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History of Undefeated LSU vs. Alabama

In College Football, General LSU, History, Preview, Rivalry on October 30, 2015 at 2:57 PM

You can see the main entry of the LSU-Alabama rivalry here.

Alabama has beaten LSU 49 times with only 25 losses but has only beaten the Tigers twice at home this century.

I’ll just start by giving the list. I’ll fill in the blanks below. I’m excluding the times they played in the first few games. I’m including the couple of times LSU was undefeated in conference but not overall. The games at Alabama before 1988 were actually played in Birmingham.

1964 – @Alabama 17, LSU 9
1970* (undefeated in conference, not overall) – LSU 14, @Alabama 9
1972 – @Alabama 35, LSU 21
1973 – Alabama, 21, LSU 7
1982 – LSU 20, @Alabama 10
1984* (undefeated in conference, not overall) -LSU 16, @Alabama 14
1987* – Alabama 22, @LSU 10
2011* – LSU 9, @Alabama 6, ot
Jan. ’12* – Alabama 21, LSU 0

* = games when LSU had a higher ranking

Tenures of Coaches for Reference:
Bear Bryant 1958-82
Ray Perkins 1983-86
Bill Curry 1987-89
Nick Saban 2007-
Charles McClendon 1962-79
Jerry Stovall 1980-83
Bill Arnsparger 1984-86
Mike Archer 1987-90
Les Miles 2005-

Other Years Since 1958 with LSU Undefeated at the End of October:
1958 – stayed undefeated; national champions
1959 – lost to Tennessee by 1 in first week of November; lost Sugar Bowl
1962 – lost to Ole Miss by 8 in first week of November; won Sugar Bowl
1969 – lost to Ole Miss by 3 in first week of November; no bowl

Background

From talking to older fans, one might think LSU went undefeated several years in a row in the 60s and 70s only to lose to Alabama. That’s not what happened obviously, but I’ll try to explain why people think that.

I’m not going to get into detailed particulars of any games, just focus on the big picture of the seasons that are at least relevant to the time period.

A few years after LSU won its first recognized national championship in the poll era (and only before 2003), head coach Paul Dietzel left for Army. Hard to believe now, but Dietzel’s only coached three games against Alabama was in 7 seasons. He won all three.

Dietzel only coached against Bear Bryant in Bryant’s first game as head coach with Alabama. LSU won in Mobile, 13-3, actually not a bad result for the Tide being that this was the year of that LSU national championship I mentioned. Bama went 5-4-1 for its first winning season in five years

For the 18 seasons after Dietzel, Charles McClendon coached the Tigers. He’s still the winningest coach in LSU history, but he lacked any poll national championships and only won a single SEC title.

LSU had a number of good years, but shortly after Dietzel left and Alabama started to do well, LSU started playing Alabama every year. McClendon wasn’t winless against the Tide, but there was frequently a November hiccup against someone. I’ll cover the more interesting seasons.

There were a number of times in the late 60s and early 70s where ole miss was a big issue as well. LSU typically played the two in consecutive weeks, so this made it especially troublesome. See the Ole Miss blog for more, especially 1968 to 1972.

In 1962, LSU didn’t even play Alabama, but the Tigers did suffer their first loss in early November. That year it was Ole Miss. I wonder if people mix up Johnny Vaught (who also liked to wear suits and a hat and whose name is also on his team’s stadium now) with the Bear. Despite the loss, LSU is considered co-national champions by the Berryman system. Obviously I’m not counting that one as a major poll.

McClendon vs. Bryant

In 1964, Alabama derailed an LSU undefeated streak to start the season for the first time. The Tigers had tied Tennessee earlier though and would also lose to Florida before winning the Sugar Bowl over Syracuse. Alabama won the SEC but opted to play in the orange bowl instead.

LSU would also lose to Alabama the next four seasons but had lost at least twice before all four years.

1969 was much like 1962. LSU won every game until the first game of November against Ole Miss. Except this time the Tigers played and beat Alabama, the first win over the tide in 11 years.

The Tigers hoped to play in the cotton bowl for a potential claim on the national championship and refused all other invites. Instead notre dame decided at the last minute it wanted to go to a bowl game. So after one of the best LSU seasons in the last 50 years, the Tigers didn’t go to a bowl game at all.

LSU technically did not share the SEC championship since the Tigers only played five SEC games that season. This was shortly after Tulane left the SEC, and their spot remained on LSU’s schedule. SEC champion Tennessee had a blowout loss to Ole Miss, so they were apparently not considered title contenders.

LSU was not undefeated the next year against Alabama either, but they went (and stayed) undefeated in conference for McClendon’s only SEC championship. LSU had two non-conference losses though and also lost in the Orange Bowl.

In 1971, LSU lost early out of conference and lost to both Ole Miss and Alabama.

McClendon stayed at LSU until 1979, but in hindsight his last real chances to do anything were 1972 and 1973. This is why Alabama is usually brought up within seconds of his name being spoken among older LSU fans.

In 1972, LSU won in controversial fashion over Ole Miss 17-16 the previous week to remain undefeated. There were no heroics in Birmingham though, as #2 Alabama prevailed by 14. The Tigers would lose a bowl game to Tennessee to finish 9-2-1.

In 1973, LSU navigated all the non-conference traps including then-#10 Colorado but had only really been challenged in conference by Kentucky, with the Tigers winning by 7. Same result though. #2 Alabama again won by exactly two touchdowns.

LSU was apparently so disappointed that the next game they lost to Tulane for the first time since 1948. The Tigers would also lose the Orange bowl against Penn St. to finish 9-3.

McClendon would not beat Alabama again. Although his last team in 1979 was shut out, it held the #1 Tide to just a field goal.  There was some wind-driven dew causing inclement weather on the field though.

The 1980s

After McClendon, LSU hired Bo Rein, who tragically died in a plane crash before getting to coach the team. The Tigers turned to a loyal former player named Jerry Stovall, but he was an inconsistent coach.

So when the Tigers had the only really good start of his tenure (6-0-1), they went to #8 Alabama and won. Some may have thought happy days were in Baton Rouge again, but this feeling would be short-lived.

LSU would win a total of three games against top-10 teams that season (also Florida and Florida St.) but would lose to unranked Mississippi St. and Tulane (his second loss to them in a row) before losing in the Orange Bowl to Nebraska. The tie also came against an unranked team, Tennessee. Georgia, who LSU had not played, won the SEC.

After the Tigers went winless in the SEC the following year, defensive innovator Bill Arnsparger was at the helm in 1984. LSU once again beat Alabama in Birmingham but couldn’t win at Mississippi St. No more losses to Tulane to this day, but LSU did lose another Orange Bowl to finish 8-3-1. Florida, the team who tied LSU, would win the SEC, although the title was later vacated.

LSU lost early in Arnsparger’s other two seasons but tied Alabama in 1985 and beat them again in 1986. The ’86 win was the third road win in a row over the tide.

Between that 1969 season mentioned and Nick Saban’s first season in 2000 (in which LSU curiously lost to Alabama-Birmingham but beat the Tuscaloosa version), LSU did not beat Alabama at home even once.

In 1987, Arnsparger’s assistant Mike Archer took over. LSU was undefeated and untied in conference but had tied Ohio St. out of conference. Alabama won somewhat easily, 22-10, the Tigers’ only loss of the year. LSU finished 10-1-1 after winning the Gator Bowl.

Archer managed to win the SEC despite three non-conference losses the following year but couldn’t do much beyond that in the two losing seasons that followed.

The recent rivalry

Apart from those two games at the end of the list above, there isn’t much by way of undefeated LSU teams to talk about, but I thought I’d still tie up loose ends.

LSU only managed two winning seasons from 1989 to 1999. The longest LSU winning streak to start the season in that time was four games in 1996, so that didn’t come close to the Alabama game, but the Tide won 26-0 anyway. 1996 was one of only two 10-win LSU teams from 1962 to 2000.

The game has been in the first 16 days of November every year since 1982, so that limits the undefeated possibilities. Of course there are several examples of undefeated Alabama against LSU, and LSU has actually won a few of those in the last 20 years or so. That’s just obviously not the situation this year.

The intensity in the rivalry, despite a very entertaining overtime game in 2005, didn’t return to its prior levels until Saban took over in 2007. Although LSU won the national championship that year, the Tigers had lost to Kentucky in triple OT two games before the Alabama game.

Further evidence of the recent intensity is bye weeks. LSU had a bye before Alabama in 2007 and has had one from 2010 to at least 2016. Alabama has also typically had a bye before the LSU games. Their recent pre-LSU byes have been 2007, 2009-11, and 2013-2016 (and probably continuing afterward). Alabama won on the infamous screen pass in 2012 anyway.

2011 wasn’t that long ago, but that’s of course covered in my main rivalry entry.

Just as a side note, that weekend in 2011 was also one of the best of the history of this blog on WordPress and actually was the best full stop until last season when I got big boosts around the time of both Mississippi St. and Ole Miss.

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SEC Wednesday #5

In College Football, Post-game, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on October 28, 2015 at 5:26 PM

Last Week 

Auburn and the points was sort of right, because if you give Auburn any regulation points they win. But that’s not how the bookies do it, so this is a loss ATS.

Obviously Tennessee and the points was a comfortable win ATS, and I correctly picked Bama to win.

I can’t make sense of Vandy and Missouri. Missouri had a better performance in Athens than in Nashville. Vandy had the game I expected them to have last week. This is a loss either way.

I was right about Ole Miss winning but did not see A&M’s offensive struggles coming at all. So I had the right winner, but I was wrong ATS.

At least LSU makes a little more sense to me now. I’ll be interested to see that Alabama line.

Mississippi St. blew away Kentucky. Two other teams that keep faking me out. I guess in the future I should assume Kentucky won’t do much now that it’s basically basketball season, but that’s when these teams try to trick me. Right about the winner though.

For the week: 5-1, 2-4 against the spread

Overall: 27-10 and 15-20

SEC WED

Next Week

I saw some improvement with Auburn even though they ultimately lost to Arkansas.  I am betting against Ole Miss being overpowering in a second week in a row, so I’ll pick the Rebs to win but Auburn and 7.5 at home.

I’ll split the difference with A&M and South Carolina as well.  That line is 16.5.  South Carolina just had a bye after a good win, and A&M looked like garbage last week.

I could be totally wrong, but I’ve had a feeling Georgia was going to turn the tables from last year’s cocktail party and use the game to get back on track.  So Georgia with the points (3) and to win.

Arkansas over Tennessee-Martin.  No line.

I’ll take Vandy and 12 at Houston.  The Dores have been better than expected against superior opponents most of the year, and the Coogs aren’t that superior, I don’t think.  Houston to win though.

Tennessee-Kentucky is tough.  On one hand, I think Kentucky is done being competitive; but on the other hand, favoring a road team by 9 is a bit much.  Kentucky might find a bit of life for this one since it’s somewhat of a rivalry, and Tennessee might have a hangover from Bama, so Kentucky and the points with Tennessee to win.

Previous entries

Week 4 Preview (predictions only)

SEC Wednesdays #1

SEC Wednesdays #2

SEC Wednesdays #3

SEC Wednesdays #4

Week 8 Rankings and Comments

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 26, 2015 at 7:13 PM

Full list #1-128

I’ll keep it brief today since I have a lot less time with more limited technology at the moment.

WKU didn’t have the best schedule coming in despite the good record, so LSU’s points from that were not enough to keep the Tigers alread of Sparty in the computers.  Of course Utah dropped themselves by losing.

Leonard Fournette finds an opening in a wet Tiger Stadium Saturday.

Leonard Fournette finds an opening in a wet Tiger Stadium Saturday.

I kept LSU #1 in this list because (1) I’m fairly confident that IF the Tigers beat the Tide, they will have more points, and (2) LSU does have the most points per week.

Had the Tigers played the opener and won, they would be #1 in the computer list.  Also, I think LSU going undefeated before the championship would put them ahead of Michigan St.  Ohio St. may actually be the team in the best position if they win out since the Buckeyes will get a high amount of points from playing both B1G Michigan schools.  For LSU, it is unclear whether Ole Miss and A&M would be wins that are so great after all, and I suspect Florida will not win out in the East.

I’m not saying I predict LSU to win the rest of its games, I’m just talking about why I think waiting to change the #1 is appropriate.  I am also glad I waited before putting Utah in that spot.

Ohio St. and Sparty also have bye weeks coming up, so I don’t know think either will lose to make it easier on me.

Iowa could temporarily take advantage in the computer, but that’s another reason to keep LSU as the placeholder until there is some clarity, even if in the end a Big Ten team ends up on top.  I would have kept it Ohio St. if the Buckeyes were a little closer to actual #1.

The rest proceeds pretty logically from the results.  Don’t forget teams lose ground for byes and sometimes forvictories over winless or low-value opponents.  As mentioned last week, Baylor has yet to play anyone of note, I don’t care how many first place votes they get.

There isn’t a big difference between Miami, which Clemson beat, and Tennessee, which Alabama beat, but numbers 5 to 8 are very close together.

As is my custom, I put a version of a Mississippi St. logo, as I do for everyone’s first appearance of the season (at least after the initial list).

1 LSU 1

2 Mich. St. 3

3 Ohio St. 5

4 Iowa 4

5 Clemson 9

6 Utah 2

7 Alabama 8

8 Memphis 11

9 TCU 7

10 Florida 6

11 Temple 14

12 Notre Dame 13

13 Okie St. 12

14 Stanford 19

15 Baylor 15

16 Toledo 16

17 Oklahoma 23

18 N’western 22

19 Miss. St. —

miss st

20 Houston 24

21 Michigan 20

22 Ole Miss —

23 TX A&M 18

24 UCLA —

25 Pittsburgh 25

Out of rankings:

10 Florida St.

17 UC-Berkeley

21 BYU

Trojan Horse of Misinformation

In Bowls, College Football, History, NFL on October 23, 2015 at 2:43 PM

I watched the “30 for 30” about the USC “dynasty”.  They won a lot of games in a row, but that’s not my definition of a dynasty.  Overall, it wasn’t bad, but there were so many misleading or outright false things in there.  That detracts from the quality and entertainment value.

The first thing was the comparison between Paul Hackett and Pete Carroll.  I wasn’t in the L.A. area at the time, so I don’t know know what the conventional wisdom was around here, but it just doesn’t match reality.  Hackett’s previous head coaching job was with the Pittsburgh PANTHERS (not in the NFL like the documentary said).  How is that like the New England Patriots at all?  Hackett’s previous job was in the NFL, but offensive coordinator isn’t the same thing.

The Chiefs did make the playoffs all but one year while Hackett was there, but after his first season, they failed to win any playoff games under head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

The Jets never gave Carroll a chance and have been a poorly run organization for a long time, so I don’t blame him for their 6-10 mark in the one season he was there.  Jimmy Johnson went 1-15 his first season with the Cowboys.  Speaking of the Cowboys, Tom Landry went 0-11-1 in his first season there.  It’s ridiculous to judge anything based on a head coach’s first year with no chance to follow up (Carroll didn’t do much better his first couple of years in Seattle either), so I’ll focus on his time in New England.

Carroll coached the Patriots for three seasons and made the playoffs twice with an overall record of 28-23.  He followed Bill Parcells, who had coached there for four seasons and also made the playoffs twice, going exactly .500 in his time there.

I really don’t understand the view that Carroll was a failed NFL coach who was going to do poorly at USC; and as someone who followed the NFL closely in the 1990s, I did not have that expectation at all.  I’m not saying I thought USC was going to be one of the top four teams seven years in a row though.  I don’t think anyone could have reasonably expected that.

We can also contrast Carroll’s prior NFL record with that of Bill Belichik, who coached a total of five seasons in the 1990s and only made the playoffs once with a total record with the Browns of 37-45.

Next, they acted like USC looked so bad in early 2002 to for losing to Washington St.  You have to hear the way they say it.  The tone suggested they had lost to a Cougar team from 2008-2010.  The loss was in overtime in Pullman, and Wazzu had won 10 games the season before and went on to win 10 games again that season before losing in the Rose Bowl.

Washington St. completes a long pass against USC in October 2002. The Trojans won 46 of their next 47 games after this loss.

Then they acted like the win at Auburn in 2003 was a monumental victory, calling them “one of the best teams in the country”.  The Tigers went 9-4 in 2002 and would finish 8-5 in 2003, infamously resulting in Tommy Tuberville nearly being replaced by Bobby Petrino.

The documentary ignored the Trojans’ last loss before the streak, which was in Berkeley against a similar team.   Winning 34 in a row and 45 of 46 doesn’t really need to be embellished, does it? So why completely ignore the one loss in those 46 games?

Cal’s Tyler Fredrickson kicks the winning field goal in overtime against USC in 2003.

I guess it was to avoid mentioning the three-team race at the end of that year.  No mention was made of the fact that Oklahoma was the unanimous #1 going into the conference championships (which of course the Pac-10 didn’t have) or that the Trojans finished third in the BCS standings behind the eventual winners of the BCS LSU.

I did note that at one point Matt Leinart used the singular when referring to the USC national championship, although the narrator repeatedly talked about how the Trojans were a minute away from winning a third in a row.  USC did beat Michigan at the end of that year, but when the team you’re playing is just playing for a nice bowl win, that’s not the same as actually playing a team who’s also trying to win a national championship.

The famous “Bush push” to win against Notre Dame.

Apart from the last-second controversial win over Notre Dame, the documentary also acted like USC was untouchable in 2005.  A lot of mention was made of how many yards the Trojans (Reggie Bush in particular) put up against Fresno St. in the second-to-last game of the regular season, but somehow the fact that they gave up 42 points and only beat the Bulldogs by 8 wasn’t mentioned at all.  You would have guessed from the information provided that USC won by several touchdowns.

The point being that there were some cracks in the façade.  USC was not seen as unbeatable by any sports fan I remember talking to that year, and I talked to a lot more people about sports back then.  They were in 2004 by some but not in 2005.  It was similar to the difference between the perception of the 2013 Florida St. team and the 2014 edition.  They were still expected to win every game during the regular season, but they weren’t seen as invincible.

I remember going to Louisiana for Christmas in 2005 and people asked me how close USC would make it, implying Texas was going to win and the only question was the margin.  Of course, I insisted USC was in fact a very good team even though I picked Texas myself.

Vince Young scores the winning touchdown against USC, ending the Trojan’s 34-game winning streak and giving Texas its only national championship since 1970.

I know that’s an indication of regional bias, but there were people in other areas who saw USC as vulnerable.  Based on the Notre Dame performance, there were also some Midwesterners (and Notre Dame fans from other regions) who saw the same thing.

Anyway, I had a lot of respect for Pete Carroll even going back to the Patriots and I still do.  I wanted him to lose once USC became a prominent team in 2003, but when I cheered for other teams to beat him I knew they were facing a prepared and formidable opponent.  It just bothers me not to correctly characterize what actually went on, and not just trying to bolster a simplistic cardinal-and-gold-tinted recollection of events.

I’m not even saying this as a USC detractor.  Why not give Carroll some credit for not being a bad coach (though I guess you could say he was mediocre) in the NFL?  Why not give the 2002 team credit for only losing a couple of early games to good teams (the other was to Kansas St., who would finish 11-2) and then finishing strong?  According to Jeff Sagarin, that was the best team in the country that year despite the losses.  I thought they at least had the best second half of the season.

I understand you can always highlight some things and not other things to tell the story a certain way, but don’t pick a game that’s a bad example of what you’re talking about and distort what happened and who the other team was.

One thing I was glad they didn’t do was mention whether Vince Young’s knee was down in the second quarter.  I think the ball was already coming loose from his hands when the knee touched (if we were evaluating a fumble rather than a lateral, I don’t think it would even be very controversial); but even if he were down, he already had a first down on the play.  Texas would have had first and goal at the 10.  The game was decided by who did (or didn’t do) what in the fourth quarter, not by that call.

I just think getting it right is more important than telling a dramatized story, which was compelling enough on its own in reality.

SEC Wednesday #4 and LSU Midweek

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Preview, Rivalry, SEC Wednesdays on October 21, 2015 at 7:03 PM

Last Week

Some weeks, I feel like I should have just flipped a coin for all the games. This was one of them.  Previous weeks convinced me not to pick Auburn, Mississippi St., or South Carolina against the spread.  All three have been huge disappointments against the spread on multiple occasions, so I finally got the tipping point where I didn’t want to pick them anymore.  So of course they all decided to play well.  If I had known nothing about what happened earlier this season, I might have picked all three.

Texas A&M, on the other hand, convinced me to pick them and the points over Alabama.  I thought they would at least be in the game in the fourth quarter at home.  Maybe Alabama is just going to have a new tradition of losing to Ole Miss and then stomping everyone else, although I’m not quite sure why the Tide didn’t win by more against AR-Kansas if that is the case.

SEC WED

Speaking of Ole Miss, unlike last year, it’s like the season ended for them immediately after the Alabama game.  It’s like they didn’t even show up against Florida, and then I guess they thought since it was Memphis, it didn’t matter that it was a road game against a bunch of players who get less respect than Rodney Dangerfield did and wanted to take it out on an SEC opponent.  I thought the Rebels would just barely beat the line, but they were about four touchdowns away from doing so.

LSU-Florida and Georgia-Missouri were the two bright spots that went exactly as I anticipated.  Wins by the favorites but within the spread.  I mentioned that I was wrong about five of them against the spread.

I did pick Mississippi St. and Alabama to win, so at least both of those happened.  This at least gave me a winning record (4-3) for the week in picking the winners.

My overall records fall to 22-9 “straight up” and 13-16 against the spread.

Upcoming Week

I will discuss LSU at the end because I don’t want to bury my coverage of other teams.

Arkansas is favored by six at home against Auburn even though their only home win is over UTEP.  I’ll pick the Hogs to win since as mentioned they did all right with Alabama and are coming off a bye week.  However, I’ll hope it’s a small margin since I’ll take Auburn and the points.  The plains Tigers won at Kentucky by three, so losing at Arkansas by a slim margin seems fairly consistent with that.

As mentioned earlier, Alabama didn’t win by that much against Arkansas at home (13 points).  So I’ll take Tennessee and the 15.5 even though the game will be in Tuscaloosa.  Arkansas did beat Tennessee, but I think that will be viewed as an upset at the end of the year. This is still enough of a rivalry that it may be close.  Alabama to win.

Vanderbilt lost to South Carolina by nine last week, and Missouri lost to Georgia by three.  I’m thinking Missouri can win by more than 2.5 even though the game is in Nashville.  It may be another baseball score though. (Earlier in the year, Mizzou beat Connecticut by the same score it just lost to Georgia, 9-6.)

I have absolutely no idea which Rebel and Aggie teams will show up in Oxford. I’ll do the same thing I did with Arkansas-Auburn and pick the favorite (Ole Miss) to win by fewer than 6 points.

Kentucky narrowly beat such luminaries as ULL and Eastern Kentucky.  The four-point win over South Carolina has lost a bit of its lustre too.  However, the Wildcats kept the Gators close and beat Missouri by 8.  What convinced me to take them in the points is the fact that I think Mississippi St. is a good enough team that Kentucky will step up its play enough to make it close.  I have no reason to believe Kentucky is worse than last year, and Mississippi St. is a fair bit away from how good they were last year. The Bulldogs only won by 14 last year, so I’ll take Kentucky and the 11.5 with State to win.

LSU Midweek Comments and Projection

Inspired by Les Miles, I’m going to take a huge gamble and pick LSU to actually beat the spread of 17 this week. Western Kentucky seemed a bit distracted by the crowd in NASHVILLE. Even a substandard crowd in Baton Rouge would probably be intimidated by comparison.  I don’t know if it will be though.  It will be at night, the weather should be in the 70s, and LSU does not return home until November 14 against Arkansas, one of only two remaining home games after this one.

The Hilltoppers have the ability to hang in there if LSU does stupid things like fumble a punt in the first few minutes and allow a kick-return TD, both of which the Tigers did against Florida.  However, I don’t think the talent and preparation for the environment will the the same, so even if there are some LSU mistakes, WKU may not take advantage as well.

If LSU managed to run away with it on Will Muschamp’s Auburn defense (which isn’t good statistically but still held Mississippi St. to 17, for instance), I can see the same thing playing out against Western Kentucky’s defense, which gave up 38 to both Indiana and Louisiana Tech.  Last week, WKU gave up 28 points to North Texas, one of the worst FBS teams.  The Mean Green scored 14 in the first half, so they weren’t all window dressing after the game was decided either.  That was UNT’s highest point total for the season and came just a week after a 66-7 loss to Portland St.

Trent Domingue himself actually brought this picture with the unhappy mascots to my attention when he mentioned it in an interview.

Anyway, while I’m talking about LSU I wanted to mention a couple of things about the Florida series I forgot about previously.  This is only the second time LSU has won three home games in a row against the Gators.  The previous time was three games spread out over 18 seasons ending in 1957.  This was also the third time and first since 1982 that LSU has won five times in six contests against the Gators.

Also, since 2007, LSU is 12 for 16 on fourth downs against the Gators with at least four successful fakes, three of them fake field goals.  LSU has converted its last six fourth-down-conversion attempts against Florida.

Also significant to me was the fact Florida no longer leads the series in Baton Rouge.  Tennessee (which never played LSU very often) and Alabama are the only two SEC programs with more wins than losses in Baton Rouge.

Previous entries

Week 4 Preview (predictions only)

SEC Wednesdays #1

SEC Wednesdays #2

SEC Wednesdays #3

Week 7 Rankings with LSU Comments

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 18, 2015 at 4:09 PM

Blog updates/LSU

I decided to delay my response to “30 for 30: Trojan Horse” until the end of the week, because I won’t have much to talk about then.

There isn’t enough with Western Kentucky worth talking about for a full blog. The Hilltoppers played close games at Vanderbilt (which they won) and at Indiana (the only team to beat them).  LSU’s secondary may be stretched again as WKU has a good passing game with two wide receivers who have at least 25 receptions AND average over 18 yards per reception as well as a number of other targets.  The rushing game has been spotty, but it has improved in the last couple of weeks with the introduction of Anthony Wales, who gained over 300 yards combined in the two games.

On the other hand, the defense should allow LSU to keep up the offensive output from yesterday.  Although there were a few games with low scores by opponents, Louisiana Tech and Indiana each scored 38 against the Hilltoppers last month.  In the last two games, Middle Tennessee and North Texas each scored 28.

I updated my two LSU-Florida blogs, the one I did last week that focuses on the last 15 years and the full rivalry blog that covers the entirety of the series.  Apart from “SEC Wednesday”, that’s all I have specifically about LSU this week unless something unusual happens.

Trent Dominque (who just recently earned a scholarship) became the second LSU kicker in five years with one of the key plays in an LSU-Florida game. In Dominque's case, he scored the winning touchdown himself.

Trent Dominque (who just recently earned a scholarship) became the second LSU kicker in five years with one of the key running plays in an LSU-Florida game. In Dominque’s case, he scored the winning touchdown himself.

Rankings

Before I get to the top 25 list, here is the 100% objective full list of 128 teams.

I guess there is one more thing.  I have moved my Tigers to #1.  Florida exposed some weaknesses and LSU was in some ways fortunate to win; but that’s true of anyone who has played another ranked team this season, except that a number of them had more trouble with lesser teams.

Baylor hasn’t played any close games, so they’re the popular pick right now, but give me a break.  Their best win is over Texas Tech, who is well into the “others receiving votes” category in both polls.  The Red Raiders’ best win is over Arkansas, who has also lost to undefeated Toledo and a couple of otherwise-defeated SEC opponents.  So if beating the team that beat Arkansas makes an undefeated team #2, why doesn’t beating Arkansas directly make Toledo #1?

I’m not saying it’s impossible that Baylor easily beats everyone all the way until mid-January, but I just don’t think they’ve proven much yet.  If they’re undefeated after playing Oklahoma, @TCU, and @Oklahoma St. within 13 days in November, then I think it’s a very different conversation.

I mentioned last week that it was possible that I would follow the computer ratings top 25 exactly, but I’ve made only two switches.  I switched LSU with Utah for #1, and I switched Florida St. with Memphis for #10.  I just think #10 is too big of a jump at this point.  Memphis has a couple of weeks coming up where they will earn only a few points (assuming wins), so it is likely that they will not stay in the top 10 anyway.  However, this is the last adjustment apart from the top spot that I will make.

Starting after the games of the first week of November, I will also not alter the #1 spot.  It’s possible that LSU will be #1 in the computer next week; but even if they do, I would expect them to fall after the bye week at the end of October. At that time, LSU will have only had 7 weeks of play and would likely be competing with other undefeated teams who will have had 8 or 9 weeks of play.  The Tigers are of course slightly disadvantaged by having had to cancel the opener against McNeese St.

Anyway, I don’t like to have a carousel of #1 teams, that’s why I held onto Ohio St. this long.  I just think it’s time to limit myself to the top few teams based on my objective standards.  Moving Ohio St. from #5 in the computer to #1 here would go too far, in my opinion.  The way the Buckeyes played in earlier games didn’t help their cause too much either.

The scary thing is Utah could be an even more convincing computer #1 at this point.  Michigan could have held onto the win yesterday, and Oregon could be better than 4-3. Still, I consider the Utes a little suspect being that they will not play Stanford, who is (at this point) apparently the best team of the North, the better of the two Pac-12 divisions.

Utah's Devontae Booker breaks free from the ASU defense yesterday.

Utah’s Devontae Booker breaks free from the ASU defense yesterday.

Of course, LSU just beat Florida, who is apparently the best team of the SEC East, the weaker of the two SEC divisions.  That being said, if Utah or Iowa or whoever is #1 in a few weeks, they will also be #1 here.  Last year at this time, Ole Miss was #1 in the computers; and I was glad I waited before making them #1 here.

Alabama jumped 11 spots with the win @Texas A&M.  It wasn’t just the strength of the win.  There were very low-point weeks by some teams in between such as Toledo (beat 1-win EMU), UC-Berkeley (bye), Temple (beat winless Central Florida).  Michigan of course fell with the last-second loss to Michigan St.

Some other teams moved up with less impressive victories than Alabama’s. Notre Dame moved up five spots after beating USC, and Baylor moved up five spots after beating West Virginia.

Stanford went up just a few spots with the win over UCLA, and BYU and Pittsburgh joined the top 25 after wins over Cincinnati and Georgia Tech, respectively.  Both new teams were helped by losses by Penn St., Ole Miss, UCLA, and Kentucky.

Rank Team Previous
1 LSU 2
2 Utah 4
3 Mich. St. 10
4 Iowa 6
5 Ohio St. 1
6 Florida 3
7 TCU 5
8 Alabama 19
9 Clemson 13
10 Florida St. 14
11 Memphis

Memphis

12 Okie St. 9
13 Notre Dame 18
14 Temple 11
15 Baylor 20
16 Toledo 17
17 UC-Berkeley 15
18 TX A&M 7
19 Stanford 22
20 Michigan 8
21 BYU
22 N’western 12
23 Oklahoma 23
24 Houston 21
25 Pittsburgh

pittsburgh_panthers-primary-1980

Out of rankings (with last week’s rank):

16 Penn St.
24 UCLA
25 Ole Miss

Here are the previous rankings blogs:

Preseason

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Spurrier and LSU-Florida Revisited

In College Football, General LSU, History, Rivalry on October 16, 2015 at 3:39 PM

I don’t want to go too much into ancient history in this blog because my rivalry blog has all that stuff, but I have to say a couple of things about Spurrier in addition to my comments Wednesday.  His last game on Saturday was 25 years and four days after his first game against LSU with the Gators.

{Late edit: I wanted to add this about the South Carolina game and relief efforts.  Worth the read.}

Not only did LSU fail to beat Spurrier’s Gators except for the 1997 upset in Tiger Stadium, but that was one of only three games where the Tigers came within two touchdowns of the Gators in Spurrier’s tenure.  Before Spurrier took the helm in 1990, LSU had a 19-15 lead in the series.

So in large part thanks to Spurrier, Florida still has a lead in the series of four games, 31 to 27 with 3 ties.  Spurrier had zero success against LSU with the South Carolina Gamecocks, however.

I mentioned that game in 1990 was also in October. I like that this game has occupied a fairly consistent spot every year.  With only one exception, the game has been played in the first three playing weeks of October since 1973.  In fact, there have only been four times in the entire history of the series when the game was played in a month other than October.

With that out of the way, I’ll turn my attention exclusively to things that have happened this century.

The recap of the games and seasons below is also part of my rivalry blog, but that was more of a big-picture focus than some of the game stories below.  I’ll probably re-organize this at some point, but an exception was last year, where the full game story is part of the rivalry blog and not reproduced in any way below.

2001 to 2006 

Of course there have been a lot of years where the winner of the LSU-Florida game went on to win the SEC, and there were also of course a few years where the winner won the national title.  Given where the game takes place on the calendar, there can still be time for the loser to rebound.  This occurred in both 2001 and 2003.  LSU lost both games, both at home, and won the SEC in both years.  In 2003, the Tigers also won the BCS championship.

LSU won in the Swamp in 2002, having worked out its frustrations with a 36-7 win over Ron Zook’s first team.  Both teams finished 8-5 that year.

2004 was a similar year, and LSU won in a close game (I actually watched it about a year ago on ESPN Classic).  JaMarcus Russell (who also started in 2005 and 2006) struggled in his first start with the Tigers, but he was successfully relieved by the veteran Marcus Randall.  Also, the defense stepped up and held the Gators scoreless for the entire second half.  Apart from the first four minutes or so, LSU did not lead or tie until 27 seconds remained in the game.  Randall managed the game well, but RB Joseph Addai accounted for 44 yards of total offense on the 50-yard winning drive.

In 2005 (the first season for both Les Miles and Urban Meyer), LSU got only its second win at home against Florida since 1987, but it was another good game, 21-17. LSU had stormed out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, then Florida took the lead in the third quarter before the Tigers scored the winning touchdown early in the fourth. Neither team was able to generate any offense to speak of after that point. This frustration caused Urban Meyer to cry after the game.  LSU went on to win the division with a 9-game winning streak but lost the SEC championship game to Georgia.

Not 100% sure this is the right game, but Meyer was occasionally upset in his tenure at Florida despite a lot of wins.

Not 100% sure this is the right game, but Meyer was occasionally upset in his tenure at Florida despite a lot of wins.

LSU would have an 11-win year that culminated with winning the Sugar Bowl in 2006, but it wasn’t quite as good as Florida’s 13-1 BCS championship season.  So according to plan, the Gators won without too much drama in the Swamp that season, 23-10.

The only player to score a touchdown for LSU in the 2006 game was a man named Jacob Hester, who averaged nearly five yards per carry.  Miles and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton must have realized that former OC Jimbo Fisher may have been in error not handing it to him more often in that game, because Florida sure was sick of him after the 2007 game.

2007

Feel free to skip to the bottom of this section or the next heading, but I have not told the full story of this game on this site, and what better time than with undefeated LSU against undefeated Florida at night in Tiger Stadium coming up tomorrow?

Miles actually mentioned the 2007 game in his Wednesday press conference, and for me that’s the iconic game of Miles’ tenure so far.

LSU and USC were the consensus #1 and #2 teams in the early part of that season.  The Tigers had not even had a competitive second half yet and went into the game 5-0.  Florida had just suffered its first loss the week before in a close game against Auburn, so they went into the game looking to redeem themselves.

Except for the first four minutes of the game, Florida had led for the entire night, going back up by 10 (the Gators had also led by 10 at halftime) with five minutes left in the third quarter.

After one drive that ended in a punt and another that ended in a missed field goal, it just was not looking like LSU’s night.  Then something started happening.  Some say Tiger Stadium is haunted, and the ghosts only come out at night.

Tim Tebow, who went after the fans after someone had gotten a hold of his cell phone number and disseminated it on campus, had a chance to put the game away.  The ghosts especially don’t like opposing QBs who attack the fans (as Bo Wallace would also find out in 2014).  For some reason, on second and 6, Tebow took a chance and threw an interception.

It was right about this time that an announcement came over the PA system. FINAL SCORE: STANFORD 24, USC 23.  This was one of the biggest upsets for several years.  Mighty USC—who had won an AP title in 2003, nearly accomplished BCS titles in the next two seasons, and then followed with an 11-2 season in 2006—lost to Stanford, who had only won a total of three games from October 2005 to that night nearly two years later.

The crowd went nuts.  It didn’t hurt that a few years before LSU had been forced to share its first national major title in 47 years with USC.  Miles recalled wondering why the crowd was so excited when LSU was still behind in the game.

Later in the ensuing LSU possession, the Tigers faced a fourth down, seemingly a good time to take the three easy points.  Not so fast.  LSU had missed a field goal, as I mentioned, even though this one would have been shorter.  Both of the Tigers’ previous touchdowns had been enabled by going for it on fourth down.  The first was a fairly routine goal-line situation, but the Tigers’ third-quarter touchdown drive to stay in the game was kept alive by a fourth-and-5 scramble.  Whatever it was, something told Les Miles to go for it again on fourth and 3.

QB Matt Flynn had started only 10 for 21 with an interception, but I guess something said that the Tigers needed to throw it on that play.

The Florida offense had apparently been thrown off course by the interception and sputtered on its next possession.  After a punt, LSU took over with 9:20 left on the clock.

Due to a penalty, LSU faced a 2nd and 18.  The smaller, quicker back Trindon Holliday only managed two yards to set up a third and very long.  Maybe LSU would have to try for the winning drive in the next possession…

On the third and long, Flynn was stopped about a yard short of the first down after a desperate scramble when no one was open.  Maybe Florida needed a more bruising back to get the first down on yet another fourth down.  Jacob Hester provided it.  LSU still trailed by three near midfield though.

Three plays later (including a first-down pass), Hester rushed for another 19 yards, then he picked up 4 yards.  Then Ryan Perrilloux, the backup running quarterback, ran for another 5 yards.  Hester was surprisingly stopped for no gain on third down.  Once again, Miles had the chance to take the field goal and a tie game.  Once again, he refused and instead called a handoff to Hester on fourth down, which once again succeeded.

Three plays later, Hester had apparently lost his patience for fourth downs and ran for a touchdown on third down.

Jacob Hester extends the ball for the winning touchdown in 2007.

Jacob Hester extends the ball for the winning touchdown in 2007.

Not only did LSU have its only lead of the game; but the 15-play, 60-yard drive had chewed up all but 69 seconds of the clock.  Florida would get a couple of first downs, but Tim Tebow was sacked on the second-to-last play and threw an incomplete pass on the last play.

Although the Tigers converted fewer than half of the third downs they had faced, LSU went 5/5 on fourth downs for the game.  LSU had converted almost as many fourth downs as Florida had converted third downs (6).  That includes a third-down scramble by Tebow on the final drive.

Despite a few other crazy games, two of which ended in losses, LSU would end the season as BCS Champions after defeating Ohio St.  This time, the AP went along with it.  Florida finished only 9-4 but would win the BCS the following season.

2008 and 2009

I’ve already given you a hint about what happened in 2008.  It wasn’t even close, as Florida won 51-21.  This was basically a throwback to the Spurrier era.  LSU struggled that season in part because the aforementioned Ryan Perrilloux had been the heir apparent at quarterback, and LSU’s pocket passer Jarrett Lee had a terrible habit that year of throwing touchdowns to the wrong team.  Later that year, he was relieved by Jordan Jefferson, a more mobile quarterback who better suited LSU’s playbook and didn’t turn the ball over so much.

LSU improved a bit the next season, but Florida would not lose again until the SEC championship in 2009.  LSU hung in there but couldn’t generate much offense in the 13-3 loss.  This was one of only four home losses for LSU from the beginning of the 2009 season to today.

2010

In 2010, LSU was a good bit better, while Florida was in rebuilding mode again.  After LSU’s opening field goal, the teams traded touchdowns and leads to go along with them.  LSU finally extended its lead to 6 at the end of the half.  The third quarter was scoreless, but LSU went up 26-14 after a failed conversion attempt early in the fourth quarter.

Florida then ran back the ensuing kickoff to get within 5.  After the teams traded punts a few times, new QB Jeff Brantley led Florida on a 10-play, 80-yard drive to give the Gators the lead with only 3:21 left in the game.

LSU basically had to put in Lee at quarterback because Jefferson was not a reliable enough passer for the two-minute drill.  LSU only needed a field goal, so Tiger fans held their breaths and hoped Lee didn’t do anything crazy.

LSU faced a third-and-1 just outside of normal field-goal range and RB Stevan Ridley was absolutely stuffed for a loss of two.

LSU lined up for a field goal, but Florida should have known how Les felt about tying field goals, especially from 50+ yards away.  Anyway, the holder flipped the ball over his shoulder to kicker Josh Jasper, who ran an end-around and got what appeared to be a first down.  The play didn’t quite go according to plan, however, as the ball hit the ground and bounced up to Jasper instead of his being able to catch it in the air.

K Josh Jasper runs for a first down in the final minute in 2010.

K Josh Jasper runs for a first down in the final minute in 2010.

After an extensive review and after Urban Meyer threw a fit on the sidelines, repeatedly signaling first down for Florida, the play stood as a lateral.  I have some suspicions that stress induced by Les Miles alone played a major role in Meyer’s departure from Gainesville (though I suppose Nick Saban helped too), but that’s getting off-topic.

Also, according to Miles, the play should have resulted in a touchdown without the bounce (as a similar play did against South Carolina in 2007); but instead the Tigers still had 31 yards to go with about 30 seconds left.

Lee handled it surprisingly well.  On first down, Terrence Toliver (I looked him up, and he’s now a starting WR for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats) found a seem up the middle and Lee connected to set up first and goal.  After an incompletion, the ball again went to Toliver on a fade route to the left side for the winning touchdown with just six seconds left. LSU won, 33-29.

Comments after 2012 and 2013 games (see here for full blog): In the last 11 years, LSU leads 6-5, with half of the wins coming in Gainesville (2002, 2004, and 2010). Since LSU lost in 2001, this means that in the last 12 years, LSU has gone 6-6, with three home wins and three road wins, and obviously Florida has done the same. The two teams often knock each other out of the SEC championship game, and although a rematch has been often discussed as a possibility, it has never happened. However, as mentioned below, in both 2001 and 2003, LSU lost to Florida before winning SEC championship games over Tennessee and Georgia, respectively.

I thought of this later even though it was unrelated to the 2012 game in Gainesville. LSU has won 22 consecutive home games (as of 10/14/12), the longest in school history, since losing to Florida in 2009. LSU’s win over Florida in 2005 (which was payback for the 2003 loss) began a 19-game home winning streak. So the two Florida wins at LSU from 2003 to present are two of only seven wins at LSU by opposing teams in that time. Three of those LSU losses were in 2008, when Florida beat LSU in the Swamp.

2012 and 2013 were consecutive games where the overall point total was below 24 points. This also took place in 2009, Florida’s last win at LSU (and the last win of anyone apart from the 2012 Alabama team at LSU), when the Gators won, 13-3.

There were 16 games before 1974 where the two teams combined for fewer than 35 points, which isn’t too remarkable as passing was fairly rare before that time, but the frequency of such games hasn’t decreased as much as is typical in other series. It happened three games in a row from 1979 to 1981. Then Florida won 20-0 in 1985, 19-6 in 1988, 16-13 in 1989, and 16-0 in 1991. Meanwhile, LSU won 13-10 in 1987.

The Spurrier era at Florida put the brakes on all that defense, but there was an exception in 1998, when Florida only won 22-10. The best win of the Ron Zook era was the 19-7 win at LSU in 2003. That LSU team would win the BCS Championship. Then in 2006 (a championship year for the Gators), Florida won 23-10.

Even though many of the particularly bad losses were in the 1990s. something else I noticed was that only 5 times in the 14 years from 2000 to 2013 did LSU lose by more than 21. Three of those were to Florida (2000, 2001, and 2008).

(This was originally on the main rivalry blog I linked to earlier:)

2014 Summary and Comparisons

2014 was a more exciting game.  It reminded me of a couple of previous LSU wins.

LSU’s previous win at Florida, in 2010, was very similar.  If you don’t remember, LSU had the fake field goal where the holder flipped the ball and the kicker (Josh Jasper) picked it up off the bounce and ran for a first down.  This eventually set up LSU’s go-ahead touchdown on a fade in the corner of the end zone, the second lead change in the last 3 1/2 minutes of the game.  In that game, the Tigers struggled with kick returns, giving up an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter that kept LSU in the game.  LSU had taken the lead in the second quarter after falling behind early on.

For posterity, I’ll give a brief synopsis of the 2014 game. I shouldn’t have to explain the similarities.  A guy named Andre Debose (who scored on the kickoff return in 2010) opened scoring with a touchdown on a punt return, helping Florida to an early 17-7 lead.  The Tigers chipped away at the lead and eventually had the lead going into the fourth quarter. LSU didn’t have a fake in this game, but they did opt to go for it on a fourth and goal in the first half.  This lead to a touchdown.

Turning your attention to the fourth quarter, Dubose had another important return which gave Florida the ball at the LSU 9.  This lead to a touchdown and a lead for the Gators.

When LSU took over possession with just over 6 minutes remaining, QB Anthony Jennings had only thrown one pass for over 10 yards, earlier in the fourth quarter.  So it looked like Florida was in good shape when LSU was down by 4 at their own 38 and facing a third and 25.  Someone forgot to guard Jennings’ favorite receiver for these situations, Travin Dural.  He got the first down and another 16 yards for good measure.  That combined with a Florida personal foul helped set up an LSU touchdown (on a fade pass to the back corner of the end zone) to go up 3.

The mutual struggle of the two teams to lose the game wasn’t over though.  Florida’s Jeff Driskel threw a 73-yard pass to give Florida the ball at the two.  After a couple unsuccessful runs and dropped virtually undefended pass by Florida, Will Muschamp opted not to go for it and the Gators kicked the tying field goal.

Not knowing if Florida may take the lead, LSU had called a timeout to keep time on the clock.  That became a double-edged sword when the LSU drive was abruptly ended by an incompletion and sack in consecutive plays.

Then Florida called a timeout.  This gave the Gators good field position (at the Florida 42… the LSU punter finally had the good sense to kick it out of bounds) and a chance for a potential winning field goal.  Jeff Driskel, who had recently looked like a hero of the game and was moving Florida downfield yet again, threw the ball to the wrong team, giving LSU a chance to win.  Surely the LSU kicker who missed an extra point earlier in the day wouldn’t have a career long from 50 to win, right?  This is a Les Miles team, you learn to just shake your head and laugh.

The other game this reminded me of was actually before Les Miles though.  It was in 2004 and was the last time Saban faced the Gators as LSU head coach.  Saban was only 1-3 against Florida going into the game and had one of his worst losses (at least among the games not played against Florida) on the road the previous week.  Even though they had changed starting quarterbacks, LSU also fell behind early, 14-0.  The first score was set up by an interception return deep in LSU territory.

LSU shrunk the Florida lead over time but they still trailed by four with just over 2 minutes remaining and had not done much on offense since the field goal drive that opened the second half.  Another potential field goal had been blocked in the interim, but nothing had come very close to the end zone.

This crazy offensive coordinator named Jimbo Fisher decides to call three running plays in the first four plays of a two-minute drill.  But the man who got the ball in those three plays was Joseph Addai, who ran for a total of 34 yards in those plays.

Then Marcus Randall, the QB who had been benched to start the game, was sacked, bringing up a third down from the Florida 10 with LSU needing a touchdown to take the lead.  After a play action, none of the LSU wide receivers were open; but in rushing the passer, Florida forgot to guard an eligible receiver named Joseph Addai, who had sneaked through the line.  Addai caught the ball at about the 8 and went all the way into the end zone to give LSU its only lead of the game, which it held onto for the remaining 30 seconds.

The 2014 win was the second in three LSU games at Florida and the fourth win in seven games at Florida, the latter run following seven consecutive losses.

Next week, some time before Wednesday, I will also have more to say about the Pete Carroll USC teams, as I had some comments to share in reaction to the “30 for 30” entry “Trojan Horse”.

SEC Wednesday #3

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on October 14, 2015 at 5:51 PM

Sorry for the delay. I’ll mention it briefly below, but I was caught a little bit offguard when I read about the Spurrier resignation/retirement.  Naturally, I wanted to know more details.  As I mentioned, I thought he was on his way out in the near future; but I thought that was a couple of months to a couple of years away.

Steve Spurrier and Les Miles after what turned out to be Spurrier's last game as

Steve Spurrier and Les Miles after what turned out to be Spurrier’s last game as “head ball coach”. Miles now has the second-longest tenure with one school in the SEC (after Georgia’s Mark Richt).

He was basically a childhood villain of mine, but I’ve learned to enjoy him enough that I think I’ll always have a bit of a smile when remembering him. Even the blowouts against LSU in the Florida years were good in a way.  He reminded us we had a way to go.  I may elaborate more later in the week.  For now, you can revisit my two rivalry blogs: South Carolina and Florida.

Last Week

Ole Miss beat the spread of 43.5.  I thought that was pushing it, but I was glad to get one back after LSU came nowhere close to a similar line against lesser competition the previous week.

However, for the second week in a row, I was wrong about LSU.  The Tigers’ fourth-quarter touchdown made the difference against South Carolina.

It looked like the same exact thing would happen in the Troy-Mississippi St. game, but I was saved by a late Trojan field goal to win by just two points.

I felt good about my Georgia pick until about two minutes left in the first half with the Bulldogs up by 21.  Looks like Georgia has another up-and-down season in store for us.

Speaking of inconsistent (at least against the spread [ATS]), I didn’t think Alabama would let Arkansas hang around, but the Tide needed 17 points in the fourth quarter just to win by 13.

After barely getting by East Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee, Florida dominated its last two opponents, so the Gators’ big win gave me my second losing record in three weeks and drops me to .500 ATS overall (11-11).  I picked the wrong favored road team; but at least I picked the Gators to win, so I was 5-1 for the week in that category to bring my overall record to 18-6.

I'm hardly a visual computer artist, but you get the idea.

I’m hardly a visual computer artist, but you get the idea.

This week

Given the above, I was on the fence about LSU winning until I found out that the quarterback and now a defensive back have been suspended.  Apart from their Week 2 opener in Starkville where they seemed to let off the gas a little too early, LSU seems to do enough to win without making it too dramatic regardless of opponent.  So I have to lean toward my Tigers at home at night.  It takes a pretty good team to go there and win.  The Florida we saw last week or the week before might have qualified.

Treon Harris isn’t a pushover though.  I think he gave them a bit of a spark last year at times.  Florida has come a long way since last year in other areas though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Harris did about as well as Jeff Driskel did against the Tigers last year (14/25, 183, 1 TD, 2 INT).  Florida nearly won that game.  I had wondered if one of these Florida/LSU games would be Harris vs. Harris, although neither played in the game in Gainesville last season.

Maybe if I pick LSU not to beat the spread (9.5 in this case) two weeks in a row, I’ll be right once.  This has been frustrating so far.  I picked them not to do it against Auburn or South Carolina and then to do it against Eastern Michigan. The only LSU game I’ve been right about ATS so far was Syracuse.

I’ll return to my regular order of discussing games as they are scheduled.

Auburn is a favored (by 2.5) road team in Lexington. I’ll take Kentucky to win.  People are saying the Tigers will benefit from a few extra days off, but why won’t the Wildcats?

I don’t understand Ole Miss.  They beat Alabama by almost as much as they beat Vanderbilt (6 points instead of 11), but then they’ve won three games by 49 or more.  Memphis hasn’t won its games very comfortably—apart from the game against Kansas, who just seems to be killing time before basketball season—either.  It may be close early, but my guess is Ole Miss by a couple of touchdowns (the line is 10.5).  Don’t bet the farm on it though.

I mentioned Jeff Driskel above.  He’s now at Louisiana Tech.  The Bulldogs of Ruston took Kansas St. to overtime, and Mississippi St. hasn’t been impressive in the past few weeks.  So I’ll take Tech and the points (13.5), with State to win.

Alabama is the favored road team in College Station.  I’ll take the Aggies and four points, but I think Alabama finds a way to win.  I don’t think either team will crack 40 like both did in their last contest in College Station two years ago, but I think Alabama wins by about one possession like they did in that game.  I just think there is a slightly better than even chance that one possession will be four points or fewer.

I have a feeling Vanderbilt will want it more against South Carolina. The Gamecocks played respectably in LSU’s stadium (although it didn’t quite measure up to a typical LSU home game, and they still failed to beat the spread), but I don’t know if we will see a rejuvenated team so soon after the abrupt departure of Spurrier.

The Commodores haven’t really had a bad final score yet, although Georgia did pull away late to win by 17 in Nashville. The Bulldogs have gone downhill since then, and Vanderbilt has gone on to play a good game at Ole Miss, followed by a win over Middle Tennessee on the road.  South Carolina is more talented than Middle Tennessee, but I wonder what (or whom) they’re even playing for at this point.  ESPN gives two different lines depending on where you look.  I’ll take Vandy to win but the +4 just in case.

Finally, Georgia is picked to beat Missouri by 18 between the hedges.  I know Mizzou didn’t do well against Florida (unless Ole Miss is really good after all), but 18 points seems excessive.  Remember, Georgia didn’t even beat Vandy by that much.  Also, in their last home game, Georgia was favored against Alabama but lost by 28.  The Tigers and the points but the Bulldogs to win.

Previous entries

Week 4 Preview (predictions only)

SEC Wednesdays #1

SEC Wednesdays #2

By the way, I was notified that I have now been with WordPress for five years.  Time moves so quickly sometimes it’s scary.

Week 6 Rankings and Commentary

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Preview, Rankings, Rankings Commentary, Rivalry on October 11, 2015 at 1:55 PM

First off, I wanted to draw attention to my Rivalry Series editions.  I updated the one for Steve Spurrier/South Carolina (I anticipate Saturday’s game was the Visor’s last against the Tigers; I couldn’t stand him in the 1990s, but I will wish him well if that is the case).  Also, obviously Spurrier had a huge impact upon the LSU/Florida rivalry, which will be renewed Saturday night in Death Valley between two undefeated teams.  That information is enough to spark interest in this year’s game, but I think it’s worth reflecting upon some of the other huge games between the two in the last 10 years especially.

Speaking of Florida, I can almost guarantee that if Florida wins this weekend, they will be #1 both in this list and in the computer listing.  However, for now I am keeping Ohio St. #1 and LSU #2.  LSU is 8th in the computer list, but if you divide score by playing week the Tigers rise to 4th.  So LSU is in position with a win to prove they belong at their current spot or better.  If they lose, they’d fall to where the computer puts them, as would Florida.

Florida, Mississippi St., and Alabama are the only visiting programs to win in this stadium since 2008.  The Gators will try to do it again Saturday night.

Florida, Mississippi St., and Alabama (twice) are the only visiting programs to win in this stadium since 2008. The Gators will try to do it again Saturday night.

If Ohio St. comes out first in the computer, they will stay #1.  I haven’t been impressed by the Buckeyes, but I said last week we would not have enough information for a new #1 until next week.  I’ll also say that if TCU comes out first in the computer (not likely), they will become the new #1.  If it’s anyone else, I will consider what the margin is in front of the other teams and upcoming games before I make a decision.

I made a mistake with Michigan St. by putting them near the top the last couple of weeks.  Somehow I gave them credit for beating a much better team than Oregon.  This discrepancy didn’t show up until Oregon lost again and I realized the Spartans were getting way too much credit for their wins so far.

However, since they are undefeated and they do have a game against a top 10 team on Saturday, I didn’t want to drop them too far.  I thought they were still a better top 10 team for now than Temple is.  The Owls play winless Central Florida this weekend (winless means you don’t get points for beating them for the time being), so they may fall out of the top 10 anyway.

The only other change I made from the computer was to leave Ole Miss in the top 25 (they had lost several spots for beating NMSU, which is basically the same as a bye week until the Aggies beat someone) and to leave Memphis out of the top 25.  If I put the wrong team in, that will be proven on the field when Memphis hosts Ole Miss on Saturday.

Other than the possible change to the #1 team I mentioned, my plan for next week is just to rely on the computers.

Everything in the computers has proceeded pretty much as expected.  Utah, TCU, and Iowa got good but not great wins to varying degrees.  This allowed them to pass up Texas A&M, who was idle.  The Aggies are still in the top four when looking at average week though, and of course they can make up some ground by beating Alabama.

Michigan got the big win over previously unbeaten Northwestern, so they were the biggest mover in the top 25 other than Oklahoma, who lost to then-1-4 Texas.  Northwestern fell seven spots for its loss, which I think is reasonable.

Clemson and Florida St. seem to be proceeding nicely to a potential undefeated match-up in November, although the Tigers do have a trip to Miami before that.

I double-checked to make sure Cal lost points for the Utah game but not that many, and the Bears benefitted from a couple of teams slipping downward.

The only other movers worth mentioning were across the Bay, where Stanford was idle and fell two spots, and in South Bend, where Notre Dame improved six spots with the win over previously unbeaten Navy.  Also, Georgia of course fell out of the top 25 after blowing a 21-point lead in Knoxville.

Rank Team Previous
1 Ohio St. 1
2 LSU 2
3 Florida 4
4 Utah 7
5 TCU 9
6 Iowa 10
7 TX A&M 6
8 Michigan 16
9 Okie St. 12
10 Mich. St. 3
11 Temple 11
12 N’western 5
13 Clemson 13
14 Florida St. 21
15 UC-Berkeley 15
16 Penn St.

pennstate

17 Toledo 14
18 Notre Dame 24
19 Alabama 18
20 Baylor 19
21 Houston 20
22 Stanford 17
23 Oklahoma 8
24 UCLA 23
25 Ole Miss 22

Out of rankings (with last week’s rank):

25 Georgia

Conference Report #3: Midseason

In College Football, Conference Reports on October 9, 2015 at 4:12 PM

Previous Conference Report

I know it’s not really the middle of the season yet, but the majority of inter-conference games have been played, and this will be the only conference report before the end of November.

Once again, the SEC doesn’t win the time period, but one first place and two second places is much better than any other conference.

The Pac-12 comes out first over Weeks 3 to 5 because it hasn’t lost an inter-conference game since Week 2.

Texas A&M ran away from Arizona St. late in the only game between the SEC and Pac-12 this season.

Texas A&M ran away from Arizona St. late in the only game between the SEC and Pac-12 this season.

Arkansas’ loss to Texas Tech was the only loss for the SEC, so that’s good enough for #2.

The Big Ten is third as it was the only other conference to finish with a winning record against the P5 (again, that’s Notre Dame or any member of the ACC, Big XII, Big Ten, Pac-12, or SEC) over the time period.   The BIG also won 84% of its games against other FBS teams in that time.

The Big XII, the best conference of Week 2, achieved a .500 mark against the P5 and won 7 of 10 overall, good enough for fourth.

The records for the AAC and ACC were very similar so I made a list of wins and losses to compare.  The ACC had slightly better wins, but that wasn’t decisive.

The losses were what convinced me the ACC deserves to be higher.  Every team an ACC team lost to over the period has a winning record.  The only ones that were sort of mediocre were East Carolina, Indiana (although the Hoosiers are 4-1 at the moment), and Cincinnati.  The AAC lost to Furman, James Madison, Maryland, and South Carolina, among others.

So finally the P5 actually constitutes the top five conferences in this list.

The ACC went up a spot with Clemson's win over Notre Dame.

The ACC went up a spot with help from Clemson’s win over Notre Dame.

The MAC was 2-9 against the P5 and 6-16 overall, but only one other lower conference even recorded a single win over the P5 (that was the MWC, who went only 1-12 against the P5).  Only the CUSA had more wins over the five other conferences, but the CUSA went 0-9 against the P5.

I looked more into the MWC wins versus the CUSA ones, and the CUSA ones were a joke.  It only beat one team with multiple wins, which was 2-3 Kent St.  One of the Golden Flashes’ wins was over Delaware St. and the other was over Miami U., another of the teams the CUSA beat during the period.

The MWC didn’t have a great list either, but it did beat Virginia and it won the only contest between the MWC and CUSA when beat Colorado St. beat UTSA on the road.

Even though the CUSA beat hardly anyone, it still did better than the Sun Belt, which beat three teams with a total record of 4-11.  Those three teams (San Diego St., Old Dominion, and Wyoming) have gone a combined 2-1 against the FCS.

For the overall records, the Pac-12, Big XII, and Big Ten were close.  But I think looking at the teams they beat and lost to sorted it out pretty easily.  The Pac-12 has no bad losses apart from Washington St.’s loss to Portland St. in Week 1.  Hawaii (which beat Colorado) is the only other loss to a team not currently ranked.  The wins aren’t astounding for either conference (Wake Forest, Kansas, Iowa St., and Oregon St. make up 4 of the Big Ten’s nine P5 victories), but the Pac-12 only has half as many losses as the Big Ten does and almost 2/3 the number of wins against FBS opponents.

The Big XII, on the other hand, comes out behind the Big Ten.  Although it has the same P5 record as the Pac-12, the Big XII has five fewer wins over the FBS overall and has questionable losses such as Rutgers, UC-Berkeley, and South Dakota St.  I know UC-Berkeley is currently ranked, but they haven’t really played a tough opponent yet, with the possible exception of Washington.  Also, it’s not like the Bears beat Iowa St. or Kansas, they beat Texas.  I know the Longhorns aren’t what they were five or six years ago, but they did make a bowl game last year.

The rest of the overall rankings proceed pretty logically from combining the Week 1 and 2 standings with those for the period since then.  The AAC and ACC were extremely close going in, so the ACC winning the period gives it an edge overall.  Those FCS losses made it somewhat easier.

Same thing with MWC and CUSA, but the MWC started off badly enough that this decision deserved a closer look.  The MWC has actually done pretty well after Week 1.  The wins are pretty similar (although I’d argue Washington and Virginia are better than Purdue and Vanderbilt), but I think you can tell more from the losses, since I’m comparing conferences with clearly losing records.

Thirteen of the MWC’s 19 P5 losses have come to the Pac-12 or SEC, and the other six were against the Big Ten.  There are some teams in there that aren’t too good like Colorado, Oregon St., and Washington St., to be fair.  Only five of the CUSA’s 18 P5 losses came against the SEC or Pac-12, and two of those were against Arkansas and Vanderbilt.

The new chart is below.

sec football

Rank Weeks 1&2 Since Total
1 SEC Pac-12 SEC
2 Big XII SEC Pac-12
3 Big Ten Big Ten Big Ten
4 Pac-12 Big XII Big XII
5 AAC ACC ACC
6 ACC AAC AAC
7 MAC MAC MAC
8 CUSA MWC MWC
9 MWC CUSA CUSA
10 Sun Belt Sun Belt Sun Belt