theknightswhosay

Posts Tagged ‘1961’

Eye of the Tiger: looking into LSU’s chances

In General LSU on October 27, 2010 at 11:17 PM

Bye weeks are useful times for teams of course, but they’re also useful times for fans. For me, I had to try to come up with reasons to still care, since, let’s face it, the deck is stacked against LSU right now. We went into the Alabama game last year with the chance to take the lead in the West. Now, even if Auburn loses to Ole Miss this week and LSU beats Alabama the next week, LSU doesn’t control its own destiny.

I never thought that I would actually have more peace of mind right now had Alabama beaten South Carolina, but I sort of wish they had.

Not only would the possibility of beating an undefeated (and likely still #1) Alabama team allow for LSU to make a speedy rebound in the polls and the computers, it would make a three-way tie atop the West more likely. LSU would simply have to beat Alabama, who would then have to beat Auburn, with the three teams winning the other remaining games. I think the only way to resolve this scenario would be to go to the BCS standings, and since in that case, LSU would have the most remote loss, they would probably be higher at that point in the polls. Also, LSU has a better non-conference schedule according to most computers.

But as it stands, basically for LSU to win the West, Auburn has to lose to Alabama AND to another SEC team (the only possibilities are Ole Miss and Georgia, two rather disappointing teams). Of course Houston Nutt loves to play the spoiler role (and also seems to always have teams who play up to and down to their opponents), and Georgia-Auburn is a good rivalry, but I don’t think either is particularly likely.

But consider another scenario. If LSU goes undefeated the rest of the way (which of course would include a win over Alabama), and then Alabama beats Auburn, it’s quite possible that LSU would be a more highly rated team.

I know the last time a similar scenario happened was in 2007, when LSU stayed ahead of Georgia, who had the same number of losses but the second loss had come earlier than LSU’s second loss. Georgia also had not played in the championship game. But those were teams in different divisions, for one thing. The East was probably the weaker division, or Tennessee (with three losses, one out of conference, before the championship game) would not have won. Also, LSU had the better out-of-conference schedule in 2007 with the big win over Virginia Tech.

Tennessee won the East with a head-to-head tiebreaker, but no one seemed to doubt that Georgia was the more deserving team. I don’t think that would have been different had Tennessee beaten Cal either. And Tennessee beat Georgia by three touchdowns. Unlike LSU-Auburn, that was not a tie game with just over 5 minutes left.

Maybe Clemson (an Auburn opponent this year) finishes strong, but I’m still guessing WVU and North Carolina will look better at the end of the year than Clemson and, well, basically no one (Arkansas St., ULM, and Chattanooga).

Of course there is also the possibility that Auburn loses in the SEC Championship game (against either Florida or South Carolina…rematches can be tough). If LSU beat Alabama and Florida, who beat Auburn in consecutive weeks, LSU looks pretty good coming out of the SEC with one loss.

Also, if we can have our first one-loss season under Les, that’s a huge success to me. As I mentioned in the Auburn wrap-up, 2003 was the only one-loss season that included a bowl win and didn’t include any ties since 1961.

So it is too early to give up, but what about LSU’s chances in this next game?

I have to say that LSU has looked pretty good with extra time to prepare in the Miles/Crowton era.

One notable exception is the bowl game last season, but I don’t think we ever got any degree of swagger back after the Alabama game last year. To be that close to beating what turned out to be the best team in the country and lose out on any real hope of winning the SEC West (I can’t remember if Alabama clinched at that time), I think made it difficult to get up for the other games. We should have beaten Ole Miss, but the players and coaches seemed to just shrug it off. We seemed to be phoning in parts of the Arkansas game too before getting it together at the end. I think the month between that game and the bowl game probably had more extended periods of indifference.

So motivation now on the other hand, I’d think it would be to LSU’s advantage. LSU will be back home after a boring and lackadaisical McNeese St. game and after being on the road the last two conference games against Florida and Auburn. This series has not been the most favorable for the home team, but I think those circumstances will add a little something extra.

I don’t think the bye week favors Alabama as well, and I don’t think the focus is as much on LSU. Alabama wants to win, and they’re going to prepare hard, don’t get me wrong, but this is not the game they want so badly, and it probably never was.

To try to put my feet in the shoes of an Alabama fan…The game they circled was probably Florida, and Auburn always has to be in the top 2 at least. Can’t let Tennessee get away with one, that was a close call last year. Oh yeah, and we better beat those other teams in the West.

LSU had two really close calls against Alabama the last two years, even though Alabama won the West in 2008 and the whole thing in 2009 and LSU didn’t live up to its own standards. Even with the disastrous Jarrett-Lee pick-six mode LSU was in for much of the year in 2008, LSU still took Alabama to overtime.

Despite everything I said about the uphill climb they face, a motivational speech for LSU is not difficult here. Are you going to let this team who barely beat us the last two seasons come into our house and beat us a third year in a row? The last two things our fans have seen is an escape against Tennessee and an altogether unimpressive win over the pride of Lake Charles, and now they’re going to watch us lose to Alabama? Are you going to let that happen? Maybe Nick was right, maybe the place to win championships is Alabama, not LSU. He was the last person to coach this team to a one-loss season, I guess that’s not going to happen again anytime soon.

Maybe there are too many statistics in there. but you get the idea.

I don’t see the angle from Alabama’s perspective. If we win this game and then beat Mississippi St., and then win the Iron Bowl, and then win the SEC, we MIGHT have a chance to get back to where we were last year. Are we going to let two coaches with goofy hats beat us in the same season? Doesn’t exactly get the blood flowing.

Alabama has some great athletes on offense, like Auburn does, but it’s not something revolutionary and creative that we haven’t seen before. It’s also not like the loss to Arkansas in 2007 where we saw bascially the same offense the year before and couldn’t handle it (althouth LSU managed to beat Arkansas in 2006 anyway). LSU’s offense was running better last year, as was Alabama’s defense, but I don’t think LSU is at a relative disadvantage there as compared to last year. Also, like I said, I do think the week off will be a help in the offense department. A fairly big part of the problem, which has been true for years, is that Crowton, LSU’s offensive coordinator, comes up with things that are too complex. Sometimes we can’t even get the personnel on the field, much less execute the play properly. But two weeks is enough time to both come up with a new wrinkle and execute it properly.

On the other side of the ball, Alabama isn’t going to be trying to do that. Playing to their strengths is being more ordinary than they tried to be against South Carolina, for instance, not trying to trick the other side through something fancy. It’s an offense that works when it’s run-first, and it’s not any of this Tim Tebow spread/wildcat stuff. They have a few such things in their playbook, buf if they try to replicate Auburn or Florida (as in Florida in the past couple of years more than this year) all night, that’s going to be a joke. Also, if McElroy tries to air it out all night, I like LSU’s chances there.

LSU can find a way to lose, Alabama can find a way to win, and just maybe Alabama does have the better team, but I think if I were a neutral observer, I would still pick LSU.

I thought about this game when I heard this song. Really gets me pumped up, by the way….

(You’re Going Down by Sick Puppies…It’s not the best song for sensitive viewers/listeners, sorry)

If you don’t want to listen to it, these lyrics in particular:
“I wouldn’t put my money on the other guy
If you know what I know that I know

“It’s been a long time coming
And the tables’ turned around
Cause one of us is goin’
One of us is goin’ down”

Postscript

It’s only been three years since LSU beat Alabama (which they had done in 2007 for the fifth straight year), but it seems like a lot longer. So that’s why “it’s been a long time coming” fit in my mind.

I thought about this blog while I was driving today, so I wanted to get it down, but I don’t have enough time to polish it very well, so apologies if it needs editing. I used to be a copy editor, so I know that can be annoying to some.

Also, as I’ve been doing occasionally, this is going to be the only place this entry will be for at least the first 12 hours. It’s mostly so I can get some sleep, but if it gets people to visit my wordpress blog without my prompting elsewhere more often, so be it.

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LSU-Auburn post mortem

In Post-game on October 23, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Overall impressions

I know from total yards, it doesn’t look like it should have been close, but LSU really should have won this game. That’s not in any way an attack on Auburn, but I just recognize as an LSU fan that the necessary situations were there for my team (I’m avoiding use of the word “Tigers”).

I’m not saying this out of delusional support of LSU. I honestly didn’t think we would win and would feel better if I believed Auburn was just too good to be beaten, but LSU was more than capable and let the opportunities pass them by.

On each of the Fighting Tigers’ first three possessions, they had the ball at the Auburn 40 or better. Only three points came from those three possessions, however.

More of the same took place in the second half. LSU had the ball at the 50 yardline on the second possession, then on the Auburn 38 in the third possession. No points. LSU also had the ball at their own 47 to start out the next possession. Another punt.

If you had told me there would be that kind of ineptness on so many drives, I would have picked Auburn to win by 3 touchdowns (like 24-3), because I would have expected that the other drives didn’t even get that far, when in fact there were two touchdown drives as well.

On the other hand, Auburn took over on their own 10 yardline or in even worse field position 5 times and got 14 points from those drives. That part is understandable (see below where I discuss the defense), but it doesn’t alter my point that holding that team to 24 points (I know they could have had more, but only because of the ill-fated 4th down for LSU) was more than sufficient for the LSU offense to win the game.

LSU on offense

Jordan Jefferson will get blamed for the interception on the first drive, but Newton threw a couple of balls that were just as off-target. The difference was the Auburn receivers made a play on the ball and came up with it. There were a couple of other similar passes by both Jefferson and Lee.

When the ball hits the receiver in the hands—and when, even if the receiver had made no play at all, it would not have been intercepted—I have a problem with blaming the interception on the quarterback. The incompletion perhaps, but it was a very risk-averse throw. The deflection by the receiver is the only thing that resulted in Auburn catching it.

If you exclude Newton from Auburn, LSU has better pure athletes on offense, but I think there is a failure to take advantage of their talents.

I’m starting to suspect it’s a coaching issue. It’s too much about some abstract ideal of what convoluted play they want to call and not enough about having plays that can and will be executed well. The variation of the halfback pass was nice, but that’s not something that out of the ordinary or inventive to have in a playbook. So I’m not saying we don’t need a few plays like that, but trying to get some complicated formation out there that they can’t even organize through a timeout and a full play clock on fourth down just doesn’t make any sense. The game wasn’t about to end (although it turned out to be LSU’s last possession), but it was pretty much Tennessee all over again.

At the very least, there has to be a simplified playbook in such situations, maybe even plays Les can call from the sidelines, and they have to be plays where everyone knows exactly where to be. It seems like the more urgent or pressure-filled the situation, the more deliberative the play-calling process becomes.

It reminds me of the last time I played a football video game. There were just too many different options of plays to go through. These are the kind of options I was looking for—goal line, draw, off tackle, bootleg, option, play action, quick hitch, quick slant, and a couple of different combinations of short and long passes, and then finally a hail-mary type of play. I wanted there to be a basic menu in case I didn’t have time to be creative (which when the game is new to you, never). I didn’t want to have to pick a basic formation group and then pick how many running backs I wanted and then pick how many wide receivers and tight ends I wanted every time.

I’m not saying that calling plays in a real game is like calling it on a video game. It’s more complicated than that, which means it’s even more true that in some situations, you can’t have everything on the table. People don’t just magically appear on the field where you expect them to be. Also, it wasn’t 4th and 38, it was 4th and 6. There should be a good idea of what play you want to run and whatever option you choose, it should be a pretty comfortable set-up for your team to go out there and execute the play without all the confusion. You don’t want to invent a new play no one has ever seen before. You don’t have the luxury of trying out a play with a 25% chance at a touchdown and a 75% chance of an interception or incompletion, you want a play with a 40-50% chance at a first down even if there is almost no chance at a touchdown. Like even the halfback pass I mentioned, which is hardly groundbreaking, is not the part of your playbook you want to look at, not to mention something that seemed even more complex.

LSU on defense

I wasn’t thrilled with the defense. You can’t give up that many yards, especially when you’re used to dominating and not be frustrated in a few instances. There wasn’t enough of a “safety” approach, which was the recommended solution for Tim Tebow, for instance. If you get 5 guys in the backfield without a tackle being made, then the opposing offense has nothing but open spaces. If you keep the players in front, he might get a couple of yards, but you don’t want to risk giving up 50 for the chance at stopping him (or another player) in the backfield. So it’s not always a good thing to get those defenders back there. When considering Auburn’s strengths and weaknesses rather than the type of game to which I’m accustomed as an LSU fan, the defensive failures were much more understandable than the offensive ones.

Conclusion and looking forward

Although I’m sure LSU will fall in the polls, I hope we did show people that it is not a joke and not “smoke and mirrors,” as John Saunders called it (citing “a lot of people”), that this LSU team started 7-0 against a very good schedule. I just hope that unlike last year, and something like our 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2007 efforts after losses that we keep playing well and continue to show that to people. LSU hasn’t finished with only 1 loss since 2003, so trying to be arguably one of the two best LSU teams since 1958 (LSU’s last undefeated season) or 1961 (the last time apart from 2003 that LSU won a bowl game and finished with one loss and no ties) isn’t a bad goal. We can’t control if Alabama beats Auburn (if it comes to that), but if we beat the remaining teams in front of us, that will be every reason to be very proud.

No team with a prior BCS championship is undefeated right now, and the only other program with two BCS championships is 4-3. The third program with two championships during the BCS era (one an AP trophy) is 5-2 and on probation. So it’s not like it’s like LSU fans have to hang their heads too low right now anyway.