, almost always with the game hanging in the balance. So where did he get the impetus to go for it so often? Maybe it was high school.

"There are a lot of high school coaches in this state who get to fourth down and understand very comfortably what their best opportunities for victory are," Miles said. "To me there is less gamble and more of a legitimate opportunity for victory that is taken into account. I know it may appear from the sidelines that, 'Oh, this guy has lost his mind' and that might be true, but the truth of the matter is we are operating with a set of circumstances and criteria that are in flux.

"It's not just a constant - 'It's fourth and one. It's time to do what you do on fourth down and one' - it's not that way. We try to be consistent with our decision making, but it changes."

Miles lived on some big fourth down conversions this year - Florida - and died on the down as well (Kentucky, LSU, both 3OT losses). LSU converted 80 percent of their attempts, second in the nation only to Illinois that was successful on 85 percent of its tries (6-of-7).

By contrast, Ohio State, the Tigers foe in the BCS Championship game Jan. 7, allowed teams to convert on fourth down 57 percent of the time and offensively are 7-of-11 on fourth down conversions this season. That number might be slightly surprising for two reasons: 1. Jim Tressel's generally conservative style of play and 2. he thinks the most important play in football is the punt.

Safe to say Les Miles would tell you otherwise.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 12:12 PM on December 19, 2007

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