10/24/16 6:00 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
It sure was great hearing from so many of you after Saturday’s impressive win. Since I probably won’t be able to answer all the emails I received individually, I’ve decided to post a Mail Call today in which I answer a half-dozen questions covering a range of topics. But before going there, I want to start with a word on the latest polls, as well as a new poll of my own that I hope you’ll vote in. Here we go…
After dismantling Ole Miss by a score of 38-21, the Tigers moved up six spots in the AP Poll and four spots in the Coaches Poll, landing at No. 19 in each. Other SEC teams in the top 25s include Alabama (1/1), Texas A&M (9/10), Florida (14/12), Auburn (15/17) and Tennessee (18/18). Noticeably absent from that list are the Arkansas Razorbacks, who suffered a 56-3 beatdown at Auburn. That score tells me two things – that LSU’s six-point loss at Jordan-Hare earlier this season might not have been as bad as we thought, and that the Tigers’ upcoming battle in Arkansas might not be the challenge we once thought. Still, with three of the Tigers’ four remaining opponents ranked considerably higher than LSU, the Tigers obviously have a tough row to hoe as they conclude the season. With that in mind, there’s a new poll of my own I’d like to conduct.
At the beginning of the season, I asked you to predict LSU’s regular season record. Expectations were sky-high at that time as nearly 90% predicted that LSU would lose no fewer than two games. Considering where we are today with Coach O’s reinvigorated Tiger team, and considering what lies ahead, I thought it would be a great time to ask you again. So, if you’ve got 30 seconds to spare on this Monday, please take a moment to cast your vote:
POLL: What will LSU's record will be at the end of the 2016 regular football season?
DANDYDON.COM’S MONDAY MORNING MAIL CALL
POST OLE MISS EDITION
Reader Comments: Scott, Any word on the Bama kickoff time?
My Response: Ben, we’ll get the official word today at about noon, but last week Verne Lundquist reportedly said in an interview that CBS has selected the game for the nightcap of its double-header, meaning it would be another Saturday night in Tiger Stadium! As soon as we find out for sure today, I’ll tweet the news.
Reader Comments: I would love it if you can share you thoughts on QB Etling. The team is clicking, the D has bought into Aranda, the team has rallied behind Coach O, we are rested, healthy and have a huge chip on our shoulder, besides the hardest home stretch in the country. But we are about to play the most opportune, talented, best coached D's in the entire nation, and one thing is on my mind…. Etling still can't hit a target in stride. His passes, especially short to mid passes, are high and low, and usually behind the receiver. Our WR's are really stepping up and helping the QB, but we are leaving so many yards on the field, and leaving balls open to interceptions, especially against Bama. That is where we could lose the game if it can't get corrected.
My Response: Jeff, First, thanks for your longtime readership. I appreciate hearing from you, I think you’re right on about the team clicking and really coming together at the right time ahead of a brutal stretch, but I don’t feel the same about Etling. In my opinion, he’s been pretty good and is getting better every game. You question his accuracy with short to medium passes, but that’s where I think he’s been at his best. His accuracy problems, if one can call them that, occur more on the deep routes, but even there he’s shown improvement the last two games. Best of all, he’s tough as nails, has good leadership qualities and, for the most part, has made good decisions while distributing the ball to a variety of playmakers. Etling is no All-SEC quarterback, but look at how he compared to one who is – Chad Kelly. In Saturday’s game, Etling’s passing numbers were very similar to Kelly’s and he had one fewer pick. As for facing the Crimson Tide, it will obviously be a huge challenge and Etling will have to be at his very best, but I want to remind you that the last time we faced Alabama at Tiger Stadium, we came very close to winning with far worse quarterback play.
Reader Comments: Scott, Fournette had a killer game – one for the ages – and he deserves to be in the spotlight, but how about some props for the offensive line!
My Response: I hear you, Dan! Looking back at my postgame report I see that I didn’t say nearly enough about the O-line’s outstanding play. This unit has been battling injury from the get go and yet has still managed to pave the way for one of the top rushing offenses in the league, even with Fournette missing two games and playing three others at half-strength. When you consider that Fournette had his record-breaking night Saturday night even without his right-hand man – fullback JD Moore, who missed most of the game with a “stinger” – you really have to give props to this O-line unit that entered the season as the team’s biggest question mark. And it hasn’t been just their run blocking. LSU is third in the league in fewest sacks allowed, behind only Missouri and Florida. I mentioned fullback Moore above, but his backup, Bry’Keithon Mouton, also deserves big props for the game he had Saturday, as does tight end Colin Jeter. Both were also very instrumental in paving the way for Fournette.
Reader Comments: Scott you have to be impressed with Dave Aranda and the adjustments he made early in the game. I think he deserves credit for that and I hope to hear your thoughts on that.
My Response: Mark, Aranda has been outstanding and I think you’re right in saying that enough hasn’t been said about the adjustments he’s made in games. One stat says it all in that regard – LSU has outscored opponents 73‐7 in the second half of the last three games. That speaks not only to the fact that Coach O pushes his players to play hard for a full 60 minutes, but that Aranda is great at picking up on what opponents are having success with and making the needed adjustments to shut them down. He’s also been outstanding in the red zone, as evidenced by the fact that LSU leads the nation in fewest touchdowns allowed.
Reader Comments: Scott, don't look now, but this team is beginning to make Joe Alleva look like a genius in the wake of his recent coaching changes. Without question, this team is performing at a level I don't recall seeing at LSU in some time. I am not sure where they will finish, but they are at least fun to watch again. I really feel like replacement of Miles, Cameron and Chavis is paying big dividends. We at least now can compete favorably in the SEC West.........something we have not done in a while. Tiger football is once again fun, rather than frustrating.
My Response: You’re right, Jack, this team is peaking at the right time and the last three games have been awfully fun to watch. While I remain a Les Miles fan, I agree that it was time for a change and that the team has looked night and day better under the new leadership. Coach O gets a lot of credit for that, and deservingly so, but offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger deserves major props, too, and in my opinion he’s a major step up over Cam Cameron. As for your comment about Alleva, I”m not ready to sing his praises, and he certainly doesn’t deserve props for replacing Chavis. If anything, he’s more responsible for Chavis’ departure due to contract issues than he is for hiring his replacement. Let’s not forget that Miles hired Aranda.
Reader Comments: Scott, just my two cents on the head coaching job talk. We keep hearing that Coach O has to beat Bama to become the head coach. I don't think anyone can beat Bama this year from the games I have seen so I would judge O on how he handles Fla and A&M and Ark. I loved the game last night and can say this is the type of play the fans have been asking for the last many years. Whether we like it or not, there aren't many Saban's out there to be our head coach.
My Response: Very well said, Wallace. If the litmus test for hiring a coach is whether he can beat Saban in his first year on the job, especially in a year where he inherited a team midseason without the benefit of installing his own system/playbook in the spring and summer, there wouldn’t be many who could pass that test. I was one who said early on that Orgeron would probably have to beat Bama to retain the job, but after seeing the way he’s energized the program and fanbase, and seeing how “top candidates” Tom Herman and Jimbo Fisher have fallen against far inferior opponents, I sincerely hope that’s not the case. With that said, I can’t wait to see how these surging Tigers do against Saban’s boys. Bring it on!
Today’s closing tidbits:
• Don’t forget to vote in our poll asking, “What will LSU’s record will be at the end of the 2016 regular football season?”
• As he does each Sunday of the season, Ross Dellenger of the Advocate put together this film study of Saturday’s game that I’m sure you’ll appreciate: Film Room: Explaining how LSU's Leonard Fournette ripped off three TDs of 50-plus yards
• Lastly, please note that I’ll be updating our Ticket Exchange later today with several new listings. If you have a listing you’d like me to add or remove, just let me know.
Tune in tomorrow for Tuesday’s Quick-Hitting Tidbits.