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Posts Tagged ‘Leonard Fournette’

Week 6 Top 25 and LSU Comments

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 4, 2016 at 6:46 PM

Orgeron Tenure Weeks 1 and 2

Since I haven’t posted about LSU in a while, I’ll start with just a few comments. Beating Missouri doesn’t mean a whole lot on its own, but the way the Fighting Tigers did it has to mean something. Mississippi St. is a similar team, and LSU could never quite put them away. Granted, LSU was up 17 somewhat late against the Bulldogs, but even despite the onside kick, State would have never been able to make it close had the LSU offense not stagnated.

LSU is given about a 4% chance of running the table in the regular season, but it improves to about 10% if you allow for one loss.

The Fighting Tigers scored their first points of the season in the fourth quarter. Even though the game was over, I think the changes to the play-calling and to the practice schedule are already having an impact on stamina.

I think everyone knows the LSU coaches would be crazy not to call a lot of running plays with the current team, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that if you don’t have a particularly mobile quarterback (although he can pick up 5-10 yards in a pinch), it’s probably a good idea to throw some play-action in there somewhat regularly.

Derrius Guice (left) and Darrel Williams combined for 314 yards and 6 touchdowns against Mizzou.  LSU's total offense of 634 yards was the most in an SEC game in program history.

Derrius Guice (left) and Darrel Williams combined for 314 yards and 6 touchdowns against Mizzou. LSU’s total offense of 634 yards was the most in an SEC game in program history.

A lot of LSU fans have whined about the I formation. If you soften up the defense with the pass effectively and you can tempt the defense into focusing on the wrong part of the line, it can be a great formation. It just doesn’t work very well if it’s play after play with the same blockers and the same running backs doing the same things. You can at least switch up the people in the backfield, which they finally did in this game.

Orgeron talked about using elements of the USC offense (not 100% sure if he meant Kiffin or Chow), and I think there were a few minor things that were adapted, although obviously a major overhaul doesn’t happen in a week. New offensive coordinator Ensminger handled two running backs well, Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams. The full-time fullback J.D. Moore was also helpful.

There was a vertical passing game that was at least credible. It’s a long way from what Matt Leinart did, but the defense at least had to be mindful of the receivers.

I don’t know if Leonard Fournette will play next week, but I’m hopeful. I know sometimes the next day it feels worse, but Fournette was able to play (but limping) toward the end of the game against Auburn. I doubt anything happened since then. Maybe there is something major they’re just not telling us.

I know we’re not short on people in the backfield who can gain yards, but Fournette does have a gear that Guice doesn’t have, and he’s not as likely to slow himself down with stutter steps and hesitations. Being tackled inside the 10 versus scoring a touchdown might make a much bigger difference next week.

I almost always enjoy this rivalry though. This isn’t the best game on paper, but I think it’s much more likely to have a stereotypical SEC final score. 21-17 would not surprise me a bit. A lot of these games have been very close over the years. Click here for more on the rivalry.

Rankings Commentary

LSU still has a long way to go before they’re relevant here.

I don’t like to alter what the computer tells me, but for the first couple of weeks of the computer ranking, I think it’s OK to substitute my own #1 and perhaps include a team over another in the top 10 or top 25.

I need to say upfront that I messed up by ranking Louisville so high the last two weeks. When they beat Florida St. so easily, I thought they would also beat Clemson. Before the Florida St. game, I had them #23; so keep in mind they’re only one spot lower now.

Most of the new additions are just teams lucky enough not to have a loss or it’s fairly obvious that they beat a team who fell out. An exception is Air Force, which beat an undefeated Navy team (easily) and moving into the driver’s seat for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy. Navy would have been ranked last week had it been an objective system last week, so the Midshipmen may make it back at some point.

Although he completed only 8 passes, Air Force quarterback Nate Romine led the Falcons to a 28-14 win over Navy.

Although he completed only 8 passes, Air Force quarterback Nate Romine led the Falcons to a 28-14 win over Navy.

I realized that with my new formula, losses aren’t going to subtract enough points this early, so I modified the formula slightly for the purposes of this blog (I did not change my mind about the formula on the ratings site). I tried to rely on objective numbers as much as possible though. I’ll explain how I did that.

I am keeping Alabama #1 (I don’t like to change #1 without a clear problem with the current #1, and I especially don’t like to do this if the computer #1 will play the current #1 soon), and I’m making Western Michigan #11 for now (I’m a little bit skeptical of how good they are, and it just a little bit too far on one week; U. Miami moved farther, but it was justified). Then for #17 to #23, I actually like the order better in the formula on the site. It is somewhat objective, but I chose one objective order of teams over another.

I’m hoping I won’t feel the need to do anything like this next week. If Alabama loses, I plan to follow the site from beginning to end. If Alabama wins, they stay #1; and if Tennessee wins as well, I expect the winner of the game between Tennessee and Alabama will be the computer #1 in two weeks. Their respective opponents on Saturday are no joke though.

I know Western Michigan is a weird one, but they keep beating teams with decent records. It also doesn’t hurt that they don’t have a bye week yet. Also, their FCS opponent hasn’t lost a game against the FCS. It’s kind of a quirk in my system at this point if you’ve played an FCS team like that because very few (if any) of these teams will finish that way.

The system as a whole is designed to be ideal at the end of the year of course, not now. But I still like to know how far along teams are.

Tennessee and Louisville

It makes perfect sense that Tennessee is #1 in my system because they’ve had a big game almost every week. This means they’re the farthest along toward a national championship. If they were to have 3 more intervals that were just as strong, they’d probably have twice as many points as Alabama had last season.

Tennessee celebrating the win at Georgia.

Tennessee celebrating the win at Georgia.

But of course that won’t happen. They’ll play Tennessee Tech, Missouri, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina. So far, the only somewhat easy opponent statistically was Ohio, which nonetheless has a winning record. The non-conference opponents may lose ground as the season goes on. If Florida loses to LSU, that would hurt the quality of that win and the quality of the East as a whole. Same thing if Georgia were to lose to Auburn, for instance.

I know things are unstable right now, which is part of why Louisville fell so dramatically (as I mentioned, it was also partly my fault). All their opponents lost. Adding four opponents’ losses makes a big difference at this stage.

You might notice Maryland up there. They have no losses, and the teams they beat also have the same number of combined FBS wins as the teams Louisville beat (but Maryland has no losses).

Anyway, Louisville may fall out of the top 25 next week as they are idle; but if it comes down to Florida St. or Louisville, I will give the Cardinals the edge for about 43 reasons. That being said, my formula is win/loss (although close home wins only count only get 9/10 of the credit and close away losses only count as 9/10 of the normal “debit”), so it would arguably just be one reason. It will be a long time before Louisville has another shot at a strong win, possibly not until Houston in November. Until then, 1-1 against good teams (provided Florida St. even qualifies as a good team after next week) only takes them so far.

Top 25

rank/team/previous
1 Alabama 1
2 Tennessee 2
3 Michigan 8
4 Clemson 4
5 Texas A&M 6
6 Washington 19
7 Houston 7
8 Ohio St. 9
9 West Virginia 21
10 U. Miami —
11 W. Michigan 24
12 Wisconsin 5
13 Stanford 10
14 Wake Forest 12
15 Boise St. 13
16 Nebraska 16
17 N. Carolina 25
18 Arkansas 11
19 Florida 15
20 Air Force —
21 Maryland —
22 Baylor —
23 Cal —
24 Louisville 3
25 Virginia Tech 22

Out of rankings: (14) Ga. Tech, (17) Utah, (18) San Diego St., (20) Florida St., (23) Arizona St.

Full ratings 1-128

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The King is Dead; Long Live Coach O

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game on September 25, 2016 at 6:08 PM

This is the thought I left off with last night: “Anyway, the off-season decisions are water under the bridge. All you can do in this situation (assuming a decision isn’t made immediately) is win the rest of your games.”

It’s still true even though, as you probably know by now, a decision was made immediately.

Les Miles (with Larry Coker) before his first bowl game at LSU. So many great (and not-so-great) moments since, but yet it doesn't seem that long ago.

Les Miles (with Larry Coker) before his first bowl game at LSU. So many great (and not-so-great) moments since, but yet it doesn’t seem that long ago.

Before I get into it, I want to say that I’m grateful for Les Miles coming to LSU all those years ago. He’s done more than anyone in their right mind could have anticipated. As Joe Alleva said, he’s been a great ambassador for LSU, and as far as I can tell, he’s an all-around good person. I think he still has the best winning percentage of any head coach of a substantial number of games in LSU history. If you win 80 games more than you lose, you’ve done something at a program. I’ll research the specifics at another time.

He also seems to be going gracefully as he took part in the meeting with the players held with AD Joe Alleva and interim head coach Ed Orgeron. According to at least one of the players, Miles said he supports the decision. Some cynics say Les has been laughing all the way to the bank since the contract extension after the 2012 season; but I think he really cares about the players and the program going forward, so hopefully his reassurances will help to smooth the transition.

I’ve been calling for Cam Cameron to be fired for a while, but I also have nothing against him as a person. I just didn’t think he was suited to developing teenagers into good quarterbacks. He did a good job with Mettenberger, but Mettenberger was already a mostly-finished product.

I wish them and their families the best with whatever they do going forward.

As I said multiple times, if it were up to me, getting rid of Cam Cameron would have been an absolute requirement after last season, but given that Alleva’s attitude was essentially “as long as we keep calling you head coach, you have control over your staff”, I don’t blame him for pulling the plug the way he did.

This team is too good to have lost the game last night. Maybe that’s why I believed we had won it for so long. Assuming the clocks were run correctly and the replay booth did its job properly, all it needed was one guy getting out of bounds on one of the final plays.
I thought they would have waited until at least after the Florida game to make this move since the next week after Florida is a non-conference game against USM, but I guess the risk of losing another game they shouldn’t have lost due to Miles and/or Cameron was too high.

If the win against Missouri is jeopardized by this, I guess trying to save the season was a meaningless exercise anyway.

People have said LSU is out in the West, but last I checked Wisconsin isn’t an SEC team. Provided Auburn loses again (which I frankly can’t imagine not happening), LSU still controls its own destiny right now.

Ed Orgeron during his time as interim head coach at USC

Ed Orgeron during his time as interim head coach at USC

Any USC fan will probably tell you that in hindsight it was a great idea to make Ed Orgeron the interim coach, and it was a mistake to let him go. So I have no problem with making hm the interim coach. I don’t know if he’s the best option for permanent head coach (Ole Miss fans probably don’t remember him so fondly), but if he goes 11-0 or even 8-1, it would be hard to argue against him. I have my ideas about other potential candidates, but there are about two months for interested candidates to make themselves available if Orgeron’s position turns out not to be permanent.

So I think the timing is really good. As well as giving candidates time to prepare and allowing for communications behind the scenes (as opposed to the desperate scramble that firing Les after last year would have been), there is what in the old days would have constituted a whole season left to play to give Orgeron a trial run. (For instance, when LSU won the national title in 1958, the bowl game was only the 11th game of the season.)

My fear has been that we could descend into mediocrity with a coaching change like so many other programs have. I mentioned USC; another example is Oregon. Notre Dame and Oklahoma aren’t looking too hot this season either. This was the team where Les could prove he still has it. Maybe if he’d given someone else the reins of the offense, he could have, but he didn’t.

Oregon and Pete Jenkins after a USC win in the L.A. Coliseum in 2013.

Oregon and Pete Jenkins after a USC win in the L.A. Coliseum in 2013.

Speaking of which, the staff isn’t official until tomorrow (although the players seem to have already confirmed the below with the media), but I’ve also read that long-time LSU defensive coach Pete Jenkins, who also helped out Saban in his first year, will help with defensive line duties since Orgeron will have other matters to attend to. Jenkins had also joined Orgeron at USC when Orgeron became the interim head coach there.

The offensive coordinator will apparently be current tight ends coach and former LSU quarterback Steve Ensminger. I thought it might have been the running backs and OL coach, but I’m relaxed about it either way since I don’t think anyone will call plays worse than Cameron. Etling does seem to like throwing to tight ends anyway. I guess it’s Etling’s Big Ten background. Ensminger was most recently a quarterbacks coach at Auburn under Tommy Tuberville in 2003 before moving to tight ends but has extensive experience as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at multiple schools.

New offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger

New offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger

To be fair, I felt that the series of plays LSU called last night was not bad, but I don’t think the players were ready to execute the plays as well as they should have been. There was too much uncertainty and confusion in the final plays. We don’t have to call fancy plays; we have to have a team ready to execute what is called, and we should be fine.

Missouri isn’t a bad team. They nearly beat Georgia last week, and they had a good non-conference win over BYU late last season. But this is the kind of team, particularly at home, that LSU should be able to dispense with without too much trouble.

I think it’s important that we not only win but have the luxury of giving Fournette some rest. We’ve been putting too much on his plate, and he wasn’t at full strength at the end of the game last night. That led to one of the sacks, and obviously sacks cause you to lose time.

The real test will be at Florida in two weeks; but regardless of the outcome, I doubt that we’ll feel that after that game we should have kept Les and Cam and it would have been better.

LSU-Syracuse Comments and Notes

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game on September 27, 2015 at 12:29 PM

Historical context

LSU got its first road win over an ACC opponent since North Carolina in the 1985 season.  There were only two attempts against current ACC teams since then.  LSU lost @ Virginia Tech in 2002 and @ Florida State in 1990.  Both games were before the opponent had joined the ACC though.

The Tigers have now won 50 consecutive regular-season non-conference games to increase their own record.  That 2002 Virginia Tech game I mentioned was the last time LSU lost such a game.

In the only regular-season games against ACC opponents since 1985, LSU played Virginia Tech at home (2007) and North Carolina at a neutral site (2010), both wins for the Tigers.  There have also been five contests against ACC teams in bowl games over the last 20 years: Clemson (1996 and 2012), Georgia Tech (2000 and 2008), and U. Miami (2005).  LSU did play home games against Florida St. and U. Miami at home (before either joined the ACC) in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

LSU’s last game against Syracuse had been the 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl (now known as the Outback Bowl), but the Orangemen were independent at the time.  LSU’s only contest against Syracuse before that had been the Sugar Bowl after the 1964 season.

Leonard Fournette runs for the only touchdown of the fist half in the Carrier Dome.

Leonard Fournette runs for the only touchdown of the fist half in the Carrier Dome.

Game comments

LSU only won by 10 points, but that’s not what bothers me.  The Tigers could have probably scored a touchdown with just a couple more handoffs at the end of the game.  Also, Syracuse only got within 10 by scoring a touchdown in the last two minutes.

I don’t think that’s anything to be ashamed of when you’re on the road against a major-conference opponent (especially one who hadn’t lost yet).

What bothers me is the way we kept them in the game.  Without penalties, this could have been a shutout or close to it.  I don’t know if we would have scored more necessarily — we might not have tried to score as much in the second half — but there was definitely one touchdown and possibly a field goal or two that didn’t happen because of penalties.

Between two plays — the first one a decent play that was called back by a hold — LSU lost 40 yards of field position.

After going out to a 7-0 lead, the Tigers had a third and three at their own 47.  Fournette runs to just outside the LSU 30 for an apparent first down.  But the tight end is called for a hold.  Not saying it wasn’t  hold, but I don’t believe it was necessary to allow Fournette to evade the tackle.  It would have been at best an attempt at an arm tackle from a weak position.  Instead of a first and 10, it’s a third and 14.  Harris gets sacked and fumbles (recovered by LSU) at the 27.  So it was actually slightly more than 40 yards.

Maybe LSU has to settle for a field goal and misses and there isn’t much difference, but that’s still a huge opportunity wasted, not to mention keeping the defense off the field.  Syracuse would take over around their own 40, so that’s pretty good field position to set up a field goal try, which was successful.

Syracuse should have faced a third and 14 from inside their own 30 before their first touchdown play in the second half, but an LSU player who had lost his helmet helped push the quarterback out of bounds after he was already wrapped up.  Personal foul, first and 10 at the 49 instead.  The 40-yard touchdown came a couple of plays later.  This made the score 17-10 in the third quarter.

In the first 40 minutes of play, LSU had already been penalized 8 times for 69 yards.

At that point LSU had out-gained the Orange 225-150.  That 150 counts the 40-yard Syracuse touchdown I mentioned.

Still in the third quarter, LSU gets the ball back up 24-10.  Fournette runs for 87 yards to the end zone.  If the play stands, the game is essentially over then.  But it doesn’t.  LSU is flagged again, this time for illegal formation.  One of the receivers was a full two yards behind the line and another was about five feet behind the line (some LSU fans contested this, but the angle of the camera made it look like the closer receiver was at the line of scrimmage when he wasn’t).  LSU is eventually forced to punt.

Two more penalties set up the second Syracuse touchdown as well.  The orange earned a first down in LSU territory, but just barely.  Then, there was an unnecessary horse collar penalty, and then right afterward an interference penalty.  The ball was not catchable, but I guess the contact was so early in the play, that didn’t cancel out the interference.  This resulted in a 24-17 score, the last time Syracuse would get within 7.

The third touchdown was a result of LSU playing a sort of  soft zone/prevent mostly (it was 34-17 with just a few minutes left), but this time there was a complete nonsense penalty.  The Syracuse quarterback was running toward the sidelines nowhere near the first-down marker.  The LSU defender made contact as the quarterback approached the hash mark along the sidelines; but I guess because he bumped him to get him out of bounds rather than giving him a big hug or raising his arms up like a basketball player, it was a personal foul.

Then, as I mentioned, LSU got the ball back and ran out the clock even though they were in possible position for a score.

In total, LSU was penalized 14 times for 120 yards.  There were another 120 yards or more that were negated by penalties.

LSU out-gainted Syracuse 425 to 281, so I wasn’t unhappy about that.  Again, could have been a larger margin than that had LSU made it easier for the Syracuse offense to get off the field, but the defense responded pretty well to the pressure it was put under.

Syracuse also had really good field position for most of the game.  This was partly due to a generaly better kicking game.

The Orange had a better night punting than LSU did (5 punts apiece, 228 yards vs. 188 yards), but LSU’s Tre’Davious White ran back a punt for a touchdown, so I guess that helped to even it out.

Syracuse had the advantage in kick returns: 176 yards (7 returns) to 57 (3 returns).

The good news on offense (other than the obvious) was LSU did not turn the ball over, and Brandon Harris had more passing yards in this game (157) than in the previous two games combined.

I mentioned the Tigers got a pretty good amount of yards, but of course Leonard Fournette contributed a good bit to that with 244 rushing yards.  Alley Broussard still holds the LSU record (at 250), but it was put in danger for the second game in a row.  Fournette does now have the LSU road record and is the first Tiger to rush for over 200 yards in consecutive games.

For what it’s worth, Broussard seems to be enjoying the renewed interest in his career with the Tigers.  http://www.nola.com/lsu/index.ssf/2015/09/leonard_fournette_lsu_record.html