LSU coach Les Miles is no stranger to the Arkansas football program after nearly a decade of playing the Razorbacks for Southeastern Conference bragging rights, but a new chapter in the schools’ rivalry is set to kick off Friday.
The Bret Bielema era of Arkansas football is in full swing, as the former Wisconsin signal caller travels to Baton Rouge in the final game of his inaugural season as the Razorbacks’ head coach.
“[Bielema] has a little different slant on how he sees things,” Miles said. “You can tell he’s a very talented coach, very capable, provides very specific challenges to us.”
Miles claims a 11-2 record against first-year SEC coaches, with both losses coming in consecutive games against Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt and Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino in 2008. Nutt also coached at Arkansas before taking a job with the Rebels.
Miles initiated six of the SEC’s current coaches with a first-season loss during his tenure with LSU, including Alabama coach Nick Saban in 2007, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen in 2009, Florida coach Will Muschamp in 2011, both Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze in 2012 and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn earlier this season.
“The first time you see a coach, there’s some excitement,” Miles said. “But we’ve always kind of got more excited about how the team plays, and [Arkansas] plays pretty good.”
LSU outscored first-year coaches 389-255 since 2005, but junior defensive end Jermauria Rasco said the biggest difficulty in preparing for a first-year coach is not having the experience of playing them before and knowing the style of coach they are.
“You never know what they’re going to bring to the table,” Rasco said. “Every coach has something different. We’re going to prepare for Arkansas like we did last week and make sure we do what we’ve been coached to do and hopefully we come out on top.”
Friday won’t be the first time Miles and Bielema meet on the gridiron — the two coaches squared off three other times at previous universities. The most recent meeting came in 2003 when Miles was the head coach at Oklahoma State and Bielema was a defensive coordinator at Kansas State. Miles was victorious on the day, winning 38-34 after losing 44-9 the previous season.