ATLANTA —Marcus Spears didn’t play for Les Miles during his time at LSU, but the former All-America defensive end said Friday he expects Miles in 2015 to be coaching the Tigers — and not at Michigan.

“I think he will be,” said Spears, who was here for a news conference before Saturday’s Southeastern Conference Championship Game as a member of the SEC Network’s “SEC Nation” show cast.

“The Michigan job is obviously appealing,” Spears said. “He’s done a lot at LSU, so that makes you think he might go somewhere else to try to rebuild a program. I just don’t think it’s this year, because of the way the season went. If he went 10-2, he might have said, ‘I’ve gotten all I can get out of LSU.’ But I don’t think he wants to leave with (an 8-4) record.”

Miles’ name has been closely linked with the job at his alma mater since Brady Hoke was fired Tuesday after four seasons in Ann Arbor.

Nearing the end of his 10th season at LSU, Miles hasn’t made any public statements regarding the Michigan vacancy. He did, however, reportedly tell one of his top 2015 recruits that he is staying at LSU.

According to 24/7 Sports, Miles told five-star cornerback Kevin Toliver II on Thursday that he has no plans to leave LSU. Toliver, out of Jacksonville (Florida) Trinity Christian, is the nation’s No. 2 cornerback prospect.

Miles has been rated as the second-favorite to get the Michigan job behind San Francisco 49ers coach JimHarbaugh, a former Wolverines quarterback.

LSU has said Miles is expected to speak to the media Sunday after the Tigers learn of their bowl destination.

Old-school ties

There’s no lack of familiarity between Southeastern Conference Championship Game coaches Nick Saban of Alabama and Missouri’s Gary Pinkel. The two were teammates and then graduate assistants at Kent State in the early 1970s.

“I remember being in the library at Kent State,” Pinkel recalled. “We were probably both 21, 22 years old, done playing, talking about coaching college football, how we thought it would be really cool to do that. To think that we’d be sitting next to each other (today) …”

Pinkel was an honorable mention All-America tight end, while Saban started at quarterback and moved to cornerback.

“Gary was a really good player,” Saban said, “much better than me. He was always a really good person, a great competitor. I think he’s always represented our profession with a tremendous amount of professionalism and class.”

Who’s No. 1?

LSU finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the SEC in total defense after Alabama surrendered a whopping 630 yards Saturday in a 55-44 win over Auburn.

LSU is allowing 305.8 yards per game, while Alabama ranks third allowing 312.3 behind Florida (311.0). To overtake the Tigers, the Crimson Tide would have to allow 227 yards or less to Missouri.

Bowl stats count toward season totals, so the SEC’s total defense champion won’t be determined until the bowls are completed.

LSU ranks No. 2 in the SEC in scoring defense (16.4 points per game) behind Ole Miss (13.8), first in pass efficiency defense, second in passing defense (162.3) behind Georgia (158.4) and seventh in rushing defense (143.5).

Pinkel on Sam

Pinkel was asked about former Missouri All-America defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be selected in the NFL draft. Sam played as a rookie with the St. Louis Rams but was cut in the preseason.

“I get a text from him occasionally. We talk occasionally,” Pinkel said. “There’s going to be life after football (for him), whether he has another opportunity (in the NFL) or not. We’ll see where it goes.”


CBS again will televise the game, with Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (analyst) and Allie LaForce (sideline reporter) handling the call. … The West and East divisions each have won 11 SEC championship games, with the West having won five straight since 2009. The East won six straight from 1993-98. … The SEC Championship has been played at the Georgia Dome since 1994. It will move next door to Atlanta’s new retractable roof stadium, currently under construction, in 2017. … The Alabama-Missouri series is tied 2-2. … Bama is 4-4 in the SEC Championship Game. Mizzou lost in its first appearance to Auburn last year.

The last word

“I got what I expected. You guys (in the media) didn’t get what you expected.”

— Saban on hiring Lane Kiffin as his offensive coordinator

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.