7/15/19 4:50 am CT
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
After 11 days off for a most enjoyable vacation, I was ready to return home to my normal daily grind, recharged and raring to go. Instead, I returned just in time to spend one day preparing for Hurricane Barry and another day watching his floodwaters surround my property, overtop my garden boxes, and come within inches of flooding my external office. Fortunately, no real damage was done here, though I know that’s not the case for many of you reading this. For all of you affected by the storm, my thoughts and prayers are with you.
My point in saying all this is that things still haven’t returned to “normal” here, but we should get back in the usual groove of things tomorrow with a report on LSU at SEC Media Days. Head coach Ed Orgeron, quarterback Joe Burrow, center Lloyd Cushenberry, and All-America defensive back Grant Delpit will take the podium this afternoon at around 3:55 pm CT and should dish out plenty of info to digest over the coming days.
In the meantime, today we’ll conclude the series I had Jim Kleinpeter write on LSU’s six toughest games of the 2019 season. If you missed the first five installments – No. 6 Mississippi State, No. 5 Texas, No. 4 Florida, No. 3 Auburn, and No. 2 Texas A&M – you can find those write-ups here. I’m not certain that I agree with Jim putting Texas at No. 5, and I’ve heard from a few of you who feel the same, but I’m certain that everyone will agree with today’s selection for No. 1. The following are Jim’s thoughts’s on the game that will undoubtedly be the most anticipated of the season, followed by my brief comments.
LSU FOOTBALL’S SIX TOUGHEST GAMES OF THE 2019 SEASON
1. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 9, Bryant Denny Stadium
Today we wrap up the top six games on LSU's schedule and no matter how you slice it, Alabama is No. 1. Like death and taxes, we can all be sure this is the game LSU has to win if it ever wants to climb back into the same stratosphere with the Crimson Tide. The losing streak stands at eight and in last year’s game, it looked like LSU took a step or two backward. The problem is Alabama gears for LSU as if the Tigers are their biggest threat. Saban even said his team wasn't the same after dominating the Tigers 29-0. Maybe the Tide is slipping and maybe this is the year LSU catches Bama on the downside after watching the Tide get manhandled 44-16 in the CFP title game. It won't be easy in Tuscaloosa but LSU should enter that game with a better chance than it’s had in quite some time.
Alabama lost some good players but no team reloads better, and they still have quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He's got his receiving group back intact, led by Biletnikoff winner Jerry Jeudy. Tua is going to be the Heisman favorite after 3,966 yards and 43 touchdowns last year. The coaching staff may try to encourage him not to run so much after injuries slowed him. The top Tide backs are off to the NFL but there is talent aplenty with Najee Harris and Brian Robinson ready to step up into a full-time rotation.
For the first time in a while, there are some concerns on defense, thanks to the NFL draining off a lot of underclassman talent. Raekwon Davis, who turned down the NFL, is the next great defensive tackle in the pipeline. Former LSU commitment Dylan Moses is the only returning starter at linebacker. There is concern that pass rush threat Terrell Lewis is not recovering well from an ACL tear that cost him the 2018 season. Patrick Surtain and Trevon Diggs return at corner but were last seen being lit up by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Alabama will be the favorite to win the SEC again, but the rest of the league might be catching up and LSU wants to be one of those teams.
My thoughts: Jim writes that LSU “wants to be one of those teams,” but that’s putting it too lightly for me. LSU needs this win in the worst of ways. Eight straight is far too long. With a deep and talented defense featuring the nation’s best backfield, a senior quarterback, veterans returning at all of the skill positions, and a supposedly reinvigorated uptempo offense, the Tigers have no excuse to not put points on the board this time around. My biggest concern this season – especially for this game – is LSU’s offensive line. If this unit improves, and if LSU’s RPO offense helps nullify Bama’s pass rush, this should be the year LSU stems the tide.
In recruiting news, could center Sedrick Van Pran of Warren Easton High School (No. 6 on our list of Top LA Prospects) be showing greater interest in staying home and playing for the Tigers? Up until recently, most assumed he was dead-set on going out-of-state, but a pair of tweets from Saturday have many thinking otherwise. First, LSU DT target Jaquelin Roy of University Lab (No. 2 on our list of Top LA Prospects) directed a simple tweet to his good friend Van Pran that simply said “Package deal” (followed by a pair of wide-eyed emojis). Van Pran replied, “interesting.” There’s no indication that the school they were referring to was LSU, but there’s a lot of unofficial chatter out there suggesting just that. LSU needs O-linemen in this class and the center position has become a greater priority in light of Cole Smith entering his name in the transfer portal a few weeks ago.
Speaking of big-time in-state prospects, DT Jacobian Guillory (No. 1 on our list of Top LA Prospects) tweeted while I was away that he will be signing with his school of choice in the the early signing period (Dec. 20). I continue to feel good about LSU’s chances with Guillory, and appreciate the fact that he won’t leave the staff and fans on the edge of their seats until February like last year’s top prospect did.
Now let’s continue our countdown to the start of the 2019 LSU football season, which is 47 days away, by recalling the January 1, 1947 Cotton Bowl contest between LSU and Arkansas, which came to be known as the Ice Bowl. (I mentioned this game in previous countdowns, but it’s such a good story that I thought it was worth repeating.) On that frigid day in Dallas, ice, sleet, snow, rain, and sub-20 degree temperatures produced horrid conditions for the players and fans alike. In fact, fans actually burned game programs in the stands to keep warm, which made that publication one of the rarest programs in LSU history. (There’s this pic of the program cover in our Media Gallery. If you’re lucky enough to own one of those, hold on to it!) The Tigers entered the contest with a 9-1 record behind the outstanding play of their famous quarterback Yelberton Abraham "Y. A." Tittle and running backs Jim Cason and Dan Sandifer. Most were predicting total domination from the Tigers, and in a way they got just that, although the score didn’t reflected it. LSU ended the game with a 15-1 advantage in first downs and a 271-54 advantage in total yardage, but was never able to get into the Razorback end zone despite having the ball within their 20-yard line on five occasions. Tiger fans who managed to weather the almost unbearable conditions until the very end were treated to a dramatic, yet disappointing finale. On the last play of the game, LSU was faced with a fourth and goal from the 6-yard line and forced to attempt a field goal. When the icy ball was snapped, holder Ray Coates’ numb fingers couldn’t handle it and the ball went scooting across the ground before being picked up by kicker Holly Heard who was immediately hit and downed for a loss as time expired. The game ended 0-0 with the weather being the clear winner.
• YouTube user and Tiger Fan extraordinaire Chris Forester has posted a video of Joe Burrow’s every throw and run from the first half of the 2018 season, which I’ve added to our Media Gallery.
• Lastly, later today I’ll be performing a long overdue update of our Ticket Exchange page. If you have LSU tickets for sale, please send me your info for posting.
Have a great day, Tiger Fans.