Pelicans backup center Alexis "Big Lex" Ajinca suffered a hamstring strain during the 2nd quarter of the Pels preseason opener against the Pacers on Saturday.
Ajinca impressed last year, setting career highs with 6.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. In fact, without Big Lex, there are a couple of games the Pelicans would have dropped last season. Specifically, I remember going to a Clippers game in which Davis was out and it was all but assured that Los Angeles would win - but the 7' 2'' Frenchman had other ideas, as he led the Pelicans to a win with an impressive offensive performance.
While this injury isn't ideal, it won't make or break the beginning of the Pelicans season. My one big concern is making sure that this won't set back Ajinca too much and that he can continue to build on some of the potential he flashed last season.
Saturday night was a much needed reality check for this LSU Tiger football team, their fan base and the media. In a game week dominated by conversations about the Heisman Trophy; and whether or not Leonard Fournette should play his junior season, the Tigers were reminded that they have more immediate problems. Those include the rest of the football season. This game was a shock to their system. LSU was a 45 point favorite. The Tigers won by 22, but only had a six point lead at the half. I am more guilty than anyone of overlooking this EMU team. In fact, multiple times this week I said they might be the worst team to ever play in Tiger Stadium. It appears as if I owe the Eagles an apology. This Eastern Michigan team played their butts off and, can take pride in the performance they put together… despite operating under a MASSIVE talent disadvantage. Without further ado enjoy some freshly baked Hot Takes.
We still don't know how good this team is
Tonight the Tigers showed us that they are just as susceptible as any other team to complacency. The inconsistent performances we witnessed were partly a product of overlooking an inferior opponent and not giving them the respect that they are due. That said, some of the problems we witnessed tonight have made a couple of appearances this season and need to be corrected as soon as possible. Penalties, dropped balls and some defensive inconsistency have played a part in multiple games thus far this season. If LSU is going to win the tougher games on this schedule, these mistakes must be avoided. Otherwise all this talk of the Heisman and championships will be for naught.
The Passing Game is okay
While LSU's air attack won't break any records, I don't believe it to be as poor as it appeared tonight. The box score makes tonight look like Harris must have played a horrendous game. The problem with the passing games lies not in the scheme or the decision making, rather in the execution which is good because the mistakes the Tigers are making are easily correctable. I still think that Harris is making the correct reads but it just seemed like the young quarterback and his receivers couldn't get on the same page tonight. Either Harris was slightly off with his accuracy or the receivers flat out dropped the ball. It was one of those nights where if it wasn't one thing it was another. That said, I am not worried about Harris and the passing offense's ability to succeed but tonight was a missed opportunity to gain some confidence that they could have carried forward into the remainder of the year.
LSU coverage teams must improve
I do not understand what the problem with LSU covering kicks is this season. Traditionally the Tigers have been dominant in this part of the game due to their incredible wealth of athletic speedsters. I find myself baffled as to what the problem has been thus far this year. The special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto is a veteran who in years past has fielded some of the finest coverage units in the nation. This season, however, it seems like no matter who the opponent is they are able to return the ball with success. In games where you outclass the opponent such as tonight it may appear as if this is inconsequential, yet in the tougher matches the field position battle can mean the difference between a win and a loss. LSU must be better.
This LSU team is better than they looked tonight but maybe not the dominant force that some thought they were. When you look at LSU's schedule thus far it's not as impressive as it seems on the surface. The Miss St win was quality, however the three others were three of the less talented teams in the country. I am not faulting LSU for this, you can't control who is on your schedule, rather I point this out to get people to slow down. All this talk of championships and awards is premature. The Tigers have yet to be truly tested and after what Florida did to Ole Miss on Saturday it appears as if the first TRUE test is but a couple weeks away. In light of such challenges Saturday's game may have been just what they needed so I say unto you Eastern Michigan I am sorry and I thank you.
PS. Leonard Fournette might have had the most chill dominant game ever. Number 7 finished with 26 carries for 235 yards and 3 TDs. It is kind of scary when you start getting used to your running back turning in 200+ yard 3 TD performances.
This Saturday's game against Eastern Michigan promises to be one of the biggest blowouts in Tiger Stadium history. EMU is a team that currently ranks dead last - thats right, 127th out of 127 possible FBS teams, in rushing defense. They are a squad that gave up over 500 rushing yards at Army last week.
Hell, many ranking experts have 30-50 FCS teams ranked ahead of them. Vegas has the spread at 45 points currently. I don't mention all this to tear EMU down but rather to bring into focus the pointless endeavor of writing a game preview. LSU will dominate and LSU will win. It doesn't matter if Leonard Fournette rushes for 700 yards or 7 yards, this game will have no impact on his season either.
"But what about per game averages and rushing totals T-Bob?" If you are asking this question you are missing the point. Fournette's fate, as well as that of the Tigers as a whole, will be decided down the road. Heisman champions and national champions are crowned through the gauntlet. How you handle the tests of Florida, Texas A&M, and of course Ole Miss and Alabama? So, it is with this in mind that we skip the keys to the game this week and take a step back and remember to ENJOY ourselves.
This has been an odd week of sports talk for LSU fans. Instead of talking about the upcoming opponent or last week's win much of the talk has centered around whether or not Leonard Fournette can win the Heisman and rather or not the running back will forgo his junior season. Premature speculation at its finest on both counts. Now, that isn't to say that I don't think these to be valid discussions or at least fun food for thought, but just how seriously some people are taking these debates is shocking for a couple reasons.
First, some of the judgement that I have seen thrown around concerning a imaginary decision to be made almost half a year down the road is crazy. The craziness is on both sides of the issue as well. I have seen people PASSIONATELY arguing with each other about whether or not he would be a bad teammate and bad person if he chose to sit out his 3rd eligible year of college football.
The second conversation I have heard bandied about is whether or not Fournette will win the Heisman. While I recognize that there is no stopping this conversation because of the momentum that he has created I would like to point out how far away either of these conversations are to reaching any sort of resolution. We are talking MONTHS down the line. There is a TON of football to be played before that time, and in a game that involves 22 different human beings full of human variables running around hitting each other WHO KNOWS what will happen in the interim.
It is with this thought in mind that I would encourage everyone to take a step back this week and just ENJOY yourselves. So many times sports can almost feel stressful in a way. Sounds dumb right? I mean it is just a game and yet every Saturday I see fans across get their hearts broken and have their nights ruined when their favorite team fails to live up to expectations.
Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with this - in fact the passion of the fans is one of the most attractive aspects of college football. This week, however, offers LSU fans a chance to kick back, relax, and engage in PURE optimism. There is no stress for Tigers fans to be feeling because there is no way that they will lose this game. So instead of focusing on how many rushing yards Leonard Fournette gets Saturday and how that affects his Heisman campaign why don't we all just enjoy Saturday for what it is. A chance to watch young men run around and compete while playing the game that they love. A chance to drink and eat with friends old and new. A chance to enjoy our first taste of fall while cheering in a modern day architectural marvel filled with over 100,000 other screaming maniacs.
There is plenty of time left in the coming weeks to discuss Heisman races, SEC West competitions, and who the number one team in the country should be but this Saturday I propose you let all of that go and just enjoy an old fashioned LSU game day. After all, years down the road you won't remember the final score of this game. You won't remember the names of many of the players involved. But, you will remember the friends and family and the memories you made on a beautiful college football Saturday.
The transformation that has taken place in Anthony Davis over this offseason is striking - and I don’t just mean physically. While there is no doubt that his body continues to mature into a borderline superhuman form (he has added 15 more pounds without taking away from his speed), the most impressive part of yesterday’s Pelicans Media Day was Davis’ demeanor and personality.
As soon as he walked into the room Monday morning you could feel a change in the air. Davis’ body language and behaviors exude confidence - he walks and talks with the self assured nature of someone who knows how good they are, yet relishes the idea of how much better they can be.
All superstar athletes have this aura, regardless of their respective sports. The best ones are able to project this confidence without coming off as cocky. They can work a room full of reporters without actually saying anything of consequence, yet the reporters go home satisfied with enough quotes to use. Drew Brees has mastered this art and it appears as if Anthony Davis is learning quickly.
Davis gets better & better with the media...knows how to work the room and make a couple jokes w/out saying too much pic.twitter.com/veGHMUGHBD
If I’m being honest, Davis didn’t say anything terribly special or different yesterday - the quote I remember most is a humorous exchange between a reporter and Davis about his 2k rating. Yet despite this, I was engaged the entire time he was speaking. The room felt very relaxed when Davis was at the podium. His laid-back personality put everyone at ease, and Davis handled any question thrown his way like a seasoned pro.
I started to wonder where this new level of confidence came from. Obviously with how Davis performed last season, it is easy to say that his belief in himself is just a natural evolution, and while that is part of the truth, I do not believe it to be solely responsible.
When examining Davis, you cannot ignore the influence of the Pelicans new head coach Alvin Gentry. If you remember back during the spring when Gentry was hired, one of the main determining reasons for hiring him was his vision for Anthony Davis. Gentry realized that even in Davis’ spectacular 2014 campaign, number 23’s true potential wasn’t being realized. Yes, as absurd as it sounds, Anthony Davis was under-utilized in a season in which he averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Therefore this offseason has been about to to spur his continual growth.
Gentry has made it clear that the Pelicans are Davis' team and that he will shoulder the burden of being the cornerstone. Now, there is no doubt that everyone else on this team has value and are critical pieces of the overall machine (I think the returning chemistry of this squad is one of their strengths), but Davis is the engine that allows the machine to run.
Speaking of running, expect to see the Pelicans testing their endurance this season. Gentry’s up-tempo style of offense is something that Pelicans fans have yet to experience. In fact, since the franchise moved back to New Orleans, there has been but one season in which New Orleans was in the top half of the league in pace of play. That WILL change this year, and the change will take place through Anthony Davis.
2015 represents the beginning of a new era of basketball for the city of New Orleans. The NBA is a league of superstars and New Orleans has the 2nd best player in the entire league locked up for the next half decade. If the Saints struggles have you feeling down, perhaps you should explore whether or not you are a basketball fan.
There is plenty of room left on the bandwagon, and the Smoothie King Center has plenty of seats to be filled. So why not flock up, kick back, and let the Pelicans ease your Saints-induced pains?
The LSU Tigers defeated the Syracuse Orange 34-24 in a game that was much closer than many predicted. In fact, I count myself amongst the number that had LSU covering the full 24 point spread, and at times it looked as if they would do just that. However, it was not meant to be as the most successful opponent of the Purple and Gold today were the Tigers themselves. Either way, LSU moves to 3-0 on the year and we move onto some freshly baked Hot Takes right out of the oven.
Penalties, penalties, and MORE penalties
In what could perhaps be construed as a disturbing trend, the LSU Tigers have now severely hurt themselves in 2 out of their 3 games on the year. Thanks to penalties, the Tigers left 2 TDs and about 200 total yards on the field against Mississippi State, marring the offensive stat line. Today, the impact was felt on the defensive side of the ball as every Syracuse touchdown drive was aided by one or more big penalties on the Tigers. LSU finished with 14 penalties for 120 yards.
If you look at the metrics this equates to roughly 14 points that the Tigers should have stopped or scored. You can get away with these sort of mistakes against Syracuse, but against the better teams on this schedule it can put the outcome in peril (think Miss St) or flat out cost you the game (looking at you, Ole Miss and Bama). If you want a true measure of how much the penalties affected the game look no further than the box scores. LSU out gained Syracuse 425 to 281, yet only won by ten.
Leonard Fournette and this offensive line are special
I guess we ought to just start reserving a spot for Fournette in our Hot Takes as it is likely we will be forced to talk about him every week. I would like to talk about other facets of the game, but Fournette has been dominant enough to demand our attention once again.
Number 7 became the first player in LSU history with back to back 200+ yard rushing games and he should have been over 300 if not for an illegal formation penalty that negated an 85 yard touchdown run that would have put the Tigers up 31-10 (incidentally, this also probably ruined any hopes of LSU covering). Through three games Fournette is on pace for over 2500 yards on the season! Let that sink in for a second. The craziest part about that number is that there isn’t an FCS team in the group of opponents… well maybe Auburn counts as one.
Brandon Harris continues to impress
Harris’ final statline didn’t look spectacular but his receivers didn’t do him any favors this game, dropping around 4-5 passes. I love the way that Harris responded when the momentum was working against LSU facing a 3rd and 9 deep in his own territory. He reared back and launched a beautiful pass to Travin Dural before following it up with a perfect fade to Malachi Dupre in the back of the end zone putting the Tigers back up by 14.
Harris doesn’t need to be flashy he just needs to be effective and confident and that is exactly what he has done through the first three games. His decision making as to where to throw the ball and whether or not to run it is VASTLY improved from last season. In fact, I was watching the game with the old man today, and he couldn’t stop raving about Harris, going so far as to say that LSU has the ability to win a national championship with him at quarterback.
This was an awkward spot for the Tigers with the travel and the early kick off, and the bottom line is that they got out of New York with a pretty solid win. If you want to take a glass half full approach with the penalties, just look at the fact that not many teams could hurt themselves that much and still win comfortably by 10 against a Power 5 opponent.
Although Syracuse played well, did anyone ever feel like the game was actually close? I didn’t. That is scary for LSU’s opponents, because when this team cleans it up and puts together less penalized performances you will see some more outcomes that resemble what happened to Auburn in Death Valley. Then again, we aren’t even sure if Auburn is an FBS team.
PS. I feel bad. Another hot take column and nary a mention of the Tiger defense. Kevin Steele and company continue to impress, pretty much dominating from beginning to end. The big problem for the D today was penalties. Erase those and it is another great performance from the side of the ball that LSU fans can always count on.
The LSU Tigers will look to extend their record to 3-0 this Saturday when they travel to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York to take on the Orange for the first time since 1989. On that fateful day 26 years ago, it was the yankees that emerged victorious 23-10 in the Hall of Fame Bowl in the old Tampa Stadium. Now is the time for revenge!
Syracuse is 3-0 on the year, having beaten Central Michigan 30-27 in overtime last weekend. However, the news is not all good for the Orange as they might be forced to start their third string quarterback. That said, even a full strength Syracuse side should not be truly competitive with this LSU squad. So, in a game where the outcome is already known (LSU wins) what should you be keeping an eye on?
Watch for a potential slow start
If you thought last week’s game kicked off too early, get ready to set your alarm even earlier - kickoff is 11 AM central time. That means the Jack Daniels should start flowing around 8:30 to 9:00 AM. For the players themselves, the day will begin even sooner, as pregame meal generally takes place around 4-5 five hours before kickoff. This means that Brandon Harris and company will be waking up at around 630 AM. LSU normally trains for their bodies to perform at their peak around 5-6 PM. This means that even though the Tigers will feel awake at kickoff, their internal clocks will be a bit off.
This isn’t anything that will threaten LSU’s chances to win, but I am interested to see if it causes the Tigers to start slow. This week’s game will be televised on ESPN and will be the first game that many across the country will tune into. Can LSU make another statement in front of a large national television audience for the third week in a row?
Watch Leonard Fournette’s workload
Through his first two games, Leonard Fournette has been absolutely sensational and the country is taking notice. Fournette was given the Walter Camp Player of the Week award, along with being named SEC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in as many weeks. He has shouldered the load for this LSU team, resulting in an average of 23.5 carries per game. Seeing as how Syracuse isn’t the most intimidating of opponents on LSU’s schedule (despite being 3-0) I am interested to see if the coaching staff lets Fournette rest up a bit. Going lighter on Fournette could have benefits on multiple fronts. You could get Darrel Williams and Derrius Guice some extra experience, while also asking Brandon Harris to do a bit more as well. Which brings me to my next point...
If there was ever a time to truly open up the pass game a bit, this is it
I don’t expect LSU to come out slinging the ball Saturday. Why would they? They have been absolutely dominant on the ground through two games. However, if the coaches really wanted to experiment with Harris and take some chances, this matchup with Syracuse offers to perfect opportunity to do just that. The Orange are currently ranked dead last in the ACC in pass defense, giving up an average of 287 yards per game. Conversely, they are second in the conference in rush defense, giving up just 46 yards per game. LSU is better than Syracuse by a wide enough margin that the Tigers should be able to overcome an potential interception or two Saturday, so why not put more on Harris’ plate and let the young man sling it around?
In closing, I would like to bring attention to perhaps the most intriguing part of Saturday’s matchup, which would be the drinking competition taking place between the two fan bases. LSU fans pride themselves in their ability to consume alcohol on game day - but Syracuse is no slouch. In fact, it is in this battle alone on Saturday that the Tigers may be an underdog. Syracuse consistently ranks in the top 5 party schools in the nation, including winning the top overall spot in 2015.
Also, sometimes as southerners for some reason we believe that we get more raucous than other places because when its this damn hot outside the best thing to take your mind off of it is to have a couple beverages. Well, the same could be said about the cold. I know that the Buffalo Bills fan base is widely regarded as the drunkest in the NFL and I’m sure that these Orange fans are just Bills fans in training. What do you think? Which side will drink the other under the table?
Big concerns about the New Orleans Saints season before it really begins. The potential injury to Drew Brees...slight or severe...could be the final note in a terrible symphony that’s been building the last couple of years before finally reaching a crescendo in Sunday’s home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The game marked the 6th loss in a row in the Dome and came at the hands of a team with a rookie starting quarterback that had gotten blown out by the Tennessee Titans just one week prior. Go ahead and try to name five starting Titan players. Can’t do it? Neither can I. It’s not just the fact that the Saints lost their first two games that should worry the Who Dat Nation, rather it is the manner in which they lost these games. For the first time in the Sean Payton era this team’s offense isn’t scaring anyone.
We said this offseason was sort of a grand experiment. The Saints had backed themselves into a corner thanks to some bad personnel moves and needed to find a way to fix the plethora of problems which were uncovered during the 2014 campaign. This led to New Orleans re-shifting their focus to protecting Drew Brees by trying to improve the offensive line as quickly as possible. Next thing you know Jimmy Graham is gone and Max Unger was in. Many Saints fans said they were glad Graham was gone. He was soft, dropped balls, and couldn’t block. Surely the offense would be better now that the O-line could keep Brees upright, correct? In theory this makes sense, the only issue arises from the fact that the Saints have continued to struggle to protect Brees.
Drew Brees was under pressure from beginning to end in the Tampa Bay game. Number 9 got sacked 4 times and hit a few more which resulted in a turnover riddled box score that saw the Saints give the ball back to Tampa three times. Perhaps the most disappointing part of the Saints offensive struggles is their inability to run the ball with the success they displayed last season. One would figure with the addition of Max Unger that this line would do even better than the side that averaged 4.5 yards per carry last year, however through two games the Saints find themselves over a full yard under that number with just 3.4 yards per carry. Combine the Saints own rushing struggles with the inability of the Saints defense to stop the run and you have a recipe for disaster.
There are parts to like about this New Orleans Saints team. This year’s draft class appears solid. I believe guys like Hau’oli Kikaha and Stephone Anthony will be great players one day, however, as it stands now this defense is just too young to have the consistency required of a winning team (also this team desperately needs improved interior defensive line play so they can stop getting run over). Combine this inexperienced defense with an offense that appears to be but a shadow of its former self and you have a recipe for 6-10. Now throw in your Hall of Fame quarterback potentially missing time with an injury and who knows…
I picked LSU to beat Auburn by 17 - little did I know how wrong I would be. LSU ended up winning by a whopping 24 points with a final score of 45-21. The hometown Tigers exceeded even my seemingly over-optimistic expectations as they dominated the visiting Tigers from Auburn from start to finish.
It was a near flawless performance that saw the game decided before the second half even got underway. After two quarters Auburn had gained 72 total yards while Leonard Fournette alone had over double that total with 169 yards on the ground. Speaking of Fournette... what can I say that hasn’t already been said? Not much apparently, as Fournette was the number one trending topic on Twitter in the entire US during the first half. Make no mistake, LSU will be tested this season but today was not the time or the place. So without further ado enjoy some freshly baked Hot Takes!
Leonard Fournette is Potentially Even Better Than Advertised
I don’t even know what to say at this point. I didn’t think it was possible, but through the first two games it looks as if we may have somehow UNDER-rated just how good Leonard Fournette truly is. The highlights from this game alone are impressive enough to make up a season’s worth for almost any other college football player - yet it took Fournette just 19 carries to create such a dazzling display.
If I had seen Fournette’s runs in a football movie I would have scoffed and deemed them unrealistic. Classic Hollywood fiction. Trying to make a player appear to be truly unstoppable when in reality no one could pull moves like that off. Yet, here I sit having just witnessed it firsthand and I still find it hard to believe. I am trying to avoid hyperbole, but following a game like the one Fournette turned in, it may be impossible to be hyperbolic.
Wow… just simply wow.
During the offseason there was a lot of talk about Fournette being a potential Heisman candidate. I didn’t give these talks much credence as the very nature of the Heisman means that it is all but impossible to predict who the winner will be, but through two games I’m not sure if anyone in the country has begun to build a better case than Leonard Fournette. Number 7 now has 387 yards to go along with 6 touchdowns in just 7 quarters of pigskin. There is still a lot of football yet to be played and there will be times where number seven appears to be mortal but on this day, at least, we can celebrate one of the best performances ever witnessed in Tiger Stadium.
Auburn is not a very good team. There are just no two ways about it. The Tigers have bad quarterback play mixed with a complete inability to stop opposing team’s rushing attacks. Simply put, Auburn does not deserve to be a ranked team and by year’s end I don’t expect them to be.
LSU will face better teams this season. Every game won’t be the enjoyable, dominant victory that Tiger fans were treated to Saturday. That isn’t to say, however, that you shouldn’t be excited about this team. This 2015 version of the LSU Tigers excel in the trenches and have a secondary littered with NFL talent. Also, it looks as if the purple and gold may have finally found a solution to their quarterback puzzle. Which brings me to my next point….
Brandon Harris is the Quarterback LSU has Been Looking For
Brandon Harris’ box score may not resemble the overinflated numbers that we are accustomed to seeing in this modern era of college football, but it doesn’t need to. Harris’ numbers from Saturday represented a masterclass in efficiency. Like a fine cut of meat with all the fat trimmed off, his line was devoid of the superfluous 50+ pass attempts that seem so common in the age of the Spread. Number six finished the day 12/17 for 74 yds and 1 TD thorugh the air with an additional 8 carries for 66 yards and two more scores on the ground.
Still, the aspect I remain most impressed with in regards to Harris is his control of the offense. There never seems to be any confusion in the operation and the body language has been excellent. This speaks to stellar team communication and said communication starts with the quarterback position. I look forward to watching Harris continue to improve as the season rolls on.
LSU moves to 2-0 on the season and 2-0 in conference, already matching half of their conference win total from last year. Still, the true test lies ahead. The road only gets tougher from here and the Tigers will have some games that push them to the limit and test their mettle. That said, these Tigers have gotten off to a helluva start and I can’t wait to watch their story unfold throughout the fall!
This week’s matchup against Auburn represents the perfect opportunity for LSU to make a statement on a national stage and kickstart their season into high gear. When you look at the Purple and Gold’s schedule it is not crazy to think that if you win this game you could very likely be 8-0 when it comes time to face off against Alabama later in the season. However, for the time being, LSU must remain focused on the task at hand and take care of the other Tigers of the SEC West. What are this week’s keys to the game?
Don’t Get Overconfident!
Normally in these posts I lay out what LSU needs to do in order to win, but when you look at this week’s matchup, one of the most intriguing aspects are the Purple and Gold’s enigmatic opponents. This was supposed to be Auburn’s year. The media chose them to win the SEC and Jeremy Johnson was hailed as the best quarterback in the entire conference despite having just played one half of football before the year began.
Auburn’s defensive woes were going to be solved by new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and the Plainsmen were hailed as the best team in Alabama. What a difference a couple weeks can make. Auburn may technically be undefeated, but after last week’s game against Jacksonville St (Jacksonville, Alabama that is) - well, I cannot remember a time in which a team won the game yet dropped so drastically in the polls. In the AP poll alone, Auburn dropped an astounding 12 spots. In a odd way Auburn’s early season struggles are the very reason why you could find potential worry about Saturday’s game.
Auburn is not as bad as they looked last Saturday. They just aren’t. They sleptwalk through last week’s matchup and almost got punished for it but that doesn’t mean that you can expect that same sort of performance from them this Saturday. I have seen some very good teams lose games they had no business losing for the exact same reasons. Auburn currently finds themselves backed into a corner and it is for that very reason they remain a threat. When teams get desperate they get dangerous. Like a wild animal, Auburn’s fight or flight instinct will kick in Saturday and LSU will need to be prepared to face a better team than the one we have seen the first two weeks of the season.
Avoid overconfidence at all costs. Auburn has nowhere to go but up and they are arguably still talented enough to beat anyone in the conference if they play to their potential. If Jeremy Johnson plays like the guy that we saw dominate Arkansas last season for one half, then Gus Malzohn’s side will have a legitimate chance of winning. Which brings me to my next point….
Abuse Jeremy Johnson
Jeremy Johnson’s first year as the signal caller of the Auburn Tigers has not gone according to plan. In fact, it is hard to express just how different the expectation of Johnson looks when held up next to the reality. Through his first two games Johnson is completing 60% of his passes for just 373 yards and 3 TDs to 5 Ints. This is all despite playing a Louisville team that is 0-2 (lost to Houston last week) and the almighty Jacksonville St Gamecocks. These are not exactly “best quarterback in the SEC” type numbers. In fact, that 5 interception total is the most of any starting Power 5 QB in the entire country.
This is where as an LSU fan you start to get excited. The first two defenses Johnson has faced pale in comparison to the LSU Tiger’s starting 11 (and much of their bench for that matter). With this in mind one could come to the conclusion that this should be a MASSIVE week for Kevin Steele’s defense. The LSU pass rush was dominant last week as the Tigers racked up three sacks and held Dak Prescott to negative 21 yards rushing while making him feel uncomfortable throughout the night. If I’m Arden Key, Davon Godchaux, or Lewis Neal (all of whom had sacks in game one) I am licking my chops watching film of Johnson. Thus far the Auburn signal caller has looked confused by the most basic of defensive schemes and if he doesn’t figure it out by Saturday things could potentially get real ugly, real fast.
Give Brandon Harris More Leash
This one almost goes without saying. Obviously last week there were many people upset with the style of the Tiger’s offense. Many thought it was too conservative, I myself think there are valid arguments on both sides of that discussion but I think that we can all agree that moving forward Brandon Harris needs to be relied on a bit more. Im not saying that he will be the player that will be asked to carry the team, that burden remains squarely on Leonard Fournette’s shoulders, but if Harris can mold himself into a consistent offensive threat then the ceiling on Fournette rises that much higher.
I like what I saw out of Brandon Harris last week. He looked poised, confident, and the offensive communication was excellent, considering the hostile environment the young QB was confronted with. Now Harris will get the opportunity to return home and make his first career start in Tiger Stadium. I believe that if the coaches allow Harris a bit more room to operate he will shine on the big stage that is Death Valley.
This is a statement game for LSU. This game represents an opportunity to send a message to the rest of the country that the Tigers are not to be trifled with, and as far as stages go they don’t get much bigger. The game will be played in front national television audience as well as 100,000 screaming maniacs who want nothing more than for the Purple and Gold to emerge victorious. Don’t shy away from the spotlight, embrace it! Because of the cancelled McNeese game these players have yet to be awarded an opportunity to show the home crowd what they can do. It is for this reason that I don’t expect LSU to come out flat or underestimate Auburn. I expect the energy in Death Valley to will LSU to a dominant win.
Vegas has the spread set at 7, yet I think LSU wins by something closer to 17. Then again, what do I know? LSU will probably run the ball 65 times, pass it 9 times, and win by 3. Either way, I’m just happy football is back in Tiger Stadium.
The LSU Tigers opened up their long awaited 2015 season with a thrilling 21-19 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Heisman hopeful Leonard Fournette turned in a masterful performance carrying the ball 28 times for 159 yards (5.7 avg) and three touchdowns. Brandon Harris managed to avenge last year’s loss at Auburn and win in an extremely hostile road environment. The Tigers are now 1-0 and will head home to square off against an Auburn team that almost got shocked by Jacksonville State (FCS Alabama school) Saturday morning. All of what I have just typed is true so why in the world are so many people so damn angry?
We're angry because it's the same old run-run-run-pass... run-run-run-run. There is no doubt that LSU employed an absurdly conservative approach in Saturday night’s game. Look no further than the fact that they ran the ball 47 times compared to a measly 14 pass attempts. Such a statistic offends our modern sensibilities. That is not the sign of a successful offense. We are more educated now. We know more about metrics. Surely you need more balance to be an effective offense.
While I agree there is some truth to all of that, it is an overly simplistic view of the game plan. Is LSU maximizing its offensive potential? Probably not. With the way that Brandon Harris played in the 1st half couldn’t they have opened him up more in the 2nd half? I would think so. But now allow me to play devil’s advocate on behalf of the coaching staff. Remember that the decisions of a coach run far deeper than the surface level statistics of runs vs passes. Much of a coach’s though process is guided by the dynamic flow of the game, managing the risk vs reward principle, and the makeup of the both sides personnel.
Remember that LSU jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and it looked as if the Tigers were set to run away with the game. LSU fans rejoiced. Their offensive woes were over. However such joys were short lived as slowly but surely LSU continued to become more and more conservative on offense as the game trudged on towards the final whistle.
Now, allow me to offer up some arguments in an attempt to prove there is a method to this apparent madness. First, the Tigers suddenly find themselves up by two scores and are able to seemingly run the ball at will. This represents the perfect opportunity to apply pressure to the Bulldog’s wounds and lean on Mississippi State through abuse of the ground game. Let your mammoth offensive line wear out their defense while simultaneously running time off of the clock and essentially putting a timer on Mississippi State’s chances.
Secondly, Your defense looks great but at the same time you are aware of their limitations. The defensive line is shining but it doesn’t change the fact that the depth of the position is shallow. They will tire by the 4th quarter and the less time they are on the field, the better. Keep squeezing the clock. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you believe Leonard Fournette to be a true Heisman candidate and the best player on your team why wouldn’t you want to continue to feed him the ball? Every time he gets a touch he has the potential to make a game changing play. 28 carries seems like a great idea for a player of Fournette’s caliber. That said, you could argue that while the aforementioned thought processes seem to have merit, in the end they failed.
Mississippi State ran 80 plays compared to LSU’s 61 and had a chance to win the game on a 52 yard FG before they ran out of time. Then again, they ran out of time because LSU won the time of possession battle by over 6 minutes. Theoretically they ran out of time because Brandon Harris never threw a crucial interception in the 2nd half. You see my point?
Did LSU manage tonight’s game perfectly? Not at all. I think that Harris could have succeeded if they asked him to do more in the third and fourth quarters. However I also recognize the fact that they managed to get a win in a tough road environment with a sophomore quarterback making his second career start and his first of this season. At the end of the day there are valid points on both sides of the argument. I just wish to discourage this “bad coaching” narrative because it is reductive and not fair to Mississippi.
Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs played a spectacular game. One of the core components of LSU’s game plan was obviously to keep the ball out of Prescott’s hands and by the night’s end he showed everyone why. In three career games against LSU Dak now has over NINE HUNDRED total yards. Give respect where respect is due. Sometimes as fans and media we get very egocentric and think that game outcomes are only decided by the actions of just one side. This is ridiculous. Credit Mississippi State for making adjustments, digging their heels in, and fighting back. That is what good teams do.
Some might accuse this post of being overly optimistic and failing to remain objective. I vehemently disagree. I maintain that I am remaining more objective than someone who is sitting there saying “FIRE THE COACHES, ALL THEY DO IS RUN THE BALL.” The stat line isn’t pretty and there is still plenty of cause for concern and trust me when I say that we will discuss all of it.
But in my opinion I do believe Brandon Harris to be the answer this team is looking for at quarterback. He was efficient both on the ground and through the air tonight and had a box score number disfigured by crucial penalties. Most impressively the operation of the offense was spectacular considering the ear-splitting cacophony 61,000 Cow Bells can conjure up. So Tiger fans, relax, enjoy this win and get ready to welcome Auburn in to Death Valley.
PS Ive come full circle on the Mississippi State Finebaum Fan. I absolutely love the guy. In fact I feel like a complete idiot that I was kind of snarky about him in the first place. The guy is made up of pure determination and passion for Bulldog football. He single handedly almost willed that team to win on Saturday. Well done my friend and wherever you are… don’t allow yourself to be discouraged. There will come a day this season in which the Cowbells ring in victory.
PPS Arkansas paid Toledo one million dollars to come beat them in their own stadium… so life’s not that bad.