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10/22/14 6:00 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
LSU is expecting its largest crowd in school history for this Saturday’s game in the newly expanded Tiger Stadium when the 23rd ranked Tigers take on the undefeated and third-ranked Ole Miss Rebels. ESPN’s College GameDay will make its 10th trip to Baton Rouge and the show will air live from the LSU Parade Grounds on Saturday morning. ESPN will televise the game, which kicks off at 6:21 p.m., with Chris Fowler (pxp), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst) and Heather Cox (sideline reporter) calling the action.
I’ve heard from a few of you who’ve asked whether I think LSU has a realistic chance of winning the game, and my answer is a resounding yes. Despite the disparity in the two teams’ rankings, LSU is only a three-point underdog and has shown steady improvement the last two games, plus they’ll be as fired up as ever for this homecoming battle against their longtime rival. And keep in mind, LSU has beaten a top-10 team opponent in Tiger Stadium at least one time in each of the last four years. Now, while I am sincere in saying LSU has a good chance of pulling off the upset, I realize that the Tigers will have to play their best game of the season, and that they won’t be able to simply run the ball down Ole Miss’ throats. The Tigers will have to be successful enough in the passing game and diverse enough in play calling to keep Ole Miss from stacking the box.
On a similar note, I heard from many of you who’ve asked me to confirm whether or not Mike Detillier has really predicted that LSU will not win another game this season, as some have suggested. I plan on getting Mike’s response to this, as well as his thoughts on how the Tigers have improved over the last two weeks, in a Q&A that I hope to publish tomorrow or Friday. As they say, stay tuned.
As we do on most Wednesdays, today let’s take a look at how LSU and Ole Miss compare statistically. Here we go…
The Rebels are much more balanced offensively in terms of run and pass attempts, while LSU is more balanced in terms of run and pass yardage. Ole Miss is getting 65% of its yards through the passing game, and I suspect those yards will be hard to come by against LSU’s pass defense which is tops in the SEC and fourth in the country. On the flip side, LSU is getting 54% of its yards on the ground, and those yards will be hard to come by against a Rebel rushing defense which is second in the SEC and sixth nationally. Last week against Tennessee, the Rebels held the Vols to 0 (zero) net yards rushing.
One number that jumps out at me in the stats is Ole Miss’ turnover margin of 1.43, which is fifth best in the country. The Rebels lead the league in interceptions with 15, which doesn’t bode well for an LSU passing game trying to find its wings. In my opinion, that’s all the more reason why LSU should build on what they started last week by dialing up more of the short passing game.
LSU’s biggest advantage is in special teams, and that could be the difference in the game. A lot of people don’t put as much stock in special teams as they do in the other two phases of the game, but in contests like this one, which will likely include a good many punts, special teams play could be very significant.
Friday we’ll take a look at who has the edge on offense, defense, special teams and intangibles, and I’ll give you my weekly predictions.
In other football news, two former Tigers signed NFL contacts yesterday - Trindon Holliday (Tampa Bay) and Kadron Boone (St. Louis). Now that Boone has signed, every player who started at wide receiver for LSU from 2011-2013 is in the NFL. For a full list of Tigers currently in the league and a few statistics on how they’ve done through week 7 of the season, check out this weekly update by LSUSports.net: LSU Tigers in the NFL - Week 7
A couple of quick basketball tidbits in closing:
• CBS Sports released its preseason SEC preview and picked LSU’s men to finish 4th in the conference behind Kentucky, Florida and Arkansas. You can read their brief write up about each team in the conference here.
• As for LSU’s women, they were picked to finish 7th in the conference by the SEC Media. For more on the Lady Tigers, please see this article by LSUSports.net.
Reader Comments: Scott, here’s an article to share with your readers on LSU’s Jamal Adams. As you tweeted Saturday, he’s a BEAST! Jamal Adams, Loud and Proud
10/21/14 5:45 am CT
Good morning, Tigers,
It was great hearing from many of you yesterday about LSU’s big win over Kentucky and the improvement the Tigers have shown the last two weeks. While just about everyone I heard from recognizes the improvement on defense and in the Tigers’ rushing attack, it’s safe to assume that LSU’s offense will have to be more balanced moving forward to have success against their next two opponents. Ole Miss is currently 6th in the nation in rush defense, allowing an average of only 97 yards per game on the ground. Alabama is even more effective in run defense, allowing only 63 yards per game, which is second nationally only to Penn State.
So just how one-dimensional has LSU’s offense been? Well, according to CFBStats.com, only two of the 108 Division 1 FBS schools - Air Force and Army – have rushed the ball more times than LSU this year. And on the flip-side, LSU is 107th in terms of its number of pass attempts. But, as I pointed out in yesterday’s report, there were a few positive takeaways from LSU’s passing game against Kentucky, namely that the staff dialed up a few more short passes for Jennings and utilized the tight end, fullback and tailback in the passing attack. If LSU continues to improve in that regard, as I think they will, and if they continue to play the way they did last Saturday on defense and special teams, this LSU team could really make some noise the remainder of the season, starting with this week’s epic contest against 3rd ranked Ole Miss in Tiger Stadium.
In yesterday’s weekly press luncheon, Coach Miles acknowledged the need for more balance, spoke of the improvements seen in last week’s game, and answered a variety of questions on a wide range of topics. I’ve included the full transcript of the presser here, and below are a few of its key points:
• LSU’s offense rushed for 300 yards, was 7-of-13 on third downs and never turned the ball over until the last play. Miles said it’s improving, and that “improving is what we have kinda hung our hat on.”
• Terrance Magee, Danielle Hunter, Jamal Adams and Kendell Beckwith all received praise from Coach Miles for their play Saturday.
• Miles said Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is one of the best QBs to have gone through the conference and that the Rebels can score touchdowns in a number of ways. As for Ole Miss’ defense, Miles called then as good a group as LSU will face all season.
• Speaking on the history of the LSU-Ole Miss rivalry, Miles recalled the Billy Cannon punt return on Halloween Night, 1959, and Odell Beckham’s similar return on November 17, 2012. (There’s no better way to get in the mood for this week’s game than to watch those two videos which are in our Media Gallery!)
• When asked about quarterback play and preparing for the future, Miles said they have to prepare to win this game and develop for the future as well. He added that both quarterbacks are improving. Later he added, “I think they're throwing balls that you're not seeing in a game sometimes in practice much better than they have, so, yeah, we're working that to develop the total position and the total passer and the total quarterback.”
• When asked about fans leaving games early, Miles gave a very wise and diplomatic answer, saying “It's really difficult for me to tell a family, a dad that's just got off work or somebody who has had a rough weekend where they should be spending their time as a family. Only thing I can tell you is that if you have tickets the back end of these games is worthwhile staying for. It's, in my opinion, an event. It's a wonderful place to spend an evening.”
• Miles said the offensive line is improving and called them one of the best “five-somes” in the SEC if not in all of college football.
• Speaking on being balanced on offense, Miles said “… as we go forward it will be about balance. We will be throwing the football, especially in this game and as we go forward, we have to have balance to make sure that the run and the pass both go down the field.”
• When asked about Anthony Jennings’ issues with passing accuracy, Miles said he thinks it has to do with Jennings’ decision-making process. When a quarterback makes a late decision and gets off-rhythm, it affects the accuracy of the throw.
• As to the rumor/report of Travonte Valentine warming up prior to the Kentucky game, Miles said Valentine was not involved in warmups and that he is still not eligible to play.
• There was actually a lot more said in the conference than what I’ve included above, including Miles’ comments on going for a field goal on third down at the end of the 1st half with 12 seconds on the clock, but I encourage you to see the full transcript for that explanation.
In recruiting news, I learned last night that current Notre Dame commit Jerry Tillery had a great visit to LSU for the Kentucky game and is looking forward to returning. Tillery is considering taking an official visit to LSU this weekend and is planning on coming back for the Alabama game. The more I hear about the Tillery situation, the better I feel about LSU’s chances of flipping him, and that would be huge for this recruiting class. Tillery is the highest ranked offensive linemen in the state (No. 3 on our list of Top LA Football Prospects for 2015), and is a 4.0 student.
Two tid-bits in closing:
• Hats off to LSU cornerback/return man Tre'Davious White for being named LSWA state Special Teams Player of the Week after returning a punt 67-yards for his first career touchdown in Saturday’s win.
• I’ve updated our Ticket Exchange with several new listing.
Reader Comments: Scott, my name is Sam Silvas. I lived in Baton Rouge in 1999-2000 where I was the editor for Louisiana Football Magazine. I had the pleasure of speaking with your dad once or twice. I am now living in Warsaw, Poland for the year and have posted a piece on my blog recounting the trials and tribulations of a LSU fan living abroad trying to follow his favorite team. Take a look at it and if you enjoy it, feel free to pass the link onto your readers. The piece is titled What's a Poor College Football Fan to Do...
10/20/14 5:40 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
After blowing out Kentucky, the 6-2 LSU Tigers football team jumped back into the weekly polls, coming in at No. 24 in the AP and No. 23 in the Coaches Poll. And if there was ever any doubt that the SEC West is the strongest division in the country (there never really was any doubt, was there?), consider this: four of the top-5 teams this week are from the SEC West. The four include Mississippi State (1/1), Ole Miss (3/3), Alabama (4/4) and Auburn (5/6). When you consider that LSU is coming off of back-to-back SEC wins and the only two losses the Tigers have are to top-5 teams, the season sure looks a whole lot different than it did three weeks ago. And with a huge contest against Ole Miss coming up this weekend in Death Valley, the Tigers have a chance to make a strong statement about the progression of this young team, which seems to be improving by leaps and bounds each week.
Speaking of this weekend’s big game, yesterday it was announced that ESPN’s College Game Day crew will setup shop at LSU and will air live from the Parade Grounds prior to the contest. For a game of this magnitude, against a longtime rival like Ole Miss, there’s no doubt that Tiger Stadium would be rocking regardless, but considering the excitement the Tigers have generated by their last two outings, and the fact that Game Day will be in town, I expect Tiger Stadium to be as electric as it’s been in several years. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:15 and the game will be televised by ESPN. Folks, these kinds of games, playing at home, at night, as an underdog against your longtime rival, is about as good as it gets. I hope Tiger Fans will fill every seat in the newly expanded Tiger Stadium, make as much noise as they can, and STAY in those seats until the very end. By the way, Ole Miss has opened as a 3-point favorite in the game, which I think says a lot about the odds-makers’ respect for the Tiger Stadium and the improvements made by this Tiger team in the last two weeks.
As we’ve done every Monday this season, today we’ll give you our weekly Monday Morning Rewind and point out a few things about Saturday’s game that we didn’t cover in yesterday’s post-game report. Here we go…
Monday Morning Rewind
Two things jumped out at me from LSU’s performance against Kentucky. The first was the offensive line play and the second was the overall improvement on defense, which can be attributed in part to better communication and some personnel changes. I’ll hit on the defense a little later, but let’s address LSU’s offensive line first.
Against Mississippi State and Auburn, LSU’s offensive linemen weren’t on the same page in terms of blocking, and nearly each member had his worst performance during the course of those two games. However, when LSU’s offensive line is clicking, as it was Saturday night, the Tigers can compete with any team in the conference. Against Kentucky, Les Miles and Cam Cameron dialed up the left side of the offensive line early, and Vadal Alexander and La’el Collins were driving Kentucky off of the ball and giving creases for Leonard Fournette to run through and eventually score the game’s first touchdown. That set the tone early, and the rest of the offensive line equaled that production on later drives.
Despite Kentucky loading the box, LSU was able to still churn out yards with its powerful running game. LSU’s linemen were giving good running lanes for Fournette, Darrell Williams, Kenny Hilliard, and certainly Terrence Magee, who looked to be the most explosive back for LSU against Kentucky. What made Magee so effective against the Wildcats was his vision at the second level, making cuts and creating angles to gain extra yardage. But while the offensive line had an outstanding game, it wasn’t perfect. There were a few times when the Tigers had to punt due to the offensive line failing on pass protection and Anthony Jennings not being able to spot blitzes. And while Fournette clearly has the most upside of all the LSU backs, there was a play on the Tigers’ fourth offensive series where he should have cut back and run to the right on a zone read play, but because he didn’t, he was swallowed in the backfield for a big loss by Kentucky’s linebacker who Elliott Porter was unable to block. Had Fournette cut the play back, it would have allowed Porter the angle to block the linebacker, and the play would have gone for a major gain. I’m only pointing this out to remind everyone that Fournette is still a freshman and still has a lot of experience to gain, but once he starts getting that vision (it’s getting better every game), he’s going to be nearly impossible to stop.
As for Anthony Jennings’ performance, I thought he did exactly what LSU expected him to do, and nothing more. Jennings did not turn the ball over, and the most encouraging thing I saw from him was his improvement in utilizing his “checkdowns.” One play in particular that I was happy to see was a third down conversion on LSU’s eighth offensive drive. Facing a third-and-long, Kentucky played a “Cover 2 Deep,” to eliminate the deep routes. Jennings chose to hit his checkdown in Magee, who made a linebacker miss and picked up the first down. Kudos to Cameron and Miles for giving Jennings more options in the short passing game. Some of you may have noticed that LSU’s first three passes were to a tight-end, a fullback and a running back. If you give Jennings those short routes, it will force defenses to play more zone, allowing Jennings to take his shots down the field later on. That’s just the sort of thing that will make this LSU offense led by Jennings less predictable in the long run.
Of course, at this point it seems Brandon Harris is not going to be the starter in 2014. LSU really sent a message by keeping Jennings in as long as they did, and once Harris got in, he threw an interception. As mentioned in yesterday’s report, Harris looked like he was too eager to make something big happen and may have been trying too hard. Perhaps that’s the type of thing that Coach Miles is referring to when he often says that as long as the quarterbacks do what is asked of them, and nothing more, they will be fine. On Harris’s pass attempt, he didn’t look the safety off and threw to John Diarse way too late and way too far on the inside. I still believe Harris is the most talented quarterback on LSU’s roster and that he will be a great quarterback one day, but it’s becoming clear that Jennings is the staff’s guy for 2014, barring a major breakdown or injury.
As far as the defense goes, the Tigers were talking a lot more with each other, which helped them get into position to make plays. The secondary played outstandingly (even getting a coverage sack), Kendell Beckwith played well while asserting himself as the starting linebacker (though he whiffed badly on a Kentucky running back on one play), and the defensive line played really well. Christian LaCouture made some plays, Sione Teuhema played at defensive tackle in LSU’s mustang set and Davon Godchaux continues to show improvement.
One of the defensive highlights of the game, though, was the play of Danielle Hunter, and I regret that I didn’t give him props in yesterday’s report. After re-watching much of the game and taking into consideration everything that Hunter has done all season long, I’m not sure why he’s not mentioned as one of the best linemen in the SEC. Hunter made tackles for losses, sniffed out screens, batted down balls and even made a tackle on a wide receiver on a stay route. In other words, the guy plays like he’s everywhere at once and has a huge impact on the game time and time again.
The Tigers’ special teams had its best performance of the year with Jamal Adams and Tre’Davious White emerging as the stars. Adams made some big hits on kick coverage and had that picture-perfect block on White’s punt return touchdown. White demonstrated great vision on that return, and showed that if he gets any space, his speed is deadly.
Two tid-bits in closing:
• I want to announce that we’ve processed last week’s picks in our LA Prep Football Pickem Contest, and for the second week in a row our winner is CoachMJ. This week CoachMJ (Mr. Michael Janis, assistant coach at Springfield High School) correctly picked 122 of 141 games and pulled to within two points of MMR in the overall standings (All Weeks). Congratulations Coach Janis! Voting for this week’s games is now open and I hope many of you will decide to join in the action as we’ll be naming a weekly winner each Monday.
• Also, I’ll be updating our Ticket Exchange later today, so if you have LSU tickets for sale please send me your ad including ticket information and your preferred means of contact.
This web site is not officially affiliated with Louisiana State University. Opinions expressed herein are the property of Donald Long, Scott Long and friends, not Louisiana State University.