Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Around The SEC; National Notes


Around The SEC

TENNESSEE & MISSISSIPPI STATE:  I might as well include these two schools together because the news is the same.  Both Lane Kiffin and Dan Mullen heavily criticized SEC officials following controversial calls in their games this weekend against Alabama and Florida respectively.  Kiffin went so far as to suggest that the SEC prefers that Florida and Alabama keep winning so that they can meet as undefeated teams in the SEC Championship Game and that the SEC refs were helping the cause.  Regarding his decision not to attempt to get closer for a game winning field goal, Kiffin stated, "You run another play and you throw an interception or they throw another flag on us -- I wasn't going to let the refs lose the game for us there and some magical flag appear." 

Dan Mullen had issues with the replay official not overturning what seemed to be a clear fumble at the goal line that was instead upheld as a touchdown.   Mullen stated, "I don't even know why we have replay right now in the Southeastern Conference if they're not going to utilize it....I hope he's severely punished if he ever works another SEC game again, because I think it's completely unacceptable."   A still shot of the play in question is below. 

While I have no doubt that the head SEC officials would like to see a monster ratings grabber match up of undefeated Florida against undefeated Alabama in the SEC Championship game, I just can't believe that games are being fixed like Kiffin suggests.  But I certainly don't blame people for bringing up the issue because these things do indeed look fishy.

ESPN and other news outlets have jumped all over this story and are blasting the conference officiating.  I see this as a good thing for LSU with the giant game in Tuscaloosa looming in two weeks.  All eyes will be on the refs that day, and the pressure will be on the officials to not make any questionable calls that goes Bama's way or to throw any "magical flags."  

AUBURN:  The War Eagles continue to limp through the second half of the season.  They hope to break a three game losing streak at home against Ole Miss this weekend.  With Georgia and Alabama still on the schedule, this game becomes a must win for Auburn unless they want to go bowling in Shreveport or Memphis.  A once promising season is suddenly raising a ton of questions on the Plains regarding first year head coach Gene Chizik.  Chizik's old team, Iowa State, seems to be doing better off without him as they're off to a surprising 5-3 start. 

SOUTH CAROLINA:  The Gamecocks are pleased to be 6-2 at this point in the season, but things will likely turn south in a hurry.  South Carolina still has to play @ Tennessee, @ Arkansas, vs. Florida, and vs. Clemson.  They would do very well for themselves to win two of those games, but that makes this weekend's game at Tennessee very important. 

National Notes

Georgia Tech quietly finds themselves with a 7-1 record with four games remaining. They travel to Vanderbilt this week before hosting Wake Forest and playing at Duke. They could very well be 10-1 before hosting Georgia to close the season. Unless they stumble against Wake or Duke, Georgia Tech will be in Tampa playing in the ACC Championship Game. A whole lot would have to happen for them to be considered a player in the national title race, but you never know what could happen.

LSU could potentially be matched with a Big-10 team in their bowl game, so I've started to pay special attention to the Big-10 conference race and the bowl pecking order. The Big-10 looks to be in good position to send two teams to BCS bowl games. With no losses and a win against Penn State already in the bag, Iowa is in great shape to win the conference. Penn State and Ohio State still play each other, and that contest could be for the right to play in a BCS bowl game. However, Ohio State also has to deal with a home game against Iowa before traveling to Michigan. It would seem likely that Iowa wins the conference and that either Penn State or Ohio State still goes to the BCS with the other going to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

USC plays at Oregon this weekend in a game that will likely decide the PAC-10 championship.  USC has won seven PAC-10 championships in a row entering this season.  The PAC-10 could also potentially send two teams to BCS bowl games depending on how these two teams do after this game.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Auburn Game Notes


LSU put together their best performance of the year in completely dismantling Auburn 31-10.  This game was never in doubt as LSU dominated from start to finish.  The Tigers played their finest game of the season on both offense and defense.  We also saw two of LSU's star freshman make incredible individual plays. 

Auburn's defense loaded the box in order to stop LSU's running game, so LSU's offense countered with the passing game and came out firing.  And they never stopped.   Auburn's secondary simply couldn't handle Brandon Lafell and Terrance Toliver who combined for 15 receptions, 153 yards, and two touchdowns.  As well as they played, they dropped a few balls and could have been even better.  Reuben Randle made an amazing 31 yard catch down the sideline as well.  LSU's staff dialed up some shorter throws for Jordan Jefferson so that he could get rid of the ball faster, and it worked very well.  He enjoyed a career day with 242 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.  Most of all, he looked comfortable.  LSU did a lot less of the "check with me" stuff at the line of scrimmage and Jefferson seems to prefer what he did Saturday.  His numbers would have been even better without the drops by the receivers. 

As good as LSU's passing game looked on Saturday, the Tigers could not get their running backs going at all.  Charles Scott managed just 20 yards on ten carries.  LSU looked elsewhere for their rushing yards as Jordan Jefferson managed 50 yards on the ground and Russell Shepard provided a spark with an electrifying 69 yard touchdown run.  Most of LSU's struggles in the conventional running game were due to Auburn's game plan of loading the box and dedicating their defense to stopping the run.   LSU also tried a new face at fullback as true freshman Dominique Allen gave it a shot.  He led the way for Charles Scott's long run of eight yards and did a few other good things.  Hopefully, he'll continue to improve as the season moves forward. 

Defensively, you can't ask for much more.  The Tigers held an Auburn offense that averaged 465 yards per game to just 193.  The starting defense allowed Auburn out of the endzone all night.  They sacked Auburn's quarterback four times and caused three turnovers.  We saw the same great tackling by the linebackers and solid play from the secondary, but we also saw a few different things.  LSU blitzed a lot more than we've seen in the past, and they were effective.  LSU's linebackers led the way again.  Harry Coleman was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week after notching nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.  He was everywhere.  Kelvin Shephard led LSU in tackles with 13 and two tackles for loss.  John Chavis's group is giving LSU some of the best linebacker play we've seen in quite some time. 

The unsung hero on defense was Patrick Peterson.  On the stat sheet, he recorded just one tackle.  However, he simply dominated whoever he was matched up against.  Auburn never looked his way, and his impact in the game was significant despite just one tackle. 

LSU now sits in fantastic position looking towards the end of the season.  The win against Auburn sets up a monumental game in Tuscaloosa in two weeks with the SEC West championship, and much more, on the line.  LSU can absolutely win all of the remaining games on the schedule so nothing should be conceded, but winning two of the three remaining SEC games on the schedule would be a "damn strong" finish to this season with a 10-2 record. 

LSU picked up their 23rd commitment for the Class of 2010 when California defensive tackle Cassius Marsh chose LSU. Marsh was strongly considering Cal, USC, and Arizona State; however, his visit during the weekend of the Florida game sealed the deal for the Tigers. Marsh has some family in Louisiana. Scout.com rates Marsh as a 4-star player and the #19 defensive tackle in the nation. Rivals also rates him 4-stars and the #13 DT in the nation. LSU really needed to sign another defensive tackle in this class and Marsh fills the void nicely.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Auburn Game Preview


We talked about the importance of Saturday's game against Auburn yesterday.  This game is huge on a number of levels and simply put, LSU has to win this game.  I think they will. 

When LSU Has The Ball:

LSU has the SEC's worst offense, averaging less than 300 total yards per game.  That's awful.  Auburn owns the SEC's 11th ranked defense, allowing a gaudy 367 yards per game.  LSU welcomes a poor defense in efforts to build some things on offense.  On the other hand, Auburn welcomes LSU's offense as they try to put something together on defense.  Something has to give.  I think this match up will tilt in the favor of LSU. 

LSU has made a devoted effort in their last two games to run the ball with Charles Scott.  And despite the ineffectiveness of the offense as a whole against Georgia and Florida, "Chuck The Truck" has run the ball well.  He gained 148 yards on 32 carries for a 4.63 yards per carry average.  That's not super, but it's effective and you must also consider that 13 of those carries went against the nation's second ranked defense.  Auburn's run defense is 11th in the SEC, and LSU will likely do everything possible to get Scott going.  I believe they'll be successful. 

Auburn has a lot of linebackers sidelined with injury, and they're really hurting at that position right now.  Their defensive line is OK, but nothing special and their star defensive end Antonio Coleman is dinged with an injury though he's playing through it.   I firmly believe that LSU's focus will be to take advantage of this and to run the football.  Remember that Charles Scott ran over, through, and around Auburn's defense last year.  It's imperative that LSU keeps the chains moving in order to keep Auburn's offense on the sideline.  Two weeks ago, the Gators ran 64 plays compared to just 47 for LSU.  It's tough to win games when the other team gets 17 more plays than you do. 

In the passing game, LSU should have opportunities to make some plays.  Auburn is going to have to ask their safeties to help stop LSU's running game.  That means that the play action passes, Jordan Jefferson's strength, should be open for some big gainers.  Auburn returns some familiar names at cornerback in Walter McFadden and Neiko Thorpe, but those guys can't handle Brandon Lafell and Terrance Toliver in man coverage.  If the safeties are engaged in the running game, then LSU's receivers will be open.  Jefferson just needs time to find them.   Will he have time?   Auburn has 12 sacks in seven games, so they're able to apply some pressure. It will be interesting to see if LSU keeps Richard Dickson in to help block or whether they'll release him for some quick hitters.  I suspect they'll try a little of both. 

Another thing to consider is that LSU has had two weeks to prepare for this very important game.  Did they use that time to install a few extra wrinkles to the offense?   Will we perhaps see some roll outs from Jordan Jefferson to offset LSU's seeming inability to protect the quarterback?  Will we see more of Russell Shepard on the field?  Will we perhaps see a fake kick or a trick play?  I suspect we might see some of these things, and I sincerely hope we'll see Shepard take some more snaps.  Kentucky dismantled Auburn's defense late in their game last week by running several "Wildcat" plays and Shepard should be able to do the same.   

Lastly, LSU has struggled to punch the ball into the endzone once they get into the red zone. They've failed many times in "goal to go" situations against Mississippi State, Georgia, and once against Florida. Auburn is very poor at playing defense in the red zone. They have allowed 17 touchdowns in 27 attempts, so perhaps LSU can manage touchdowns instead of field goals.

When Auburn Has The Ball

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has brought an effective spread attack to the Plains.  They rank second in the SEC in total offense and scoring offense.  They average 465 yards and 35 points per game.  Auburn almost always has several players in motion before the play, and they run a ton of misdirection after the snap.  They utilize the entire width of the football field in their running game.  They're very good at carrying out their fakes, and it's tough for a defense to even know who has the ball.  You'll see this clearly in the video below.  They've got a pair of very good running backs in Ben Tate and freshman Onterio McCalebb.  Tate is averaging 122 yards per game on the ground while McCalebb averages 66 yards per game.  Both guys average over 5.5 per carry.  Tate is an all around back while McCalebb has better speed.  Once the secondary is engaged with tracking down Tate and McCalebb, then Auburn goes to the air.  Quarterback Chris Todd won't light anyone up, but he's been efficient and hasn't turned the ball over.  They'll sometimes bring in quarterback Kodi Burns to run some "Wildcat" stuff too.  How will all of this work against LSU's defense?

LSU's defense has been playing well, and they're continuing to improve.  However, they're playing a conservative, "bend but don't break" strategy.  The Tigers haven't allowed many big plays, but they do allow some long drives and they're last in the league in allowing third down conversions.  However by keeping plays in front of them, LSU has been able to force several turnovers.   LSU also tightens up in the red zone, ranking second in the SEC in red zone defense. 

I fully expect Auburn to move the ball against LSU at times.  LSU will once again keep plays in front of them, prevent big plays, and make Auburn put together long drives in order to score.  Many of Auburn's running plays take a long to develop, and they do a lot of pitches and reverses behind the line.  The opportunities will be there for LSU's defense to make some big tackles for loss which could end some drives. 

LSU held Florida, a similar spread running team, to 4 yards per carry.  I like LSU's defensive line to again clog things up between the tackles which should free up the linebackers to make plays.  This game is perfectly suited for Harry Coleman to log double digit tackles, and LSU needs him to have a good game.  Since Auburn runs so much stuff on the edges, it will be critical for LSU's cornerbacks to help in run support.  Patrick Peterson, Jai Eugene, and Chris Hawkins have all excelled in that area so far this year. 

Auburn likes to throw a lot of screens and quick passes and rely on their receivers and backs to get yards after the catch.  LSU's cornerbacks will again be called upon to shake blockers and make tackles.  Receiver Darvin Adams has been very good for Auburn this year, but he's not an AJ Green type of player that you need to game plan against.  They'll also look to former running back Mario Fanin and Terrell Zachery in the passing game.  All three receivers are having nice seasons and quarterback Chris Todd is spreading it around nicely. Todd is not mobile so if LSU is able to generate some pressure, they should affect some throws.  The Tigers have just five sacks in six games so I'm not expecting a dominant pass rush, especially since Auburn likes to get rid of the ball so quickly.  Here is some video of what Auburn likes to do on offense:

All in all, I think LSU is just a better football team.  Combined with some favorable match ups and what should be a nice home field advantage, LSU has no excuses for not winning this game.  This is a critical game for both teams, but I suspect LSU will be playing with a greater sense of urgency.  This series has seen a lot of very close games recently, and I don't expect that to change on Saturday.  I like the good guys in a tight game. 

LSU 24
Auburn 20

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another Pivotal Game


With LSU's team taking the week off, I decided to do the same last week as there really wasn't much to report.  Heading into this weekend, LSU finds themselves at another fork in the road that is the 2009 season.  I jumped up and down screaming that LSU's game against Georgia was the biggest of the year, but with Auburn coming to town in a couple of days, this weekend's match up looks to be the most pivotal this year. 

Right now, LSU is right where everyone thought they would be.  After two of their toughest tests of the year, the Tigers sit at ninth in the BCS standings with a 5-1 record.  But with dysfunctional offensive performances all year and an alarmingly close win at Mississippi State, the fan base is uneasy over how the second half of the season may play out.  The second half of the season begins with Auburn on Saturday. 

With a win against Auburn, LSU's season sets up nicely.  They'll win a scrimmage against Tulane and then head to Tuscaloosa ranked around seventh in the nation.  While most don't give the Tigers much of a chance on the road against Alabama right now, we all know that anything can happen.  That game would hold a lot of meaning in terms of an SEC West Championship, and the players would be highly motivated.  LSU then finishes with Louisiana Tech and then two tough, but very winnable games against Ole Miss and Arkansas.   LSU would hand Auburn their third loss of the season.  Georgia already has three losses, and they still have to face Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech.  Ole Miss has two losses and some tough games remaining.  While it's too early to project these things, LSU would seem to be heading towards the Capital One Bowl, if not better. 

However, a loss to Auburn spells trouble.  LSU would essentially be out of the race for winning the West.  The team would really just be playing for positioning for a bowl game at that point.  The negativity level around the program would be substantial.  And you'd then have to worry about the coaching staff losing this team.  After the highly disappointing 2008 season, another poor season would start to indicate a trend rather than an anomaly. 

The Auburn game only counts for one win or one loss, just like any other.  But it's easy to see why this game falls at a critical point during this season...and during Les Miles' tenure at LSU.  I realize that may be a bit of a stretch, but that's the way I see it. 

In addition, LSU will be hosting a number of big-time recruits at the game this weekend.  Some of those recruits, namely Trovon Reed and Lache Seastrunk, are strongly considering Auburn as well as LSU.  That places even more importance on this game. 

LSU is coming off a bye week.  Auburn's defense is ranked 11th in the SEC and they've given up 22 touchdowns, most in the league.  It looks like a good week for LSU's offense to show considerable improvement.  The Tigers are playing at home...at night, and they haven't lost consecutive night games since 1999.  LSU has plenty to play for with lots of things in their favor.  LSU and Auburn always play each other very close, but I see no reason why LSU shouldn't win this game. 

I hope to have a more detailed piece tomorrow focusing on the game itself. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

"A Missed Opportunity" - Florida Game Recap


The LSU defense played their best game of the season in holding Florida's high powered offense to just 13 points and 327 total yards.  It was Florida's lowest point total since 2005 and the lowest of Tim Tebow's career.   Unfortunately, it wasn't enough because LSU gave an abysmal offensive performance and as a result, the team missed a huge opportunity to steal a victory from the nation's top ranked team. 

The offense managed just 66 yards rushing and 96 passing.  Florida sacked Jordan Jefferson five times and pressured him many other times.  LSU also killed themselves with numerous untimely penalties.   LSU did a few good things however.  LSU's running backs averaged just under 4 yards per carry and the offensive line did a better job of run blocking than I originally thought.  LSU managed 9 rushes of five yards or more, which isn't awful.  But the passing game is atrocious right now.  The offensive line gave Jefferson NO time to work and the few times that they did, Jefferson still looked indecisive and afraid to make a throw down the field.

It was clear that LSU's strategy for this game was to try and shorten it.  The defense made it a priority to prevent any big plays and not take many risks.  They successfully played a "bend but don't break" style of defense.  On offense, the plan was try and control the ball and to absolutely not turn the ball over.  Overall, this strategy was successful.  But once the game entered the fourth quarter, it was probably time for the coaching staff to take a risk or two on offense to try and hit a big play.  The conservative offense wasn't moving the ball, and it was evident that wasn't going to change. 

I can only speculate that Russell Shepard did not play against Florida due to the apparent goal of being conservative and not turning the ball over.  Shepard has shown a tendency to fumble the ball thus far in his short career.  Otherwise, sitting the team's most explosive offensive player in a game of this magnitude is just lunacy.  He has to be a part of the game plan from this point forward.  It has to happen.

What's upsetting is that LSU can do better than what they've shown on offense.  LSU has plenty of elite talent at the skill positions, but the poor offensive line play is preventing any kind of success right now.  To me, I'm not sure the offense is being designed around the strengths and weaknesses of the players.  When an offensive line is struggling to protect the quarterback, you'd ideally see some roll outs by the quarterback, some toss sweeps, and some mis-direction running plays.  It will be interesting to see what happens after the bye week when the staff has some time to work on things. 

Although they passed up a great opportunity Saturday night, LSU is right where they need to be this season...with a 5-1 record heading into the bye week.  The Auburn game now becomes the biggest game of the year.  With a win, LSU can head to Tuscaloosa in November with a 7-1 record setting up another huge match-up.  A loss to Auburn means that LSU is really just playing for their spot in the SEC bowl game pecking order. 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Games Like This" - Florida Preview


This is why big time athletes sign with LSU.  To play in games like this.  #4 LSU hosting #1 Florida in Death Valley at night in front of 92,000 juiced up Tiger fans.  It's a heavyweight bout between two of college football's elite programs on the biggest of stages.  Four of the last six national championships have been won by these two teams, and the winner of this game has won the last three national championships.  Needless to say, a lot of attention will be paid to this game.  Florida is the heavy favorite this time, but LSU holds several advantages that give them more than a fighting chance. 

When Florida Has The Ball:

It's no secret what Urban Meyer likes to do on offense. With running plays for most teams, the quarterback hands off to the running back and the quarterback is then out of the play. From that point forward, the defense has an advantage of 11 players against 10. Meyer doesn't like that. He likes to use the quarterback as a runner which evens things back up.  Having a Mack truck as a quarterback has made this strategy look like pure brilliance. 

The Gators are in a bit of a predicament in that regard due to the concussion injury to star quarterback Tim Tebow.   If Tebow is able to play, then the Florida coaching staff will surely try to prevent him from taking another big hit.  That means they won't ask Tebow to run the ball up the gut like they normally do and they'll have to change their game plan some as a result.  If Tebow cannot play, then they'll turn to John Brantley who has never started a game in his career.  The Gators have a lot of confidence in Brantley, a good runner himself.  But will the coaches call his number on running plays knowing that if he gets dinged, they'll be down to their third string quarterback?  If Meyer is unable to run the quarterback the way he likes, then they'll have to turn to the running backs and the passing game.

That's not a bad thing for Florida, really.  Florida has a trio running backs who are all averaging over eight yards a carry.   That's insanely good.  Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps have serious speed while Emanuel Moody is a bigger back.  Their running backs are certainly capable.  However, they are used to running the ball when the defense is keying on Tebow.  If the defense is keying on them, will they be as effective?  Florida has a big strong offensive line, but LSU has defended the run fairly well this season.  It's very important for LSU to try and force the quarterback to throw the ball in order to win. 

Florida's receivers haven't been special this season.  They haven't been bad, but it's clear they miss Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy from a year ago.  Denote Thompson and Riley Cooper are talented, but they haven't been showcased to this point.  Tight-end Aaron Hernandez has been the Gators' top receiving threat, and he's a tough matchup for any linebacker or safety.  LSU probably feels pretty comfortable leaving their cornerbacks in man coverage and using their safeties to eye the backfield in efforts to help stop the run.  I think LSU's safeties and linebackers will have to get involved in applying pressure on the quarterback.  The defensive line hasn't been able to get any pressure so far this year. 

Regardless of who plays quarterback, Florida's offense is one of the best in the nation.  LSU has to stop Florida's running game, especially on first and second down.  Forcing a young quarterback who is making his first career start to convert third and long is obviously in LSU's best interest.  If Florida is consistently gashing LSU's defense on the ground for gains of five yards or more, then it could be a long night for the Tigers. 

When LSU Has The Ball:

With all of the talk about Tim Tebow and Florida's offense, many are overlooking the fact that Florida has one of the nation's top defenses and the best in the SEC.  They allow just 212 yards and 7.2 points per game.  With that said, LSU will be the best offense they have faced this season. 

LSU is going to come out and try to run the ball.  The Tigers finally had some success on the ground last week against Georgia, and they'll try to build on that.  But  I have serious doubts that they'll be able to run the ball against Florida's defense.  We'll likely see a lot of 2nd and 9s Saturday night.  But the line may be able to feed off the energy in the stadium and make some holes for Charles Scott and the running backs.  LSU is so adamant about running the ball because it open things up for Jordan Jefferson in the passing game.  If the Gators can stop LSU's run without bringing an extra man in the box, then Jefferson has more defenders to read and he is more likely to make a mistake.  It's imperative the Tigers stay respectable on the ground. 

The Tigers would do well to catch Florida off guard a bit with a number of passes on first down.  The Gators' secondary is very good, but Brandon Lafell and Terrance Toliver will be able to get open against them.  Jordan Jefferson has been very careful throwing the ball so far this year, but he'll have to take some shots in this game.  He needs to trust his outstanding receivers to come down with the ball if they're only guarded by one defender.  Some successful throws early in the game will balance things out for the running game. 

Most importantly, LSU's offense simply HAS to get touchdowns if they're deep into Florida territory.  LSU struggled against both Mississippi State and Georgia in "goal to go" situations, and they had to settle for field goal attempts.  That won't get it done against the Gators. 

All in all, the crowd and atmosphere will help keep LSU in this game and as long as they're within ten points in the fourth quarter, then they'll have a shot.  It may take a big return or turnover in order to win, but crazier things have happened.  I picked the Tigers to lose last week...and they won.  So sticking with what works, I'll say:

Florida 27
LSU 20

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Big Recruiting Weekend Coming Up


LSU's coaching staff is taking advantage of the crazy atmosphere this weekend by hosting their biggest recruiting weekend of the year.  A number of LSU's current commitments, as well as prospects they're still recruiting, will be on hand.  A number of the state's top juniors will be visiting as well as the staff will attempt to get a head start on the Class of 2011.   Here is what we know regarding who is visiting:

Dallas area commitments OL Evan Washington and WR Mike Davis are currently planning to take their official visits this weekend.  Making unofficial visits are the following LSU commitments:

ATH Sam Gibson - Prattville, AL
DE Jordan Allen - West Monroe, LA
OL Elliott Porter - New Orleans, LA
TE Nick Jacobs - Many, LA
S Eric Reid - Dutchtown, LA
LB/DE Justin Maclin - Memphis, TN
LB Luke Muncie - Klein, TX (Houston area)
TE Travis Dickson - Ocean Springs, MS
DB Ronnie Vinson - New Orleans, LA
OL Cameron Fordham - Duluth, GA

Joining the group of LSU commitments are the following LSU targets:

RB Lache Seastrunk - Temple, TX
WR Trovon Reed - Thibodaux, LA
WR Jarrett Fobbs - Shreveport, LA
DT Richard Ash - Pahokee, FL
DT Cassius Marsh - Westlake Village, CA
DB Joshua Shaw - Palmdale, CA
LB CJ Mosley - Theordore, AL (Mobile area)

It's great that these guys will be able to experience Death Valley in its finest hour.  It will certainly help the Tigers with their top two targets, Seastrunk and Reed.   Fobbs is currently a Texas A&M commitment but has been looking LSU's way more and more recently.  This weekend will go a long way in helping to turn him.  Marsh and Shaw, both from California, should probably be considered long shots for LSU.  However, both have some family ties to Louisiana which could put LSU in the picture for them.  LSU really needs DTs in this class and would gladly welcome Marsh.   Meanwhile, Shaw is just an outstanding prospect that LSU would find room for.   As for Mosely, he is a very fast linebacker that LSU would like to have; however, he's recently stated that Auburn and Alabama are his leaders and that he'd prefer to stay in state.  We'll see if a crazy night in Tiger Stadium can change his mind at all. 

With LSU having limited space remaining in their 2010 class, the coaches are looking ahead to the Class of 2011 and several of the state's top juniors will be in attendance as well. 

Both of LSU's 2011 commitments, OL La'El Collins and RB Jeremy Hill will be in the house.  They'll be helping the coaches recruit the following juniors:

DT Anthony Johnson - New Orleans, LA
DT Chuck Hunter - West Monroe, LA
WR Jarvis Landry - Lutcher, LA
DE Jermauria Rasco - Shreveport LA
RB Kenny Hilliard - Patterson, LA
OL Corey White - Baton Rouge, LA

More guys will be there, but the above group makes up the core of what the state of Louisiana's Top 10 will look like at this time next year.  Collins, Johnson, Landry, Rasco, and Hilliard look like the state's top five junior prospects at this point with Johnson getting the nod as the top guy in my opinion.  Considering they're only halfway through their junior year, a lot can still happen. 

With all of these prospects on campus, I expect to hear some recruiting tidbits early next week which could give us some things to talk about during LSU's bye week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

To Play Or Not To Play


If you're like me, you're already getting tired of reading about whether or not Tim Tebow is going to play this weekend.  At this point, I personally don't care.  I'm ready for an electric game in Tiger Stadium, and I'm ready for LSU's defense to bring it...regardless of who is playing quarterback for the Gators. 

So I'm not going to discuss this matter in terms of what advantages LSU would gain with Tebow out of the game or how the media and general public would discredit a win by LSU against a Tebow-less Florida team.  Those topics have been beat to death.   Instead, I decided to do a little research and offer up some other people's thoughts on the issue...the thoughts of medical professionals.  I was a little surprised at what I found.  Take a look. 

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) issued a report titled Concussion In Sports:  Guidelines For Prevention Of The Catastrophic Outcome.  The report details the three grades of concussions.  Any loss of consciousness is categorized as a Grade 3 Concussion, the most severe of the three grades.  The report states, "After a grade 3 injury, the athlete may return to practice only after 2 full weeks without symptoms." 

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) wrote an article titled Assessment and Management of Concussion in Sports.  The article details some of the concussion symptoms alluded to above by the JAMA report.  As you'd expect, they involve things like headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, sleep disturbances, etc.   Thus, it's important to refer back to the JAMA report which states that the athlete may return to action two weeks only after symptoms cease. 

The AAFP article also refers to several other studies that have issued guidelines for managing concussions.  Both the AAFP and JAMA reports refer to a study by the Colorado Medical Society, and this particular study recommends the following for ANY Grade 3 concussion:

"Transport to hospital. Return to play 1 month after injury if asymptomatic for 2 weeks."

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) proposed another set of guidelines which are also referenced by the AAFP article.  For a Grade 3 concussion with loss of consciousness lasting more than a few seconds, they recommend, "Return to play after asymptomatic for 2 weeks." 

It's also important to discuss "Second Impact Syndrome" which is detailed by the AAFP study and states the following:

"Second-impact syndrome occurs in players who return to competition before the symptoms of a first concussion have completely resolved. A second blow to the head, even a minor one, can result in a loss of autoregulation of the brain's blood supply; this leads to a vascular engorgement and subsequent herniation of the brain that is usually fatal"

I'm not giving an opinion one way or the other as to whether Tebow plays or not.  Like I said, I don't care anymore.  But based on the above, I'd be a little surprised if he does play.  And if he does, I'd be even more surprised if he's able to play the way he normally does. (He's averaging almost 14 carries per game). 

Monday, October 5, 2009

New Basketball Commitment



LSU received a commitment from Jackson, MS point guard Andre Stringer who chose LSU after strongly considering Alabama and USC.  Stringer is short in stature at just 5'9" 170 pounds but is a very good shooter and has good ball skills.   Rivals.com rates Stringer as a 4-star player and as the #93 player in the nation.  ESPN ranks Stringer as the nation's #76 player.   He should be the favorite to take over for Bo Spencer when he arrives for the 2010 / 2011 season. 

Stringer probably completes a 2010 signing class that has turned out to be very solid.  The class doesn't contain a sure-fire superstar, but it's very solid.  Joining Stringer are power forward Jalen Courtney, wing player Matt Derenbecker, and shooting guard Ralston Turner.  ESPN ranks LSU's class 10th in the nation. 

More on LSU/Florida later this week....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Getting Things Done In Athens


LSU played their best game of the season on Saturday, and they did it in a hostile environment when it was needed most.  The Tigers took control of the game in the first half with a dominating defense and an offense that was finally able to run the ball.  Despite several drives deep into Georgia territory, LSU was unable put the ball into the endzone.  Instead, the Tigers settled for field goals and only led at the half 6-0.  After holding the Dawgs to under 50 total yards and no points, LSU went to the locker room feeling like they missed some great opportunities. 

Those missed opportunities would come back to haunt the Tigers as Georgia came out firing in the second half on defense.  With LSU unable to move the ball, Georgia's offense eventually broke through and scored a touchdown to take the lead in the fourth quarter.  That's when the game got crazy.  The Tigers eventually scored a late touchdown to take the lead back.  Georgia answered with a touchdown that would seemingly be the game winner.  But a great kickoff return by Trindon Holliday gave LSU great field position.  Trying to set up for a game winning field goal, Charles Scott took matters into his own hands and scored a touchdown where he refused to be tackled.  Perry Riley then sealed the game with an interception. 

LSU showed me a lot in this game.  I believe LSU's defense is only going to improve.  They really played outstanding on Saturday, especially for the first three quarters.  LSU's defense really makes the opponent work in order to move the football.  Georgia's first touchdown drive required 18 plays to move 60 yards for the score.  That's giving up just over 3 yards a play, which is quite good.  The Tigers just couldn't get the stop on third down to get off the field.  On Georgia's second touchdown drive, the bulk of the yards came because of a mix-up in coverage.  Though you don't like to see that at critical points in the game, those things are happening far less than they did a year ago.  The defense was also aided by LSU's offense, which sustained drives and gave the defense some more rest in between series.  LSU is now fourth in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing less than under 15 points per game.  

I was quite pleased to eat my own words regarding LSU's power running game.  LSU was finally able to move the ball by running between the tackles.  I hope it's a sign of things to come because I doubt Les Miles will abandon that offensive philosophy.  I called for LSU's walk-on fullbacks to take a seat, but James Stampley played extremely well on Saturday.  The Tiger running backs averaged 4.89 yards per carry, a huge improvement over what we've seen prior to Saturday. 

Jordan Jefferson continues to mature.  Yes, he made some mistakes on Saturday.  His interception on LSU's first drive was maddening.  He needs improvement running the option.  He also held onto the ball entirely too long, resulting in some sacks that killed drives.  However, he took those sacks rather than throwing the ball into coverage.  And on LSU's first touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, Jefferson was very poised.  The drive was 13 plays and 88 yards.  It ended with less than three minutes remaining on the clock...on the road....in a hostile environment...while trailing.  He made some big throws and had the good sense to take off and get a huge run deep into Georgia territory. 

Helping Jefferson on that final drive was freshman Reuben Randle who came up with a couple of huge catches, including one on third and ten.  He really stepped up, and I think we'll see him more and more involved in the offense moving forward. 

I'd like to see better pass rush from the defensive line. That would certainly help the Tigers get off the field on third down. LSU has not had a sack in their last three games.  That is alarming and something that needs to improve. 

It was a big, big win for LSU and it sets up an enormous showdown with the #1 Florida Gators.  ESPN College Gameday will be in town.  LSU will have plenty of high profile recruits in attendance (more on that later this week).  The atmosphere will be absolutely electric. 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Georgia Game Preview


A crossroad.  A turning point.  Do or die.   You can pick your cliche', but no matter how you want to say it, this is the most important game of the season for both LSU and Georgia.  Both teams are in similar spots.  Both find themselves where they expected to be at this point in the season with 2-0 conference records, but neither is terribly pleased with their performances on the field.   Frankly, both teams should be playing better considering their respective talent level.  As a result, neither fan base enters the weekend with a whole lot of confidence. 

Looking ahead, LSU is in a position where they need to find a way to win two of the next three games if they want to have the kind of season that the players and fans expect.  Losing the first of those three would put them in a difficult spot.  Georgia already has a non conference loss on their record, and they still have Florida, Auburn, and Tennessee ahead.  A second loss for them after Week 5 is not what they had hoped for entering the season. 

When Georgia Has The Ball:

"Spotty" is the best word I can come up with to describe Georgia's offense this year.  They're often inefficient.  They're often explosive.  They're often their own worst enemy.   As good as some of their skill players are, the success of the offense largely depends on quarterback Joe Cox...and he's been inconsistent.  Cox is very much a "rhythm" passer.  He can get hot and look fantastic at times.  But he often finds himself in a funk and looks downright awful.  And when he's off, he has a tendency to turn the ball over, having thrown five interceptions so far.  Stuffing the Georgia running game is the best way to cause Cox, and the entire offense, to bog down. 

The Dawgs' running game has mirrored that of LSU's.  In fact, they're averaging fewer rushing yards than LSU thus far this season.  Their top back, Richard Samuel, is averaging 4.5 yards per carry while Caleb King is at 5.2.   But the consensus is that the running backs haven't been the problem.  Their offensive line has struggled to open holes for the backs.  Sound familiar?   The recipe for stopping Georgia seems pretty simple.  Stop the run and force Georgia into obvious passing situations.  Then get after Joe Cox and force him into making  more mistakes. 

It would be simple if Georgia didn't have some serious big play ability in the passing game.  That big play ability also goes by the name of AJ Green.  Green may be the best wide receiver the SEC has seen in quite some time.  The super soph is leading the conference in receptions and yards, and he's doing it when every opposing defense knows he's getting the ball. 

Any football fan will be able to appreciate the match up of Patrick Peterson covering AJ Green.  Watching the pair of future NFLers go at it will be interesting.  It will also be interesting to see if LSU lets Peterson shadow Green wherever he goes on the field or whether LSU sticks to their normal defense.  You can bet that Georgia will move Green inside to find some mismatches.  I think we'd all prefer to see Peterson on Green rather than Danny McCray or another safety trying to cover him in the middle of the field. 

The big story for the game may be whether Georgia can find a playmaker in the passing game other than Green.  Georgia may try to force the issue with Green, and that would play to LSU's favor if Peterson can stay with him.  Some other guys to watch are receiver Tavarres King, freshman speedster Rontavious Wooten, and freshman tight-end Orson Charles.  Wooten may get the ball on a slip screen or a reverse and Charles looks like the next great receiving tight-end in college football.  He is very good and a match-up nightmare against any linebacker. 

When LSU Has The Ball:

LSU has been trying to force a square peg into a round hole on offense in terms of their running game and needless to say, the peg hasn't fit.   Running the ball from the I formation, a staple to LSU's offense in 2007 and 2008, just hasn't worked in 2009.  A lack of an adequate blocking fullback and insufficient holes to run through have prevented any kind of success.  Despite consistent efforts to make it work, it just hasn't.

On the flip side, LSU's passing game has improved each week and quarterback Jordan Jefferson enjoyed a career day last week with 233 yards.  A pair of future NFL players at wide receiver and an All-SEC tight-end are helping Jefferson develop quickly and become more comfortable. 

So will LSU will continue to be stubborn in regards to their running game?  Or will they open things up a bit more and turn to the passing game as a primary means to move the ball?  If LSU chooses the latter, I think they can loosen things up for the running game, achieve balance on offense, and have a real chance to win the game.

LSU has shown a few unique looks in their running game, and they have worked.  Freshman Russell Shepard was the Tigers' most efficient runner last week against Mississippi State, but he inexplicably didn't carry the ball in the second half.  I suspect the Tigers will utilize Shepard a bit more this week, and we could even see some additional wrinkles thrown at Georgia's defense by #10. 

Georgia is adequate at stopping the run.  They rank sixth in the SEC in run defense, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry.  A pair of very good defensive tackles, Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins, anchor the interior of the Dawg's defensive line.   However, Georgia struggles defending the pass.  They don't get much pressure on the quarterback and are tied (with LSU) for last in the SEC with just five sacks.  Furthermore, they are tied for last in the SEC with just two interceptions.  These numbers point to a pass-first strategy having success for LSU this weekend.  Brandon Lafell and Terrance Toliver should be able to get open and Jordan Jefferson should have time in the pocket to find them. 

Some other players to wach include linebacker Rennie Curran, the star of Georgia's defense the SEC leader in tackles, as well as free safety Reshad Jones. 

One key to the game for LSU will be improvement in their red zone offense.  Twice against Mississippi State, LSU had a "goal to go" situation and they failed to get into the endzone.  LSU needs to finish drives and come away with touchdowns in order to win on Saturday. 

One stat that really jumps off the page to me is that LSU leads the SEC with a +7 turnover margin while Georgia is last in the league with a -9 margin.  If that trend continues, then it will be tough for Georgia to win the football game.  LSU needs to force the issue by pressuring Joe Cox and forcing him to look somewhere other than to AJ Green. 

Before the season, most figured this game would be a toss-up with huge implications.  Even though both teams aren't playing great ball, the ramifications of the game are still significant and the outcome still looks to be a coin flip.  To this point, I haven't seen enough from LSU to believe they can go on the road to a place like Athens and bring home a victory.  I hope I'm proven wrong on Saturday. 


Georgia 34  LSU 24


Saturday Night Slant - LSU Sports & Recruiting