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T-Bob Hebert

Talk sports and more with T-Bob and Kristian Garic on "Double Coverage!"  

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Twitter: @tbob53


T-Bob: Fournette and Guice a deadly duo in LSU's smackdown on Ole Miss

In what was the most electric atmosphere in Tiger Stadium in over a year the LSU football team dominated the Ole Miss Rebels en route to a 38-21 victory.

The Magic Man Coach Ed Orgeron continues to build his reputation and this team and fanbase's confidence as the Tigers turned in their third impressive win in a row against what is arguably their best opponent yet. For the third time in as many tries LSU didn't just beat their opponent, they destroyed them. LSU nearly doubled Ole Miss' offensive output (503-258 w/ 7 mins left in the game). Defensively the Tigers were all but impenetrable in the second half, not allowing the Rebels to build upon their 21 first half points. Needless to say, the hype over the Alabama game will begin in earnest next week.

Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice are a Deadly Duo
Questions were swirling around Leonard Fournette coming into Saturday as he returned from an ankle injury that kept him out for 3 games. In his absence Derrius Guice had been dominant, gaining at least 150 yards in each of the three games. This led many to wonder what exactly Fournette's workload should look like. After all, Guice had been so hot, why not ride the hot hand? Right?

WRONG. Leonard Fournette reminded everyone why he is thought to be the best running back in all of College Football. A healthy Fournette is a scary Fournette as the breakaway speed that was missing earlier this year was back in a big way as #7 ripped off TD runs of 59, 76, and 78 yards. At one point in the third quarter Fournette had 7 carries for 249 yards and 3 TDs. THIS DUDE WAS REALLY AVERAGING 35.5 YARDS PER CARRY. So yes, I think it is safe to say that Fournette is back and he is healthy.

As impressive as this performance was, the most exciting aspect of the offensive attack in my opinion is just how unstoppable a duo like Fournette and Guice seems to be especially deep into the fourth quarter. With the Tigers up by 10 and needed a final score to put the game away the Purple and Gold turned to the Deadly Duo to close it out and they did so in dominant fashion. It is hard to overstate just how valuable a one two punch of this caliber is. It allows both backs to stay fresh and strong throughout the entirety of the game meaning that the longer the game goes on the more effective this combo becomes.

Dave Aranda is a Mid Game Adjustment Wizard
The big question on everyone's minds coming into the Ole Miss game was whether or not this LSU defense would be exposed. Early on, it looked as if Tiger fans' worst nightmares were coming true when Ole Miss scored easily on their first two possessions to jump out to a 10-0 lead. However, from that point on the defense flipped a switch and built a wall.

In the end, the Tigers held the SEC's number one passing attack to just 209 yards or 120 yards below their average. Ole Miss finished just 5/15 on 3rd down and only amassed 11 more points after that initial opening quarter salvo. Made more impressive is the fact that 8 of these points came from a drive that started on LSU's four yard line following a play that seemed like a potentially deadly momentum shifter.

Speaking of which, I think the manner in which LSU handled the sequence right before half speaks to how mentally tough this team is.
Despite gaining momentum throughout the 2nd quarter it looked as if LSU was going to shoot themselves in their feet when they fumbled right before half and allowed Ole Miss to tie it up at 21 apiece. These are the type of mistakes that you don't bounce back from. These are the type of mistakes that cost you games; yet, when it was all said and done the play ended up being an afterthought. I think it speaks to just how impressive Saturday Night's performance was that a momentum shifter as potentially impactful as this one ended up being absolutely meaningless to the game as a whole.

Special recognition to Donte Jackson, Arden Key, Duke Riley, and Kendall Beckwith all of whom had EXCELLENT performances on the night.

Danny Etling Continues to Improve
Not much hotness here just cold hard facts. Etling continues to appear more and more comfortable as the quarterback of this team. More importantly he continues to hit the benchmarks that we beg to see from LSU QBs. Give me 60% completion and 200 yards and you'll see an offense that is running like a well oiled machine. On the night Etling ended up 19/28 204 yards 1 TD 1 INT. This ability to efficiently throw the ball has completely unlocked this offense and is one of the reasons why LSU has now eclipsed the 500 total yard mark three games in a row.

Bottom Line
The LSU Tigers continue to give fans hope that they can make something of this season yet. Ole Miss was their toughest test yet and they passed with flying colors. The purple and gold will now have two weeks to rest and prepare for the ultimate test in the Alabama Crimson Tide. This week is the final calm before the storm. The last moments of relaxation before the insanity of November begins. A month ago fans were looking at this part of the schedule with a pervasive sense of dread filling their hearts. It is a testament to what Coach Orgeron has done that Tiger fans are now looking at November with anticipation.

I still don't think it likely that they manage to navigate the gauntlet unscathed, but with the Cajun Commander (Coach O), LSU Moses (Steve Ensminger), and Heisenberg (Dave Aranda) at the helm anything can happen!

Photo via USA Today
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T-Bob: LSU vs Ole Miss is a tale as old as time

LSU and Ole Miss will meet for the 105th time tonight. Stop and think about that for a second. These two teams have really played each other over 100 times. So often we skim over this kind of number because we want to talk about the matchup itself, but to fully appreciate everything in play this weekend first we must stop and appreciate the history of the series.

LSU and Ole Miss first squared off in 1894, a game in which the Rebels won 22-6 in Baton Rouge. This means that the LSU Ole Miss series has seen games in three separate centuries. Think about the societal developments that have taken place since this game was first played. Plastic was invented in 1905. Woman gained the right to vote in 1920. Sliced bread came about in 1923. Somewhere in between Henry Ford created something called the automobile. In 1928 Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the first true antibiotic. This series has seen two World Wars come and go.

As offensive as this sounds to modern the modern tailgating mind, this series also saw a stretch of time during prohibition through the 20s in which you were not allowed to drink for the Ole Miss LSU games. Later we gained the ability to completely destroy the earth with the advent of the nuclear bomb. We fulfilled the most ancient of human desires and through the development of rocketry we were able to land on the moon. Martin Luther King Jr and other transcendent leaders guided us through the civil rights movement. Mass communication started with the radio, then TV, before eventually culminating in the internet. Thanks to smart phones, we now all carry the entirety of human knowledge in our pockets at all time.

I feel comfortable in saying that the years from 1894 through 2016 are quite easily the most transformative in human history and throughout it all LSU and Ole Miss have been playing football agaisnt each other. So when you watch these two teams square off tonight remember that you are watching history.

I love rituals and traditions that connect us to our ancestors. This football game represents the perfect example of entertainment that has remained relevant to Americans through the Spanish American War, WWI, the Great Depression, World War II, The Civil Rights movement, the Space Race, the Cold War, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the coke addled 80s, the Just Say No 90s, September 11th, the endless War on Terror, and now Election 2016. So much insanity, so much change, and yet, ever present through it all was LSU vs Ole Miss football. This game promises to be yet another classic as both teams attempt to salvage their seasons with a ranked win. What will be the keys to the game if LSU is to win their 60th game of the series?

Defense's Best hope to stop Chad Kelly and the Passing Attack will be stopping the run
So often this year it seems as if the LSU defense has been ignored. Despite leading the SEC having only given up 6 touchdowns and ranking 4th in the nation allowing just 14 points per game, all the talk each week has surrounded the offense and their success or lack thereof. One of the reasons for our turning a blind eye to the D is the fact that they have yet to be truly tested. We always talk about teams whose statistics are potentially inflated because of the level of competition they have played, and when you look at LSU's opponents there has not been a truly great offense amongst the bunch. No offense to Wisconsin, Jacksonville State, Mississippi State, Mizzou, Auburn, and Southern Miss, but they are not in the same league as Chad Kelly and this Ole Miss attack.

The Rebel Black Bears are currently third in the SEC averaging 39 points per game. They are 1st in the SEC averaging an exorbitant 320 yards passing per game. Chad Kelly's favorite target, TE Evan Engram, is top three in in the conference in touchdown and receptions, along with leading the conference in yards per game averaging just shy of 100 yards every time he's takes the field.

Ironically, If LSU is going to look to slow down this deadly attack it will be by stopping the run and making Ole Miss truly one dimensional. The Rebel offense is at its best when they can rush the ball effectively in order to keep defenses on their toes. If LSU can stop the run than Ole Miss will be forced to become over reliant on the pass and when you look at the quality of LSU's secondary this is a positive matchup for the Tigers.

Stopping the run also has the dual benefit of taking away Ole Miss' ability to control the clock which has proved costly to the Rebels this season. Three times on the year Ole Miss had big leads agaisnt quality opponents only to see those advantages disappear before their eyes thanks in part to an inability to control the tempo of the game. Look for big games from this LSU defensive line both against the run and against the pass. Greg Gilmore, Travonte Valentine, and Arden Key will be the driving force behind the Tigers defense standing strong in the face of their toughest challenge yet.

The LSU Offense Must Run, Run, Run, and Run some more
Derrius Guice became the quickest running back in school history to reach 1000 yards needing just 113 carries to hit that mark. In the three games that Leonard Fournette has missed, Guice has gone for at least 150 yards in all three appearances. Now think about this and realize that Leonard Fournette will be back healthy and starting tonight. Even the most casual of footballl fans can appreciate just how powerful LSU's backfield currently is.

This is a matchup where LSU should have a major advantage in that this year's Ole Miss rush defense is not the same as years past. Last season the Rebels fielded a group that was top 25 in the nation when it came to stopping the run. Just a year later and the story has drastically changed. Ole Miss is currently 12th in the SEC giving up 212 yards per game. The Tigers are 4th gaining 228 yards per game yet are 2nd in the conference with an incredible 6.42 yards per carry. In the same way that taking away the run against the Rebels limits their success, Danny Etling and the passing game will be the key to maximizing the ground game. Etling doesn't have to be great, just needs to hit the same benchmarks that we ask of the QB every week. Complete 60% of your passes and throw for over 200 yards and I think the Tigers will have a big day. BELIEVE ME.

Bottom Line
Coach O and this LSU team will face their first true test of the season and it couldn't come at a better time. This game will give us a much clearer picture of what to expect heading into November. LSU's next 5 opponents have a combined record of 26-6. Each and every one of them is currently ranked ahead of the Tigers. If that isn't an uphill battle I don't know what is. The fascinating part about this game is it will set the tone for the rest of the gauntlet. If you win, momentum and belief continue to grow; however, if you lose, all the goodwill you've built up the last two games will be erased as people will say the first really tough team you played exposed your true colors. In a tale as old as time, the stakes are high, and the setting couldn't be any better as the LSU Tigers and Ole Miss Rebels will go toe to toe.
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T-Bob's Takes: Is it okay to believe in the Saints yet? LSU facing huge battles

The NFC playoff waters became much murkier over the weekend as some teams came back to earth, while others seem to have risen from the dead. Outside of the Division leaders, there is only one team that is better than a game above .500; surprisingly Washington sits at 4-2 after reeling off 4 straight wins. Eight other teams are currently either .600, .500. or .400. This means that a wildcard race that appeared more clearly defined last week, now seems much more muddled.

So then, are the Saints legitimate contenders in this race? I am of two minds when it comes to this. On one hand, I still think that this team is a 8-8 type of team; however, there is an outside chance that 8-8 might be good enough this year. Still if we discuss these playoff dreams in terms of what is most likely, I think the Saints will be left on the outside looking in come January. Despite some admirable performances and interesting scheming by Dennis Allen, the defense continues to give up points at an alarming rate, dead last in the NFL.

Now, part of this is due to injury, so there is an argument to be made that once Delvin Breaux and Sheldon Rankins return this defense could start flirting with mediocrity. If it indeed does manage to attain that average status that fans are so desperately clamoring for, than the Saints transform overnight into a team that no one will want to play because Drew Brees and this offense seems all but unstoppable.

I found Brees' performance on Sunday to be bittersweet. I say this because what I witnessed was one of the most astounding individual performances I've seen in life, yet the Saints were depressingly close to letting it go to waste. Despite having a 21-0 lead, winning the turnover battle and scoring 41 points they still needed a 50 plus yard field goal to at the buzzer to win (shoutout to Will Lutz, pressure couldn't have been higher on that kick and he nailed it).

You can't help but be tempted by daydreams of what this team could attain with a solid defense. Would they threaten for championships? Impossible to know for sure, but enough of my curmudgeonly negativity. In the razor thin margins of the NFL a win is a win is a win and the Saints now have two in a row. If the defense can continue to improve perhaps they can build off this momentum and salvage this season that appeared all but lost a couple of weeks ago in the dwindling minutes of the fourth quarter in San Diego.

Luckily for Saints fans they won't have to wait too long to figure out whether or not they should get too excited about this team's potential as they will travel to Kansas City this weekend to one of the most challenging venues in the entire league… Arrowhead Stadium. I know this doesn't make sense mathematically, but the difference between 3-3 and 2-4 is far more than just one game. Depending upon the health of Andrus Peat this weekend's upcoming contest will require Brees' most herculean effort to date if the Saints are going to finish the climb back to .500.

The Battle of Helms Deep, LSU Edition: So it begins….
As many of you probably know I am a massive Lord of the Rings fan. In the heroic saga it seems as the heroes of the story are always fighting against the longest of odds, perhaps none longer than in the Two Towers' main clash "The Battle of Helms Deep." In that battle 300 men are asked to stand against an army of 10,000 Uruk-Hai Orcs. It feels a bit like the challenge that lies ahead for LSU. LSU's final five opponents have a combined record of 26-6. Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas A&M are all currently ranked ahead of the Tigers.

If there is one advantage that our brave heroes have in the Two Towers it is the fact that they occupy an all but impenetrable stronghold known as Helms Deep. Well, lucky for our real life protagonists they too have one of the most intimidating castles in all the land and they will be at home for 3 of these final 5 contests.

LSU's own version of Helms Deep begins in earnest this weekend when the Ole Miss Rebels come to town. Hugh Freeze and his team represent the toughest opponent LSU has had to grapple with yet. This Dave Aranda defense which has only given up six touchdowns on the year will be stretched to their limit by Chad Kelly and the Uruk-Hai Black Bear passing attack. This reforged LSU offense under Steve "Aragorn" Ensminger will face their toughest fight yet. Will the Purple and Gold be able to prove themselves and take revenge upon Ole Miss for what they did to LSU last season, or will Rebel Black Bears prove that they are bent but not broken? The answer will be revealed this Saturday night in Death Valley.

Its a Numbers Game
"LSU scored one TD and one FG in its 22 first half plays Saturday. It then scored 28 points on 9 plays in the 2nd half Saturday."
• from Ron Higgins, | Times-Picayune
• Another solid outing for Coach Ensminger. The wily old OC also set another school record as the team averaged over 10 yards per play.

"LSU's next 5 opponents have a combined record of 26-6"
• from Ron Higgins | Times-Picayune
• With great risk comes great reward. This stretch will be one of the most challenging in NFL history to be sure; however, it also represents an opportunity for this team to make themselves legendary among the LSU faithful. If you manage to accomplish these great deeds the bards and minstrels will sing of your legend for years to come.

"The Saints first two losses came by a combined 4 points. Their last two wins have come by the same margin."
• from Herbie Teope | Times-Picayune
• This is for all of you out there who want to use the "This team should basically be 4-1… they barely lost those first two games" type of logic. That razor thin margin is just the reality of doing business in the NFL and it cuts both ways.

"Derrius Guice became the quickest LSU player ever to 1000 yards needing just 113 carries to do so."
• from James Bewers, The Advocate
• This is jaw dropping. Guice hit 1000 yards on the dot with his 113th carry. For those keeping track at home that means Guice has a career avg of 8.84 yards per carry. Now think about the fact that Leonard Fournette is supposed to be back this weekend and get excited about the possibilities.

"Taking away four dropped passes, four thrown away passes, and one spike Drew Bree's was 35 of 40 for 467 yards 4 touchdowns and 1 interception."
• from Nick Underhill, The Advocate
• Drew Brees is truly unbelievable. The QB went 8/9 on the final drive to set up the Lutz game winning FG. At the risk of sounding overly pessimistic these type of performances frustrate me because they make me daydream about how good this team could be if the surrounding roster (defense specifically) was even decent. Still, a win is always better than a loss and perhaps this defense can get closer to decent with the return of some of their injured players.

The Movie "It"
I was excited to watch a good Halloween movie Sunday night and I saw that Amazon Video had Stephen King's "It." The hair on my neck raised. It was a movie that was whispered about in nervous tones during my childhood. One of the scariest movies a kid could ever see. In fact, the reputation of It was so grand that I was too scared to every actually watch it. Instead, I would just play along as if I had seen it to try to seem cool. So imagine my excitement Sunday night when I realized the time had finally come.

I took a shower, got in comfortable chilling clothes, popped popcorn, and turned off the lights and settled down for a wild ride. Tim Curry as an evil clown?! How could it not be terrifying. As we began the movie my wife suffered a moment's hesitation when she saw the three hour run time, I had no such concerns. I was strapped in and ready to be scared.

The movie started off pretty solid. I love the 80s style of filmmaking and it was ambitious. Best of all, Tim Curry as a clown was indeed creepy (even if not as creepy as I'd hoped). Unfortunately as the movie progressed it became clear that we had been misled. Step by step It devolved into one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Not only that, it was not even the least bit scary. Miserably yet a masochist I forced my eyelids to stay open throughout the entirety of the 3 hour runtime. By the end I was in shock. How in the world could I have been so misled? How could I have heard so much of Tim Curry the clown and so little of the end of the movie? Little did I know the answers were right in front of me the entire time.

Apparently It was a TV movie. One that was aired on two different nights. One that many children and families saw the first half of without ever watching the second half. Even the VHS came on two different tapes. What fascinates me is how It became my own personal urban myth. This terrifying tale that was a true classic. After all, every kid knows not to go by sewers at night unless you want Tim Curry to eat you. In a way I love this. My ignorance allowed It to become something far greater than it ever could have achieved. All that aside, watch It at your own risk this Halloween. It won't scare you, but it might bore you to death.
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T-Bob: More questions than ever for Orgeron, Ensminger, LSU Tigers

After a couple of argument riddled weeks LSU football is finally set to take the stage once again Saturday Night in Death Valley. Unfortunately, we don't quite have the read on this LSU team that I originally expected to at this point as the cancellation of the Florida game combined with the small sample size we have with Coach O at the helm means that there are more questions than ever when looking at this LSU team. Luckily this weekend's game against Southern Miss represents the next step in finding the answers that Tiger fans so desperately crave. So instead of a "keys to the game" preview this week lets look at some of the most pressing questions that I want answers to.

Was the Offensive Performance Against Mizzou a Fluke or a Sign of Things to Come?

New offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger's debut was literally record breaking. This incredible start has caused expectations for this offense and this team to rise astronomically when compared to where they were at a couple of weeks ago. This has had a positive benefit as it reinvigorated the fanbase and brought excitement back to the program, but I can't help but ask whether or not it has caused expectations to rise to unrealistic levels?

All of a sudden, following a win over a bad Mizzou team, LSU fans are talking about SEC championships and the chances that the Tigers could make the CFB playoff with two losses. While I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, this sort of extreme change in attitude can't help but send warning signals shooting through my brain. Although Coach O has implemented sweeping changes throughout the program this is still a team that is one game above .500 and has yet to win a road game. There is still so much about this team that we simply do not know yet.

That is why this weekend's game against Southern Miss has taken on more importance than I ever would have imagined looking at this schedule during the offseason. Coach O and his staff built up a mountain of goodwill with the domination of Mizzou, if they were to struggle against a lesser opponent the LSU staff could see much of that goodwill evaporate as quickly as it appeared. Unfortunately for the Tigers, one of the most important position groups to deciding the ultimate fate of the LSU offense is also a position group with the most questions… the offensive line.

Can the Offensive Line Continue to Succeed Despite the Injuries and Shuffling Around?

The funny thing about the talk of Florida not wanting to play LSU because of injuries is that a closer inspection the LSU roster reveals that the Tigers aren't exactly spring chickens themselves. The offensive line specifically continues to fluctuate and change on a seemingly daily basis.

One interesting detail that was lost amid the UF-LSU bickering news cycle was the fact that Andy Dodd's mother had purchased a ticket to Gainesville to watch her son in his first ever start. This means that Andy Dodd will start at Center this weekend with Ethan Pocic moving out to right tackle and Maea Teuhuma moving over to left guard to fill in for the injured Will Clapp.

Why this sort of change becomes so alarming is that in the two losses LSU suffered this year one of the common denominators was poor communication between the offensive line. There were a lot of raised hands and finger pointing in both of those losses and the line not being in sync resulted in multiple busted assignments. This all took place with Ethan Pocic, a player known for his leadership and mental acumen, manning the helm. What then happens when the much less experienced Andy Dodd steps into that role? How will Pocic fare on the edge at right tackle? This weekend's game will hopefully provide some much needed answers.

Bottom Line
If it seems like I never talk about the defense, well thats because I actually don't ever talk about the defense. I don't do it to disrespect or discredit anything the defense has done up to this point, rather I think my silence on the defensive side of the ball should be taken as a sign of how well Aranda's unit has performed. Unfortunately for that D they were dealt a blow this week as starting senior safety went down with a broken fibula. Still, it is a testament to what Tre White and co. have done this season that I still think the defense will be just fine.

In the end, I think it is important that LSU fans manage their expectations for this weekend's game. This is still a team that is getting used to the changes taking place throughout the program. This is still a team that started 3-2 despite being so highly lauded in the preseason. I think to expect LSU to emulate the statistical production of the Mizzou game is a bit overzealous. More importantly than matching the stats is matching how the offense FELT. They were efficient, methodical, and effective and if this team is going to brave the insanely tough November these type of performance will have to become the rule as opposed to the exception.

Here are a couple of other pieces I was trying to write for my weekly column and I never quite all put together...

The South Louisiana Injury Bug Continues
Another week, and another round of injuries for some of your favorite local sports teams. The Saints got off relatively light this week as Erik Harris tore his ACL. Although, closer inspection reveals that this injury is arguably more impactful than it seems on the surface as Harris currently leads the team in special teams snaps.

Over in Baton Rouge, LSU Senior starting safety Rickey Jefferson broken his fibula in Wednesday's practice and will miss several games. Hate to see a guy like Jefferson who has worked so hard and done everything the right way catch such a bad break going into the most important stretch of his career.

Next we travel around the world as we check in on the Pelicans and their preseason trip to China. Alexis Ajinca missed a game due to back spasms. Terrence Jones is out with a knee contusion. New free agent sharpshooter E'Twuan Moore is out with a heel contusion. Tyreke Evans and QPon are still out with their knee problems. Jrue Holiday is out for understandable reasons. And finally, Anthony Davis has suffered a grade 2 right ankle sprain and will reportedly be out 10-15 days. Which, seeing as how the season starts Oct 26th, is not exactly ideal. You get the point.

Thoughts and prayers with all of these players as they recover from their respective setbacks.

Should LSU Get Another Mike?
The debate is starting up over whether or not LSU should continue its live Tiger mascot tradition. For the purposes of this blog I will ignore the extremes on both sides. There are people who 100% no matter what want a live Tiger and there are those that no matter what 100% think LSU should NOT have a live Tiger. Both of these sides tend to live in the extremes allowing no room for a middle ground. Among the more level headed though, there is an interesting conversation taking place as to what the real problem with acquiring another Tiger is.

The problem with getting another Mike the Tiger is not the quality of his enclosure. It is top notch. It is not the quality the care he is provided. This too is top notch. Its not the manner in which he is treated either; which is, you guessed it, top notch. Rather the problem with acquiring another Mike the Tiger is where do you get a tiger cub without incentivizing big cat breeding?

Traditionally LSU has gotten their Tigers either from Zoos or sanctuaries. Nowadays no accredited zoo or sanctuary will give an animal to an unaccredited institution. LSU is cannot be accredited because they are a single animal exhibit. Furthermore, zoos will only move Tigers if it is in accordance with a preset breeding plan, while accredited sanctuaries say that live mascots are at odds with their mission. So then where would LSU get a Tiger from? Most likely from an unaccredited institution and it is at this point that we circle all the way back around to the original rub. If you acquire a Tiger from an unaccredited institution are you encouraging irresponsible big cat breeding?

In my opinion, I do not think that you are. I think there are a couple of important factors to note. The first of which is that LSU does not pay for these Tigers. They are donated. So the school is not providing financial incentive. Also, I don't agree that one Tiger being donated to a facility that will provide it with the utmost care and treatment is making a considerable impact in the black market Tiger Trade. Rather, that market is fueled by tiger meat, furs, tiger bone wine, and exotic collectors. In the end I think the good from LSU rescuing one Tiger from lesser conditions and giving them the highest quality of life outweighs the bad of receiving a Tiger from a potentially disreputable source.

One final point, I don't discuss the issue of captivity because I see it as a non-starter. LSU would not b e taking a Tiger from the wild for their own amusement, rather it would be a Tiger bred into captivity.
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T-Bob's Takes: LSU's offensive line in flux; League of Legends tournament

If there is one position group that has mirrored the mercurial nature of this 2016 LSU Football team it has been that of the offensive line. At times, they have looked dominant, giving Danny Etling time and clearing the way for some punishing rushing performances. At others, the line has appeared a discombobulated bunch.

A clear lack of communication and lack of execution leading to negative plays and drive killers. This disparity between these performances begs the question as to why this line could appear so vastly different within the span of a single game. In the search for an answer I think the amount of injuries this line has suffered offers at least a partial explanation.

Saturday will mark LSU's fourth different offensive line starting lineup in six games. In fact, each of the five starters to begin the year has missed some playing time or has had to change positions midgame due to injury (per Ross Dellenger of The Advocate). When you combine this with the fact that this was a group that was injury plagued throughout the entirety of the offseason with multiple players missing spring ball and the beginning of fall camp; it becomes easier to understand why this group may appear less ready than many LSU fans had originally hoped.

Now it is up to the LSU offensive line to prove that last week's excellent performance against Mizzou was a sign of things to come as opposed to a one off. Still, this group will be challenged once again as a new starter prepares to enter the lineup.

Toby Weathersby remains in a walking boot and out of commission while Will Clapp was added to the injury list during last week's win over Mizzou. In Clapp's absence Baton Rouge native sophomore Garrett Brumfield prepares to enter the starting lineup. I met Brumfield when he was still at UHigh and even at the time he made me feel small. At 6'3 305 pounds Brumfield has the prototypical size that you are looking for in a guard. The sophomore played well following the Clapp injury on Saturday and hopes are high for him moving forward. Still, this weekend represents the true test for Brumfield.

This is a very talented, if injured, Florida defensive line and it is vastly different to start a game as compared to entering the match when the score is already out of hand and the opponent's will has already been broken.

LSU's offensive line's ability to continue to roll with the punches and adjust to challenges presented to them by an ever thinning position group will not only determine the future of this team, but the future of the LSU program itself. This may sound like quite a burden, but after all, these are big guys… perhaps they are up to the task.

What do You Make of the Saints Win?

Like Syrio Forel, the New Orleans Saints reminded us what the one thing we say to 0-4 is… NOT TODAY. The Saints improbable come from behind victory has awakened a long dormant hope in many of the Who Dat Nation. A ray of light breaking through the clouds. This led me to the question of whether or not this "hope" is a trap. Is it a false hope? It is with this question in mind that I present you with two quotes. I would like you to choose which quote more adequately describes your mindset following the Saints win over the Chargers.

"Hope, like gleaming taper's light,
Adorns and cheers our way;
And still, as darker grows the night,
Emits a brighter ray."
- Irish Poet Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774)

"For Faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction- faith in fiction is a damnable false hope"
- Thomas Edison (1847-1931)

It's A Numbers Game

The Saints lead the NFL in dead money for 2017. New Orleans currently has 7.9M in dead money in 2017. Second place is the Eagles with 6.6M.
• This was a bit shocking. After all, next season is supposed to be the year in which New Orleans can go spend some money and seek to improve through free agency because they will finally have money to spend. Unfortunately, that idea has lost a bit of steam because anyone you are competing with for a player will have more money than you to spend. Also, I think the fact that approx. 8M in dead money leads the league for next year really drives home how ludicrous the Saints current dead money situation is. 41 MILLION DOLLARS.

LSU Gained 634 yards in their game against Mizzou. That marks the highest total ever for an LSU team against an SEC Opponent.
• Scott Rabalais
• Mizzou is not a very good team; however, I have seen LSU's offense struggle many times against not very good teams. Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger deserves the lion's share of the credit although Coach O was quick to point out that all offensive coaches now have more responsibility than they did previously.

"Esports" are here to stay… just look at League of Legends

For those of you who don't know League of Legends is currently the most played video game in the entire world with over 30 million unique players each month. It is a game that I began to play all the way back in 2010. At the time, I thought it was an excellent game that would stick around for a year or two before fading into the background. I remember watching the season 1 world championships as Sushei and Fnatic took home the first world championship and a fifty thousand dollar first prize. I thought it was so cool that the competitive scene in this game was so entertaining; however, I never once believed that any sort of pro scene would develop to rival the way in which Korea had embraced Starcraft and made video games into a legitimate sport.

Years later, I am happy to say that I woefully underestimated the staying power of Riot Games' masterpiece. Here we are seven years after the initial release of LoL and the game just continues to grow. Instead of competing for 50k the winning team at worlds now receives 1 million dollars. In all, there has been over 25 million dollars given out in prize money for competitive League of Legends, but in my opinion that is not the most impressive part of the pro scene. Rather, it is the production value of Riot's broadcast and the way in which they have emulated other pro sports leagues building up a league/sport of their own.

Now, Riot is not perfect and there are serious issues that must be resolved for the scene to continue to move forward. The ability of players, teams, and sponsors to make more money has to be facilitated, but the fact that we are even talking about topics such as revenue sharing show just how far this game has come. With numbers now rivaling or surpassing the broadcasts of MLB and NHL games I think the time has come to accept the fact that as this world becomes more and more technological the idea of a pro gaming career will become more and more commonplace. This seemed a pipedream when I was growing up; however, if you ask a 13 year old today what they think about professional video game players, most would view them no differently than their favorite basketball or football players.

I haven't played League of Legends in over two years yet I still find myself watching and keeping up with the competitive scene. Yet another reason why I believe that "e-sports" (I hate that term) are less a passing fad and more of a staple of our future. If anyone thinks all of this sounds crazy and wants to see it for themselves first hand, I would recommend going to and watching either the live streams or the games on demand.

Also, here's a hype video for the 2016 tournament that just started

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T-Bob: Coach O and LSU put together a dominant performance; what a debut!

What a difference a week can make. Coach Orgeron and this LSU football team entered Saturday with a multitude of different questions swirling around them, and though Saturday's game represents but a single step in answering those questions, it is the all important first step.
At the start, let's be up front with the fact that Mizzou is not a very good football team. Still, too many times I have watched this LSU team struggle to produce against not very good football teams, and there can be no denying that Tiger fans throughout the state feel better about this LSU football team today than they did one week ago.

Steve Ensminger is the LSU Moses
For years it has felt as if the LSU offense has been held in captivity. Tiger fans have wandered the college football landscape thirsting for something resembling consistent offensive success. Many of the LSU faithful have openly wondered, who would be the one to deliver the purple and gold from this offensive purgatory? Few would have guessed that the answer would lie in LSU's former tight ends coach Steve Ensminger.

Although Coach Engsminger has a resume that dates back to before I was alive; he exceeded even the loftiest expectations with Saturday's offensive output. LSU had more first downs in the first half in any Tiger game since 2004. They put together more long drives in tonight's game than it feels like they have the last two years. In all LSU had six touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer. In case you still aren't impressed with Ensminger's debut, the offense set the LSU school record for total yards against an SEC opponent gaining 634 total yards. Obviously you can't expect record breaking performances on a week in and week out basis, but this does give me far more hope for the future of this offense than I had previously.

Dave Aranda's defense continues to improve
Mizzou had the top ranked offense in the SEC coming into Saturday's game. Now, as we mentoined in the lead up to the game, this is a bit misleading due to the quality of a couple of the opponents Mizzou had played. So why then bring it up? Merely to show that this was not a totally hapless trainwreck of an offense - although the LSU defense made them appear as such. The LSU defense held Mizzou to just 264 total yards and helped to set the tone early forcing three and out after three and out. In the end the dominant performances of both the offense and defense made for a mixture that created what was one of the most lopsided time of possession battles I have ever seen in a box score. LSU held the ball for 42 minutes compared to just 17 minutes for Mizzou.

Bottom Line
Saturday was one of the most dominant and complete performances that LSU has ever put together. Now the challenge for Ed Orgeron and company will be proving such a performance to be the rule as opposed to the exception. Saturday night emotions were high, change was in the air, and the novelty of the situation made sure everyone was energized and ready to go. I am interested to see if this coaching staff can consistently inspire these type of performance once that novelty has worn off.

Next week will be an excellent barometer as to just how good this team can be, as they will travel the Florida for a dreaded 11AM kickoff. Will Coach O be able to inspire the same sort of energy and excitement when players are waking up for the game at 6 AM? We shall see, but one thing I do know is that if I'm headed to the swamp I want a true Cajun like Ed Orgeron leading the way!

Photo via USA Today
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T-Bob: LSU rushes into the great unknown with Coach O

The new era of LSU football begins Saturday night when Louisiana native Ed Orgeron will lead the Tigers onto the field in Death Valley.  As Purple and Gold fans journey into the great unknown there is much anxiety; however, there is also much excitement.  

As with any change of this magnitude, the future of LSU’s football program is less clear than it was a week ago.  Will this program come out the better for this switch?  Will they find a coach that will lead them back to National prominence?  Or will this mark the beginning of dark times for the Tiger faithful?  It is impossible to know the answer now, but Saturday should give us our first glimpse as to whether or not Ed Orgeron is the solution LSU fans are so desperately seeking. 
Can This LSU Offense Be More Productive?
Coach O is in an unenviable position.  If he had it his way LSU would fully overhaul its offense and look to start fresh.  Unfortunately, that sort of change isn’t feasible in the time frame Orgeron has been provided.  Thus, he is presented with the unique challenge of winning in the short term with an offense that he doesn’t want in order to get an opportunity to implement a more desirable offense in the long term.  How will he seek to do this?

LSU cannot change their playbook overnight, but do not take that to mean that changes cannot be made.  LSU’s offensive woes were not solely due to the playbook and the scheme they run, rather it was how they chose to put said scheme into action.  One of the biggest critiques of Miles and Cameron was the uber predictable nature of their game plans.  Opponents seem to know exactly what LSU wanted to do and when they were going to do it.  It is here that we find one of the greatest advantages that Coach O and new OC Steve Ensminger currently possess.  There is no data for opponents to look at as far as how they want to run this offense.  The tendencies they will eventually display don’t exist currently because they haven’t been in this position before.  So, even if the Tigers can’t change what is in the playbook overnight, they can change how they implement those plays. 
A final note on the offense, it is up in the air as to whether or not Leonard Fournette will be available for this game as he has not practiced all week long.  Do you think they can still have success without their best offensive weapon? (comment below)
Will LSU Special Teams Improve?
LSU has struggled on special teams in recent years. Be it inconsistent coverage units or consistently poor punting the Tigers third phase of the game has not been as good as it is traditionally.  This is made all the more confusing by the fact that the Special Teams Coach Bradley Dale Peveto has fielded some of the best special teams units in the country during his career.  Perhaps Peveto was being asked to do too much, or at least that what the new regime seems to think as Peveto has relinquished all other coaching responsibilities and will now commit 100% of his energy and focus to improving these special teams units.  In my opinion the one group that LSU must improve immediately is their punt team.  With an offense that has struggled as the Tigers’ has, the field position battle becomes a crucial piece in deciding the outcome of the game.  I think this was readily apparent in the Auburn game as not only field position but special teams as a whole is what helped the Plainsmen defeat the Bayou Bengals.  
Bottom Line
Saturday’s game will be decided if the LSU team buys into their Coach’s new slogan One Team One Heartbeat.  Having never gone through a coaching change during my own career, I cannot imagine how hectic it has been in that building over the last couple of weeks.  I do know that one thing all coaches hate is distraction.  Well, I think its tough to imagine a more distracting environment than what these players are currently dealing with.  Will Coach Orgeron and the changes he has put into place resonate with this team?  Can this team remain focused amongst the turmoil?  Can you really turn around one of the statistically poor offenses around in just 7 days?  There are so many questions, but so few answers at this time.  That will soon change when a true Cajun leads the Tigers into Death Valley this Saturday Night.  
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T-Bob Hebert: Thank You Coach Miles

Coach Les Miles was fired Sunday.  This news had friends, family, and strangers contacting me throughout the day asking my feelings on the situation.  The shocking part to me personally, was that it seemed like the vast majority expected me to be happy.  They expected me to be exulting in the fact that this man lost his job.  Honestly, I was taken aback.  I was dismayed.  I don’t want to ever seem the type of person, who would relish in others pain or sorrow.  I take no joy or pleasure in what happened Sunday.  Rather, I think it all quite sad.  Multiple families are now unsure as to where their future lies.  They must now deal with the anxiety of the unknown as they live these next few months wondering whether or not they are going to have to pick up and move once again.  I find it incredibly easy to empathize with this plight and I wish all the LSU coaches the best of luck and greatest of success whether it lies in Baton Rouge or elsewhere.  This includes Coach Les Miles. 
            The relationship between myself and Coach Miles is an interesting one.  Losing the 2011 National Championship game and the press conference that followed gave birth to conspiracy after conspiracy about how everything went so wrong that day.  I am not going to address that situation today, as I have written the full 100% truth MULTIPLE TIMES, and it is your choice whether or not to believe.  Rather, I bring this up to point out the perception it created- that I hated Coach Miles and that surely I would be happy in his time of sorrow.  This could not be further from the truth. 
            Everyone thinks of coaches as these incredibly paternalistic figures, who love and guide you and from whom you learn invaluable life lessons.  This is at times true, at others false.  Personally, I feel this way about strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt, BUT I would say this sort of experience and this sort of relationship is the exception, not the rule.  When I think about my relationship with Coach Miles I think of him as my boss.  Some people love their boss, some people hate their boss, some people are on the whole indifferent about their boss.  I would say that the latter most accurately describes how I feel.  I have no paternalistic love for Coach nor him for me; however, I feel no malice towards the man.  What I do feel is a huge sense of gratitude and the utmost respect for the man, who was the architect of teams that allowed me to have the most astonishing, adventurous, and intense experiences of my life.  Although, there were times when I didn’t always feel this way. 
            If you had talked to me during my college days, I probably would have said something along the lines of “We are winning in spite of him, not because of him.”  When I look back on this, I can’t help but shake my head and chuckle.  Truly the sign of a young, ambitious, prideful and yet immature college kid.  Over the last half decade I have been given plenty of time to think about my time at LSU and dissect not just what it meant, but how we were able to have so much success during the most fun years of my life.  Obviously, within these introspective ruminations one of the questions I sought answers to was how I truly felt about Coach Miles and what role he played in my experience at LSU.   There was so much raw anger there from the incredibly sour note my career and time at LSU ended on, that it took a while for me to unpack and let go of that rage.  Eventually, I was able to remove the emotions from the equation and look at my time at LSU objectively, and during my search there is an undeniable truth that continued to reveal itself.  Despite the fact that I still disagree with some of the decisions that were made, despite the fact that I wish some situations had played out differently, I owe the vast majority of the most formidable years of my life to Coach Les Miles.
            I despise the narrative out there that Les Miles was little more than a shopkeeper.  This is factually untrue.  Many just assume any person could step in and run a program as large and complex as LSU’s and have great success because, hell, it’s LSU!  They use this train of thought to discount Miles’ early success in the immediate post-Saban aftermath.  This is an objectively wrong line of thought.  What happened at Tennessee after Fulmer left?  What happened to Oregon in the years since Chip Kelly’s departure?  Look at what Larry Coker did to a Miami program that looked unstoppable when I was growing up.  A school’s past success is not an indicator of future success.  You cannot just show up and win on game day, because you are LSU.  Coach Miles not only did an excellent job of carrying the torch in the immediate post Saban era, but then managed to make the program his own and once again reach a national championship.  As far as that championship game goes, is there any shame in losing to Nick Saban?  Is it Karl Malone’s fault he played in the Jordan era?  Does it make his accomplishments any less spectacular?
            Fans see the product on the field.  What they don’t see is the countless hours spent in meeting rooms, weight rooms, shaking hands, fund raising, maintaining relationships, forming new ones, and the year round cycle of recruiting.  Although Coach Miles had his weaknesses, a lack of work ethic was never one of them.  Ironically, the game day on the field management might have been one of the lesser parts of Miles’ skill set; however, there are plenty of coaches who would be better on the field, yet wouldn’t have a tenth of the success that Miles did, because running a program the size and scope of LSU is about so much more than those 60 minutes on Saturday.  It’s about the hours upon hours spent away from your family so you can maybe have a shot at getting this 17 year old kid to come to Baton Rouge and play for you.  It’s about drinking another cup of coffee and going to the next meeting with a smile on your face, because you have to entertain despite the fact that you’ve already been on your feet for 16 hours.  In the end, if Coach Miles’ success declined, it wasn’t for lack of trying.  
            Do I think it was time for change?  Yes, I think that was made clear in Saturday night’s game against Auburn.  You would be hard pressed to write a more negative storyline than what LSU fan’s witnessed.  All the same critiques that have haunted Coach Miles throughout the years were on display throughout the contest.  So yes, I understand it was time for change and that Coach Miles’ best years were behind him, but don’t be the person who does the incredible disservice of not giving coach credit for his best years.  Coach Miles’ resume speaks for itself at LSU.  In his prime he fielded one of the most talented teams in the country on a year in and year out basis.  My great hope is that with a little distance from the situation, when emotions aren’t so raw and anger not so fresh, that the LSU fan base will come to appreciate what Coach Miles achieved during his tenure as the head coach of LSU.  
            So in the end, despite my disagreements, despite my past disappointments, in my mind the good vastly outweighs the bad.  I am grateful to the man who had such a voracious “want for victory” and for the man who created such a “quality” environment in which my former teammates and myself were allowed to flourish.  Like everyone else, I look into the future with a sort of exciting anxiety; however, I also feel it is important that we give thanks for the past.  So although I didn’t always feel this way, and although there were times where I loved this man and times where I despised him, I will remain eternally grateful to Les Miles for the opportunities he provided me.  The same opportunities that have helped to shape my life and set me on the path that I am currently going down.  
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T-Bob: Miles drops the ball again late in the game

Wow, what an insane game.  LSU lost to Auburn 18-13 in one of the most ludicrous ending sequences I have ever seen in a game.  In lieu of my normal Hot Takes column, I want to try and unpack exactly what went wrong for LSU on that final drive.  Also, because this fascinating run of events had me learning multiple rule details that I didn’t previously know about, I will attempt to explain said details to the best of my ability.  

First I will seek to answer the rules questions that I was asked, and then I will explain the critical tactical errors that Les Miles and his staff made that ended up creating such a convoluted situation.  

First Rules Question: Why did the clock keep running when Travin Dural went out of bounds with 1:22 left in the game?

I saw many people in my mentions very angry about this, sure that the refs had cheated LSU or made some kind of mistake.  Here is the rule on forward progress: 

The Forward Progress of a runner or airborne receiver is the point at which his advance toward his opponent’s goal ends, and is the spot at which the ball is declared dead by rule, irrespective of the runner or receiver being pushed or carried backward by an opponent. 

If you watch the replay again, you will notice Dural trying to fight upfield before going backwards at a forty five degree angle out of bounds.  The ref ruled that Dural’s advance towards the opponent’s goal line ended in bounds, which then meant that the ball was dead at that spot. Therefore the clock continued to run. 

Second Rules Question: Wasn’t Danny Etling across the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball on the “game winning touchdown” anyway?

No, upon further review, Danny Etling’s back foot was still behind the line of scrimmage making it a legal forward pass.  It doesn’t matter if parts of your body are across the line of scrimmage as long as any part is behind. Still, upon further review the receivers were not set on the final play which would have resulted in a run off and would have ended the game.  

 Third Rules Question: But wait a second then, if there should have been a runoff on that last play why wasn’t there a run off on the previous play?

The penalty called on the play that ended with one second to go was an illegal shift.  This is a live ball penalty, meaning that you stop the clock, explain the penalty call, set the ball, and then wind the clock.  A false start is a dead ball penalty.  Late in the game dead ball penalties result in ten second runoffs; live ball penalties do not.  

So, in summary, when Etling completed the pass for what looked like a first down the clock was stopped with one second remaining because of both the first down AND because of the penalty.  Then, because it was a live ball foul, there was no runoff and the refs then set the ball and replayed 4th down.  They started the clock as the ref spotted and then stepped off the ball.  

***Now, it should be noted that there is an argument out there that there is a rule that if a team is in a no-huddle offense and some of the players settle into their positions, but at least one player never stops and is still moving when the ball is snapped, then the illegal shift converts into a false start.  Still, it’s a bit of a moot point, as a false start would have been a dead ball penalty and resulted in a ten second run off, thus ending the game anyway.  

 Well then, I hope that helped your understanding of the situation.  I know I certainly learned a lot.  Now that we have educated ourselves on the technical side of this insane ending let’s look at the strategic mistakes that LSU made that cost them this game.  

Right off the bat, only having one timeout going into this final drive is an immediate negative.  The body language that I was seeing on the field throughout the night pointed towards a team that was struggling to communicate with lots of raised hands and looking around.  At least once, this inability to communicate caused the Tigers to take a timeout in the second half, when they did not need to.  Obviously, KJ Malone giving up the sack on 2nd and 10 to force you to use your last timeout played a critical part in LSU’s demise, however I believe the Tigers most damning strategic missteps occurred in the sequence following the timeout.

LSU had 3rd and 16 with no timeouts and 24 seconds left.  The clock was stopped because the teams were coming out of the timeout period.  LSU lined up and tried an out route to Malachi Dupre, but the Auburn defender made a helluva play and didn’t allow Dupre to reach the sideline tackling the LSU WR in bounds.  This meant that the clock continued to run and unfortunately the LSU players, save for Etling, had no idea what to do.  There was no sense of urgency, and Etling seemed to call his own play at the line in an attempt to give LSU a chance.  From a coaching perspective this is INEXCUSABLE.  There is no way that in that timeout period you should not have two plays already called.  Although in a perfect world you get the first down or you get out of bounds; you have to have a “worst-case-scenario" contingency plan set in place.  You stress to your players that if you get tackled in bounds, you have to get to the line as fast as you can and run one more final play on fourth down. (I had many people asking why LSU didn’t spike the ball, and obviously it was because spiking on fourth down is a bad idea that ends the game.)  

The coaches should have told the players we are running "PASS PLAY A," and then if we get tackled in bounds short of the first down, you must immediately run to the line and run "PASS PLAY B."  The LSU coaching staff obviously failed to do this.  

Players were milling around as if they had all the time in the world, and receivers ran to the opposite side of the field to try and get lined up.  They failed to get set in time for it to be a legal play.  This is the exact same thing that happened in the infamous 2010 Tennessee game.  The coaches called a running play with under 30 seconds left with no timeouts left, and when we got tackled in bounds and short of the goal line there was no contingency plan in place.  Luckily on that day we somehow got into a legal formation and Tennessee was dumb enough to put 13 players on the field.  This time around, Les Miles was not so lucky.  

This brings up another comment I saw a lot of in my twitter mentions.  “Hey T-Bob, I bet you would have known when to snap it.”  First off, I’m flattered that you think so highly of me, secondly you are dead wrong.  I was in an incredibly similar situation my sophomore year when we were at Ole Miss.  We got a long first down to Terrence Tolliver with one second left on the clock, and then I failed to snap it in time once we got set and the game ended.  So, no I would not have known when to snap it, because when I was met with a similar situation I did not snap it.  In defense of both myself and Pocic, understand that the center is in an incredibly tough situation.  You have to wait to snap the ball until the ref blows his whistle.  If you snap it before, then it’s a dead ball foul and a runoff ends the game.  However, if you snap it even a few tenths of a second too late (like Saturday) then the game ends because time expired.  Ethan Pocic should have never been put in that situation in the first place.  

In my mind, when I look at this final sequence of events, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of Les Miles and the coaching staff.  There is ZERO EXCUSE for a team to appear that discombobulated coming out of a timeout.  Having two plays dialed up and ready to go is not some super advanced football concept, and if you consider yourself a perennial division I power, you MUST be prepared for this sort of situation.  

In the end what is going to hurt Miles the most after this game isn’t just the fact that LSU lost, it is the manner in which they lost.  It was terrible offense, terrible clock management and horrendous situational awareness.  These are critiques that have hounded Coach Miles throughout his tenure at LSU, and this result might be where they finally catch up with him.
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Mad Miles: Beyond SEC Thunder Dome

“Two Coaches enter, one coach leaves... two coaches enter, one coach leaves... TWO COACHES ENTER, ONE COAC H LEAVES! TWO COACHES ENTER, ONE COACH LEAVES! TWO COACHES ENTER ONE COACH LEAVES!”

My friends, it is once again time to enter the SEC Thunder Dome.  LSU Coach Les Miles will be pitted against Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn in a battle to the employment death.  Both coaches are currently facing down precarious situations in which large portions of their respective fan bases are calling for their heads.  Both programs have struggled in recent years to live up to their expectations and SEC fans are only so forgiving before demanding that heads must roll.  

Now, what might surprise most LSU fans is that as bad as things have been for the Purple and Gold (12-9 against Power 5 opponents in their last 21) the situation at Auburn has deteriorated to a much worse degree.  Currently the Tigers of the Auburn variety have lost 7 consecutive home games and are just 3-12 overall in their last 15 matchups with Power 5 opponents.  These are shocking numbers when you consider the fact that this was a team in the national championship just a few years ago, and that this was a team that was originally picked to win the SEC at the start of last season.  

How quickly fate and fortune can turn.  So, with so much on the line what will be the keys to deciding the two coaches’ fates?

Can the LSU Defensive Line Dominate the Auburn Offensive Line

The Auburn offensive line has been flat out bad this season.  Last weekend against Texas A&M, the Aggies amassed 4 sacks, 6 hurries, and an incredible 13 tackles for loss.  On the year, AU’s offense has been stopped for negative yardage a total of 32 times.  This is the most in the ENTIRE COUNTRY.  

Unfortunately for War Eagle fans it may get worse before it gets better as they prepare to welcome in LSU’s Arden Key.  The true sophomore has been nothing short of spectacular this season as his 5 sacks are not only good for second in the nation, but also means that he has more sacks through three games than any other player in LSU history. 

@PPF_College (the college edition of Pro Football Focus) provides us with some perspective.  The average NCAA pass rusher averages 1 pressure for every 10 pass rushing attempts.  Thus far, Key is averaging a pressure every 3.84 attempts.  This pass rush production rating is first in the nation amongst all 3-4 outside linebackers.  

I’m interested to see if Key can keep up this torrid pace now that teams will continue to focus more and more on him and devote more and more resources to containing him.  Still, if teams were to focus in on Key, they would still have to deal with the likes of Davon Godchaux and Lewis Neal.  

Bottom line, with the way that the Auburn offensive line has played thus far, it would be a considerable disappointment if the LSU defensive line wasn’t able to dominate on Saturday. 

Can LSU Start Fast and Break the Home Crowd’s Spirit?

As previously mentioned, Auburn has been falling flat in their home stadium.  The current losing streak of 7 games to power 5 teams is the longest such streak since the 98 and 99 seasons in which the Tigers lost 8 home games in a row.  That then resulted in the firing of former Head Coach Terry Bowden.  When a streak like this continues to grow, home crowds begin to lose faith.  They become so accustomed to the disappointment of seeing their team fail that they are much more apt to throw their hands in the air and toss in the towel.  

This means that if LSU can shoot out the gates and jump on AU early, the purple and gold could potentially make the crowd a non-factor.  

Now, the flip side of this situation is that such a losing streak also cultivates a sense of desperation.  This is a crowd that is yearning for anything positive to latch on to.  A big turnover, an early score, or a big stop; these are the types of plays that could turn this crowd from mutinous to dangerous.  If Auburn manages to take the lead early or hang around till late, then suddenly you run the risk of having the stadium start to believe once again.  They will start to think that tonight is the night when the streak will be broken.  In turn, the team will then feed off of that belief and feed off of that energy and suddenly, in place of a discouraged, disparate team; you would have reinvigorated players that are confident in themselves once again.  This is especially dangerous in a team such as Auburn where the low quality of play this season doesn’t necessarily represent the high quality of talent that the Plainsmen have on their roster.  

Bottom Line

Five years ago both Les Miles and Gus Malzahn were riding high.  Malzahn had just won a national championship as an offensive coordinator, and Miles had just won an SEC championship and played for a national title.  

Now, half a decade later, both coaches seem to be in a desperate struggle to retain their jobs.  So although on paper this may just look like another game between two middle of the pack SEC teams, it could potentially mean so much more.  After all, we all know the laws of the SEC Thunder Dome.... TWO COACHES ENTER, ONE COACH LEAVES! 
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