theknightswhosay

Posts Tagged ‘Towson’

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.

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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.

The Beginning of the End of the Offseason for LSU

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings Commentary on August 7, 2012 at 1:13 AM

I’m at that stage (as of Sunday) for the third year in a row where I’m starting to lose hope in the idea of my baseball team (the Angels) winning their division.  Since giving up an early 6-run lead and then also giving up a 3-run 10th-inning lead in Wednesday’s loss, the Halos only won a single game of the next four. While they would have been 2 games behind immediately after that Wednesday game had they won, they are 6 games back (reduced to 5 a few hours ago). Depressing week, would have been even worse without the Olympics to distract me. The Angels would still be able to chase that ridiculous 1-game wildcard-playoff berth if the division is finally out of reach, but anyway, I’m going to be trying to turn my attention to fall/winter sports like football.

I don’t think the Saints will do much with the ridiculous penalties and I prefer college anyway, so by this I mostly mean college football and specifically LSU.  #1 in the coaches’ poll came down to LSU and Alabama.  LSU was the more solid team in general last year (for 13/14 of the season anyway), so I guess I understand them being voted #1.  Alabama did get more #1 votes though.  I think USC is probably as overrated going into this season as they were going out of last season, but whenever they plan on having some competition, I guess we’ll see.

USC is ranked so highly in part because of a returning quarterback who’s shown some capability.  LSU has a more mysterious proposition at that position, Zach Mettenberger, a former Georgia backup who saw limited action last season.
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This Bleacher Report article points out, “after three non-conference games to kick off the year—one of which is against a much-improved Washington team—Mettenberger will be thrown right into the SEC gauntlet before he can blink.  The Tigers open their conference schedule with the following set of games: at Auburn, at Florida, home against South Carolina, at Texas A&M and home against Alabama.”

A little dramatic… Washington is sandwiched between two games where LSU could just fail to show up for a half and you might not even notice in the final score  Even a shaky win at Auburn (think the 2008 26-21 win) would be followed by Towson, which isn’t even a good I-AA team.

This is not the buzzsaw the Tigers had to face to start out last year when they started out against the #3 team (which went on to win the Rose Bowl) and played two other top-25 teams (one of whom went on to win the Orange Bowl) in the first four weeks of the season.  They played a total of 4 top-25 teams in the first 6 games.  This year might not include any ranked teams in the first 6 games.  In the first coaches’ poll, Auburn (the fourth opponent) is #25 and Florida (the sixth opponent) is #23.  Washington (the second opponent) is currently #26 in the coaches’ poll and will be favored to beat San Diego St. in Week 1. 

I’m not making light of Auburn or Florida, especially not on the road, I’m just pointing out there is some breathing room there and he doesn’t have to be great right away.  It will be important not to screw things up, however, because there are at least three opponents there that can give the Tigers an L if they’re given adequate opportunity to do so.  The point is LSU does not have to be team it was last year to start 6-0 for the third year in a row (or 5-0 for the fourth year in a row), but by then maybe it will at least be close to as good at that point.

After the first six games though, there isn’t a break really, apart from the pre-Alabama bye week.  Texas A&M and Ole Miss are in transition and few would pick even a weaker-than-expected LSU team to lose, but there isn’t the customary late-season cupcake.  South Carolina, Alabama, and Arkansas are all potential top-5 teams.  Mississippi St. has only beaten LSU once since 1991 (the year of the Bulldogs’ only win @LSU since 1983… I was at the 1991 game, by the way), but they have the ability to at least put together a decent top-25 team, and LSU did need a dramatic goal-line stand to escape Starkville with a win (with a more experienced quarterback) just 3 years ago.    So there’s no turning back once South Carolina comes to Baton Rouge in mid-October. 

If you were curious, LSU has beaten South Carolina in all four contests this century (16-2-1 overall).  Speaking of past results in series, I’ve been getting a lot of interest in the Texas A&M series that I posted about before and after the Cotton Bowl after the 2010 season: https://theknightswhosay.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/rivalry-series-lsu-vs-texas-am/  This is the directory for all the series I’ve done or re-done so far: (I haven’t re-posted all the ones from TSN yet.)