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Posts Tagged ‘McNeese St.’

10 years: Les Miles and Hurricane Katrina

In Bowls, College Football, General LSU, Me on September 6, 2015 at 5:13 PM

It was oddly fitting that 10 years after the LSU-North Texas game was postponed due to Hurricane Katrina, another game that was scheduled for Tiger Stadium was cancelled.

That North Texas game was supposed to be the home opener of the Les Miles era at LSU. Instead, this strange guy from Ohio with a goofy grin (his original nickname at LSU was “Less Smiles”) found himself in the middle of makeshift field hospital and landing zone at the LSU athletic area.

If you’re not familiar with the LSU campus, most of the major facilities operate in the shadow of Tiger Stadium. This included the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, which served as the triage area for new arrivals, many of whom landed in a helicopter on the infield of the Bernie Moore Track Stadium (which had hosted the NCAA meet in 2002). Care and shelter was provided to the injured at the Carl Maddox Field House.

A helicopter above the LSU athletic facilities. The Pete Maravich Assembly Center is to the right.

A helicopter above the LSU athletic facilities. The Pete Maravich Assembly Center is to the right.

Here is Miles talking about the experience recently:

The Athletic Director at the time was Skip Bertman, formerly the long-term head baseball coach with the Tigers. These were some of his comments:

This part isn’t really related to Les, but I thought it was an interesting observation. Skip said no one understood how bad it was until they got there:

Personally, I have to agree. I grew up in the New Orleans area, and I knew a lot of the locations that I saw on the news and so forth. Still, you couldn’t grasp the magnitude of it from a television set.

It’s like when you see a tornado touch down some place. Not to minimize tornadoes (which are actually one of the many risks posed by hurricanes), but everything on the screen can look completely devastated; but a few blocks away, there might not be any damage at all. This was nothing like that.

Seeing mile after mile of roofs with blue tarps on them, dead lawns, and boarded up concrete with spray paint on the front was really intense. As was traveling at night and seeing nothing but pitch black where you used to see the lights of civilization. I didn’t see any of this until a few months after Katrina, so I missed things like refrigerators bursting with rotting food and sky-high piles of trash that result from having everything in your house soak in rancid water for weeks in the natural heat and the resulting mold.

I wrote about this when I wrote on the Sporting News site, but people have this annoying habit of injecting partisan politics into this. I want to address that briefly. There were a lot of people in the federal government of both parties that neglected the levee system in the 40 years between Hurricane Betsy (the previous time hurricane winds actually reached New Orleans) and Hurricane Katrina. In the first 30 of those years consecutively the House of Representatives was predominantly Democratic, for instance. So assigning part of the blame on the federal government does not require having a dislike for George W. Bush.

It also does not imply that state and local officials did all they could to coordinate relief efforts or otherwise direct available resources to their best purposes. Even though Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin were both Democrats, I’m told they butted heads because Nagin had endorsed the Republican (who happens to be current governor, then known as Congressman Jindal). So just put that aside and realize that something like this doesn’t happen just because of one party or the people who were in office at the time.

To bring this back around to football, Miles’ home opener was then supposed to be Arizona St. This game was moved to Arizona and LSU won in a bit of a shootout (at least it was at the end), 35-31. The Tigers had scored 28 points in the fourth quarter with the winning touchdown coming with 1:13 remaining.

So after not having a home opener either of the weeks he was supposed to, surely LSU would just have it the next Saturday against Tennessee, the second consecutive top-15 opponent. It could have happened that night, but Tennessee threatened to forfeit because of another approaching Hurricane named Rita (although it was far enough away not to pose a threat to anyone in Baton Rouge that night), so the date was moved once again.

Finally, Miles’ home opener took place the following Monday, 23 days after the North Texas game was supposed to have been played. It looked good early, as LSU’s offense scored early in the first and second quarters. The Tiger defense had completely rattled Tennessee QB Erik Ainge though. He went 7 for 19 for 54 yards with an interception (pick six) and two sacks in the first half. It was 21-0 LSU at halftime. Ainge also was hit a few times, but that came back to haunt the Tigers when he was knocked out of the game. One-time LSU player Rick Clausen started the second half for the Vols with some success and Chief John Chavis’s defense held the Tigers to just three points in the second half. This allowed Tennessee to come all the way back to tie, and they won in overtime.

I remember Miles somewhat nonchalantly mentioning he thought LSU would win in overtime, which didn’t exactly make me feel better. I didn’t realize that this attitude was based on things generally working out for him one way or another.

That would be LSU’s only loss until the SEC Championship game that December, but that game didn’t affect national title hopes since the BCS championship was already going to be undefeated USC against undefeated Texas. After finally getting a break, the Tigers would dominate Miami in the Peach Bowl.

Les Miles (with Larry Coker) before his first bowl game at LSU.

Les Miles (with Larry Coker) before his first bowl game at LSU.

I’m not sure if they would have beaten Tennessee had the season proceeded as scheduled, but for your only loss in your first 11 games as an SEC coach to be in overtime under those circumstances was pretty good. I don’t care who recruited those players.

So even before witnessing some of his eccentricities, I will always have a soft spot for Miles, and this will continue even if we have an awful year or two and Les has to find a new line of work. I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of his success though.

Les has won 78% of his games in 10 seasons. His first three years he won 85%, and from 2010 to 2013 he won 83%. There have been three years, including last year, where LSU didn’t have double-digit wins. But when LSU started 13-0 for the only time in its history in 2011 (actually they were perfect in that calendar year), that was only two years removed from an 9-4 season and three years removed from an 8-5 season. Going back to Miles’ predecessor, LSU’s first BCS championship in 2003 came directly after an 8-4 year.

New Orleans has thankfully only had one big rebuilding process in the last 50 years, and hopefully it will be a long time before another is needed. College football doesn’t work that way, but whether it’s a good year or a rebuilding one it can be a welcome distraction from disasters, as it certainly was 10 years ago.

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More on LSU’s Start and Understanding FCS Games

In College Football, General LSU, History, Post-game on September 9, 2014 at 12:42 PM

This isn’t the main thing I’m going to write about, but I heard it after I published my blog about the LSU-Wisconsin game. Since Les Miles took over at LSU, the Tigers are 22-21 when trailing in the fourth quarter, the only team in the FBS to have a winning record during that span (apparently, they don’t count the last-second loss to Clemson as “trailing in the fourth quarter”; but no one else comes close regardless). Miles is also back above the 80% mark as head coach of the Tigers. After winning 85% in his first three seasons, Miles’ winning percentage had fallen to 77.3% after the 2009 season. The Tigers are attempting to finish with double-digit wins for the fifth consecutive year since then. It would be Miles’ 8th overall in 10 seasons.

By comparison, Nick Saban won 75% of his games at LSU and had two double-digit-win seasons in five years, falling just short of a third on the last play of his stint at LSU. I understand Saban didn’t take over a program in the same shape; but he was still considered a strong success overall, so building on his tenure is still something to be proud of. Not many coaches can step into a situation like that and improve it, so Miles deserves a good deal of credit.

I don’t have too much to say about the Sam Houston St. game itself, but although LSU won extremely easily, that was not necessarily the expected result.

Ameer Abdullah's great run with 20 second left saved Nebraska from potential embarrassment.

Ameer Abdullah’s great run with 20 seconds left saved Nebraska from potential embarrassment.

After the Nebraska-McNeese St. game (if you missed it, Nebraska scored the winning touchdown with 20 seconds left with the Cowboys essentially one tackle away from forcing overtime), I want to talk a bit about FCS opponents. They really vary. A number of the scores were pretty close. Of course, you also have your 70-point wins against such opponents as well.

Sam Houston St. went to the FCS championship game in the 2012 season, so they could have been among the best teams this season. I was looking at the margins Sam Houston St. won by that season. They won seven games by 35 points or more and beat Southeast Louisiana, 70-0. I think there is as much of a gap between the top and bottom of FCS as there is of FBS. Maybe Sam Houston isn’t as high on the scale this season; but the team they lost to in that championship game, North Dakota St., seems to be about the same after the Bison’s 34-14 win over Iowa St. So I don’t think there is a real appreciation of that.

Most people dismiss the opposition right off the bat. I know a Kansas St. fan who just assumed North Dakota St. was nothing to worry about last year, for instance. There is a general lack of appreciation of the fact that if you play a playoff-level FCS team, there is a good chance that team will be clearly better than a low-level FBS team.

One of those teams that is routinely toward the bottom of the FCS is Nicholls St. (which just lost to Arkansas , 73-7), but even they have a recent win over an FBS school. They beat Western Michigan last year, but when they played would-be bowl teams, the results were more predicable: losses to Oregon, 66-3, and to ULL, 70-7.

Anyway, I’ve noticed the quality of FCS opponents on LSU’s schedule of late. The Tigers played Furman last year, and while that’s not typically one of the top FCS teams (although they are competitive in one of the top FCS conferences), they still did a decent job. LSU only led by four at halftime and didn’t lead by more than 11 until less than 17 minutes remained in the game. The Paladin defense folded after that, and LSU ended up winning by 32; but that was still a better exercise than Kent St., whom LSU led 31-7 in the second quarter, or UAB, whom LSU led 35-7 in the second quarter last season. LSU let both teams back into the game a little bit before pulling away, but I don’t think that’s the same kind of pressure.

In 2012, LSU blew out Idaho, 63-14, but then struggled to beat Towson, 38-22, two weeks later. Towson failed to make the playoffs that year despite only losing twice in FCS play, but they advanced to the FCS finals last year (they also lost to the Bison of NDSU) after again only losing two games in FCS play. They played no FBS opponents last season, however.

A similar combination of results took place in 2010 when LSU beat McNeese St., 32-10, after trailing in the second quarter and leading only 16-10 after halftime. The Tigers then went on to beat ULM, 51-0, later that season. LSU plays ULM next week, by the way.

LSU had only played an FCS opponent twice in the previous six seasons, both times being against Appalachian St. In the first meeting in 2005, the Tigers, who would win the SEC West, only led the Mountaineers 14-0 after three quarters before pulling away slightly in the fourth to win, 24-0. Appalachian St. at one point drove to the LSU 15 while it was still 14-0 (before missing a field goal), so the game was in doubt for a long time despite the lack of points. The Tigers had easier wins that season @Mississippi St., @Vanderbilt, @Ole Miss, and in the bowl game against Miami. LSU also blew out North Texas at home by more than twice that margin in that season.

So if I wanted to give LSU a test in a given year, I’d pick a top-20 FCS team over a bottom-20 FBS team every time. Just something to keep in mind.

Also, McNeese wasn’t the only team with a good result last week. Eastern Kentucky got the only win (over Miami U.), but there were some others that were in doubt fairly late. Stony Brook gave Connecticut all they could handle. Rutgers only beat Howard by 13. Eastern Washington was neck-and-neck with Washington the whole game, falling short by only 7 points. Southern Mississippi only beat Alcorn St. by 6, and UNLV only beat Northern Colorado by a single point.

Finally, I don’t think Missouri St. made Oklahoma St. too nervous, but I thought it was interesting that the Bears only lost by 17 after the Cowboys were a touchdown short of beating Florida St. in Week 1.

By the way, LSU plays McNeese St. and Eastern Michigan next season. I would not be surprised if they had more trouble with McNeese St.

LSU Notes and FCS vs. FBS

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game on September 2, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Just a random observation and then I’ll have a couple of detailed topics: Arkansas plays four SEC teams in the preseason top 10 in consecutive weeks, beginning September 28. All four won over the weekend, as did the Razorbacks. Kentucky also has a similar string of opponents beginning September 14, but one of the preseason top-10 opponents is Louisville.

FCS schools make statements against the FBS

Oregon St. became the third ranked team ever and first since 2010 to lose to an FCS (formerly I-AA) opponent. The other two were Virginia Tech (to James Madison) and Michigan (to Appalachian St. in 2007).

By my count, FCS programs went 8-21 against FBS (formerly I-A) teams, a better winning percentage than the MAC, MWC, and Independents had against FBS teams in Week 1. Of those, only the MAC had a better winning percentage against Division I as a whole.

The Big Ten schools are in the process of eliminating FCS schools from their schedules. The Big Ten has not lost to any so far, but the Big XII and AAC (the successor to the Big East) lost two such games apiece. The conference should probably re-think that, especially since North Dakota St. and Northern Iowa (and much of the rest of the current Missouri Valley Conference) often fields teams that are more competitive than MAC opponents that may be chosen instead. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Northern Iowa has played interesting in-state games against Iowa and Iowa St. (including this year, when it beat the Cyclones) in recent reasons. Minnesota has struggled against Dakota teams, nearly losing to South Dakota St. in 2009 and then losing to South Dakota in 2010 and to North Dakota St. in 2011. Maybe the Big Ten should place a limit on how far away the FCS opponent can come from instead. Games of regional interest against competitive FCS programs should definitely continue.

North Dakota St.–which came from behind, 21-7, to beat Kansas St.–has beaten an FBS school for the fourth consecutive season. Three of the four were against opponents in auto-bid BCS conferences. The Bison move to 7-3 against FBS opponents in the last 10 years. Before 10 years ago, they weren’t losing to FBS schools; instead they were competing in Division II.

Don’t forget FBS schools often pay for the right to play these FCS opponents. ESPN’s Darren Rovell provided the numbers for two of the games. Kansas State paid North Dakota State $350,000 to play Friday’s game. NDSU paid for its coach’s salary and then some. Craig Bohl has a base salary of $206,000. The UConn Huskies paid Towson $275,000 to beat them Thursday night.

Two of the FCS winners over FBS teams this weekend have played LSU in recent seasons. The Tigers defeated Towson last year and McNeese St. in 2010. Towson beat UConn, 33-18, and McNeese St. beat South Florida, 53-21. Hard to believe UConn was in a BCS bowl in 2010, and in 2007, South Florida was #2 in the BCS standings.

LSU Game Notes

At first blush, it might appear that the LSU defense struggled with the loss of talent (depending on whom you ask, they had either 4 or 5 returning starters on defense), but when you look closer, not really.

The only touchdown allowed in the first half was allowed by the special teams. The only other TCU scoring drive in the first half was a field goal. The defense did technically allow two touchdown drives in the second half, but one of those started at the LSU 6 after a fumble by the LSU running back.

There were definitely some things the defense did wrong leading up to the other touchdown for the Horned Frogs, but at one point it actually seemed to have a stop before a penalty was called for roughing the passer on third down.

After a bad punt, TCU also got a second-half field goal from 39 yards out after only a 26-yard drive.

The defense also came up with an interception.

Other than the one turnover, the offense did a fairly good job overall. Mettenberger was very on-target, and it’s really an injustice to him that only 50% of his passes were caught. Some of the passes were thrown to perfection, allowing receivers to catch the ball in stride and evade even very good coverage. At least a couple such balls hit receivers in the hands and were not caught.

He did linger in the pocket at times, but I’d prefer that to risking an interception. I think there were missed blocking assignments and things of that nature that contributed to problems and will work themselves out as the season progresses. Mettenberger showed some good scrambling ability, but he’s not great at running or throwing on the run.

Like the receivers, the running backs were a bit of a mixed bag. Odell Beckham, LSU’s top receiver on the night in terms of yardage, also had one of the longer runs on an end-around for 17 yards. Alfred Blue (who committed the turnover) was solid but not spectacular, carrying the ball 19 times for 89 yards. Terrence Magee, who was only credited with one rushing attempt and one reception last season, showed the ability to accelerate on a 52-yard touchdown scamper (the blocking on that play helped make up for some backfield errors) but only gained 43 yards combined in his other 12 carries. Jeremy Hill is serving a (indeterminate) suspension for punching a man outside of a bar, but it’s nice to know there are at least two able backs. Kenny Hilliard showed flashes of brilliance in the past as well, but he only had 4 carries for 8 yards on Saturday.

Aside from struggles with TCU kickoff returns (even apart from the 100-yard touchdown, the Frogs gained 69 yards in the other four returns) and the one bad punt, the special teams did well. There were two other punts, one of 48 yards that was fair caught at midfield and another of 43 yards that went out of bounds at the 9 yard line. There were no punt returns for the Tigers or Horned Frogs.

The three LSU field goals were all of under 30 yards (which says we could use some improvement in the red zone), but all of the kicks were free from any drama from what I could tell.

Odell Beckham did some damage of his own on the LSU kick returns, returning 4 kickoffs for a total of 136 yards.

Some other odds and ends. LSU was 13/19 on third downs compared to 7/13 for TCU. The Tigers out-gained the Horned Frogs, 448-259. TCU was penalized 9 times for 55 yards, and LSU was penalized 7 times for 42 yards. The Tigers had twice as many first downs, 26-13, one fewer turnover, and almost exactly 12 more minutes in time of possession.

The Tigers have won 42 consecutive non-conference regular-season games since losing the opener of the 2002 season at Virginia Tech. I went over the highlights here. This is also the first time in LSU history that the team has won 11 consecutive season openers.

Week 5 Top 25 and Comments and LSU Recap/Rant

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 5, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Before I start, I wanted to remind people of my LSU/Florida rivalry blog. I update these (the records anyway) after each game. The two teams have played one another for about 40 years in a row, and they were the first two teams to win two BCS titles apiece, so it’s been an interesting last 10 years especially.

This is the week (the week before the first computer ratings) every year where people try to destroy me and everything I stand for sports-wise because I try to be objective, which is bound to ruffle feathers in small doses, so it’s really big when the whole football world is shaken up if one goes by my rankings. Also, people don’t like that this is a change from going more with the flow in prior weeks. We’ve played nearly half a season, time to take the training wheels off, and if there are scraped knees, spray some antiseptic on it and move on. After all, we’re not talking about shuffleboard, we’re talking about football.

I’m going to start with my rankings since I don’t want to confuse people into thinking I’m giving primary importance to what the voters do, but being unhappy with the voters goes all the way back to 1994 for me—and LSU wasn’t even a team at much risk of having a winning record that year—and that’s what got me started with my own rankings system, which started as purely subjective until it got too difficult to be consistent.

I still use subjective measures early in this season, but as is typical, I try to phase out things like preseason projections, historical strength of programs, and margin of victory before I turn it over to my arithmetical rankings system. This happens every year, it has nothing to do with LSU having less-than-impressive score lines the past two weeks.
So how I did it this year was to basically use a blind resume. I looked at which teams have been beaten and when relevant, I looked at losses. I went ahead and put a couple teams in there with more than one loss, because I couldn’t say any of the unranked undefeated or 1-loss teams fall into the category of having beating someone who at this point seems worth much of anything. I’m going to list the rankings now (after three more sentences). I’m going to go on to give some basic responses to things I’m expecting people to say, and then I’m going to talk about how silly it is to keep moving LSU down. I understand this is mostly just preliminary quibbling with so many teams still undefeated, but if LSU is fortunate enough to win this week and someone complains it was too close, they should be laughed at. If LSU loses, I will just have to be grateful that unless it’s like a Spurrier-era score, we will still look better than USC.

Top 25

rank / team / prior
1 Alabama 1
2 LSU 2
3 Kansas St. 5
4 Oregon St. 16
5 Florida St. 6
6 Notre Dame 15
7 W Virginia 8
8 Washington —
9 Stanford 10
10 Georgia 3
11 S Carolina 7
12 Cincinnati 17
13 Oregon 4
14 Florida 14
15 Ohio St. 22
16 UCLA 24
17 Nebraska —
18 Texas 13
19 Miss. St. 19
20 Clemson 20
21 Mich St. —
22 Arizona —
23 Missouri —
24 Wisconsin 18
25 Baylor 21

Out of rankings:
(9) USC, (11) Oklahoma, (12) TCU. (23) Michigan, (25) Tennessee

Prior rankings:
Preseason
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

People are going to have objections based on things I don’t care about, because they’re things the voters care about. Just know that it will be 100% objective next week.
But I will mention a couple particulars. You could tell me you know for a fact USC is going to beat UCLA (or any other currently-ranked team they’re playing) 70-0 this year, and even if I believed you are the one person who is known to have traveled time, I would still say I don’t care because at this point it seems that beating Nebraska and losing to Oregon St. is better than beating Hawaii/Syracuse/Cal and losing to Stanford. None of this is forward-looking at all.

Someone may mention that I didn’t rank Arizona when they were undefeated but I am ranking them now and at the same time I moved Oregon down. I still don’t think Arizona is very good (and I doubt Oregon has played another top-60 team), but those teams who happen not to be above Arizona haven’t beaten anyone better in my estimation. A number of teams that I don’t rank ahead of Arizona I still think are better than Arizona. I think Oklahoma or USC would beat Arizona easily. But neither has beaten anyone that you HAVE to be remotely good to beat. Arizona (until there is something to indicate otherwise) had to prove they were at least remotely good to beat Oklahoma St. And the fact that Oklahoma St. lost to Texas doesn’t prove this idea wrong. Oklahoma St. themselves haven’t beaten anyone (unless 3-1 ULL counts), but I was getting pretty desperate there at the end when I added Arizona.

I think I made clear why Oregon is going down, but to summarize. I’m taking out margin of victory (which is what impressed people with the Arizona game moreso than the opponent, be honest), and I’m not factoring in either what my projections (or anyone else’s) were for the Ducks preseason or what they are now. That doesn’t leave the Ducks with much.

I’ll cover LSU in what is becoming my weekly rant, but Washington looks like a heck of a team based on other games, and other than losing to Mississippi St. somewhat convincingly, Auburn doesn’t seem so bad despite its record. “They don’t have a QB”… yes, I’ve heard it. LSU had probably the best 13-0 start of any team ever last year, and they didn’t have much of one either. No risk of me ranking Auburn #1 or #2 though, so don’t worry about that. Anyway, Washington + Auburn seems a lot better than Arizona (a somewhat nobody) + some serious nobodies. I don’t care if LSU beat both teams by 2 and Oregon won by 149 over Arizona instead of 49.

#25 was Baylor, whose best win is over ULM. But none of the other undefeated or one-loss teams have beaten a team that I think has looked as good the first few weeks as ULM has in playing 3 BCS opponents, two on the road. I’m not counting margin of victory for those teams in the top 25, but since ULM is instead being considered as an opponent, I think it is telling that not only did ULM beat Arkansas, but they played Auburn very close in a loss; after all, Auburn didn’t lose convincingly to either Clemson or LSU.

I also don’t care about the “eye test”. If it hasn’t translated into doing well on the beat-somebody test, I don’t care. Wins and losses, maybe an opponent’s final score in other games here and there, but that’s it. Next week, no final scores matter even slightly unless it was within a field goal and the home team won (in which case, I think it’s fair in my system to reduce the value of the win 10% and to reduce the value subtracted by the loss 10%).

Although I did try, I’m sure I wasn’t completely consistent. I’ve been up for 20 hours straight, and when it got toward the end of the year, I used to spend hours trying to be perfectly fair and take every game into account, but I just can’t anymore. Not until someone pays me. So this is as much work as I’m going to do on this all year, except for next week, but it’s much less intellectually taxing to input numbers than it is to rank teams this way.

I usually leave #1 alone, so I didn’t subject Alabama to the same scrutiny, but the win over Michigan plus being 2-0 in the SEC was good enough not to try to find someone else. Another opponent, Western Kentucky, is undefeated apart from the Alabama game .

As to last week, I’m not even going to take seriously ranking Florida St. ahead of LSU. This isn’t the 1990s. And Florida St. has done what exactly? Beat Clemson? Even if Clemson is as good as they were last year, Clemson went into the ACC title game after having won one game (by 3 over Wake Forest) out of four. So they beat Va. Tech, which gave them the right to get drubbed in the Orange Bowl, 70-33.

Forget that a lot of people were ranking USC ahead of LSU a few weeks ago. What happened? USC lost a conference game on the road (to Stanford, which lost to Washington), and LSU won a conference game on the road. LSU also beat that Washington team.

Florida St. easily beat two FCS opponents? That’s a great predictor of being able to beat good teams consistently. This must be why the Seminoles haven’t won the ACC since 2005, a year in which they lost to 5 teams overall. This was despite beating Charleston Southern 62-10 in 2011, beating Samford 59-6 in 2010, and beating Western Carolina 69-0 AND Tennessee-Chattanooga 46-7 in 2008. And in that 5-loss 2005 season, they beat the Citadel, 62-10.

Compare that to LSU’s recent experiences. 2010 was a pretty strong team (11-2 after the Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M), and they only led McNeese St. by 6 after three quarters that year. Prior to that game, the Tigers had already won 4 SEC games.

Western Kentucky is an emerging FBS team now, so maybe they’re a cut above McNeese St. , but LSU only led them 14-7 in the third quarter last year. We can also go back to LSU’s 2007 national-championship season when LSU only led Tulane 10-9 at halftime. 2009 wasn’t a great year (9-4 after losing the CapitalOne Bowl to Penn St.), but the Tigers only beat a BAD Louisiana Tech team by 8 after leading by only 4 going into the fourth quarter.

LSU has won 41 consecutive non-conference regular-season games (all but a handful since Les came to town), so they know what works. A slow, grinding game gives LSU a sufficient advantage. If you start airing it out and being cute, you might win by a lot or you might help out a team that can’t win on talent alone.

As I’ve made clear, I still disagree with the Oregon #2 ranking. Somehow it doesn’t matter that Arizona has lost another game and Washington beat Stanford, because things only matter if they happen before you play the team in question, not after. It probably also won’t matter if we find out Auburn wasn’t so bad after all.

LSU allowed 22 points to Towson on Saturday. But of course we can’t go beneath the surface to consider that 13 of those points were scored in the last 10 minutes. LSU probably could have followed the Oregon/Arizona blueprint and scored a few meaningless touchdowns after that point, rather than just one after a 9-play drive. After all, the score that put the Fighting Tigers up by 22 was on a 53-yard pass on the first play of the 4th quarter.

And maybe LSU could have done more to put a stop to Towson’s 6-minute touchdown drive, but why? Why not just let a team run out the clock on itself? Slow and steady wins the race for LSU’s offense in such games, but it loses the race for a competitor who takes possession of the ball down 22 in the 4th quarter.

I for one am glad the LSU coaching staff didn’t fall into that trap. They worked on things the team needed to work on and finished the game in a respectable manner instead of trying to impress the pollsters. If LSU wins the SEC, it probably won’t matter too much if the voters remember that LSU played that Washington team anyway. Nor will it matter if they were dropped a spot for in the AP poll after declining to run up the score in September. For instance, Mettenberger didn’t need to throw the ball that much. LSU probably could have done just fine making it primarily a rushing attack. LSU may well have done even better considering Mettenberger was sacked 5 times. But the LSU defense succeeded well enough (until the offense came up with the TD to go up 31-9 anyway) that the game wasn’t really threatened by this. (Towson is the Tigers too, so that’s why I’m not being very creative with my subjects.) But he’s a first-year QB; and against Auburn, it showed. He needed to be taken out of his comfort zone against a team that LSU wasn’t too worried about figuring out how to beat.