Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Turn the Page

Ah here I am, on a road again
There I am, up on the stage
Here I go, playing the star again
There I go, turn the page


-Bob Seger

LSU turns the page this fall with new permanent head coach Edward Jim Orgeron, Jr.  With Alabama’s continued dominance of the SEC and college football in general, expectations are a bit muted for Coach O.  But that doesn’t mean Tiger fans will be satisfied with 8 or 9 wins.  LSU needs to up last year’s 8 win total and show improvement on offense.

A few thoughts from early June:
* A number of fans are down on Danny Etling as LSU’s QB.  I am not one of them.  In a season marked by Miles’ firing after four games, Etling finished 6th in the SEC in QB efficiency rating with a 135.54.  For perspective, Jalen Hurts, Alabama QB and SEC Offensive player of the year finished 5th with a 139.12.
* Etling and the rest of the offense are now mercifully free of Miles’ stone age offense with the hiring of Matt Canada.  Canada comes from Pitt where he had great success leading the Panthers to their 2nd most prolific offense in the last 45 years.  A breakdown of what fans can expect to see this season are here and here courtesy of And the Valley Shook and SEC Country.  I expect Elting to have a solid season that will make LSU fans excited about the future.

* Derrius Guice is a legitimate Heisman candidate.  His 285 yards versus Texas A&M stand testament to his ability.

The key will be for him to rack up big numbers early as Fournette did in 2015.  The Tigers play BYU, Chattanooga, Miss. State, Syracuse and Troy to open the season.  The Tigers should be 5-0 and Guice could have between 750-850 yards by then.  The next three opponents, Florida, Auburn and Ole Miss will present a big stage for Guice and LSU’s “new” offense.

* I like the way LSU’s schedule sets up.  Challenging opener versus BYU then an FCS opponent then at State then two lesser teams at home before traveling to Florida.  Playing five SEC road games will be no fun, but there are a number of seniors on this team that can lead.

* New faces on defense but I’m not worried.  LSU has plenty of talent to compete and as mentioned earlier, the first five games give the Tigers some room for error and growth.

More video!!

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Reign of O Begins

Back on September 26, 2000, I watched LSU take on Auburn at the home of a fraternity brother. LSU lost 34-17 in a rather unmemorable game. However, two things still stick in my mind to this day. One, someone let their four year old repeatedly run in front of the TV during the game. (RUDE!!)  The other was a comment repeated by someone's wife multiple times during the game, “we paid $1.2 million for this?”

She was referring to the, at the time, very large salary of Mr. Nicolas Lou Saban Jr. Of course Saban has gone on to be arguably the greatest college head coach of all time. And to think LSU got him for the paltry price of $1.2 million!

On the front end of each of these coaching hires everyone is an expert. On the back end, everyone will say 'I told you so'.

In 2008, Clemson promoted 39 year old wide receiver coach Dabo Swinney to head coach. He had never been a head coach or coordinator at any level. Seven years later, Swinney was a few plays away from winning a National Title in the 2015 Championship game versus Alabama.

In 1998, USC hired the well regarded Paul Hackett as their head coach. Hackett had won a Super Bowl with the 49ers as their offensive coordinator in 1984. He also served as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator from 1993-1997, making the playoffs four times. But Hackett was fired from USC after three disappointing years with a record of 19-18.

Finally, I would point you to Jeremy Foley at Florida. The same man that hired Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan also hired Ron Zook and Will Muschamp.

The point being, we don't really know how these coaching hires will go. But I get the feeling a segment of the LSU fan base has already given up any hope that the Orgeron era will be a success. Were there more “qualified” candidates out there? Yes. Were there candidates with better resumes out there? Yes. Was I hoping for a head coach with a sharp offensive mind? Yes!

But I'm happy to give Coach O a chance. He's tasted failure. He knows many folks locally and nationally think he's in over his head. I like that. It makes him hungry. He's going to out work people. He's going to expect the best from his assistants. He's got a chip on his shoulder, a chip that will be taken up by his players.

It's an unorthodox hire for sure. And it just may damn well put LSU back on top.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Alabama Wins...Again

Another Bama game, another disappointing loss. While the game remained 0-0 for three and a half quarters, LSU was never really in a position to put a real scare in the Crimson Tide. This was a valiant effort by the Tigers. But right now Alabama is just better. Alabama is the best program in the country and possibly the greatest college football dynasty of all time.

A few observations:

The positives first, LSU has a national championship caliber defense. Bama came in averaging 44 points a game and was only able to manage to put up 10 on Saturday. Throw in forcing two turnovers and a great goal line stand, and the defense was just fantastic.
  • Beckwith will be All-SEC at the LB position. He has been magnificent all season and a great example of why guys can really benefit from coming back for their senior year.
  • The kicking game was solid except for the blocked FG. I had a few choice words for Tre White when he fielded a punt inside of LSU's own five yard line.
  • Now for the bad, LSU's offensive line got pushed around all night. The line couldn't open holes or hold the space allowing Fournette to get loose. Bama usually only had seven in the box as well. Pass protection was a problem all night with Etling getting sacked five times.
  • Speaking of Etling, he struggled terribly. Even when he got time he couldn't take advantage of the opportunities presented. He hurried throws and just looked uncomfortable all night.
  • Fournette also missed a few cut back lanes that he could have exploited with Bama's relentless pursuit.
  • In watching the replay, LSU had some opportunities on offense. The play calling was designed to try and give our play makers a chance. But the margin of error was small and the Tigers just couldn't capitalize.

Reality Check

Some people complained about play calling and the struggles on offense. I get it. But folks have to realize that Alabama has a front seven with seven NFL players. LSU's offensive line is good but not special. The Tigers got no push up front which really limits what you can do. Danny Etling can be productive, but he's limited. He's not a threat to run which seems to be a requirement for beating Alabama. LSU must completely revamp the offense and start developing QB's. Nothing will change until the Tigers address the problems that have plagued the program for years.

I mentioned earlier just how dominant Alabama has been since Saban's return in 2007. Look at these crazy numbers.

LSU (includes 2011 NC Game)
Mississippi State
Ole Miss
Texas A&M
SEC East
(includes 5 SEC Title Games)
Non Conference (including Notre Dame, Michigan, Clemson, Ohio State, Penn State, Oklahoma, Utah, WVU, Wisconsin, Colorado, Va Tech, Texas and Michigan State)

No one has more has more wins over Alabama than LSU over the last 10 years.

The Hogs

We all know about the hangover effect after the Alabama game. The Tigers have has a few bye weeks this season already so they should be in good shape even after the physical Alabama game. Coach O will stay positive and I still think there is a good vibe around the program. Will the players stay focused now that the SEC Title is out of reach? I think so. Arkansas is 11th in the SEC giving up almost 200 yards per game. They are also 13th in the league and 108th in the nation in 3rd down conversion defense. If LSU's offensive line can regroup for a good showing, the Tigers should put up plenty of points.

LSU 34 – Ark 20

Playoffs Week 10:

No change since the last post, Alabama, Clemson Washington and Michigan.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Momma!! Make the Bad Man Stop!!!

Leonard Fournette will not win the Heisman, but to my purple and gold tinted glasses, he is the best player in the country. Look no further than Saturday night's record setting performance, 284 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns. Fournette's scores came from 78, 76 and 59 yards. He was a beast showing that rare combination of power and elite level top end speed. Savor it LSU's fans. It will be a looooong time before we see anyone in his class again.

After a tight first half, the Tigers dominated the final thirty minutes. That's a trend that has yielded a 73-7 second half scoring advantage for the Tigers since Coach O took over. A few observations:

  • Etling continued his nice play. He finished the game 19 of 28 for 204 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. He did have one fumble but that was a vicious hit from an unblocked Ole Miss defender.
  • Speaking of the fumble, I think LSU was a bit too aggressive there. On it's own 17 with only a minute left, LSU looked to start a drive with a play action pass that ended up with Etling fumbling. Ole Miss got the ball at LSU's nine and scored with a few seconds left to go into the half.
  • I thought the play calling in the first quarter was too clever. I'm happy the offense is mixing it up, but against a team as weak in run defense as Ole Miss, I was willing to line up and play a little smash mouth mixing in the play action pass. The play calling eventually settled down and Fournette began romping to a historic night.
  • Since Coach O took over, LSU is averaging 8.6 yards per play. In the previous four games, the Tigers averaged 5.8.
  • LSU's second half was an example of the type of killer instinct Miles never engaged in. The Tigers locked down on defense AND kept up the pressure offensively culminating in an 11 play TD drive that took six minutes off the clock and effectively sealed the game.
  • After going down 10-0, the defense really clamped down on Ole Miss. If not for the fumble late in the first half, the Rebs would have been held to under 20 points.
  • Beckwith was a laser guided missile all night. He was the embodiment of Mike the Tiger hunting and killing his prey.

Playoffs Week 8:

A little shake up this week! Ohio State fell at Penn State this weekend so Washington jumps in there with Alabama, Clemson and Michigan.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Big Plays Put Eagles Away

After an unexpected bye week, the Tigers returned to the field in triumphant fashion over an outmatched Southern Miss team. LSU looked disinterested and sloppy in the first half, but blew the game open with 35 second half points. The Tigers ran 10 plays in the third quarter resulting in 28 points. For the game, LSU ran 42 plays resulting in 45 points. A few observations:

  1. I still don't know how good LSU is. The Tigers' best win is over...4-3 USM? Giant test this weekend against Ole Miss.
  2. The defense is giving up only 14 points a game to rank #4 in the nation. LSU is #1 nationally in red zone TD defense. Teams are scoring a little less than one TD per four red zone trips. The Tigers are also only allowing opponents to convert 30.9% of their third down opportunities.
  3. Danny Etling is moving up the stats chart as well. He is now ranked 5th in QB efficiency in the SEC. He is also 5th in yards per attempt (7.8) and completion percentage (58.8). On third downs with 1-9 yards for a first, Etling is 15 for 23 with 12 first downs. That's a 52% conversion rate. For comparison Harris converted only 38.8% of his third down attempts into first downs.
Ole Miss is up next for the Tigers. The Tigers are a 5 ½ point favorite over the 3-3 Rebels. Ole Miss has played a tough schedule, but who have they beat? Georgia? Memphis? Saturday will be a real test for both teams. Ole Miss has a dynamic offense lead by Chad Kelly. But the defense has struggled giving up 446 yards a game, dead last in the conference and 104th nationally. Expect an inspired effort from both teams but with home field advantage and the return of Leonard Fournette, I like LSU.

LSU 34 – Ole Miss 24

Odds and Ends

  • I'm tired of the LSU – UF drama but I will say this about the entire episode: I am glad the game will be played. It is a shame it took an ugly turn because UF and the SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey completely mismanaged the situation. Now both UF and Sankey are trying to deflect blame to LSU for their lack of foresight. Alleva made the best out of a bad situation mishandled by Sankey who has taken to making cheap shots at LSU.
  • I have no idea who will be LSU's next head coach. I think the short list starts and ends with Jimbo Fisher. I think if LSU backs up the money truck they can get him. Tom Herman at Houston is also a hot name. The only question is his small body of work as a head coach. Other coaches I would look at would be Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State, Wille Taggert at USF and the guy running the shop right now Ed Orgeron. I think the only way Orgeron gets the job is if the top names on Alleva's list say no.
  • Derrius Guice reached the career 1,000 yard mark in only 113 carries. That works out to be 8.8 yards a carry. Fastest to 1,000 yards in LSU history.

Playoffs Week 7:

I'm sticking with Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson. I don't see either Big 10 team losing before the big showdown in the Horseshoe. Washington and Texas A&M are viable candidates as well.

Now this one was fun!!

Sunday, October 02, 2016

A Smashing Debut

Les Miles coached LSU for 148 games. Ed Orgeron has coached LSU for one game. In that one contest, Coach O's offense put up more yards in a single game than Miles ever did in his entire tenure. If that isn't an indictment of Miles' gross offensive incompetence I don't know what is.

OK. I'm done bashing Miles and his stone age offense.

A few observations:
  • Our defense was fantastic. Mizzu came into the game leading the SEC in offense scoring over 44.5 points per game. LSU held the other Tigers to 7 points and 265 yards.
  • Mizzu went three and out their first three drives of the game.
  • That was the offense LSU is capable of. In the context of one week's preparation, the Tigers were able to use their power running and open up the passing game.
  • LSU had 42:00+ in time of possession. Amazing!
  • Etling needs to work on his deep passes. He over threw three deep balls with open receivers. But otherwise he was efficient hitting 9 different receivers for over 200 yards.
  • Etling needs to learn how to get out of bounds or slide. He took too may shots for my liking.
  • The Tigers were in three and four wide formations for a big portion of the game. The staff also mixed in the I formation to good effect as well.
  • The players noted that a lighter practice schedule helped with staying fresh and having more energy.
The Swamp

Coach O faces a huge test this weekend traveling to Florida. LSU has won five of the last six in this series. The Tigers are 4-3 in Gainesville the last seven visits. UF leads the league in defense giving up only 230 yards per game and 11.6 points per game. Those numbers are a little deceiving in that four of their five opponents are ranked 102nd or worse in offense nationally. LSU opened up as a 2 ½ point favorite for Saturday's game. Expect a big effort form the Tigers in a relatively low scoring game. LSU has some real mojo going with the change of regime.

LSU 24 – UF 16

Playoffs Week 5:

After five weeks, the combined record of three of my original playoff picks (LSU, TCU, FSU) is 9-6.  Ouch!  But Michigan is still rolling along.  I think the Big 12 and Pac-12 will end with 2+ loss champions opening the door to the OSU - Michigan loser.

Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Les Is No More

It's over folks. Les Miles is no longer LSU's head football coach. He finishes with a 114-34 record at LSU, three SEC West Titles, two SEC Titles, two National Title game appearances and one National Title in 2007. He is on LSU Football's Mount Rushmore along side Nick Saban, Charles McClendon and Paul Dietzel.

A number of factors led to Miles' dismissal. But first and foremost was his inability to evolve on the offensive side of the ball. In an age of high flying prolific spread offenses, Miles was stuck trying to play football in a phone booth. LSU's scheme and play calling were predictable and unimaginative. The Tigers were able to generally overcome such obstacles because of the amount of talent that came through Tiger Stadium. But Miles' inability to recruit or develop a serviceable quarterback magnified the problems with the offensive philosophy. Since 2009, LSU has finished 94th or worse in passing yards per game 6 times. LSU is well on its way to continue that trend after four games in 2016. Miles' style of play and refusal to adapt to the changing nature of college football were ultimately his undoing.

When I look back at his tenure, there are numerous great moments. But I will also carry the memory when he lost me as a fan. On October 1, 2011, LSU faced Kentucky in Tiger Stadium. At that point, Jarrett Lee led the SEC in QB efficiency. He was 56 of 87 (64.3%) for 644 yards 7 TD's and 1 INT after four games. Lee had been fantastic thus far that season. In the first quarter of that game, Lee had driven LSU deep into Kentucky territory and was poised to score. But Miles ran Jordan Jefferson out on the field to a cascade of boos. Jefferson ran the ball in to score but the move obviously affected Lee as he only completed 38% of his passes on that day. Miles eventually replaced Lee for good after the Alabama “Game of the Century”. In the last two games of the season, the SEC Title game and the National Title game, Jefferson ran or passed the ball a combined 50 times. In those 50 plays, he generated a grand total of 93 yards, a whopping 1.8 yards per play. His QB rating of 80.9 for those two games was abysmal. No need to rehash the National Title game disaster.

After the 21-0 beating and Miles' refusal to pull Jefferson I was done sticking up for Les.

Miles had a chance at redemption in 2012. Alabama visited LSU as the Tigers played their hearts out that November evening. But Miles went super conservative late in the game and allowed Alabama to stick around and eventually win. Zach Mettenberger was on fire going 24 of 35 for 298 yards and a TD. But on two late drives, Miles went into a shell and took the ball out of his hands. Two promising drives that could have killed the game resulted in zero points. Alabama then scored with 51 seconds left to win and continue on to another National Title.

Since then, LSU has steadily regressed despite continuing to put numerous players in the NFL. It was time for a change. I encourage everyone to support our players and cheer on the Tigers to better days. There are eight games left and plenty of opportunities to make LSU football fun again.

Keep the faith and Geaux Tigers.