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10/11/17 5:30 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Based on the volume of email I’ve received in the last few days, it’s clear that excitement is really starting to build for this weekend’s 2:30 p.m. CT SEC West showdown between the Tigers of LSU and Auburn, and with good reason. As Tiger fans, you don’t need me to remind you that LSU vs. Auburn is one of the most storied rivalries in college football, fueled by chop blocks and cigars, earthquakes and burning barns, a rumbling with the marching band, and countless competitive contests between the two programs like last year’s heart-breaker. You know, the one where Etling’s last second touchdown pass to DJ Chark was overturned. You can relive that drama-filled moment and several others in this great new compilation video from the SEC Network showing why this series has a history of being one of the weirdest.
This season, the contest takes on several added dimensions of intrigue. LSU is coming off its most impressive win of the season but still has many doubting whether the injury-stricken, unranked Purple and Gold Tigers under the direction of first-year head coach Ed Orgeron can hang with a top-10 rival like Auburn. Will Derrius Guice be healthy enough to be effective against Auburn’s stout rushing defense? And with tackles Toby Weathersby and KJ Malone both “questionable,” will LSU once again depend on a trio of freshmen O-linemen to open up running lanes? On defense, just how healthy is Rashard Lawrence, and how much will the return of Frank Herron boost LSU’s thin defensive line? Adding to the game’s intrigue is the fact that LSU’s 2007 championship team, along with former head coach, Les Miles, who was fired after last year’s Auburn loss, will be honored at half-time. All this makes for what I expect to be one of the most interesting – and clearly one of the most significant – games of the season, and I can hardly wait!
In today’s report, we’ll begin breaking down the contest by looking at our weekly stat comparison of LSU and its opponent. But first, a little background on where the two teams are coming from. LSU (4-2) began the season with expected wins against BYU and Chattanooga, and then suffered humiliating losses to Mississippi State and Troy with a lackluster win against lowly Syracuse sandwiched in between. After enduring a whirlwind of negativity coming at them from all directions and apparent disaccord among the coaching staff, the purple and gold Tigers seemed to put it all together last week in a much-needed, confidence inspiring win over Florida in The Swamp. As for the Auburn Tigers, they suffered a close loss to Clemson in week 2, but have won every other game this season in dominating fashion. The one common opponent the two Tiger teams have played is Mississippi State. LSU was dominated by the Bulldogs, 37-7, while Auburn beat them soundly, 49-10. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the numbers.
• The first thing you’ll notice on the chart is there’s a whole lot of Orange, indicating that Auburn has a statistical advantage in almost every category.
• While Auburn has a tremendous advantage in points per game (36 compared to LSU’s 25), the gap isn’t as large in terms of the defensive numbers. Auburn has allowed 13 points per game, while LSU has allowed just 18 points per game. The more impressive statistic requires a little math and that’s Auburn’s average margin of victory. In Auburn’s five wins, Auburn has won by an average of 29 points. So Auburn hasn’t just beaten foes, it’s run through opponents. Meanwhile, LSU’s last two wins (against Syracuse and Florida) came by a combined 10 points.
• The two team’s run-to-pass ratios are almost identical on paper. Auburn has run the ball just one percent more than LSU. And perhaps even crazier is the fact that Auburn has produced half of its yardage on the ground, while LSU has produced 49 percent of its total yards on the ground. So heading into this matchup, it’s hard to get more balanced on paper than both Auburn and LSU.
• To get a sense of how both teams have done this season, look no further than the penalties and third down conversion rate. LSU is still last in the conference in average penalty yards per game, despite improving greatly in that regard the last three games. In fact, if you were to consider only the last three games, LSU’s average of 33 penalty yards per game would be almost identical to Auburn’s average of 32 penalty yards per game.
• Meanwhile, Auburn has been the most efficient team on third down in the conference and is actually 11th in the country in terms of efficiency. LSU is not so good. With a 37% conversion rate, LSU is 10th in the conference in third-down efficiency. LSU’s numbers are brought down by the fact that the Purple and Gold Tigers were 0-for-8 on third downs against Troy, but the good news is they bounced back well last week by converting 6-of-14 third downs at Florida. Still, this is an area where Auburn holds a big advantage and will be a key aspect of the game to watch.
• One of Auburn’s strengths is it’s passing attacks which is one of the most efficient in the nation. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham has completed 71.2% of his passes, which puts Auburn fifth-best nationally in completion percentage. If you look at Auburn’s three SEC games only, their quarterbacks have a completion rate of 75% with five touchdowns and no interceptions. By comparison, LSU’s Danny Etling (60.2%) and Myles Brennan (55.6%) combine to give LSU a completion percentage of 59.6%.
• Another area where Auburn has a significant advantage is in red zone scoring. Last week against Florida, LSU had two opportunities in the red zone to score and only scored one touchdown. On the season, LSU is scoring 73 percent of the time, with just 63 percent of trips inside the red zone resulting in touchdowns. Auburn has been much better with a 92 percent scoring rate and a touchdown rate of nearly 70%.
• With all of the criticism that LSU has endured this season, turnovers haven’t been among the complaints, except for in that one game we’d all like to forget when LSU turned the ball over four times in its loss to Troy. Other than in that contest, the Tigers have taken care of the football very well all season. LSU has a +0.17 turnover margin for the season, which is considerably better than Auburn’s –0.17 margin.
• On special teams, LSU and Auburn have an almost the exact same yards-per-punt average, and there’s not much of a difference in terms of the punt and kick return game. Where Auburn does have a pretty significant advantage is in field goal kicking (73.3% vs. 50%), though LSU fans can take a bit of comfort in knowing that Connor Culp made his only field goal attempt last week after regaining the starting role.
In other football news, here’s a quick word on yesterday’s practice: According to The Advocate, starting tackles Weathersby (“numerous” ailments) and Malone (knee) were out, as was starting defensive end Rashard Lawrence (ankle). Outside linebacker Corey Thompson (stinger), safety John Battle (stinger), and F-back JD Moore (undisclosed) all wore gold non-contact jerseys. The good news is that Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams did not don gold jerseys and participated in the drills.
In football recruiting news, LSU has extended an offer to 2018 defensive tackle Christian Barmier (6-5, 290) of Philadelphia, Pa. Barmier is rated as “just” a three-star but I suspect that will change soon considering that he has received a handful of offers from major programs in the last 10 days, including Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
And speaking of defensive tackle targets, Louisiana is home to one of the best in the country for the 2019 class – five-star Ishmael Sopsher (6-5, 279) of Amite. He tweeted yesterday that he’s headed back to LSU this weekend. Sopsher is considered an LSU lean and recently told SEC Country that LSU is recruiting him harder than anyone else.
Today’s Closing Tidbits:
• If you’re like me and always eager for LSU baseball news, you’re in luck today. Why? Well, because the Tigers just finished their first week of fall practice and released a lot of good info on stats and position battles. You can find it all here.
• Lastly, here’s a pretty cool LSU “hype video.” I put hype video in quotations because this one is a little different. Instead of it being a hype video about the upcoming Auburn game, it’s a hype video about last week’s big win in the Swamp. Good stuff.
Oh, one more thing: I updated our Ticket Exchange last night with several new listings (including a bunch for the Auburn game) and will be updating our unofficial depth chart later today.
Have a great Hump Day, Tiger Fans!
10/10/17 5:35 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
IT’S TIME FOR TUESDAY’S TIDBITS: Your Daily Dose of Tiger News Delivered in a Baker’s Dozen Quick-Hitters
Coach Ed Orgeron met with the media yesterday for his weekly press luncheon and gave his thoughts on Saturday’s big win in the Swamp while also looking ahead to this Saturday’s huge home contest against Auburn. We’ll recap key points from it and a few other newsy tidbits in today’s quick-hitting format and then I’ll leave you with a bit of tasty lagniappe. Here we go…
1. Coach Ed Orgeron began his press conference by sending his thoughts and prayers to the family of former LSU great Y. A. Tittle and I’d like to do the same. Tittle passed away Sunday evening at a local hospital in Palo Alto, California, and will forever be remembered not only as one of the greatest Tigers of all-time but as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Here’s a five-minute Tiger Tracks video, created in 2014, which gives a great recap of Tittle’s time as a Tiger and even has him recounting the play for which he is most remembered – one that found him holding the football with one arm and holding his pants up with the other after he intercepted a pass in a key game against Ole Miss. Rest in peace, Mr. Tittle.
Now back to Coach O’s press conference…
2. As he does each Monday, Orgeron reviewed positives and negatives from Saturday’s game. “First of all, I was proud of our team, proud of our coaching staff, came together in adverse conditions,” Orgeron said. “Got on the plane with one thing in mind was to win. And they did it. Great team win.”
3. Starting with the offense, Orgeron said he was proud of LSU’s third-down conversions (9-of-16), ball security (zero turnovers), and the team’s “next man up” mentality. “At one time, three true freshmen and one redshirt freshmen in the offensive line in the Swamp going down the field. Proud of those guys, proud of the team, never blinked.” He also mentioned that fact that LSU finished the first half with a scoring drive and started the second half with a scoring drive.
Related side note: Center Will Clapp and tackles KJ Malone and Toby Weathersby did not participate during the portion of drills accessible to the media yesterday. The good news is DE Rashard Lawrence and NT Ed Alexander did.
4. On defense, “We felt like we had focus and attention to detail in our meetings all week. You could just feel it. It was a different vibe going on,” Orgeron said. “We played physical football. We played with good effort and as Dave Aranda says we played with grit.”
5. While Dave Aranda may have liked the “grit” with which the team played, there’s one aspect of his guys’ play that is keeping him up at night: poor tackling. “I don't know if Dave slept last night, to be honest with you,” Orgeron said. “We came back in this morning. He had a breakdown of every tackle that each position had missed, how he missed it and had a film on it, and how we're going to fix it.”
6. On Special Teams, Orgeron lauded the first kickoff and kick coverage which resulted in the Gators starting from their 17-yard line. He also spoke of the two punts downed inside the 15-yard line. Of course, not everything on special teams was praise-worthy. Orgeron also commented on one of Cameron Gamble’s kicks that was not so good. “We can't kick the ball out of bounds,” he said. “Although [he] has been kicking the ball very well, that was not the time to kick a ball [out of bounds].”
7. Orgeron praised the play of defensive end Christian LaCouture who he said is “playing his best ball right now” and suggested that he won’t have to play every down this coming week as he did on Saturday. “Obviously, having Frank [Herron] back is going to be able to have a rotation with those three defensive ends. Going give [LaCouture] some relief.”
8. Injury update: Offensive linemen Toby Weathersby and K.J. Malone are “questionable.” As for defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence, here’s what Orgeron had to say: “He was actually better, according to the trainer, yesterday than he was last week. A little sore, but we'll see as the week goes on. Probably be limited during the week.” Orgeron added, “But having him out there and having his presence and his toughness and his leadership means the world to our defense. And I know having Frank back this week is going to give a boost to our defense.”
9. Asked about running back Derrius Guice not being 100%, Orgeron said, “It is a nagging injury. In order to play full speed, especially against an SEC team like Florida, you have to practice full speed. And he's been in practice, but he's been limited… is he hurting? Yes. Is he limited right now? Yes. But he is getting better.”
10. Asked about Arden Key’s effort, Orgeron said, “Yeah. It was better this week. He had his best practice last week. Now, I think he's down to 255 as opposed to 270… On that screen, he missed a tackle right there, but that was a great recognition on him. His pass rush needs to get better. It's not where it needs to be. But he's trying his butt off now. The guy is a team player. He wants to do well.”
11. In other news, hats off to LSU linebacker Devin White for earning SEC Player of the Week honors. We’ve talked about the outstanding season he’s had in previous reports, and its great to know his effort didn’t go unrecognized by the league. White has recorded double-digit tackles for the fourth game in a row. He finished the game at Florida with 13 tackles, one sack, one tackle for a loss, and a key pass breakup that stopped Florida’s final drive of the game. White’s average of 10.2 tackles per game leads the SEC.
12. As I do most weeks, I’ll share with you a great weekly feature by The Advocate’s Ross Dellenger: LSU-Florida film room: Inside jet-sweep success, one big blitz, offensive line combos.
13. And lastly, as the lagniappe tidbit in this “baker’s dozen,” I’ve got a few pics to share with you. Remember those fish I caught last week? Well, last night I enjoyed them in what was essentially a creek-to-table / farm-to-table type of meal. Here’s a pic of it. My recipe/technique for the fried Sac-à-lait (a.k.a. Crappie or White Perch) and simple new potatoes can be found in our recipes section, and a couple of new pics of my fall garden – where the okra and salad greens came from – can be found in our Media Gallery’s Lagniappe section. #SimplePleasures are underrated. ;)
Have a great day, Tiger Fans, and tune in tomorrow as we start looking ahead to the Tigers’ Gold Game against Auburn this Saturday.
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