Sometimes what we want most in life we just cannot have. With reports swirling that jobs were on the line this week, Coach Les Miles and the LSU football team desperately needed a win Saturday, yet when the final scores were tallied the Tigers ended up with their 3rd loss in a row for the first time since 1999.
The Ole Miss Rebel Black Bears avenged last year's field rushing upset by thoroughly trouncing their hated rivals 38-17. With the loss, LSU's transformation from punishing contender to hapless pretender has been completed. The last three weeks have seen the Tigers lose to their three most hated rivals by a combined score of 99-47. How in the world did it all go so wrong?
The Team is in Shambles
When discussing a blowout loss such as the one witnessed in Vaught-Hemingway stadium yesterday there is no one area of the game that you can point to and hold responsible for the struggles of the team. In fact, it is almost impressive how the Tigers have managed to have nearly every position group make just enough mistakes to claim their stake in the responsibility of the loss. LSU was inferior in all three phases of the game; offense, defense, and special teams.
For the second week in a row the Tigers found themselves in a massive deficit halfway through the second quarter as Ole Miss rushed out to a 24-0 lead. The manner in which LSU started this game was embarrassing. On the offense's first drive it seemed as if the purple and gold received more penalties than they ran plays. Holding, false start, delay of game… nothing was off limits as the Tigers struggled to get out of their own way in their first couple of drives. As for the defense, this looks like a group that has had their confidence utterly crushed. The school formerly known as DBU watched in horror as the Rebels seemingly scored at will led by a dominant performance from QB Chad Kelly.
Remember, the outcome of these games are a two sided affair and Kelly's 280 yards passing, 81 yards rushing, and 4 total touchdowns were some of the main reasons Ole Miss was able to keep the Tigers at arm's length the entire afternoon. LSU's own quarterback recorded his first ever 300 yard passing game, but it did not translate to points as the Tigers continue to suffer through an identity crisis. The last two games Brandon Harris has thrown the ball 35 and 51times respectively. This 86 throw sum nearly matches the whole of the first five games of the season combined in which Harris threw the ball a total of 89 times.
I do not think that Harris is a bad quarterback, in fact, I look forward to his continued improvement into next season, however LSU is not a team that can win through the air. Going into the Alabama game one of the main keys I had laid out for the Tigers to find offensive success was remaining true to who you are - the problem now is that I don't think this team knows who they are anymore. What happens to a head coach that loses his team?
What Should Happen to Coach Miles
Let us address the giant elephant in the room. Going into this weekend's game the storyline that Les Miles was coaching for his job in these final two games grew to black hole proportions. In fact, despite my best effort, fans had no desire to discuss the matchup itself against Ole Miss, rather they wished to debate whether Coach Miles is or is not the long term answer at LSU moving forward. So, which is it? Should the Mad Hatter be pushed towards greener pastures or should he get another shot to bounce back next season? Allow me to give you my OPINION.
I believe that Les Miles should remain the head coach of LSU heading into to 2016-17 season. This isn't to say, however, that the calls for change don't have legitimacy. Quite the opposite in fact. It is now abundantly clear that LSU is in a conference tailspin following the heights of the 2011 season. With the result of the Ole Miss game the Tigers are now 13-10 in the last three seasons of SEC play. Combine this with the facts that you have lost to Alabama 5 times in a row for the first time since the early 80s, you got dismantled by Arkansas in back to back years, and you have just dropped three consecutive games for the first time since Y2K was considered a reasonable threat (1999) and you have fertile ground in which to plant the seeds of change.
Perhaps the most damning part of all is the performance that the Purple and Gold put on display in Oxford Saturday. With their backs against the wall and their head coach pushed into the corner the Tigers looked wholly unprepared and put together one of the sloppiest performances of recent memory. Even beyond the 13 penalties that the Tigers committed, the play that summed up the story of the game was when LSU comes back from a timeout only to fumble the ball because Leonard Fournette and Brandon Harris weren't on the same page. With this in mind how could I possibly say that Miles deserves to remain at the helm? The price tag for such a change is just too damn expensive.
Anytime you make a major coaching change there is a large measure of inherent risk. Perhaps you hire a coach that will have more success than Miles has had or perhaps you hire someone who will fall short of that goal. I believe that when you look at it statistically from a probability standpoint, the chances of finding a lesser coach are greater than that of finding a better one. Coach Miles has been an elite coach during his time at LSU and to assume that anyone could come in and match his historically solid success levels is more unlikely than not in my opinion.
However, this alone is not reason enough to retain Coach Miles services. At a certain point the risk of searching for a new coach is outweighed by the need for change. No, the biggest hurdle I have to calling for Les Miles' job is the 15 million dollar buyout that LSU would be on the hook for if he is terminated before January 1st. While I recognize that the number would be lessened if he accepts another job I still don't believe the price tag to be justifiable.
LSU's budget struggles are well documented. The flagship school of Louisiana almost had to declare academic bankruptcy earlier this summer. What then does it say about an alumni base that would be willing to raise 15 million dollars to pay someone NOT to work, yet struggles to raise those same funds for the main focus of the school, education. After all, these are STUDENT-athletes right? The education is supposed to come first and football second. With that mantra in mind how could we possibly justify this cost?
I am not going to tell people how to spend their money, however, given the platform that I currently have I cannot in good conscious declare that it is worth it to pay an employee 15 million dollars NOT to work when that money could be spent in vastly more meaningful and impactful ways. If the two parties eventually do decide to split ways I believe it would be embarrassing on a national level to have our priorities so blatantly exposed. Athletic Director Joe Alleva and his advisers created this contract, now they should have to confront the safeguards that they themselves put into place.
In my OPINION with the aforementioned inherent risk of a coaching change coming at such a high price both monetarily and morally I cannot support a coaching change. While the team may not reach the championship levels that fans always aspire to next season, there can be no doubt that the Tigers will still be good. Tough times don't last - tough people do. LSU football will be fine. I know that the last three weeks have injected rocket fuel in to our desire for change, but I hope that we don't lose sight of our objectivity in our passion to "fix things."
A decision this large should be made with a level head, and the emotions that I am witnessing pour out of the Tiger fanbase are anything but. So, while I recognize all the multiple valid reasons why Les Miles should no longer remain the LSU head coach, in my opinion the price just remains too damn high.
LSU football has been at the forefront of New Orleans sports consciousness this week as reports emerged that Head Coach Les Miles will be coaching for his job in these final two games of the season. This conversation evolved into a swirling maelstrom of debate, as throughout the week all anyone could talk about is whether or not Coach Miles should remain the coach at LSU. The discussion got so large that the game itself against Ole Miss seemed to get lost in the shuffle.
The irony of all of this lies in the fact that the Ole Miss game is all we should be talking about, seeing as how the result of this matchup will have a major impact on what will happen with Coach Miles moving forward. So, while we acknowledge the fact that Coach Miles is in the corner going into these final two weeks we must also acknowledge that this LSU team can erase any doubts surround Miles' future with a solid performances. Now, what will be the keys if the Tigers are going to accomplish this feat?
Can Kevin Steele Restore the Fanbase's Confidence in this Defense?
For all the talk of Les Miles' job security swirling around this week I believe Kevin Steele's current situation is much more intriguing. The hiring of Steele this summer was met with a lukewarm reaction from the Tiger fanbase. Steele's recruiting pedigree is impressive but his defensive coordinator resume leaves a bit to be desired. The hope going into the year was that this Tiger defense would be the most talented squad Steele had helmed meaning that he would produce his best results.
Unfortunately, the season has slowly but surely seen that hope erode as the defense continues to struggle in multiple facets. Perhaps none worse than the Tigers penchant for allowing big plays. Currently LSU has given up 80 pass plays of 10 yards or more in their first 9 games. In order to provide you with some perspective, the Tigers allowed 80 all of last season and therein lies the most damning case against Kevin Steele - in comparisons to last year's John Chavis led defense.
Despite having similar (arguably better) talent than last year's defense, the results have been vastly different. LSU was the SEC's top D statistically whereas this year's squad is 6th. The struggles in and of themselves aren't the most frustrating part of the equation, rather it is the manner in which they have struggled. The Tigers problem doesn't appear to be talent related. They aren't getting beat one on one, rather they have been plagued by a plethora of mental mistakes which have resulted in the aforementioned big play struggles. Kevin Steele is in no danger of losing his job as he is still a successful recruiter and is only in the first year of his contract, however he could benefit greatly from a couple positive late season showings to provide the fanbase with some confidence moving forward.
The Offense Needs to Re-Discover Their Confidence
The last couple of weeks have been devastating for this Tiger offense. LSU has scored a total of 30 points and rushed for just 122 yards in their last two games combined. This fact is made all the more disappointing by the fact that the offense was on the steady incline throughout the first 7 games of the year. Going into the Bama game LSU was 2nd in the SEC in scoring offense and was averaging 300 yards rushing per game. Following the Tigers consecutive losses the Purple and Gold rank 4th in the SEC in scoring and average 253 yards rushing per contest.
While scouring the internet for the cause of LSU's recent offensive struggles I believe I stumbled upon an answer thanks to Marcus Rodrigue of The Advocate. Rodrigue went diving into some numbers and figured out that the Tiger O has been wholly ineffectual on first and second down these last two weeks. 12 of the Tigers 25 third downs the past two games have been ten yards or longer. In total, the Tigers have averaged 3rd and 9.7. When I read this my jaw hit the floor. That is a recipe for disaster as far as any offense is concerned and the numbers bear it out.
The Tigers have converted just 36% of their third down attempts these last two weeks and the struggles to stay on the field and move the chains is affecting the team as a whole. It is demoralizing as a defense when you manage to do your job and force the offense off of the field only to be thrust back into the action a couple minutes later when your own offense goes three and out. LSU needs to do everything in their power to start gaining some traction on first down even if it means avoiding taking big shots. Just get yards and the rest will folllow. When LSU is at 3rd and 5 or shorter they are converting on 75% of 3rd downs.
If the Tigers can accomplish this then I believe you will see the offense as a whole begin to rediscover their confidence and its at this point that they will once again resemble the offense that torched the very talented Florida defense.
What a difference two weeks can make. Back at the beginning of November the South Louisiana sports scene was bursting with potential. A veritable Renaissance was taking place as sports fans believed their teams to have turned the corner and were once again going to be relevant in national conversations. The Pelicans were only 0-4, the Saints had won three games in a row and were poised to go above .500 by vaulting over the Titans, and the LSU Tigers were the nation's 2nd best college football team. It was a time that seems wholly unrecognizable when you look at recent events.
Between the Pelicans continuing to be plagued by injuries and losses, the Saints losing back to back games in embarrassing fashion, and the Tigers looking hapless en route to losing to their two main rivals the South Louisiana sports scene now resembles that of the French Revolution rather than the Renaissance.
There was a period during the French Revolution known as the Reign of Terror in which almost 17000 people were executed by guillotine alone. The French people wanted change and in their haste to make it so, much unneccesary blood was spilt along the way. I can't help but wonder if we aren't in danger of falling into the same trap.
Rob Ryan's was but the first head to roll. Normally when a coach is fired the fanbase feels as if change has taken place and their concerns have been addressed. What makes this situation unique is the fact that instead of satiating the mass' appetite for action it merely spawned more questions about who else is responsible and who should be sent to the guillotine next.
This week's shows have consisted of constant debate over whether or not it is time to move on from Les Miles, Sean Payton, and Alvin Gentry. I believe these conversations to have merit but I do think we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves when we start discussing the situation in certain terms because the sports scene in this town right now is anything but certain. The story of these team's seasons are not yet written and there is still so much that could happen.
LSU could win out, the Saints defense could improve, and the Pelicans could get healthy and actually win some games. This isn't to say that these seats aren't warming, because they are, however I would just also like to bring to light the fact that if these teams buckle down and finish strong we will all look pretty foolish with some of the statements we have been making.
Now, let me be clear that I am not criticizing anyone involved in these discussions because I believe them to be valid. In fact, I believe all the outrage is a compliment to the passion of this region. We are a town that has become accustomed to winning and will accept nothing less, but I don't want us to lose our objectivity in our fervent desire for change. The Pelicans are too injured to really hold anyone's feet to the fire, the Tigers still have the potential to have a very successful season, and if the Saints' defense improves there are plenty of bright spots going forward on this team.
In closing, I think we should continue to embrace our passion, refuse to lower out expectations, but let us also give each group a fair shot to finish strong.
What a difference two weeks can make. Back at the beginning of November, the South Louisiana sports scene was bursting with potential. A veritable Renaissance was taking place as sports fans believed their teams to have turned the corner and were once again going to be relevant in national conversations. The Pelicans were only 0-4, the Saints had won three games in a row and were poised to go above .500 by vaulting over the Titans, and the LSU Tigers were the nation's 2nd best college football team.
It was a time that seems wholly unrecognizable now. The Pelicans continue to be plagued by injuries and losses, the Saints lost back to back games in embarrassing fashion, and the Tigers looked hapless en route to losing to their two main rivals. The South Louisiana sports scene now resembles that of the French Revolution rather than the Renaissance.
There was a period during the French Revolution known as the Reign of Terror in which almost 17,000 people were executed by guillotine alone. The French people wanted change and in their haste to make it so, much unneccesary blood was spilt along the way. I can't help but wonder if we aren't in danger of falling into the same trap.
Rob Ryan's was but the first head to roll. Normally when a coach is fired, the fanbase feels as if change has taken place and their concerns have been addressed. What makes this situation unique is the fact that instead of satiating the masses' appetite for action, it merely spawned more questions about who else is responsible and who should be sent to the guillotine next.
This week's shows have consisted of constant debate over whether or not it is time to move on from Les Miles, Sean Payton, and Alvin Gentry. I believe these conversations do have merit but I do think we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves when we start discussing the situation in certain terms because the sports scene in this town right now is anything but certain. The story of these team's seasons are not yet written and there is still so much that could happen. LSU could win out, the Saints defense could improve, and the Pelicans could get healthy and actually win some games. This isn't to say that these seats aren't warming, because they are, however I would just also like to bring to light the fact that if these teams buckle down and finish strong we will all look pretty foolish with some of the statements we have been making.
Now, let me be clear that I am not criticizing anyone involved in these discussions because I believe them to be valid. In fact, I believe all the outrage is a compliment to the passion of this region. We are a town that has become accustomed to winning and will accept nothing less, but I don't want us to lose our objectivity in our fervent desire for change. The Pelicans are too injured to really hold anyone's feet to the fire, the Tigers still have the potential to have a very successful season, and if the Saints' defense improves there are plenty of bright spots going forward on this team. In closing, I think we should continue to embrace our passion, refuse to lower our expectations, but let us also give each group a fair shot to finish strong.
Another year and another disappointing loss for the LSU Tigers at the hands of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Instead of exacting revenge against the Hogs for the embarrassing 17-0 defeat of a year ago, the Tigers reinforced the idea that this is an LSU program that is trending in the opposite direction of their Golden Boot counterparts.
Throughout the first couple months of the season, we always said that the true measure of this team would be revealed in November and thus far, I would say that the revelation leaves much to be desired. For another year the Golden Boot will reside in Fayetteville while LSU fans continue to live in denial by clinging onto the notion that they are year in and year out better than Arkansas. You know what goes great with some Saturday college football sadness? A freshly baked Hot Take from T-Bob.
LSU did not lose because of the Alabama game
Immediately following the end of the game, my various social media feeds were bombarded by comments about how "LSU gives up after the Alabama game" and "why can't LSU avoid the Alabama hangover?" The problem with these sort of statements is that they are completely blind to the reality of the situation. Its like watching a horse beat a sloth in a foot race and saying that the sloth would have won if only they ran on dirt instead of gravel.
I propose that instead of making up intangible excuses about how LSU "wasn't fired up" or "excited for the game," we look at what our senses are telling us. Remove all of your inherent bias and watch tonight's game as an emotionless observer - what does the game tell you? That LSU is flat out not as good as Arkansas. I know that sounds like blasphemy to LSU fans but how else can you explain the Razorbacks winning the last two games by a combined score of 48-14? Sometimes we want to over complicate and pontificate when a simple look at the facts shows us that this Razorback squad has completely outclassed LSU the last two seasons. Maybe this LSU team will have more players in the NFL or maybe they won't. That is irrelevant as it is clear that they aren't the better football team regardless of talent.
There is no one single source of blame for this game
Everybody has an idea of who is to blame for the current struggles of the LSU program. Surely its Les Miles and his terrible coaching. Perhaps its Kevin Steele and Cam Cameron failing to get the job done; after all, Miles has won championships before. No, it must be Brandon Harris because if only LSU had a good quarterback they would be vying for championships year in and year out. No, you are missing the mark, it is most certainly the offensive line who can't seem to protect Brandon Harris from a stiff breeze. Get the point?
All of these complaints have some measure of validity to them, but no one part is responsible for the whole. Meaning that this was a team loss in every sense of the word. LSU got outcoached and outplayed in all three phases of the game. Offense, defense, and special teams. Brandon Harris was inaccurate, the O-line gave up a ton of sacks, the defense allowed multiple big play TDs, and the entire coaching staff got outperformed top to bottom.
LSU is at a crossroads. The Tigers have to look into the mirror and ask themselves what sort of team they wish to be. This is just the first of an onslaught of articles that will decry this year's LSU team as fool's gold, pointing out that this is a Tiger squad that was a beneficiary of circumstance and was never any good to begin with. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. This is not a championship team. This is not a great team. However, this is not a bad team.
LSU is still talented enough to win the last two games on their schedule and wash the bad taste from their mouths. In order to do so, the Tigers will need to show extreme mental toughness by not allowing themselves to be deflated by the torrent of negativity that will be hurled in their direction. This toughness starts at the top. This LSU coaching staff must regain the trust of their players and prepare them to travel to Oxford to take on a talented Ole Miss team. They call the Rebels defense the land sharks, which seems thematically appropriate seeing as how it appears as if their is blood in the water. Can LSU survive the test or will they be eaten alive by this November schedule?
The LSU Tigers will attempt to take back the Golden Boot on Saturday when they take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. The LSU-Ark rivalry is interesting in and of itself because it traditionally isn't treated as one of LSU's most competitive rivals, yet if you look at the last 8 years of the series the two teams are split evenly down the middle with both sides taking home the trophy 4 times apiece. In fact, during my five years at LSU (07-11) we had a losing record against only one SEC team - Arkansas.
Despite the fact that this was part of the Tebow years at Florida, and Alabama won multiple championships during this period, there is only one team that beat us more than we beat them and that was the Razorbacks - we finished 2-3 against them. All this is just a long winded way of saying that LSU players and fans alike cannot afford to take the Razorbacks lightly as evidenced by last year's result in which Arkansas shut out LSU and held them to under 130 yards total offense. What will be the keys if the Tigers want to avoid a similar fate?
Run the Damn Ball
Some may question me pointing this out as a key to the game, seeing as how LSU needs little to no encouragement to attack teams on the ground, but I feel it needs to be said. In light of last week's Alabama game, fans across the state were once again shaking their canes and yelling about how the Tigers need to throw more and get more creative offensively. My only problem with this is that it ignores the strength of this team.
This LSU team's core identity is built on Leonard Fournette and the rushing attack. If you want to become a spread offense and have Brandon Harris throw it 25-30 times a game, those are offseason changes and offseason discussions. This offense's path to success for this season is already set. They need to dominate on the ground and make teams pay with effective strike passes as they have done throughout the majority of this year. I believe this LSU offense is talented enough to do just that against the remaining teams on this schedule.
Remember that the entire time leading up to the Alabama game we said that they were "uniquely suited" to stopping LSU's run game. I didn't use the word "unique" by accident. I don't think there is another defensive line in the SEC that can hang with the LSU offensive line. Now it is time for them to prove it on Saturday by exacting revenge on an Arkansas front that beat them up a year ago.
Can the D-Line stand up to a MASSIVE Arkansas Offensive Line?
The Arkansas Razorbacks enter this game as a team on the rise. The Hogs have won three games in a row and four of their last five mainly due to some INCREDIBLE offensive performances. Arky's O has scored at least 50 points in three consecutive games but perhaps not how you would have expected out of a Brett Beilema-led team. While the Hogs continue to run the ball effectively, most of their newfound success has been fueled by QB Brandon Allen and the SEC's 3rd most productive passing attack. Over his last 9 quarters and 5 OT periods Allen is 59 of 81 for 825 yards, 10 touchdowns, and ZERO interceptions. In other words you have a quarterback and an offense that is performing at a higher level than they ever have before.
Now, what is the most effective way to stop a red hot quarterback? An impactful pass rush. If you can stack pressures, hurries, and hits against a QB it doesn't matter if it is Aaron Rodgers, he will not be successful. That is easier said then done, however, as Arkansas is second in the SEC having surrendered only 9 sacks on the year (1 per game) and when you take a look at the size of their O-line it is easy to understand why. In fact, for the second year in a row Arkansas has the biggest O-line in the WORLD, averaging out at 6'5 and a half and 328 pounds (including a 6'10 right tackle).
For comparison's sake, the LSU defensive line averages out at 6'4 274. Because the D-line will be out-sized by such a noticeable margin they will have to rely on their fundamentals, technique, and speed. Which highlights one of the most exciting match ups from a coaching standpoint as it pits two of the game's greatest head to head. O-line Master Brett Beilema hops in the ring with D-line Master Ed Orgeron. Two men enter… one man leaves… who will it be this year?
LSU needs to prove that they are both mentally tough and mature enough to bounce back from last week's game and not fuel the perception that this team quits every year after losing to Alabama. There is still a TON left to play for this year. If LSU wins out, the WORST bowl they would go to would be the Sugar Bowl and at the risk of getting ahead of myself, a one loss Sugar Bowl Champion would still qualify as one of the best teams in school history. But, the only way to accomplish these goals is to take it one step at a time and the Arkansas Razorbacks represent the proverbial first step.
A darkness permeated throughout the Crescent City Monday morning, following one of the worst New Orleans sports weekends in recent memory. Hopes were dashed upon the rocks of reality as all of our lofty expectations proved to be nothing more than mirages in a winless desert.
The Pelicans lost twice, LSU not only lost but shook the confidence of the purple and gold fanbase, and the Saints fell in heartbreaking fashion to a team with a .166 winning percentage. In the face of such defeats it is easy to fall into the pits of despair, however; I propose taking a glass half full approach to each game and seeing if we all can't feel a bit better. So wipe those tears from your eyes and lets take a look at the optimistic side of this miserable weekend.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans fell to a Western Conference worst 0-6 after losing to the Hawks on Friday and the Mavericks on Saturday before finally grabbing their first win in last night's game against the Dallas Mavericks. Thus far the Alvin Gentry era has been defined by a plethora of critical injuries and the team's struggle to adjust to the new systems both offensively and defensively. However that is not to say that all is lost.
While the team as a whole continues to struggle, it appears as if Anthony Davis is hitting his stride. Friday night Davis scored 43 points on 60% shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and 4 steals. He followed this incredible performance up on Saturday by putting up 25 points on 57% shooting. Davis only had six rebounds Saturday but if nothing else he finally appears comfortable for the first time this season as evidenced by the positive spike in shooting percentage.
Last night was no different as Davis scored 17 points on 8/14 shooting before being forced to leave the game with a hip contusion. Davis is listed as doubtful for tonight's game against the Hawks but this injury is not a long term deal… so… thats kinda good I guess right? As the season progresses the Pelicans will continue to get healthy, which theoretically should equal steady improvement. The million dollar question is whether or not they dig themselves too deep of a hole, but if Davis continues to play like this the Pels will have no choice but to win.
Tiger fans went into this weekend expecting their Heisman favorite running back to finally put a stop to the losing streak against Alabama and put them in the driver's seat for both SEC and national championship contention. In a nightmarish turn of events Alabama physically dominated LSU and the Tide were placed back in control of their own destiny following an insane ending to the Arkansas vs Ole Miss game. The emotions evoked from these developments have ranged anywhere from weary indifference, to gloomy despair, to red hot rage.
Regardless of how you felt, it seems as if the majority of the fanbase is ready to throw in the towel on the year because you lost to Alabama once again. This is where I have a problem. There is still a TON left to play for in regards to this LSU team. Now, I'm not talking about championships because those are out of your control at this point so it is better to put them out of sight and out of mind. However, LSU could still end up with an excellent record and end up playing in a magnificent bowl game.
Remember, as we discussed multiple times Alabama was uniquely suited to countering LSU's strengths. Leonard Fournette, this offensive line, and the team as a whole will be back to looking like themselves in these upcoming games. Plus, if you are a fan of college football there are still some superb games left on this schedule (Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Texas A&M). With that said, put your big boy pants on, accept that you lost, and get excited for the rest of the year!
New Orleans Saints
Saints fans throughout the city expected to wake up to a 5-4 team on Monday. The Black and Gold had won 3 games in a row going into the game with the 1-6 Titans and Tennessee was viewed as nothing more than a launching pad to vault the Saints back into the wild card discussion. Unfortunately Saints fans were crestfallen when the Saints watched a win slip through their fingers due to a missed FG and a porous defense.
There is plenty to get upset about in this game but one positive was the stellar play of the offense. Against one of the better defenses in the entire league, the Saints offense managed to put up 28 points due to a gutsy performance from quarterback Drew Brees. Also, when you look at this game objectively the Saints had a couple critical breaks go against them - most notably the tipped interception turned touchdown that swung the momentum to the Titans early on. The Saints aren't good enough this year toconsistently overcome that type of critical mistake and it ended up being the difference in the game. That said, it was a flukeyplay that I don't expect to see happen again.
The defense was by far the most disappointing part of the game, but you must remember that this is an exceedingly young squad that is still learning how to compete week in and week out on an NFL level. Also, do not fall into the trap of thinking these outcomes are decided by just one side, you have to give credit where credit is due. Marcus Mariota played a splendid game and looks as if he will be a good NFL quarterback for years to come.
Take heart my friends. Everyone gets knocked down and sometimes it hurts worse than others. However, the true measure of a person is rather or not they get back up. All three of these teams are surrounded by adversity and negativity at the moment. It will be interesting to see who will fight through it and who will fail to rise to the challenge. Either way, as fans you should continue to support your teams and persist in HOPING (not expecting) for the best and see where the rest of the season takes you.
Another year and another disappointing loss for the LSU Tigers at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide. The purple and gold have now had an entire recruiting class come and go without defeating the Crimson Tide.
Although this game remains a "rivalry" that is exciting and features a ton of NFL talent, I am unsure as to whether or not it can be considered a "competitive" rivalry at this time. Saturday's game also marks the first time since 1981 that the Tigers have lost five in a row to Alabama.
This Game is Not on the Coaches
Throughout Saturday's game, all the various social media feeds I am required to watch were inundated with "LES MILES SUCKS" and "TERRIBLE PLAY CALLING" themed messages. While this isn't a surprise, I find it frustrating, as I feel these comments completely miss the point as to why LSU got dominated offensively. LSU didn't lose because of their game plan. They lost because they got DOMINATED up front. You can't suddenly change your offense in the middle of a season. A power running team doesn't wake up one day and suddenly decide they are going to run the spread.
LSU's offensive success is predicated on running the ball successfully in order to set up big plays in the passing game. In order to run the ball successfully, the offensive line has to be able to open some holes, something that they were completely unable to do in this game. LSU's passing attack could have perhaps made some plays - however the pass blocking wasn't much better either as the line gave up multiple sacks and pressures throughout the night. Coming into the game, we said the offensive line was the X-factor as far as deciding the outcome of this game and that proved to be true. Unfortunately for LSU fans, it was the offensive line's exceedingly poor play that led to the loss.
The Defense Played Well Enough to Win
This LSU defense was a big question mark coming into this game. They hadn't really been tested thus far this season and had seemed prone to mistakes. However, this defense played a hell of a game until they were just too physically exhausted to continue. I had serious reservations about the depth of this LSU defense coming into this game and it would seem as if those concerns were well warranted. The only way that this defense was going to be able to keep pace with the Bama offense would be if the LSU offense could put together long sustained drives. Unfortunately, the Tigers were unable to do so and we all watched as the defense slowly but surely wore down and Derrick Henry starting breaking off more and more big plays.
As disappointing as this game is, the LSU Tigers season is not over. Now I don't mean that they still have a chance of making the SEC and national championship because while I recognize it is still mathematically possible I don't expect it to happen. This was essentially an elimination game and LSU got eliminated. However, this doesn't mean that the Tigers can't put together a solid season.
LSU still has a good chance of winning ten games, they still have a chance of making a nice bowl game, and they still have a shot at finishing highly ranked. The Tigers need to take 24 hours to digest this game and then move on. There is no time to be feeling sorry for yourself with a schedule that still has Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Arkansas left to play. I know it hurts but such is life. Its like we said before the game, what defines you as a person isn't the adversity you are met with. Rather, it is how you respond to said adversity. Lets see how this LSU team responds.
It is finally time. The most anticipated weekend of every LSU fan's year has arrived, and the stakes couldn't be higher. Tonight LSU and Alabama will meet in a clash of titans that will shake the very foundations of the college football playoff race.
At its core, this game encompasses what makes sports so great. The outcome of this matchup has the potential to be exhilarating or absolutely devastating. The stakes are such that this game is essentially a college football playoff elimination game. With that in mind, what does LSU need to do in order to win?
O-line Must Play Great
All of the old clichés concerning "winning in the trenches" are perhaps more appropriate now than any game in recent memory. This LSU offensive line is full of NFL talent and has cleared the way for the best rushing attack in the SEC. Unfortunately, this Alabama defense is uniquely suited to stopping power running games.
Normally, if a team wants to run the ball they aren't worried if they aren't having immediate success. The very nature of a great rushing attack can be likened to that of a river rushing over a bed of rocks. In the short term, it looks as if the rocks are unaffected, standing tall and strong against the powerful current, but over time it becomes apparent that the water is actually winning the battle as it slowly grinds these boulders into pebbles. So too does a great rushing attack erode a defense over the course of a four quarter battle. Unfortunately, Alabama has the perfect solution to this problem and the answer lies in their depth.
The Tide rotate in about 8-12 players of near equal skill level, which means that unlike the vast majority of other defenses they can guarantee themselves fresh legs deep into the fourth quarter. As critical as rushing success will be, the importance of LSU's offensive line play extends beyond the rushing game, as this Alabama defense averages more sacks per game than any other Nick Saban defense since his Michigan St days.
Because of this pressure, the Alabama secondary has been able to rack up a conference-leading 12 interceptions. If the O-line can keep Harris upright with a clean pocket, they can have a huge impact on mitigating the threat of the Alabama secondary while softening up the D for further rushing success.
This LSU Defense Needs To Prove It Is The Real Deal
The LSU defense has been solid this season. They are near the top of the conference in most statistical categories, yet when you look at the offenses they have squared off against, there isn't an especially impressive group amongst the bunch. Many of the experts across the country feel that Derrick Henry and the Alabama Crimson Tide will roll over this LSU defense - however I think this is selling the Tigers a bit short. Alabama currently gives up the 8th most tackles for loss per game in the entire country (dead last in the SEC) while LSU has five different players with at least five tackles for loss.
Also, Alabama quarterback Jake Coker has thrown seven interceptions in Bryant Denny Stadium and if the secondary can avoid the busted coverages that have plagued them at times this year, the Tigers could force Coker to add to that tally. Jalen Mills, Kendall Beckwith, Davon Godchaux, and Lewis Neal need to use the national media's doubt as fuel to go out and prove that the Tiger's own the defense that everyone should be talking about.
Who Can Take A Punch?
So often in life the key to being successful lies not in the adversity you are confronted with, rather the deciding factor is how you respond to said adversity. As fans of a team, we always hope and pray that every game will be smooth sailing from start to finish. However, in a game as evenly matched as this one that sort of domination is nothing but a pipe dream. The three hours that this game will take place during will be a roller coaster ride. There will be highs and there will be lows. The question is who can pick themselves up off the mat when they get hit with one of these haymakers? Which team can take a shot to the chin and come back swinging. Basically, who is the toughest?
These types of games are the reason why you go to a school like LSU or Alabama. These college kids will take the field with millions of eyes across the country watching their every move. These two sides are playing for more than just championships and personal pride. They are playing for their homes. The pride of entire communities throughout the Gulf region ride on this game, and make no mistake about it, as a player you certainly are aware of what a win would mean to your hometown fans.
Prime time players make prime time plays in prime time situations. Don't shy away from the big stage, embrace it! LSU needs to use this game as an opportunity to invade their enemies' lands and stop the losing streak. Can Leonard Fournette lead LSU back to the promised land?
LSU Coach Les Miles surprised many fans and media across the country when he acknowledged that this Saturday's matchup is not "just another game." Traditionally, the correct answer to these sort of queries is something along the lines of "yes, they are a very talented team, but we need to approach it as we would any other game because it is just another game, blah blah blah." This answer is especially frustrating when everyone in the room knows it isn't true, thats why I found Coach Miles candid response to be a welcome change of pace!
To say that this Saturday's matchup is "just another game" is to ignore our basic human nature. In any given situation when the stakes are raised, so too is the tension, the anxiety, and the excitement. For example, there is a massive difference in taking the Bar Exam as opposed to your first exam of law school (I don't really know how law school works - just ride out this analogy with me). So too is the Alabama game massively different from a matchup against Eastern Michigan.
I don't even like talking about how I don't think Bama should be in the top 4 because you automatically get pigeon-holed into a "bama hater"
With that in mind the question as a player and coach becomes - how do you handle all this extra pressure? Embrace the stage. Instead of shying away from the added anxiety and excitement, use it to your advantage by funneling all that extra energy into positive actions. Watch extra film, spend extra time in the training room to make sure your body is operating at peak efficiency, and MAKE SURE YOU GET ENOUGH SLEEP. This is the kind of extra preparation changes to your routine that can create positive results. What you don't want to change is who you ARE.
LSU excels at running the football. Alabama excels at stopping the run. This doesn't mean that the Tigers need to suddenly change their identity and try to become something they are not. I say the Tigers meet the Tide head on. Strength on strength. Then, when the opportunity calls for it, use their newfound deadly efficient passing game to strike a blow against the enemy just like LSU has done throughout this 7-0 start.
In the end, if the Purple and Gold stay true to themselves and use the national spotlight to their advantage; this team is without a doubt talented enough to stop the losing streak.