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No wonder it’s so hard to take this guy seriously.

“I don’t know that anybody has more than a very generalistic view of any football coach out there. They need to spend a little more time on the inside,” Miles said this week, speaking in his own defense. “I don’t give much thought to how I’m perceived except for maybe within this football building and certainly on the campus here at LSU. But I have not given a lot of thought to my language or my feel or any of those things.”

Certainly, he’s comfortable in his own shoes. Miles prefers an old-school baseball cap (another reason for his nickname) and is known to eat grass during a game, some sort of weird ritual that allows him to be one with the field _ and might just lead to a second career on the Food Network.

“The grass in Tiger Stadium,” he has reported, “tastes best.” We can see it now. Tune in for tonight’s episode of “Les Does More With Grass,” where the coach goes wild with zoysia and pumpkin spice.

Saban, on the other hand, does everything by the book. His book. It starts with defense _ an aggressive yet gap-sound scheme that brings pressure from every direction, a 3-4 alignment that counts on the nose guard drawing double teams so it doesn’t have to cheat with an eighth player against the run.

Saban’s teams, they take your top five plays and really do a good job defending them,” said former Florida coach Urban Meyer, who went against both teams during his time with the Gators and will be in Tuscaloosa working as an analyst for ESPN.

The Crimson Tide has allowed a nation-low 44.9 yards per game on the ground (only one other team is within 30 yards), the second-fewest passing yards (135.6) and a mere 6.9 points each time out (yep, that leads the nation, too). Saban’s defense is especially tough after halftime, when his one-step-ahead-of-everyone-else mind has a chance to see what the opponent is doing and tweak things a bit.

In eight games _ a total of 16 third and fourth quarters _ Alabama has allowed 22 points.

“His philosophy is not to let anybody run the ball on us,” star linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “We play seven guys in the box. When you can stop the run with seven guys, that helps out the secondary because you don’t have an extra guy in the box. But that puts a lot of pressure on the guys in the box to stop the run.”

Saban’s demeanor never changes. He can seem cold and unapproachable, even when discussing his program’s widely praised response to a deadly tornado that wiped out a large swath of Tuscaloosa this past spring. Naturally, he spoke of Saturday’s game with all the emotion of a party apparatchik.

“We stay on the same routine. We try to function the same way,” he said. “From a time management standpoint, from a preparation standpoint, from our disposition on the field with the players, all those things, I try to do them pretty much the same. You want to be pretty much the same with everyone because they’re all going to feed off what you do.”

LSU is a similarly built team on the field, just a shade behind Alabama in most defensive categories. Certainly, points will be at a premium Saturday night. But Miles is known more for his gutsy calls on offense, his willingness to break out a fake punt or field goal at any time.

A few years ago at Auburn, the coach brazenly elected to go for the end zone in the closing seconds when only a field goal was needed to win the game. Of course, the pass was caught for a touchdown _ with one tick remaining on the clock.

Even when things go wrong, they often turn out right, leading some to wonder if Miles has made some sort of pact with the netherworld. Last year against Tennessee, the Tigers did their best to fritter away the final seconds but they were in such a confused state, the Vols wound up with too many defenders on the field. LSU got an extra play after time ran out. Of course, it resulted in the winning touchdown.

“Coach Miles is one of the better people I’ve seen handle these situations, any negative situation,” said LSU receiver Russell Shepard. “He doesn’t, in a sense, confront the negative things and really talk about it and let it affect us as a team. He really moves on as if nothing happened.”

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