Just a random observation and then I’ll have a couple of detailed topics: Arkansas plays four SEC teams in the preseason top 10 in consecutive weeks, beginning September 28. All four won over the weekend, as did the Razorbacks. Kentucky also has a similar string of opponents beginning September 14, but one of the preseason top-10 opponents is Louisville.
FCS schools make statements against the FBS
Oregon St. became the third ranked team ever and first since 2010 to lose to an FCS (formerly I-AA) opponent. The other two were Virginia Tech (to James Madison) and Michigan (to Appalachian St. in 2007).
By my count, FCS programs went 8-21 against FBS (formerly I-A) teams, a better winning percentage than the MAC, MWC, and Independents had against FBS teams in Week 1. Of those, only the MAC had a better winning percentage against Division I as a whole.
The Big Ten schools are in the process of eliminating FCS schools from their schedules. The Big Ten has not lost to any so far, but the Big XII and AAC (the successor to the Big East) lost two such games apiece. The conference should probably re-think that, especially since North Dakota St. and Northern Iowa (and much of the rest of the current Missouri Valley Conference) often fields teams that are more competitive than MAC opponents that may be chosen instead. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Northern Iowa has played interesting in-state games against Iowa and Iowa St. (including this year, when it beat the Cyclones) in recent reasons. Minnesota has struggled against Dakota teams, nearly losing to South Dakota St. in 2009 and then losing to South Dakota in 2010 and to North Dakota St. in 2011. Maybe the Big Ten should place a limit on how far away the FCS opponent can come from instead. Games of regional interest against competitive FCS programs should definitely continue.
North Dakota St.–which came from behind, 21-7, to beat Kansas St.–has beaten an FBS school for the fourth consecutive season. Three of the four were against opponents in auto-bid BCS conferences. The Bison move to 7-3 against FBS opponents in the last 10 years. Before 10 years ago, they weren’t losing to FBS schools; instead they were competing in Division II.
Don’t forget FBS schools often pay for the right to play these FCS opponents. ESPN’s Darren Rovell provided the numbers for two of the games. Kansas State paid North Dakota State $350,000 to play Friday’s game. NDSU paid for its coach’s salary and then some. Craig Bohl has a base salary of $206,000. The UConn Huskies paid Towson $275,000 to beat them Thursday night.
Two of the FCS winners over FBS teams this weekend have played LSU in recent seasons. The Tigers defeated Towson last year and McNeese St. in 2010. Towson beat UConn, 33-18, and McNeese St. beat South Florida, 53-21. Hard to believe UConn was in a BCS bowl in 2010, and in 2007, South Florida was #2 in the BCS standings.
LSU Game Notes
At first blush, it might appear that the LSU defense struggled with the loss of talent (depending on whom you ask, they had either 4 or 5 returning starters on defense), but when you look closer, not really.
The only touchdown allowed in the first half was allowed by the special teams. The only other TCU scoring drive in the first half was a field goal. The defense did technically allow two touchdown drives in the second half, but one of those started at the LSU 6 after a fumble by the LSU running back.
There were definitely some things the defense did wrong leading up to the other touchdown for the Horned Frogs, but at one point it actually seemed to have a stop before a penalty was called for roughing the passer on third down.
After a bad punt, TCU also got a second-half field goal from 39 yards out after only a 26-yard drive.
The defense also came up with an interception.
Other than the one turnover, the offense did a fairly good job overall. Mettenberger was very on-target, and it’s really an injustice to him that only 50% of his passes were caught. Some of the passes were thrown to perfection, allowing receivers to catch the ball in stride and evade even very good coverage. At least a couple such balls hit receivers in the hands and were not caught.
He did linger in the pocket at times, but I’d prefer that to risking an interception. I think there were missed blocking assignments and things of that nature that contributed to problems and will work themselves out as the season progresses. Mettenberger showed some good scrambling ability, but he’s not great at running or throwing on the run.
Like the receivers, the running backs were a bit of a mixed bag. Odell Beckham, LSU’s top receiver on the night in terms of yardage, also had one of the longer runs on an end-around for 17 yards. Alfred Blue (who committed the turnover) was solid but not spectacular, carrying the ball 19 times for 89 yards. Terrence Magee, who was only credited with one rushing attempt and one reception last season, showed the ability to accelerate on a 52-yard touchdown scamper (the blocking on that play helped make up for some backfield errors) but only gained 43 yards combined in his other 12 carries. Jeremy Hill is serving a (indeterminate) suspension for punching a man outside of a bar, but it’s nice to know there are at least two able backs. Kenny Hilliard showed flashes of brilliance in the past as well, but he only had 4 carries for 8 yards on Saturday.
Aside from struggles with TCU kickoff returns (even apart from the 100-yard touchdown, the Frogs gained 69 yards in the other four returns) and the one bad punt, the special teams did well. There were two other punts, one of 48 yards that was fair caught at midfield and another of 43 yards that went out of bounds at the 9 yard line. There were no punt returns for the Tigers or Horned Frogs.
The three LSU field goals were all of under 30 yards (which says we could use some improvement in the red zone), but all of the kicks were free from any drama from what I could tell.
Odell Beckham did some damage of his own on the LSU kick returns, returning 4 kickoffs for a total of 136 yards.
Some other odds and ends. LSU was 13/19 on third downs compared to 7/13 for TCU. The Tigers out-gained the Horned Frogs, 448-259. TCU was penalized 9 times for 55 yards, and LSU was penalized 7 times for 42 yards. The Tigers had twice as many first downs, 26-13, one fewer turnover, and almost exactly 12 more minutes in time of possession.
The Tigers have won 42 consecutive non-conference regular-season games since losing the opener of the 2002 season at Virginia Tech. I went over the highlights here. This is also the first time in LSU history that the team has won 11 consecutive season openers.