As a new year begins to dawn so too does a new era of LSU football. After Saturday's performance LSU fans are hoping that 2017 will have as promising a start as the Tigers did.
Faced with an 11 AM kickoff against the 14th ranked team in the nation, the Tigers dominated from start to finish, defeating Louisville by a final score of 29-9. Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson was stifled by a confounding elixir brewed by the alchemist Dave Aranda. Derrius Guice continued his dominant play, while Danny Etling remained solid. In all, it was a nearly complete team performance that saw LSU protect themselves against scurvy by winning some valuable Citrus!
The LSU Defense Are the Real Stars of the Citrus Bowl
As far as defensive box scores go, the LSU Citrus Bowl team stat section is borderline erotic. Faced with one of the top offenses in the nation, the Tigers refused to yield. Louisville finished with just 220 yards on the day. The Cardinals managed to convert just 2/17 (11.7%) third down opportunities. They averaged just 1.9 yards per carry on the ground.
Heisman Winner Lamar Jackson finished with his worst stat line of the season completing just 10/27 (37%) of his passes for 153 yds and, for the first time this season, was held out of the end zone. Much of the QB's struggles were due to the unrelenting barrage of pressure Jackson faced throughout the night as LSU managed to sack the slippery signal caller a whopping 8 times. One of these sacks resulted in a safety following a beautifully called and executed stunt.
Tashawn Bower continued his late season emergence as he took 3 for himself. Arden Key was up next with 2 of his own, followed by Davon Godchaux and freshmen Devin White and Rashard Lawrence who all managed 1 sack apiece. Duke Riley led the team in tackles while honoring Joe McKnight wearing no. 4 instead of his customary 40. Jamal Adams, Tre White, Lewis Neal, and the rest of the defense all came together to produce one of the best performances I have seen in years.
From this vantage point, the decision to pay Dave Aranda nearly$ 2 million dollars appears justified. Aranda will be challenged next season as many of the aforementioned players will be playing on Sunday, but he has earned my confidence that he is up to the task.
Offense Looks Strong Heading into 2017
LSU's offense continued its renaissance under the tutelage of Steve Moses Ensminger as the Tigers nearly doubled Louisville's offensive output. Derrius Guice continued his emergence as arguably the best back in the nation by rushing for 138 yards on 26 carries with one score in the form of a 70 yard burst. Danny Etling remained steady and continued to (nearly) hit the arbitrary benchmarks I set for LSU QBs. Show me 60% completion, 200yds, and a 2:1 TD:INT ratio and I'll show you a successful offense. Etling went 55% for 217 yds 2 TDs 1 INT.
Malachi Dupre made his decision whether or not to go to the NFL that much tougher as he had arguably his best game in an LSU uniform. 7 catches for 139 yards including a 3rd down one handed gem that helped kickstart the Tiger offense. DJ Chark did DJ Chark things catching 2 balls for 47 yards. Whats so intriguing about this box score is that all of these players could potentially be back for the Tigers in 2017. If LSU can convince Dupre and Chark to return and replace Ethan Pocic than who knows how good this offense could be under newly hired O coordinator Matt Canada.
In the end, it was an impressive performance from a team that at times had been vulnerable to letdowns this season. While I hesitate to draw too many judgements of the 2017 team form this 2016 squad, it is hard to imagine a more positive beginning for Ed Orgeron. All the decisions Orgeron has made recently appear to be validated. Coach O did not use the full allotment of bowl practices allowed, LSU looked fresh. Coach O and the administration made retaining Dave Aranda priority no. 1 and were rewarded with a masterful scheme that held a player that had scored 51 touchdowns on the year out of the end zone. The promotion of Steve Ensminger to interim offensive coordinator continued to pay shocking dividends considering where the offense was when Ensminger took over.
After taking over following a lifeless 2-2 start, Coach O and co. managed to go 6-2 and defeat the 14th ranked team in the Citrus Bowl. Still, college football is a transient game and you are only as good as your latest results. Over the next few months Orgeron and his staff will be challenged to replace the immense talent of this year's team. While I cannot say for certain where the Orgeron era goes from here I believe it is safe to say that this has been a helluva start.
As a new year prepares to dawn, so too does a new era of LSU football. After over a decade with Les Miles as the head of the program, the fanbase and administration has taken the plunge and traded stability for potential.
Following a season in which the Tigers fell woefully short of expectations, new head coach Ed Orgeron will attempt to provide some hope as LSU hurtles into the great unknown. Much like 2017, the next era of LSU football is filled with uncertainty. Where will the new leadership of this program lead LSU? Will they reclaim the heights of the Golden 2000s? Or does this takeover mark the beginning of a 90s-esque dark age?
This uncertainty is but one of many reasons why this Citrus Bowl is so exciting. I find it a bit odd that there has been so little perceived interest amongst Tiger fans given that there are so many interesting storylines at play. So, with that in mind, instead of the keys to the game (control the line of scrimmage, win turnovers, blah blah) I’m going to attempt to get you excited to wake up, grab an Irish Coffee, and settle in for the debut of the Coach O era at the Citrus Bowl!
Bobby Petrine and Heisman Winner Lamar Jackson Against Newly Promoted Wunderkind Dave Aranda
This is the best reason to wake up earlier than you intended this Saturday. Jackson’s Heisman trophy speaks for itself, but here is a stat that provides some context as to just how great he has been this season - Jackson has scored 51 TDs on the year. That is more than all but 43 Div I schools, including LSU, as the Tigers managed to amass just 41 scores.
Surely no defense could hope to stop such a force? Not so fast... The LSU defense is 2nd in the nation having given up just 16 touchdowns on the year. While he has great players to work with, there is no doubt that Aranda was the key piece in restoring the dominance of the LSU defense.
The fact that Aranda was publicly deemed “priority no. 1” during the head coaching search shows you what a transcendent coaching talent the administration believes Aranda to be. They displayed this confidence in the clearest way possible, with cold, hard cash. Aranda is now the assistant head coach of LSU and will be making nearly $2 million dollars a year through 2020. Therefore the crazed alchemist Aranda has no need to turn lead into gold, but instead will look to brew an elixir that will transmute Jackson’s bronze Heisman into dust.
Last Chance to See Some Great Players
College football is a transient game. No sooner have you figured out who your favorite player is than he has ascended to Sundays. Thus college football fans have learned to cherish the time they have with their favorite athletes.
Saturday will mark Tiger fans' last shot at seeing All Americans Tre White and Ethan Pocic in the Purple and Gold. It will be the last chance you get to watch Lewis Neal rush the passer for LSU. Never again will you see Dwayne Thomas scrapping out plays with a Tiger on his temple... and these are just some of the seniors. This is to say nothing of the very talented junior class that may or may not see many players make the jump to the League. While it remains unclear what Malachi Dupre, Davon Godchaux, and Jamal Adams will decide, there is no guarantee you’ll get to watch them play college football ever again. But do not be sad that its nearly over - be happy that it happened.
This outcome will shape the tone of the offseason for LSU
Reasonable or not, the outcome of this game will be used as ammunition in the debates that coalesce in the void of the College Football Offseason. If LSU loses, then the contigent of Tiger fans that believe Orgeron to be a failed hire will hold this result up as Exhibit A. The same could be said for the Pro-O Party should LSU roll to an impressive win. In the end, neither side is correct.
The differences from this year’s team to next year’s will be immense. Still, it is often perception that determines reality and as long as people perceive this game to be important, than it is. LSU needs to start 2017 on a high note.
Both Teams Want to wash Bad taste out of mouth
Both Louisville and LSU were so close to New Year’s six bowls, their administrators could practically taste the bonuses. However, fate had different plans as both the Cardinals and Tigers watched their NY6 dreams turn to dust. With two games to play, Louisville sat at 9-1 with a 43 point win over FSU and appeared to be a legitimate playoff contender. Two weeks later following consecutive losses to both Houston and instate rival Kentucky, Bobby Petrine’s side saw that same FSU team they had trounced so thoroughly leapfrog Louisville into the Orange Bowl.
In LSU’s case, the Tigers were literally one play away from the sweet taste of Sugar, but a heartbreaking goal line stand by the Florida Gators left a bitter taste in the Tiger’s mouths and sent them on their way to Orlando. This Citrus Bowl represents a golden opportunity for both school’s to cleanse their respective palates.
This year’s Citrus Bowl is far more interesting than a Bowl game with a 10AM kickoff has any right to be. This is the 14th ranked team vs the 20th ranked team. This is the start of a new era of LSU football. Its the final chance for these seniors to end their college football careers (and for many their football careers) on a high note.
Everyone wants to walk away a winner, whether you finish 13-0 or 7-6 notching that final win sends you into the offseason with confidence and pride. Also, this game marks the last time we will get to see Steve "LSU Moses" Ensminger calling the plays for the Tigers. After leading the Tigers out offensive captivity, he has been denied the promised land, but not before he gets to lead the Purple and Gold one final time. So what are you waiting for? Set your alarm, get your bloody mary/mimosa/screwdriver/irish coffee supplies, and get ready to wake up to a great New Year’s Eve Bowl Battle.
Oh Canada, my Canada, our OC search is done,
The team has weathered many twists, but the prize they sought is won
The contract set, the money right, the people are exulting
While recruits appear to like the sight, as they are recommitting
That's right, in a classic recruiting move, LSU commit Myles Brennan has decided to reaffirm his commitment to the Purple and Gold after some hesitancy regarding the uncertainty of LSU’s offensive future. It made sense as to why Brennan started to have his doubts following Coach O’s initial press conference in which he said he believed a spread offense with a dual threat QB is the best way to have success in college football. This was an oddly specific line that I still feel was placed there to appease someone, but in the end it makes no difference, as LSU has hired one of the best OCs in the nation in Matt Canada.
Here’s some Canadian fun facts to whet your whistle. He led Pittsburgh to their highest scoring season ever averaging 42.3 points per game. He was the OC on Bielema’s final Wisconsin team that saw Montee Ball rush for 2,326 yards per game and win the Doak Walker award (best RB in the nation).
In 2011 he was the OC on a Northern Illinois team that won the MAC and was just shy of 40 points per game. While he was at NC State he developed Jacoby Brisset into an incredibly efficient passer throwing 43 TDs to just 11 INTS over his final two years. In 2016 he helped Pitt QB Nathan Peterman lead the ACC in QB rating throwing 26 TDs to just 6 INTS.
Finally, Canada was one of five nominees for the Broyles Award (given to the best coordinator in the country) and he was the ONLY offensive coordinator nominated. More impressive than any of these raw numbers in my opinion are the various styles that Canada has employed throughout his career. At times he has been run first, at others, the pass has reigned supreme. He has developed both running QBs and pocket QBs. Why this is all the more impressive is that if there has been one constant amongst all the change, it is that Canada has always been successful. It is this ability to adapt to what his personnel demands that makes me so excited for Coach Canada to come to Baton Rouge.
Brennan would seem to be a perfect fit for a Canada offense. If they run a similar scheme to that of Pitt, Brennan will be able to develop his pocket skills in a pro-style offense while not having all of the pressure on his shoulders alone. I believe LSU will remain a run-first team which will upset some fans, but if Canada can develop QBs and a consistently threatening passing attack, than this Tiger offense gets taken to the next level.
I should be clear that while I expect Brennan to be a great fit I am also intrigued to see how Danny Etling develops under Canada’s tutelage. There is a good chance that he will be the starter again next season and could be one of the top QBs in the conference if he builds on the improvement witnessed under Steve Ensminger.
In the end, no matter who starts for LSU, I believe the Canada hire to be a win for Orgeron’s staff; but don’t take my word for it, as Canada reportedly turned down multiple other major D1 coordinator opportunities to come to LSU. Anytime there is demand and a market for someone, I find thats the best way to gauge what the people who know football the best think about said individual. From where I’m sitting, it looks like Canada is pretty hot. Then again maybe its just global warming. Canada's lowest recorded temperature was -81.4 degrees back in 1947.
The high school player once cast as the savior to LSU's quarterbacking woes has decided to re-open his recruitment. Myles Brennan was one of the top ranked pocket passers in the country and Tiger fans have been eagerly anticipating his arrival.
This all changed Saturday when Coach Orgeron was hired as the long term LSU head coach. During his introductory press conference, I thought it was interesting to note that O went out of his way to state that he believes in a spread offense with a true dual threat quarterback. Dual threat Brennan clearly is not; although I believe he could still be a good QB should he decide to come to Baton Rouge.
Remember, high school players have to make the decisions that are best for themselves and their potential careers. DO NOT BE THAT GUY OR GAL THAT YELLS AT HIGH SCHOOL KIDS FOR CHOICES THAT AFFECT THE COURSE OF THEIR LIVES. It makes a lot of sense for Brennan to re-open his recruiting and re-evaluate what is in his best interests.
For Orgeron it's a bit of a tricky situation. This is not a popular development amongst the LSU fan base. Many believed Brennan to be the answer to their prayers, and I am intrigued to see if Orgeron and his staff can land a QB recruit that would inspire similar levels of confidence as that of Brennan.
On Thanksgiving Day, the LSU Tigers put on an appropriately gluttonous offensive performance as they defeated the Texas A&M Aggies for the 6th year in a row 54-39. When it was all said and done, the Purple and Gold amassed 622 yards of total offense against their former defensive coordinator John Chavis.
It was the most balanced and complete attack LSU has displayed all season, gaining 324 yards through the air and 298 on the ground. The outcome is made all the more impressive when you consider all the factors LSU had working against themselves, coming into an away game on short rest following a truly demoralizing loss at home on Senior Day. Additionally, there is the ongoing noise and distraction currently surrounding this program due to the coaching search.
The cherry on top was that LSU was down 4 starters, including their best pass rusher in Arden Key and their offensive and defensive leaders in Leonard Fournette and Kendell Beckwith. Without a tangible Bowl goal on the line, many of us questioned where the team’s motivation would come from. Still, despite all of this LSU came out and dominated from the start. It was a team that seemed eager to wash away the bad taste from last week and end a roller coaster of a season on a hight note.
Steve Ensminger is the Hero We Need, Not the Hero We Deserve
The tale of Steve Ensminger is truly a Shakespearean tragedy. Not afforded the benefit of merit, he completely saved the season by turning around a torpid, lifeless, and tedious offense despite being constantly told that no matter what he managed to accomplish, he would not be the next offensive coordinator of the LSU Tigers. When you take a look at the numbers Steve Ensminger has been nothing short of incredible. He truly is LSU Moses, the one destined to lead the Tigers out of offensive captivity. However much like Moses, the Promised Land will be denied to him due to a cruel twist of seemingly unfair judgement. Lets take a look at the record setting numbers that Steve Ensminger amassed while demanding offensive freedom for his people. Some of these numbers come from an excellent article on AndTheValleyShook by Billy Gomila.
Offensive Numbers Pre-Ensminger:
Total Scoring LSU- 84 Opponents- 67
Avg Total Yards Per Game- 339
Avg Passing Yards Per Game- 147.8
Avg Rushing yards Per Game- 191.8
Avg Points Per Game- 21.0
Red Zone TD%- 46.1%
4th Qtr Points- 0
Offensive Numbers Post-Ensminger:
Total Scoring LSU- 227 Opponents 113
Avg Total Yards Per Game- 475 Yards
Avg Passing Yards Per Game- 210.5
Avg Rushing Yards Per Game- 264.5 yards
Avg Points Per Game- 32.4
Red Zone TD%- 70.1%
4th Quarter Points- 61
It doesn’t take a mathematician to see what an unbelievable job Ensminger did at the helm of this LSU attack. Add to this the fact that during his tenure the Tiger offense twice broke the LSU single game rushing record, gained most total yards ever against an SEC Opponent, converted most first downs ever against an SEC Opponent, and on Thanksgiving became the first Tiger offense in school history to feature a 200 yard running back and 300 yard passer in the same game.
Throughout his 7 games in charge Ensminger’s play calling and instincts have been nearly flawless. So although he will be denied the Promised Land after freeing his people from captivity, it is only right that we should take a moment and appreciate how incredible of a job Steve Ensminger did with this year’s LSU offense. All the talk the next few days is going to be about “sexy offensive gurus” who will “fix” LSU’s offense. I don’t know about y’all, but Steve “Moses” Ensminger looks pretty damn sexy to me.
Exciting Hope for Next Season on Display
LSU will be losing a prodigious amount of talent next year. Leonard Fournette, Travin Dural, Malachi Dupre, Kendell Beckwith, Duke Riley, Tre White, Ethan Pocic, Dwayne Thomas and others will no longer be a part of the Tigers come January. How reassuring then that LSU fans were given a glimpse of the future last night.
With DJ Chark and Russell Gage, and Dee Anderson all racking up impressive plays it seems as if the wide receivers are in good hands. Donnie Alexander did a fine job filling in for Beckwith, and Devin White proved why he has been a freshman sensation behind the scenes since day one. The running back turned linebacker had one of the most athletic strip recoveries that I’ve seen.
The plays made by these younger players last night is a testament to the consistent recruiting of the Miles era. Although you will be losing a ton of talent, there are plenty of young stars waiting in the wings to for their chance to shine. Oh yeah, there is also some guy named Derrius Guice who will be back next season. Since I have yet to work it in, here is Guice’s stat line from Thanksgiving: 37 carries 285 yards 4 TDs. My God… gluttony in the extreme.
The next few days hold colossal implications for the future of the Tiger program. Currently, it seems as if there are two true candidates left in the running for the head gig at LSU and they are Tom Herman and Ed Orgeron. Obviously, everything you hear should be taken with a grain of salt; however, you should also acknowledge that there lies a kernel of potential truth in each rumor and report as well.
The precedent set by coaches and administrators through the years of outright lying means that it is near impossible to sift through the informational madness.
It is my OPINION that LSU extended an offer to Jimbo which he denied. Next, I believe they extended a similar offer to Tom Herman. I then think Tom Herman’s camp (although this is constantly shifting) leaked the news to arouse the Texas senses. This is why myself and others were upset when the “news” broke during last night’s game. As per the outline laid out by Joe Alleva no offers would be made until the audition was done and Orgeron had been given his chance to see Alleva on his vision for the future of the school. I believe that Orgeron and the staff have ample reason to be upset.
Still, I also recognize that college football lends itself to shady dealings and sometimes the price of doing business may be breaking your word. Perhaps the duplicitous pursuit is merely the ends justifying the means. In the end though, it seems as if the coaching race has clarified itself a bit.
With the emphatic statement made by Orgeron last night in the big win over Texas A&M I am of the opinion that Coach O separated himself from the Gundy/Fedora/Feunte crowd (#NeverMikeGundy #NotMyCoach). However, biased as I am towards Orgeron, I believe Herman is still the number one choice. The bidding war about to take place for Herman will make for a great spectator sport so grab some popcorn. I believe that either Tom Herman or Ed Orgeron will be the next Head Coach of LSU, but madness is the reason for the season and you never know what will happen in Coaching Search 2k16.
I hope that good health and fortune find you on this fine Thanksgiving. Please send your family my love as well. I don’t mean to bother, but I must speak to someone and I felt there was none other to whom I could write.
I know I should be bursting with holiday joy at the moment but I find myself a bit curmudgeonly this Thanksgiving. Acute pangs of nostalgia for the Arkansas-LSU clashes of my youth call to me. Perhaps my yearning for the old enemy Hogs betrays my age, but I care not. Some of my most cherished memories growing up stem from attending the Arkansas-LSU games that were biennially held at Tiger Stadium.
Though, to be sure, there were not always positive memories, as I also remember yelling at my Father before locking myself in my room weeping, sure that he had jinxed a game in which the Razorbacks had achieved a last ditch victory in dreaded Little Rock. It is a series that will forever remain near and dear to my heart.
Now what do I have? A corporate-influenced manufactured mess of a game. While I certainly respect Texas A&M and believe them to be a fine and upstanding member of the SEC West, at first blush the matchup fails to arouse the senses. There are no harsh defeats or glorious wins from which to draw bitter resentment or fond memory. Worst of all, I was one of the most vocal supporters of the accursed change implemented two years ago.
I found myself awed by the baubles and riches of Texas A&M. An unbelievable fan base, with an unbelievable stadium, and a seemingly endless hoard of resources. Truly this was a program on the rise. A few years later however, and the rise has not come quite as quick as one would have expected. In the post-Manziel era, Texas A&M has been a respectable, yet consistently overrated program.
How depressingly appropriate then, that the same mixed description would describe that of our beloved LSU. In the end, a series that a short time ago seemed destined for greatness now finds itself lost amongst the cacophony of College Football Rivalry weekend. Two respectable regional powers meeting in the tilt in order to decide who is the MOST respectable, but not of much consequence to anyone else.
Now, I’m sure that given time, this series will begin to generate its own special moments and memories, and I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t any intriguing storylines floating through the air. For one, I am most excited to witness the Defensive competition between the Old Lion John Chavis and the Young Cub Dave Aranda. Both masterminds in their own rights, Chavis has 16 additional years of experience than that of his younger counterpart. Still, Dave Aranda is a bit of a prodigy and this game will help us glean who is the true master of his craft.
Additionally, there is no denying that this game is of great importance to Ed Orgeron and his quest to become the long term head coach of LSU. Should Texas A&M emerge victorious in College Station, than it is assured that Orgeron will not attain his dream. However, should he win, then it would mark a fine ending to a great audition and will keep him squarely in the thick of the LSU coaching search.
Hmmm, perhaps I was too rash to judge this series so harshly. Forgive me my dear friend, in my old age I view the past as though through a rose colored filter. After all, there’s certainly nothing wrong with being respectable. In fact, upon further rumination I suppose I do quite desire to be the MOST respectable. After all, we don’t wish for these Aggies to become too confident of themselves. We must consistently remind them that they have yet to defat us since their heralded return to the fine and upstanding SEC West.
I don’t know if I’ve drunk too much of the gaffer’s ale while writing you my friend, but I daresay I find emotions stirring in my breast! Even though the world at large will not care of our deeds, I will still relish the sweet taste of victory! Perhaps this shall be a fine Thanksgiving after all! Down with the Aggies and Geaux Tigers!
Tom Bobbo Bearfoot
PS When you write back will you be sure to include some of those Honeycakes you sent last time,
PPS I did not write you this letter sole for the Honeycakes, it just dawned on me it may appear so, still… they are quite delicious and I know my wife would most appreciate them…. Until next time my friend!
Coach Ed Orgeron’s dreams of becoming the next head coach of LSU took a potentially fatal turn last Saturday when the Tigers lost to the Gators despite being a 2 touchdown favorite. The game was truly heartbreaking, as despite crucial error after crucial error, LSU still had one play from the one yard line to decide it all. A play carrying the potential to have a major impact on the future of the LSU program as a whole.
In the end, it was one final crucial error that sealed the Tigers fate as Derrius Guice ran the wrong way and LSU fell to UF at home on Senior Day. The loss marks a proverbial opening of the flood gates as the search for the next head coach of LSU has now begun in earnest.
Do not misunderstand. This does not mean that Ed Orgeron does not have a chance of being the next head coach, rather he just has far less of a chance. Had LSU won out, a 6-1 Coach O heading to the Sugar Bowl would have made the decision very tough for even the staunchest of Orgeron opponents; however, the second loss provides those who would rather see someone other than O at the helm with ample ammunition with which to state their case.
It is strange to me that one game would make such a difference when you are talking about a decision that will span years and millions of dollars. It is even stranger that I understand why one game makes such a big difference. This “audition” was going to be judged on merit and merit is defined by wins and losses. There is still a case to be made for Ed O that starts with beating Texas A&M on Thanksgiving. After that, it will be up to O to sell Joe Alleva and the LSU power brokers on his vision for the future.
Orgeron remains an excellent recruiter and delegator who is beloved by both the players and fanbase alike. I still believe that Ed Orgeron would do an excellent job as the long term coach of LSU, but there is a familiar name waiting in the wings that has Tiger fans’ hearts a flutter… the Great White Buffalo… Jimbo Fisher.
There is no doubt that Jimbo Fisher has the most attractive resume of any of the potential hires that LSU is looking at. It starts with the all important National Championship. Many Tiger fans believe since they fired a National Championship winning coach they should hire one; while I believe this to be an unrealistic requisite, Jimbo does satiate this desire. More impressively perhaps than the sole championship, Fisher is 76-17 having won at least 10 games in 5 of his 6 seasons at the head of Florida State.
Sprinkle on 3 ACC Championships and you have a resume sundae that has Tiger fans salivating. There are no great arguments to be made against Jimbo Fisher. While I’m always nervous about the inherent risk of a full head coaching change, it cannot be avoided if you go anywhere outside of Orgeron and Jimbo appears to carry the least amount of risk. I still have questions about the public perception of LSU spending such unbelievable amounts of money on football while the academic side of the school struggles financially, but right or wrong, it does appear that money is not an issue.
The biggest issue with Jimbo is whether he would actually leave FSU for LSU. Fisher has a good thing going on at Florida State. The ACC is a respected conference that allows for a clear path to the CFB Playoff should you win, yet it is not filled with the top to bottom talent of the SEC West, nor is it occupied by a behemoth as powerful as that of Nick Saban.
While LSU remains an elite tier college football job, we must recognize that Florida State is one as well. The argument over which one is “better’ is subjective and in the end, a waste of time. Just recognize that the two jobs are similar in level of prestige and that LSU doesn’t have too many unique advantages over an FSU and vice versa.
So then, how do you lure Jimbo away? Money, and lots of it.
What happens then if Fisher turns down LSU to remain in Tallahassee? Welcome to Westworld. There are no rules here, and Joe Alleva can go any direction that his heart desires. At this point, the hire would be decided less by resumes and accomplishments and more by interviews and salesmanship of a vision for the future. Coach O remains a viable candidate in this bunch, as does UNC’s Larry Fedora, VT’s Justin Fuente, Ok St Mike Gundy (please no), WVU’s Dana Holgerson, and who knows who else.
As it stands now, it appears that Fisher remains the only resume that fans would deem acceptable. Once you move into this tier, all the pressure is on Joe Alleva to make the right choice because the future of the program rides on said choice. These are the type of decisions that make a break an Athletic Director’s legend.
Do you manage to snag the next big up and comer that shakes the foundations of College Football and returns LSU to being a perennial championship threat? Or do you follow so many of your peers into the desert of despair? Do you join the ranks of Texas, Tennessee, USC in wandering around the never ending dunes searching for a leader to restore you to the promised land?
The eventual answers to these important questions remain unclear presently, but what is clear is that we are living in turbulent times as LSU football fans. After more than a decade of stability and success, LSU’s future now hangs in the balance, and though this may be disconcerting, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t also terribly exciting.
The LSU Tigers and Florida Gators are set for a showdown at high noon, and there is more on the line than anyone could have imagined just a few short weeks ago. For LSU fans, this was a season that felt as if there was little left to play for after the second loss against Auburn, so needless to say when Alabama tacked on a third L, Tiger fans started looking up travel plans to Jacksonville for the Tax Slayer Bowl. However, college football is a funny game, full of unpredictable twists and turns that can lead to even the most unlikely of outcomes.
Because of this, the Tigers now have a Purple and Golden opportunity to head to the Sugar Bowl should they defeat both Florida and Texas A&M in these final two games. However, standing in their way is a tough Florida team that has ample motivation of its own. If Florida wins this Saturday they will head to Atlanta for a record 12th time. Should they lose, it will most likely be Butch Jones and the Volunteers being declared champs of the Least, I mean East.
On top of the postseason implications, this game will also have a major potential influence on the direction of the LSU program as a whole. Coach O is tantalizingly close to to establishing himself as the head coach moving forward, but it appears that Jimbo Fisher may be waiting in the wings.
Finally, there is the public bickering that took place between Florida and LSU following Hurricane Matthew. The eventual postponement of the original game, and the subsequent rescheduling turned both colleges into grade schools as they each accused the other of being a scaredy cat. Fortunately for us, the time for guesswork is nearly at an end. All the questions, hopes, and aspirations of these two sides will be decided this Saturday in Death Valley at Hiiiiiiigh Nooooooon (this is for all you McCree fans out there).
LSU Must Take Advantage of an Injured Florida Team
When this game was originally postponed many LSU fans saw a Florida Gator team that was riddled with injuries and came to the conclusion that it was one of a few reasons why the Gators did not want to play. While there may be some element of truth there, Tiger fans may have been noticing the speck in their opponents' eye while ignoring the plank in their own. If LSU had to play UF of the original Oct 8th date you would have seen a Tiger team in the Swamp without Leonard Fournette and with one of the top centers in the Nation in Ethan Pocic playing left tackle against one of the top defenses in the nation. Most likely, this would not have ended well for LSU, but what a difference a few weeks can make.
LSU now has Leonard Fournette back in the lineup, even if not fully healthy, and the offensive line is as healthy as they’ve been all year with the top 6 guys ready to roll. Unfortunately for Gator fans over the last few weeks instead of the Gator injury situation improving it has been exacerbated. Currently Florida will enter Saturday’s game missing 7 starters. Four of which come from Florida’s vaunted defense, including their top three tacklers in LBs Jarrad Davis, Alex Anzalone, and safety Marcus Maye. Despite the injuries, this is a UF defense that is 2nd in the SEC in points per game, 2nd in the SEC in rushing yards allowed per game, and 1st in the SEC in passing yards per game. This LSU offense MUST play well, and take advantage of the break that fate has given them softening up this nearly impenetrable Gator defense.
LSU’s Defense Should Dominate Saturday
This is a Florida offense that has really struggled at times. In a win over Vanderbilt the Gators managed just 13 points. In a loss against Arkansas two weeks ago UF managed just 10 as the Hogs handily defeated the Gators 31-10. It is a side that failed to score in the second half in a come from behind victory for Tennessee. UF is still without their starting quarterback as Austin Appleby steps in for the BoilerMaker Bowl (both Appleby and Etling are former Purdue transfers). LSU’s defense, on the other hand, has only become more dominant as the season has rolled on. The Tigers currently lead the nation having only given up 10 touchdowns on the year. Needless to say this should be a battle that LSU wins handily.
Send these Seniors and Juniors Out on the Right Note
Originally LSU was slated to play South Alabama this Saturday. It represented a very safe Senior Day. The perfect opportunity to send one of the largest senior classes out on a high note with an easy win. Following Hurricane Matthew, this Senior Day is now much more challenging. That said, with great challenge comes great opportunity. A convincing win over the Gators in front of the home crowd would be immeasurably more satisfying to the players leaving than an automatic cupcake win would be.
Remember, its not just a 19 player senior class playing their final Death Valley game this Saturday, but also a talented batch of juniors. Leonard Fournette, Malachi Dupre, Jamal Adams, and Davon Godchaux could all potentially make their final Tiger Stadium appearance this weekend. Many people question whether the circumstance or ceremony is a distraction given whats on the line, but I think this misses the point.
Although the Senior Day celebrations do cause a slight change to the routine (which coaches hate) it also reinforces everything thats on the line. In every Senior Day I participated in, I found the ceremonies to be less of a distraction and more of additional motivation. The ceremony drives home the fact that its one of the final times you will get to share the field with those you have worked so hard with over the years and it motivates you to play even harder.
LSU should win this game and move one step closer to a Sugar Bowl berth. As talented as the Gators are, the Tigers represent too much of a matchup problem for UF currently. Florida’s defense is just injured enough to allow for a now healthy LSU offense to have success. On the other side of the ball, the Gators offense just doesn’t appear to be a true threat to a Dave Aranda led defense that plays better and better every single game. In the end, I see LSU continuing their recent run of momentum with another convincing win that will set up a Thanksgiving Day Battle against Texas A&M with both Coach O’s and LSU’s future potentially on the line.
It may have been cold in Fayetteville Saturday night, but Coach Orgeron had LSU looking like it was Spring Break, as there were no hangovers allowed in the 38-10 dismantling of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The win is especially important for the future chances of Ed Orgeron as the head coach of LSU as it marks the first time that O has separated himself from the recent Miles years. If Alabama caused the wound that put Coach Miles’ job in peril, than back to back losses against Arkansas was the gangrenous infection that finished him off. Coach O has now avenged both the Ole Miss and Arkansas losses from last November in impressive fashion beating the two sides by a combined score of 76-31.
Derrius Mr. Nice Guice is the best 2 Back in the Country
It is a sign of how dominant Leonard Fournette is that Saturday felt a bit like on off night for the premier back. He “only” had 17 carries for 98 yards and 3 touchdowns. Still, as impressive as this stat line is the offensive star of the night was Mr. Nice Guice. Derrius carried the ball 21 times for 252 yards and 2 TDs including a nail in the coffin 96 yard burner that ensued the Golden Boot would return to Baton Rouge.
On Sunday the talk will begin as to whether or not Guice needs a bigger role. In my opinion, this is manufactured drama. LSU fans should reassure themselves with the fact that they have the most intimidating one two punch in the nation when it comes to running backs. Leonard Fournette is still your main guy and when he needs a break or is having an off night you have Derrius Guice ready to pick up the slack.
This LSU Offensive Line Displayed Top Tier Mental Toughness
The talk around the LSU program this week was all about how Alabama outclassed LSU in the trenches. About how LSU’s offensive line wasn’t big or strong enough to hang with the Tide’s front. While this may be true, it is clear that this is less an indictment of the Tigers Oline and more a compliment to Bama. Pro Football Focus came out with an article this week that ranked LSU as the number 1 Oline in the Nation when adjusted for competition.
Don’t take this too literally, rather use it as proof that this remains a very quality group capable of dominating the majority of teams in the country. On the night, LSU averaged 7.6 rushing yards per attempt on 51 carries for a bone crushing 390 yards on the ground. My favorite part of how the O-line played Saturday was how they started. Following a week in which they listened to constant prognostication about how "LSU must get better on the offensive line in the future” they came out and dominated Arkansas from the jump. The big men up front cleared the way for 75, 18, and 80 yard drives to put LSU up 21-0 and put the game out of reach early in the second quarter. Ethan Pocic, Josh Boutte, Will Clapp, Maea Teuhema, Toby Weathersby, KJ Malone, and Garrett Brumfield take a bow.
I’m Going to Miss Watching This 2016 LSU Defense Play
No stats here, just musings. The defense that LSU and Dave Aranda have fielded this year has been incredible to watch. It is a group that features legitimate NFL talent on every single level and I fear that they will never get their just due when it comes to the great defenses in Tiger history. Arden Key, Frank Herron, and Davon Godchaux have been dominant on the defensive line. Kendell Beckwith has continued to show why he belongs in the pantheon of great LSU linebackers while Duke Riley has emerged as a legitimate NFL prospect after waiting his turn his first three years in Baton Rouge.
Jamal Adams has been the playmaking heart and soul leader of this defense while Dwayne Thomas has emerged as quite the playmaker in his own right. Tre White’s accomplishments and play speaks for itself. Unfortunately, many of these players will be gone next season. Which brings me to my other great fear, that LSU will not see another defense like this for a couple of years. With that in mind Tiger fans, enjoy these last two weeks and the bowl game because after that they ascend to Sundays.
LSU put an end to the dominant Arkansas run of the past 3 years (yes 3 years, Arky should have won in TS in 2013) and took the Golden Boot from the Mountains and have brought it back to Baton Rouge where it will be displayed as a token of the Tiger’s football dominion over our beautiful lands. Now that the greatest trophy in all of college football has returned to the Tiger Stadium it feels as if all is right in the world and the healing can begin.
The big quesiton is who will be the man to lead that healing. For Coach O the path ahead is clear. Win both of these final two games and you give yourself the best possible chance to be the long term head coach. However, the road remains challenging as LSU will welcome in one of the best defenses in the country in the Florida Gators for the 2016 Beef Bowl. After all, everyone knows the best way to settle an argument is on the field, so why not figure out once and for all who was right in #FoleyGate2016?
The Saints sit on the precipice of becoming a winner once again. New Orleans has the opportunity to rise above .500 for the first time since 2013. However, the challenge to do so will be great as the Black and Gold will face not one but both of the participants in last year’s Super Bowl within a five day span.
The NFL offseason is roughly 215 days long. The Saints’ bipolar regular season has lasted 61 days thus far. Meaning that after approximately 276 days of grueling training, intense studying, and brutal contact the Saints ultimate fate will likely be decided within the next five days, and what a five days it will be!
On Sunday the Saints will welcome in the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos. Interestingly, to show you what a difference momentum and a few weeks can make, the 4-4 Saints actually opened up as 2 point favorites over the 6-3 Denver Broncos who have lost 3 of their last 5. The Saints newfound rushing attack will look to be impactful as the Broncos are 29th against the run giving up 128 yards per game. However, the Saints passing attack and excellent pass protection will be pushed to their limit by Von Miller and this Denver pass rush.
Still, the Saints have an unlikely hero in Zach Strief as he is currently the top rated Right Tackle in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. The wily old vet will face his toughest challenge yet in Miller who many consider to be the best pass rusher in the NFL today. Offensively, the Broncos are nothing to write home about as Trevor Siemian has struggled as of late. Denver is 28th in total offense gaining just 323 yards per game; however, they are 13th in scoring averaging 23.8 points per game.
Still, this Saints defense is an improving unit and with the ongoing return of Sheldon Rankins and Delvin Breaux, this is a side that might be able to once again do just enough to help the Saints win. If New Orleans can manage to keep rolling and win their third straight home game there will be no rest for the weary as they will hop on a flight a couple of days later to play the loser of last year’s Championship, the Carolina Panthers.
Following a close loss to New Orleans in the Superdome, Carolina has gone on to win two games in a row over the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams. The wins have given Panthers fans a bit of hope that they too can fight their way back into the playoff hunt. Carolina will be tested greatly on Sunday as the Kansas City Chiefs come to town, but if they manage to win, then Thursday’s matchup suddenly carries significant playoff implications. The Saints win over Carolina in the middle of October was a battle, a game in which a furious rally from Cam Newton fell just short as rookie kicker Will Lutz nailed a clutch 52 yard game winning field goal. This is a game that the Panthers feel they should have won and will be looking for revenge next Thursday night. The Panthers have an advantage in that they will play in Carolina both Sunday and Thursday so the accelerated practice schedule won’t be as impactful as the team will be in familiar settings. Can the Saints stare into the maw of the Panther, and come out victorious?
The answer is unclear at this time, however it is now increasingly clear the impact that the five days from Sunday to Thursday will potentially have. If New Orleans manages to win both of these matchups, then you are talking about being at the forefront of the wild card race with a favorable schedule for the rest of the season... if New Orleans loses both of these games, then you are talking about a season that will most likely end in 7-9 disappointment once again for the 4th time in the last 5 years. Split them, and you are essentially treading water.
When viewed in this light, you see that these next five days have the potential to not only shape the final month of the season, but the direction of the franchise as a whole. What I mean by that is the fact that if the Saints manage to win both games and go on to make the playoffs, then all of a sudden all of the criticism of Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton would be lessened greatly. This renewed confidence in the front office and leadership would be a significant change of attitude from what we have heard and witnessed from fans over the vast majority of this season.
However, if you lose, then all the negative perceptions are reinforced and an already tenuous situation worsens as fans and ownership become increasingly dissatisfied with the product they are paying for. Does this discontent lead to seismic shifts in the direction of the franchise? No way of knowing right now, but I do know the next five days will give us an idea.