Posts Tagged ‘2007’

Sly Croom’s Lasting Influence

In College Football, History on October 27, 2017 at 1:36 PM

Since this is a bye week for LSU, I thought I’d reminisce a little. Ed Orgeron’s return to Ole Miss reminded me that he was one of the victims of Sylvester Croom. I don’t just mean his team lost to Mississippi St.’s, but he apparently lost his job in large part because of the 2007 game (the 2005 game didn’t help either).

Sylvester Croom after winning the Egg Bowl in a dramatic comeback in Starkville in 2007.

Losses to Sylvester Croom also factored heavily into Florida’s firing of Ron Zook, Alabama’s firing of Mike Shula, and arguably Auburn’s firing of Tommy Tuberville.

I think part of it was the perception of Mississippi St. up until then. Overall from 2001 to 2003, the Bulldogs went 8-27 and only 3-21 in the SEC. So with how competitive the SEC was, that just wasn’t a team you entertained losing to, especially since they were given heavy sanctions stemming from the Jackie Sherrill era.

In fact I remember a Florida fan (ironically) complaining that the SEC West teams got to play “the Mississippis” ever year.

So I’m not even saying it was altogether fair for Croom that losses to his teams were met with such hostility since he did improve the situation from how he found it.

Ron Zook was the only head coach to defeat Nick Saban’s Tigers in 2003; but that didn’t help him much after the loss to the Bulldogs in 2004.

The Bulldogs’ win against Florida in 2004 (Croom’s first year) was only the second SEC win in three seasons. It didn’t seem to help Zook that Mississippi St. won the next week against Kentucky. The damage had been done, and the fans wanted blood. Without Zook’s firing, who knows how Urban Meyer’s career would have developed?

Mississippi St. would only go 4-20 in SEC play from 2004 to 2006, but all but one of those wins (the one over Kentucky) resulted in a firing. Orgeron wasn’t fired until 2007, but maybe that loss would have been less fatal had he beaten the Bulldogs in his first season in 2005.

Orgeron’s one win over the Bulldogs came in 2006, but Croom did beat Mike Shula’s Tide. The fact that it was in Tuscaloosa couldn’t have helped matters. No only was it the only SEC win for the Bulldogs that year, it was the only win over a I-A (now FBS) opponent in regulation. Alabama lost six games in that regular season, but one of them was by one point in overtime at Arkansas, and the other four (apart from Mississippi St.) were against teams that were in the top 15 at the time of the game. Without that loss, there is a good chance Nick Saban never coaches Alabama. Even if he started a year later, does the Tide win the West in 2008? Do they win the national championship in 2009? Probably doubtful in both cases.

Croom with Mike Shula after a game.

In 2007, the Bulldogs went a respectable 4-4 in conference and won the Liberty Bowl to finish 8-5 overall. (The non-conference loss was to West Virginia, who won the Big East and nearly played for the national championship that year.)

Nonetheless, rivalry games can be funny things (as that same West Virginia team found out against Pitt), and Orgeron was seen as responsible for giving up a late lead (see the link in the first sentence for more details).

Had Ole Miss won, it’s possible that the administration could have held out for that fourth year, which was when Croom finally had a decent year.

It’s arguable that there was another victim, and that was Tommy Tuberville. Had Auburn beaten the Bulldogs in 2007, that would have been four consecutive seasons of two conference losses or fewer after Tuberville had only accomplished the feat once in his first five seasons on the Plains.

Tuberville recently took credit for Shula’s firing (and indirectly for Saban’s hiring) as a result of beating Shula every year, but Croom likely also played a role in his own demise.

Also, one of the two SEC wins in Tuberville’s (and Croom’s) final season of 2008 was a 3-2 win over the Bulldogs. I know that in the minds of some fans, that didn’t count as a win, at least not for the football team. Especially since the offense was under fire at that time, that score was an easy one to recall and complain about. The other SEC win was 14-12, and there were SEC losses of 14-13, 17-7, and 17-13.

It’s hard to argue the decision in hindsight (I don’t think anyone would argue that Dan Mullen hasn’t proven himself better-suited to the position), but I wasn’t that fond of Croom’s firing at the time. He did take a step back in his final season in only going 4-8, but that was still better than any team there between 2001 and 2006. The loss to Auburn was one of two one-point losses that year (the other to Kentucky). Had they won both, they would have been bowl-eligible. They also played fairly close road games against Louisiana Tech (a loss by 8) and then-#5 LSU (a loss by 10). Louisiana Tech had one of its better seasons going 8-5 and winning a bowl game under head coach Derek Dooley, so that was not an embarrassing loss by any means.

Croom coaching at the Titans minicamp in 2014.

If you were curious, Croom went back to being an NFL running backs coach, a position he still occupies today with the Tennessee Titans. Apart from his stint at Mississippi St. and a four-year term as Offensive Coordinator of the Detroit Lions, Croom has been an NFL running backs coach since 1987. Before that, he coached linebackers at Alabama, his alma mater, under Bear Bryant and Ray Perkins. Alabama and Mississippi St. were his only two college coaching stops.


Final Top 25, 2011 Season (w/ Comments)

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on February 19, 2012 at 1:46 PM

I guess I’ll just give people a minute to get outraged and then explain.

Top 25:
rank / team / prior
1 LSU 1
2 Oklahoma St. 2
3 Alabama 3
4 Boise St. 5
5 Houston 4
6 Michigan 8
7 South Carolina 10
8 Oregon 12
9 Arkansas 13
10 Stanford 6
11 Oklahoma 11
12 TCU 19
13 USC 9
14 Baylor 22
15 Kansas St. 15
16 Virginia Tech 7
17 Michigan St. 16
18 Wisconsin 18
19 Southern Mississippi —
20 Georgia 14
21 Clemson 20
22 West Virginia 25
23 Nebraska 17
24 Penn St. 21
25 Cincinnati —

Out of rankings: (23) Ark. St., (24) Notre Dame

Top 120 Permalink

Prior weeks
Week 13
Week 12
Week 11
Week 10
Week 9
Week 8
Week 7
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1

Comments About the Top 3
In prior years of using this ratings system (2008, 2009, and 2010), the top 2 teams advanced to the title game, so naturally the winning team came out #1 in these ratings.

As I discussed here, the BCS #2 was at odds with my #2. If #1 wins, no problem. Few people make a big deal about where the team who loses the championship ends up. To my eternal frustration as someone who happens to be an LSU fan who regards Alabama as the #1 team to beat, the #1 team going in did not win.

Another wrinkle was that not only did the winner of the BCS title game not finish first, it finished third. Like so many big games this year, Oklahoma St.-Stanford went into overtime, and again, the “wrong” team (for the purpose of the rankings being well-received) won.. If that goes the other way, again, fewer people would have a problem with the overall results.

I anticipate an argument in comparing them to both LSU and Oklahoma St., “But Alabama won so easily”.

That’s nice, but that’s not what I’m looking at here, I’m trying to reward teams on the strength of the opponents they beat and punish them according to the strength of the teams that beat them.

I firmly believe that following that process would have put the correct two teams in the title game for each of the past four years. The result doesn’t go back in time and change that, even if Oklahoma St. had also lost by 21.

The next obvious Alabama argument vis-a-vis Oklahoma St. is, “Losing to LSU in OT is much better than losing to ISU in OT.”

That’s certainly true, but remember, the losses are only 1/13 or 7.7% of the games played in each case.

This is a slight re-hash of the blog I linked to above, but I’ll give the updated numbers in light of the final rankings. Before the bowls, Oklahoma St. beat 7 top-40 teams this season. There were a total of 7 top-40 teams in the Big XII, and since the Cowboys didn’t play themselves, they had to pick up one out-of-conference, which they did with Tulsa. The SEC had 6 teams in the top 40, albeit with higher average rankings than the Big XII teams. But Alabama didn’t play Georgia or South Carolina, so that knocks their in-conference total down to 3. The Tide also picks up one in regular season out-of-conference (Penn St.), so that leaves a 7-4 edge for the Cowboys.

Looking at the top 25 instead, that still makes it 5-3 OSU.

So I think a good argument can be made that this disparity makes up for the difference in the losses.

Here’s another way to look at it. I made a list of all the Alabama wins and all the Oklahoma St. wins. I dropped the Georgia Southern game from Alabama’s list, and to make up for the dramatic difference in the quality of the loss, I took away Oklahoma St.’s best win, the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford. Oklahoma St.’s remaining wins are still better than Alabama’s remaining wins.

As for LSU, I think it’s pretty clear why they would rise above both. The Tigers beat THREE eventual winners of BCS bowls. When has that ever happened? They also got to play one of the top-2 SEC East teams when they defeated Georgia in the SEC Championship game. It would have been better had South Carolina made that game, but still it added to an already impressive list which even with bowl wins, no other team can touch.

As a Tiger fan, I’m depressed about this great effort ending the way it did against the team it ended against, but I guess it’s some kind of cosmic justice for losing two games in 2007 and still being awarded the national championship.

By the way, even though my methods have changed a lot over the years, I’ve been doing rankings weekly since the 1995 season, and this is only the second time there has been a wire-to-wire #1. The first was Florida St. in 1999.

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”


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.

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.