Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Road Kill


Derrius Guice ran all over Ole Miss Saturday night.
LSU ran roughshod over Ole Miss Saturday rumbling for 393 yards.  Guice led the Tigers with 276 yards and 1 TD.  The defense was good enough to hold off an Ole Miss squad that was putting up over 460 yards per game.  This was a good win on the road.  Coach O is now 7-3 in SEC games, 3-2 at home and 4-1 on the road.

A few stats of interest this week:

Danny Etling is currently ranked 14th nationally in ESPN QBR ratings and 17th nationally in QB efficiency rating.  You may be wondering, how could that be?  He certainly doesn’t look the part, but if we dig deeper some aspects of his game you can see why his stats are so good.  Number one, Etling is averaging 9.4 yards per attempt.  That puts him 7th nationally.  His TD to INT ratio is 9-1 which is excellent.  No that’s not many TD passes, but the one turnover has really helped LSU stay out of bad situations.  As I mentioned earlier this season, his career average passing yards per game (187) puts him third all-time in LSU history.  Even with his sacks, Etling has rushed for 94 yards this season.  It’s not always pretty with him, but he is efficient in this offense.

Below are three charts tracking “big plays” for LSU the last few seasons.

RUSHING 

Year
10+
20+
30+
40+
50+
 
 
 
 
 
 
2010
73
19
7
4
3
2011
84
21
8
6
1
2012
55
15
9
6
5
2013
84
25
14
9
7
2014
79
27
9
4
1
2015
98
34
16
11
6
2016
81
31
18
12
8
2017
50
13
6
3
2

 PASSING

Year
10+
20+
30+
40+
50+
 
 
 
 
 
 
2010
78
29
12
7
2
2011
82
31
15
9
4
2012
94
44
17
7
2
2013
138
63
21
10
3
2014
78
36
19
11
4
2015
80
36
18
12
7
2016
90
30
19
8
2
2017
54
24
17
11
4

TOTAL


Year
10+
20+
30+
40+
50+
 
 
 
 
 
 
2010
151
48
19
11
3
2011
166
52
23
15
5
2012
149
59
26
13
7
2013
222
88
35
19
10
2014
157
63
28
15
5
2015
178
70
34
23
13
2016
171
61
37
20
10
2017
104
37
23
14
6
2017 (full)*
169
60
37
23
10

* Expected results based on LSU’s 1st 8 games

The 2017 LSU offense is in line with what we have seen in the past in terms of “big” or “explosive” plays.  The number I am happy with is pass plays of 30+ yards.  Etling has done a good job of going vertical and getting big chunks in the passing game.  It’s no surprise we have seen a big regression in the running game.  Fournette leaving, Guice’s injury, ineffective WR downfield blocking and sub par offensive line play have hampered LSU’s big play potential on the ground.

I would encourage everyone to be patient and see how the year plays out.  With Brennan the heir apparent QB for 2018, these big play numbers could really take off.

 Other Random Thoughts

 1. Who is getting fired?  Butch Jones is done at Tennessee.  Bielema is looking in terrible shape at Arkansas.  Sumlin is OK as of now, but games against MSU, Auburn and LSU will determine if he remains in College Station.  Same goes for Malzahn at Auburn, with games still to play against A&M, Georgia and Alabama, his future is shaky.

2. Da Coach O has more wins than Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman combined.  Just saying.

3. While the Big 10 West may be the best division in college football, the Big 10 East may be the worst. Don’t expect that imbalance to change any time soon.

4. Jim Harbaugh is a very good coach.  But he is not at the level of Saban or Meyer.  Matter of fact he’s not at the level of Dabo, Jimbo or Chris Peterson.  Michigan is trending in the right direction, but when are they going to win the division?

 

Playoffs

I’m sticking with the same crew as last week.  Alabama, Georgia, Penn State and Notre Dame.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Ghost of Les Miles


LSU's DJ Chark gallops on his way to a 75 yard punt return for a TD.
I'm still checking the box score every 15 minutes to make sure LSU is still the winner of one of the greatest comebacks in Tiger history. I would argue that the LSU-Auburn series gives college football fans must see TV year in and year out. Name me a series that has had as many wild twists and turns these teams have given us.

1988: "The Earthquake Game"  LSU 7 - Auburn 6.  The Tiger Stadium crowd set off a richter scale on LSU's campus.

1994: "The Interception Game"  Auburn 30 - LSU 26.  LSU's Jamie Howard throws three fourth quarter pick 6's as LSU blows a 23-9 lead. 

1996: "The Night Barn Burned" LSU 19 - Auburn 15.  This was a literal barn burner as the old Auburn Sports Arena burned downed during the game shooting huge flames near Jordan-Hare Stadium.

1997: "The Drive"  Auburn 31 - LSU 28.  Cecil "the Diesel" Collins went off for 232 yards and 2 TD's but Auburn's Dameyune Craig led a 80 yard late 4th quarter TD drive to win the game for the Tigers.

2004: "The Extra Extra Point"  Auburn 10 - LSU 9.  Tied 9-9 after a late Auburn TD, Auburn kicker John Vaughn missed the extra point.  However, LSU was flagged for jumping to try and block the kick.  Auburn re-kicked and won the game by one point.


2005: "The Missed Field Goals Game"  LSU 20 - Auburn 17 (OT).  Auburn missed five FG's in the game the last in overtime sealing the victory for LSU.


2007: ":02" LSU 30 - Auburn 24.  Les Miles called a pass to the end zone rather than kick a 41 yard FG to win the game.  Flynn hit Byrd for a TD with :02 left on the clock. 

2010: "sCam Newton Runs Wild" Auburn 24 - LSU 17.  On the way to the Heisman Trophy and a National Title, Cam Newton ran for 217 yards and two TD's on LSU.

2016: "Les' Last Game"  Auburn 18 - LSU 13.  LSU drove deep into Auburn territory as the final seconds ticked away in a tight game with two coaches coaching for their lives.  In a scene too often repeated, Miles mismanaged the clock and LSU's "winning TD" pass was run after time expired.  Les was fired the next day.

2017: "The Comeback" LSU 27- Auburn 23.  LSU goes down 20-0 to then outscore Auburn 27-3 to win late.

 

* This game was a Les Miles Special.  How fitting that Miles and the 2007 National Title team celebrated their 10 year anniversary at half time?

* During Auburn's 20 point opening outburst, LSU couldn't get out of its own way, Chark fumbled, there was a late hit out of bounds, a block in the back on a kick return, Etling and Guice running in to each other on 3rd and short and Delpit got beat for a long TD on a double move.

 

* We have a kicker!! Connor Culp hit two CLUTCH FG's late in the 4th to provide the winning margin for the Tigers.

 

* I think Auburn got up big and switched off mentally. Once that happens, it can be very difficult for a team to recapture its focus.

 

* LSU defense was amazing in the second half. Auburn was 1-8 on 3rd down and gained only 64 yards. Stidham's numbers were brutal . 9 for 26 for the game with only 6 yards passing in the second half.

 

* Many have criticized Malzahn for the second half play calling. But through six games, LSU was giving up over six yards a carry in the third quarter. The strategy to stick to the running game made sense. Run the ball and wear down LSU's D-Line. Remember, Florida ran all over LSU last week in the 3rd quarter scoring two TD's. The problem was the inability to convert on 3rd down.

 

 

Other random thoughts

 

1. Seven ranked teams lost to unranked teams this week. Clemson, Washington, Washington State, Auburn, San Diego State, Texas Tech and Navy all went down.

 


2. Speaking of Washington and Washington State, the Pac-12’s playoff hopes took a huge hit with both losing.

 

3. Alabama can be beat, but I just don’t see it happening.  They are smashing people week after week.

 

4. LSU’s top two coaching targets from last year, Fisher and Herman, are a combined 5-6 this season.  Not that I wouldn’t love to have either of those guys on the Tiger’s sideline, but it is interesting none the less.

5. Look out for Michigan State.  The Mighty Spartans have a great chance to be 7-1 when they host Penn State the first Saturday of November.


 

Playoffs:

 

Alabama and it really doesn't matter. But for arguments sake let's throw in Penn State, Georgia and Notre Dame.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tigers Find Footing in Swamp

Devin White sacks Florida QB Felipe Franks
Da Coach O had to have this one in the worst way. And he got it. O is now 4-0 coming off a loss in his brief tenure at LSU. That's a positive that can't be understated, the ability to pick his team up after disappointment. A few thoughts:

*  Devin White is a beast. He was all over the field Saturday. White leads the SEC in tackles per game and is 8th nationally.
*  The defensive line played very well for three quarters. For the season, in the first, second and fourth quarters, the Tigers are holding opponents to 3.87 yards per carry or better. In the third quarter, LSU is giving up a whopping 6.08 yards per carry. Sure enough Florida ran their way back in the game in the third quarter scoring their only two TD's of the game. Not sure what is going on at half-time, but it needs to be fixed with Auburn coming to town.
*  I'm still not sure what to make of Etling. He ranks 4th in the SEC in passing efficiency at 149.72. For context, only Mettenberger (2013, 171.45) and Lee (2011, 152.04) have racked up better numbers over the last ten years for LSU. His yards per attempt average is 8.9 which places him 15th nationally. But when he misses throws like the one to Darrel Williams I want to throw a shoe through the TV. He is no doubt tough and gritty. His runs were crucial in the game. I think he should continue to play at least until we get to six wins and bowl eligibility, then we can revisit the issue.
*  The Florida Gators may have some of the worst fans in the country. Such an insufferable lot especially after what happened last season. Coaches say every game only counts for one win or loss on your record. That may be so, but this one was MUCH sweeter than most.

Up Next...Auburn

Auburn leads LSU in just about every statistical category that matters. The spread opened up at Auburn by 9. The line has moved down to 6.5 since. This is an Auburn team that looks really good on both sides of the ball. LSU is too inexperienced in the offensive line to pull off an upset.

Auburn 28 – LSU 16

Other Random Thoughts

1.  Miami, TCU and Washington State are a combined 15-0 and all have legit shots to win their leagues.

2.  Oklahoma was a 33 point favorite over Iowa State...and lost, at home. LSU's loss to Troy was bad. Oklahoma's loss is much worse.

3.  The American's men's soccer team pulled one of the greatest choke jobs ever loosing to Trinidad & Tobago 2-1. The US team won't be making the World Cup for the first time since 1986. Catastrophe is an understatement.



Playoffs:


Alabama, Clemson, Penn State, Georgia

Monday, October 02, 2017

End of an Era

Nick Brossette fumbles on LSU's first offensive play.
If it didn't end badly, it wouldn't end at all.

-Anonymous

In November of 1999, Gerry DiNardo was fired before the last game of the season. DiNardo had gone 2-13 in his last 15 SEC games ensuring his departure. Then the LSU athletic department made a program defining decision to hire Nick Saban. Saban led LSU to two SEC Titles and its first National Championship since 1958.

It was not the smoothest start. In his first season, Saban lost to UAB at home 13-10. It was the last non-conference loss by the Tigers at home up until Saturday. Walking to the car from the game I couldn't help but notice the symmetry. LSU has now come full circle after an incredible 17 year run that marks the greatest stretch in LSU history.

Fans need to prepare themselves for for a very different future than they have grown accustomed. Thus far, the Orgeron era is playing out as many of the skeptics feared. The Tigers are 3-2 and will probably be underdogs for every game the rest of the way.

I'm starting to believe Les Miles left this program in even worse shape than I originally thought. Both lines are undermanned and lack the talent of previous seasons. Key is a shadow of his former self. Etling is who he is. Two true freshmen are playing on the offensive line. There appears to be a real lack of leadership in the locker room. (maybe that is changing?)

I had a friend describe Orgeron as a cajun used car salesman. I think the description fits. Many times I called Miles the village idiot for some of the things he said and did. Alleva fired Miles to hire a smooth talking good ole boy from South Louisiana. Leadership is an innate ability. It can't be taught or learned in a book. Some guys have it and some don't. I want to give Orgeron the benefit of the doubt, but it is very difficult from what I have seen thus far.

So where do we as fans go from here?

Orgeron is not getting fired this season. He could finish 3-9 with a 60 point loss to Alabama and he will be LSU's coach in 2018. At the end of the 2018 season the buyout will still be about $5.8 million if my interpretation of his buyout clause is accurate.  Anyone who thinks they know where the Tigers will be at that point is deluding themselves.

Screaming for the coach to be fired is pointless, silly and counterproductive. The goal should be to support the players and get to 6 wins to make a bowl.  I think we can all agree that the Tigers need the extra practice time that comes with bowl preparation. It's OK to be disappointed, angry and frustrated.  But folks need to come to grips with what LSU football is right now.  

Why is the buyout so big?

To protect Orgeron AND Alleva. These two are tied at the hip at this point. If the hiring of Orgeron didn't work out, Alleva knew he'd be shown the door as well. So what did Alleva do? He wrote himself an insurance policy that the LSU Board of Supervisors negligently signed off on. No other explanation makes sense. LSU had all the leverage and still gave Orgeron a contract he in no way deserved.

LSU is a big time program now. The LSU athletic department was recently valued by the Wall Street Journal at $910 million, fifth in the nation. I am confident that the Tigers will at some point return to the championship form we have seen the last 17 years. But to do that Alleva must go. His most important task since coming on as AD was to find a replacement for Les Miles. Unless something dramatic happens, his search and subsequent selection of Orgeron is heading toward being a complete debacle. He cannot under any circumstances be allowed to be involved in the next coaching search.

As for the play on the field, I honestly can't find one good thing to say.

Offense:
  1. 4 turnovers. The first on the very first offensive play.
  2. 0-8 on third down conversions. For the season, Etling is 14 for 30 on third downs for 106 yards and 6 first downs. When he has passed on third down this season, the Tigers are only converting 20% of the time. Some comparisons:



Attempts
Completions
First Downs
Conversion %
J. Jefferson (2009)
76
43
28
36.8
J. Lee (2011)
53
27
20
37.7
Z. Mettenberger (2013)
89
58
49
55.1
A. Jennings (2014)
85
40
28
32.9
B. Harris (2015)
93
47
32
34.4
D. Etling (2016)
77
45
29
37.7
D. Etling (2017)
30
14
6
20.0

In fairness, Etling has been fantastic on 1st and 2nd down. (45 of 67 for 799 yards and 5 TDs)
  1. The Tigers are tied for 103 in the country in red zone conversions.
Defense:
  1. Poor tackling is systemic.
  2. 2016 red zone TD% - 24.2. 2017 red zone TD% 50.
  3. LSU gave up 7 rushing TD's all last season. The Tigers have given up 7 this season already to arguably the five weakest teams on the schedule.

Special Teams

The FG kicking is terrible.  That is all i'm going to say about that.

Up Next

LSU is somehow only a 3.5 point underdog at Florida. I have seen absolutely nothing from LSU to think they can beat UF much less keep the game under one score. Florida seems to be improving every week as the Tigers regress. The Gators QB, Felipe Franks, will run for at least 80 yards and a TD and will give LSU fits all afternoon. Etling will be under pressure as soon as he steps off the bus. The calls for Alleva and Da Coach O's heads will only get louder.

LSU 13 – Florida 27


Other Random Thoughts

1. How good is Bama? I will consider it a victory if LSU stays within 5 TD's of the Tide.

2. Butch Jones is gone at Tennessee. Last year the door was wide open for the Vols to turn the corner and he didn't get it done. This was a rebuild year but with no goodwill to support him, the end is near.

3. Miami, TCU and Washington State are a combined 12-0 and all have legit shots to win their leagues.


Playoffs:


Alabama, Clemson, Penn State, Georgia