Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wrapping Up the LSU Season and Bowl Thoughts

It has been quite a while since I last wrote on this blog. To be honest I have be spending the past three weeks doing missionary work in Santiago, Chile.

I am sorry that was a 100 percent lie. Completely and utterly made up, but for a second I had you wondering.

Alright, back to LSU football. Let us recap how the season finished. The last time we saw the LSU Tigers in Tiger Stadium they played a game against Ole Miss that had "LOSS" written all over it. I have watched LSU football since 1995, so despite my young age I still have some years under the belt. With that said, I can say there have been those games where everything has just gone against the Tigers. Every flag, every big play, everything just seemed to be going against LSU that night against Ole Miss. But the thing that was so interesting about that game was how LSU would not bow down. They hung in their and the one guy who has been more criticized than any other Tiger, Jordan Jefferson, managed to truly carry the team to a victory.

Seven times this year LSU has won by a touchdown or less. The thing so many college football analysts fail to point out about this LSU team is they have what I like to call, "four quarter grit." Even if the window is closing and things look bleak for the Tigers, this team has shown the ability to still pull out the 'W' when the odds are stacked against them. LSU has a unique reputation where they are always in a game till the end. Even during their worst games, LSU still finds themselves in line to win.

(Look at the difference between the Ole Miss and Arkansas games. In both you have games where things are not going LSU's way, yet in one LSU managed to pull it together and another they fell apart. Maybe Tiger Stadium's magic is that powerful?)

Here is the thing that needs to be taken away from LSU's 43-36 victory over Ole Miss even after the Arkansas loss. All season long we criticized Miles decision to keep Jordan Jefferson in so much of the time. I, for one, wanted Jarrett Lee to start more often and I started to really think that maybe Jefferson would never understand how to be an effective quarterback. I realize it was only one game and Ole Miss was a struggling team, but just maybe, just maybe Les Miles knew what he was doing all along. For the second half it certainly looked like Jordan Jefferson could be the type of quarterback we had dreamed of.

I am not sold on Jefferson yet, but it is interesting to look at the big picture. Only about 6 quarterbacks in Division I-A football where statistically worse than Jordan Jefferson. Even so, Miles stood by him. Never threw the towel in on the kid. He believed.

I am happy to see this for the guy. I hope it is a sign of things to come. A friend of mine ran into Jordan Jefferson not to long after he had pulled off the big win against Alabama. My friend made a couple jokes to Jefferson about the block he put on an Alabama defender on the famous 4th and 1 reverse. Though the interesting thing is my friend told me was that Jefferson shook his hand and told my friend, "Thanks man, you have no idea the things people have been telling me. It means a lot." Jefferson has a had a tough year to say the least. I hope he continues to grow.

The Ole Miss game was a bright moment for Jefferson and even to a point so was the Arkansas game, but the end of that night in Little Rock ended all too familiarly - with a loss.

Personally, I hate the Arkansas game. It is never easy playing Arkansas, even during a win. (And it does not help that the one game I watch with my family is the Arkansas game during Thanksgiving.) Including this year's 31-23 Arkansas win, the last 6 games in this series have been decided by a TOTAL of 21 points. Prior to this year's game that number was 5 games decided by 13 points. "Close game" is an understatement.

I think the reason I hate the Arkansas game so much is because when the Tigers play the Razorbacks every comprehensible things goes wrong: passes are dropped, bad snaps are abundant, the defense misses tackles and of course golden opportunities to score or get a turnover are washed away. All those things describe the 31-23 Arkansas loss.

Jefferson, though not as well as Ole Miss, did play efficient against Arkansas. He had 184 throwing (0 turnovers) and 34 yards rushing. (218 yards of total offense) But like it has been all too often this year, LSU's offense was stagnant. Down 31-20 late in the 4th quarter, LSU gets the ball at their 38 yard line. On four straight plays LSU throws the football and then for some unknown reason LSU decides (with time being a factor) to run it not once, not twice, but THREE STRAIGHT TIMES. LSU ends up getting a field goal cutting the score to 31-23 with 1:58 left.

Now realize that LSU got the ball back down 31-20 with 5:59 left, yet they still thought it was appropriate to run it three straight times. That final drive was 11 plays for 43 yards and it took 4:11 off the clock. Disgusting to say the least.

I could talk excessively about the defense's inability to tackle in yet another game or the fact that the unit made some boneheaded decisions. (The first half Hail Mary?! I may sometime understand the Law of Relativity, but I will never understand why Karnell Hatcher thought going for the knockout blow in a situation like that was appropriate. YOU DO NOT RISK THAT. And worse Hatcher knocked the daylights out of his own teammate, Morris Claibourne!) The unit has been great this year at times, but I am growing tired of not seeing Defensive Coordinator John Chavis adjust. Chavis, as it seems, likes to stick to his base defense. How the game transpires has no impact on how he plays the rest of the game.

So it seems.

Alright so LSU played in 12 games this year and won 10. Say what you would like, cut it up as much as you please, but 10-2 is pretty damn good. The three big things Les Miles needed to do this year was beat Florida, Alabama and Ole Miss. (The previous two years Miles went 0-6 against those schools.) Miles did that. The thing I was worried about after the Arkansas loss was LSU getting screwed come Bowl Selection Sunday.

I was wrong.

LSU playing Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on the night of January 7th does not get any better. Playing in the Sugar Bowl would of been terrific, but the way things turned out LSU would of been playing Ohio State. (Sorry, been there done that.) The Cotton Bowl use to be on the same level as the Fiesta, Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowl. Over the years the Cotton Bowl lost sight of this and had far too many noon January 1st games. This year looks to change that. Playing in Jerry Jones's spaceship at night should do the trick. This year's Cotton Bowl has the potential to be a great way to end the 2010 season for the LSU Tigers.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Miles Hushes Critics

The more I watch him coach and the more I see the public react to his every move, the more I realize that Les Miles is more scrutinized than any coach in the country.

Sure others have lots of pressure on them as well, but no one seems to be ridiculed quite like Les Miles when things do not go according to plan. I understand how some of his press conferences are hard to understand and how his play calling at times can be unconventional to say the least, but that still does not excuse the reality that more so than anyone else in the country Les Miles's every move is watched, studied, analyzed and dissected.

And this is all for a guy who has a career record of 59-16.

I have seen it all year. One week LSU plays sloppy, the media tears Miles apart. The next week LSU prevails, the media kneels before Miles. It remains the same. A couple times this year Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has made some questionable calls, in particular during the waning moments of the Tulsa game. Down 28-27 late in the game, Kelly opted for his quarterback to throw one in the end zone despite the Irish already being in great position to kick a winning a field goal.

The pass was thrown, the ball was intercepted. Game over. Kelly came under some scrutiny, but I could not help from laughing. Heck, if Miles pulled that same stunt the media would be trying to publicly execute him.

There is not another coach out there like Miles. He is one of a kind. He does not abide by the rules most coaches go by. I guess that's why with all the hate he seems to constantly get, it makes it that much more satisfying to watch his LSU Tigers beat Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide 24-21 in Tiger Stadium.

I have heard it a million times. Saban will always be better than Miles. Miles is dumber than Saban. Saban will always outsmart Miles. Miles only beat Saban in the past because he had Saban's players.

Yet at the conclusion of the game everyone could see that not only did LSU win, Les Miles and his staff had out coached Nick Saban and his staff. The very thing I, as an LSU fan, was told could never happen happened.

Could it be that Les Miles is smarter than we all give him credit for? Could it be that, much like Keyser Soze from Usual Suspects, the greatest trick Les Miles ever pulled was convincing the world that he was an idiot?

This game was bigger than an SEC showdown, it was bigger than LSU vs. Alabama, it was bigger than Alabama trying to continue it's run for a second straight national championship. This game was beyond all that.

For some this was the moment when the wheels really started to come off the Les Miles's wagon, for others this was the moment when Miles showed he was and could always hang with the best of coaches. This game symbolized the moment when the nation and some of the doubting LSU fans finally saw the reality: LSU has a pretty damn good coach.

Did you realize that Les Miles has won nearly 80% of his games at LSU, which plays in the toughest conference in college football? And that against Nick Saban and Urban Meyer (arguably two of the best coaches in college football), Miles has record of 5-5?

I have often wondered how much different the public perception of Les Miles would have been had Terrence Toliver dropped that 4th and 26 pass against Ole Miss last year. If Toliver drops that pass, there is no clock management fiasco that ensued in the closing moments of that game.

Les Miles is an emotional coach, which means he has an emotional team. In recent years his teams have been motivated in big games, but at the same time they have made mental errors because of their high emotions. We, as fans, have grown use to that. The Tigers will be pumped to play, but do not be surprised if they get a few false starts or silly turnovers. On Saturday that notion that LSU could not play four quarters of good football was buried. (Okay, I understand it was really the 3rd and 4th quarter. Just bare with me.)

Overall, the thing that recedes more than anything after LSU's win over Alabama is the uniqueness behind Les Miles and his style of coaching. This element of him was lost in the shuffle the past two seasons. In 2007 Miles's gambling tendencies were at center stage. Prior to this season I had hoped Miles would go back to his gambling ways because it was what made 2007 so special, it was what made Miles, Miles. As this season has shown the Mad Hatter is back.

Some coaches are known for their defense, others are known for their offense, Les Miles is known for his close-game, unconventional play calling. I have come to realize that this is what makes Les Miles so extraordinary and so dangerous. Unlike any coach out there the "normal" call never appeals to him. On 4th and 1 against Alabama (much like the fake field goal against Florida) we were all convinced we knew what Miles was going to do. LSU was going to give it to their running back Stevan Ridley and hopefully number 34 could muster one yard.

But that is the problem. Once you think you have Miles figured out, once you feel like you have his team on the ropes and you know what they are going to run, he pulls a rabbit out of the hat. He does what he does best and runs the unconventional.

Jordan Jefferson hiked the ball and pitched it to Stevan Ridley who then pitched it to DeAngelo Peterson on a reverse. And poof! once again he had done it. Fans were stunned. The Alabama defense was stunned and best of all Nick Saban was stunned. There was still lots of time left in the game (I was not satisfied until the clock read :00), but that play was very symbolic for the game and for Les Miles.

Here was LSU going against Alabama and Nick Saban. It was midway through the 4th quarter and LSU trailed 14-13. On 4th and 1, like he has done countless times before, Les Miles fooled his opposition as DeAngelo Peterson blew by the Alabama defenders and Les Miles's doubters.

Geaux Tigers!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I Hate Alabama

Losing hurts. Losing to your rival stings. Losing to your most hated rival, at their stadium, surrounded by their fans after a blown interception call does not sting. It burns.

I have experienced many LSU losses. They never feel good, but last year's Alabama loss was only worse to the 2007 loss to Arkansas. To have seen the Tigers battle for four quarters and then to see their best player get robbed of an incredible interception in a 24-15 loss is sickening to say the least.

This is the most important game of the regular season for the LSU Tigers. It was probably the same for Alabama until Auburn started playing football. I am sure I should breakdown this game in a professional manner and I should evaluate all of aspects of both teams personnel in a professional manner.

But I cannot do that, I cannot seat here and act like this is just another game, just another SEC showdown being played in Tiger Stadium. This is more. This is LSU vs. Alabama and with all my heart I truly hate Alabama.

I hate the University of Alabama as much as a fat kid hates a treadmill, your mom hates cussing, your grandma hates rap music and you hate Mondays. I hate how the majority of their fan base seems to think Alabama football was Gods' gift to the world. (Hate to break it you, but I do not think our God is that cruel.)

I hate how Alabama "claims" 13 national championships. Using Alabama's logic, LSU does not have three national championship, rather the Tigers have about seven.

For much of my life the number one team I hated was Auburn. Auburn was always neck and neck with LSU. When LSU football came back in 1995, after six straight losing seasons, it was Auburn who LSU beat to get back on the map.

But things changed. Alabama became the No. 1 hated team in my eyes because of one moment: Nick Saban was hired to be their head coach.

And there lies the newest variable in this hated rivalry between Alabama and LSU.

I hate Nick Saban because he preaches a life of integrity and character, yet at the end of the day the man does not live by those rules himself. Is he a great coach? You bet. Does he know how to build a program? For sure. Just do not try to sell to me that Nick Saban is beyond a football coach garbage.

He is an excellent football coach. Period.

I appreciate everything Nick Saban did for LSU in five years. I appreciate how he brought LSU football to new heights, how he won two SEC championships as well as the ultimate prize - a national championship in 2003. LSU fans always knew Saban's ultimate goal was to win a Super Bowl. His ego would never be satisfied with winning national championships, so on Christmas Morning of 2004 we found out that Nick Saban would indeed be the next coach of the Miami Dolphins.

As fans we were disappointed, but understood this was Saban's goal, his ultimate quest. After only two years Saban darted Miami and signed a mega-million dollar deal with Alabama and in turn he forever tarnished his image to LSU fans.

I have heard it countless times, "If you were offered $4 million you would coach anywhere as well!"

Sorry not me and I stand by that. For $4 million I would not have sold my loyalties to my former team the way Saban did. That was Nick's price and he has to live with the consequences of that decision. I appreciate what he did, but again that was the past. For now he is the coach of LSU's most hated rival. The sooner he leaves Alabama, the better. (In all honesty he could of coached any other program in the country and the consequences would not have been nearly as harsh.)

I like to think of Nick Saban's journey from LSU to Alabama like that of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader. There was a time when Saban still had good in his heart, but ultimately he fell to the Dark Side. Is Saban disfigured like Darth Vader? Physically? No. Psychologically? Yes.

Behind the impressive winning streak, the Heisman Trophy winner and the recent national championship is a head coach at Alabama who knows he screwed by leaving Baton Rouge in the first place.

Do I want him back? Never. Quite simply, I want LSU to beat Alabama, I want the media to eat their words (why does Saban always get a mulligan when Alabama loses, but Miles is eaten alive?) and I want to see that trademark head-hanging walk Saban does whenever Alabama is about to lose.


Because I really hate Alabama.

Monday, October 25, 2010

LSU Got Beat, Plain and Simple

Do you know what the really interesting thing is about sports? How simple it really is. I love sports and watching LSU and Saints football are two of my greatest passions, but it is interesting to think how simple my admiration is for my teams really is.

All I desire, all I want is for my team to score more points than the opposing team. Whether the media talks about my team or whether my team throws for more yards are all irrelevant. And the end of the day it all comes down to who has more points.

Shockingly at times that one basic principle seems to be covered up. We spend an entire week breaking down the minor things in a certain game. Sometimes its productive other times its counterproductive.

I say this now because after LSU's loss against Auburn the only thing burned in my mind is the final score of 24-17. I know LSU got outplayed and I know Auburn deserved more than LSU to win that game and I know LSU's offense was painful to say the least, but still all that is etched in my mind is the final score. The halfback pass for a touchdown was amazing, but it is now forgotten because LSU lost.

No matter how you cut it losing sucks.

If LSU loses a game I have been accustom to the game either being a blow out or it ending in a controversial manner. Seeing LSU just get beat is foreign to me. And on Saturday LSU got just that: beat.

LSU loses games in football. It happens, but rarely do I see a team physically beat LSU. Rarely do I see a team run the ball down LSU's throat. Auburn did that.

I understood going into the game that LSU had a good chance of losing to Auburn. This is not a knock on the football team, but rather a look at the fact that for three straight years LSU has beaten Auburn and that the game was in Auburn. In short, LSU was due for a slip up against a good Auburn team.

Looking back there are a couple things on the offensive and defensive side of the ball I wanted to focus on when discussing Auburn's 24-17 win.

Offense: LSU's offense remained stagnant again, but for the first time this year Jarrett Lee was unable to help LSU sneak out a win. In the second half LSU had five possessions start near midfield. One lead to LSU points (7). Three resulted in three and out and one resulted in a couple first downs followed by a punt. Sure the defense deserves a lot of criticism, but the unit did give the LSU offense chances. Jordan Jefferson's best trait is his rushing. Even with his passing struggles, Jefferson still poses as a threat because of his scrambling abilities. My issue with is if LSU is going to use Jefferson as a runner, stick to it. In the opening drive of the game Jefferson got down the field by running the ball, yet when LSU got closer they opted to start throwing. I think we can agree that was a bad move. Jefferson makes it harder every week to think he is going to turn the corner and be able to complete a measly ten yard completion. Far too often I find myself, like the Auburn game, optimistic that Jefferson can show some signs of improvement only to be blown away when yet No. 9 shows ZERO presence in the pocket on a passing down.

But with that said Jarrett Lee was not any better. Lee never got the LSU offense past midfield. Maybe Miles sees things in practice that lead him to believe Jefferson is the better start at quarterback? Jefferson was by the no means amazing, but he was able to get a rhythm going (when given the chance) to do what he does best: run the ball. The command Lee had of the LSU offense for most of the year was now where to be seen on Saturday. Lee's struggles gave LSU fans a gut-check reality that despite his successes this year, Lee still will have game where he is not playing well.

Even with Lee's recent struggle at Auburn I still feel Miles needs to address the quarterback situation. Lee had one bad game, Jefferson seems to have a bad game every week. LSU needs to consider running a two-quarterback system where the quarterbacks switch during plays, rather than series. I say this because with Lee at quarterback, defense's are able to sit back and play the pass. With Jefferson at quarterback, opponents can put eight guys in the box and anticipate a run. We thought Lee would always be able to work against a defense when they anticipated the pass. These past two weeks have shown us otherwise.

This predictability in LSU's offense does not seem to be worrisome to the coaching staff. Outside of a few new plays involving Spencer Ware, I rarely saw anything that made me think Les Miles and Gary Crowton are making changes to a disappointing unit. Each week, I see the same boring, stagnant offense. I do not think at the end of the year Gary Crowton will be fired, better yet I think he will leave on his own.

(Also, has Jordan Jefferson made a big throw on a big down this year? This is a serious question. There can not be more than five times this year where on a big third down Jefferson has converted.)

Defense: Losing to Auburn is not that big of a surprise. It stinks, but again this is a rivalry game and Cameron Newton is a pretty special quarterback. With that said, I think the thing that hurts more than anything in LSU's loss is how their defense was shredded against Auburn. Going into the game LSU's run defense gave up only 83 yards per game. Against Auburn the unit gave up 440 yards, including 217 yards to Cameron Newton.

LSU's bread and butter was not their offense, but their defense. The one thing LSU fans could stick their chest out about was the swarming Tiger defense. On Saturday that thought was crushed. I am thankful LSU has a bye before Alabama because after an embarrassing performance like that things can snowball. LSU needs a breather.

All season the defensive unit has been one word: AGGRESSIVE. Whether it was Drake Nevis up the middle or Tyrann Mathieu on a blitz, LSU's defense remained aggressive. But that aggressiveness was lost against Auburn. Obviously John Chavis's game plan was to sit back and let Auburn make their move before LSU made theirs. This hurt LSU because, like I said, it took away LSU's aggressive nature of playing defense. You know what LSU's defense in the Auburn game reminded me of? The 2009 LSU defense: passive and not aggressive.

So the game plan was passive? Okay, fine. And Drake Nevis was pretty much non existent? Okay fine, but that leaves no excuse to the lousy tackling LSU showed on Saturday. Two of Auburn's three touchdowns came off lousy tackling. That is just fundamentals.

Even with the defensive game plan LSU had and the lousy tackling they showed all game, LSU still did give the offense may opportunities to put points on the board. Auburn did miss six third downs meaning LSU's defense did get Cameron Newton off the field. With all that taken into consideration from the porous offensive production to the passive defensive game planning and bad tackling it is no surprise why LSU lost on Saturday.

I rarely admit these sort of things, but Auburn was better than LSU on Saturday. Even so, LSU was tied more than halfway through the fourth quarter.

One of the biggest signs to how good a team really is, is how they respond to a loss. LSU got physically beat by the Auburn War Chickens. The team has a week off before Alabama. Does the team come together and learn from their mistakes or do they sulk in their defeat?

Only time will tell.

Geaux Tigers!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NFL's New Rule Highlights Growing Issue With Professional Leagues

When I was younger I use to be afraid of what sports would be like in the future. I use to think football would not be played, but instead men in business suits would walk to the center of the field with briefcases. They would sit down and negotiate and eventually come to a resolution. The parties would separate and the game would be over.

Of course that was an extreme thing for me to imagine, but even today I kind of see that sort of thing taking place already. Earlier this week the NFL made a new rule on "dangerous" hits. If one is committed, a player will be suspended.

First and foremost, I understand the severity of these hits. I do not condone, nor do I jump to my feet when a man lays motionless on the ground. The idea of paralysis taking place in a sport you love is painful to say the least, but this is football. Football is an extremely violent sport when you break it down. No sport, not hockey or rugby, deals with so many high-speed collisions. Even though the sport remains violent, players are aware of what they are playing. They realize the risks because again they are playing football. The decision to be harsher on these sort of penalties brings to face an all too real reality in professional sports: new rules are going to constantly be added, but in turn they will only further hurt the sport.

Earlier this season Detroit Lions' wide receiver Calvin Johnson caught what seemed like a touchdown against the Chicago Bears, but according to a ridiculous NFL rule it was not. The public felt, and rightfully so, modifications should be made to this rule. Of course the top people in the NFL blew this off, yet when it came to changing how defensive man could hit players they managed to do that in 3 to 4 days. I find it very elementary that in a matter of 3 to 4 days the NFL decided to implement a new rule. My reason being is whenever I get upset my initial reaction is not always the best solution, yet in the NFL's case they felt there initial reaction was the best solution.

I worry about this new rule because it is another step in the league enforcing more rules in today's game. In the past 5 or so years look at the new rules the NFL has put into place:

-No horse collar tackling after Terrell Owens's injury
-No running into a quarterback's leg after Tom Brady's injury
-A much stricter enforcement of roughing the passer
-No hitting of defenseless wide receivers
-No "dangerous" hits

(By the way have you noticed how all these rules are against the defense?)

In all honesty this is only the tip of the ice berg. There will be more rules. With the growing concerns of concussions, the NFL has made the decision to constantly be changing the game and that's the problem. I look at what the NFL is doing and it reminds a lot of the federal government. Certain laws will be passed now and then that we, as the public, think are extremely necessary, but with these new laws over time you start to lose basic freedoms. This is very similar to the NFL. Lawmen wanted there to be a law against not wearing your seat belt so they made one, even though it was a personal choice. The NFL wanted to stop "dangerous" hits, even though wide receivers made the decision to play that position even with the dangers involved.

This sort of "new rules" attitude prevalent in the NFL, exists in other professional leagues and it continues to cripple the sports.

In the NBA this offseason, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced technical fouls will be given for complaining about a call in any way or punching in the air. Stern said this was a move so more people could enjoy NBA basketball.

Stern's motives are good, but the way he is going about it is 100 percent wrong. Sure complaining after a foul might be a little annoying, but it is not nearly as annoying as watching a basketball game turn into a free throw contest. Instead Stern should of thought to himself, "maybe I should do away with touch fouls or maybe I should do something about there being so many silly fouls called?" But as we know Stern decided to do what every other person high up in a professional league does: make more rules.

We live in a society where the American public runs and loves sports. We breathe it year around and constantly find ourselves engaged in watching some sort of sporting event, yet the most terrifying thing about it is our enjoyment, our luxury of watching a certain sport we love, is all controlled and all manipulated by individuals who only care about acting on impulse and not on reason.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

LSU: And You Want to Be My Latex Salesman?

A show I enjoy watching is Seinfeld. One scene in Seinfeld best sums up how I felt as a fan after LSU's 32-10 lackluster win against McNeese State on Saturday.

In this particular episode George Costanza wants to continue to receive his unemployment check so he tells the unemployment office that he is currently seeking a job with Vandelay Industries. Vandelay Industries is a fictional latex manufacturing business George has made up. The number for Vandelay Industries is Jerry's home number. George tells Jerry every time he answers the phone he needs to say, "Vandelay Industries" all so the unemployment office never finds out Vandelay Industries does not exist. Eventually Kramer reveals to a caller from the unemployment office that there is no Vandelay Industries and George's little plan is ruined. In a little ditch effort to get Kramer to say Vandelay Industries to the caller, George storms out of the bathroom with his pants down to his ankles. George lays on the ground in his boxers with his head in his arms once he realizes the gig is up. At this moment Jerry walks through the door and sees George on the floor where he remarks with a grin,

"And you want to be my latex salesman?"

(Here is a clip from Youtube that shows this scene. I did my best to describe it.

On Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, I, along with every other LSU fan, was Jerry Seinfeld and George Constanza was the LSU football team. After the game I just wanted to say, "And LSU, I'm supposed to think you are a national championship contender after a performance like that?"

Where do you start? One week removed from an impressive road victory at Florida, the LSU offense once again looked stagnant. As a whole the team look uninspired and flat out lousy, but they did win. Now before we all jump the gun and really start blowing this latest game out of proportion let me touch on a couple things.

Last week I was listening to ESPN Radio 104.5 one day after work when the host predicted LSU would win 56-10 against McNeese State. Someone else had LSU winning 44-6. Despite hearing the scores I always kind of felt LSU would win something along the lines of 30-10. Did I expect LSU to look at sloppy as it did on offense? No. Did I think Jordan Jefferson would regress even more? No. But I did think LSU would play great defense and okay offense.

Look winning 56-10 or 44-6 would of been terrific, but we need to stop acting like this 32-10 performance was all that surprising. LSU has a sort of M.O. where they play to their competition. If the Tigers play a very good football team Les Miles and his crew usually show up. If it's a subpar team LSU has shown in the past that it can play a sloppy game. (Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana Tech 2009)

I am not defending LSU's play on Saturday, I am simply pointing out something Les Miles's teams have a tendency to do: play to their competition. But there really is no need to overstate this game. LSU played sloppy, McNeese State (whatever you say) was motivated to be playing LSU and LSU's offense was pitiful on both execution and play calling. Now onto the quarterback situation that never seems to get old.

I hope Jordan Jefferson turns it around, but at this point Les Miles needs to seriously think what is best for the team. (Keyword: BEST) And right now playing Jarrett Lee for at least 70% of the snaps and Jordan Jefferson 30% is LSU's best option and hope to sustain their current record. Jefferson is not simply playing sub par or average, Jefferson is playing bad football plain and simple. I hate to see him regress so much from last year, but he really has taken a turn for the worst. Various times against McNeese State, Jefferson continued to do the same silly mistakes he can not seem to grow out of. Jefferson struggles on deciding whether to scramble or throw and if there is any defensive line penetration he immediately bails out on the plays instead of standing in the pocket and waiting for a play to develop.

In recent weeks Jarrett Lee has been successful throwing the football. During an interview this week you could tell Jordan Jefferson wanted to be able to throw the ball more. The issue with that is Jefferson was given an opportunity to throw earlier in the season, but he failed. Even now on a crucial third down Jefferson shows an inability to make the throw.

Again, I hope for the best for Jefferson, but there needs to be some sort of accountability. If you play bad at defensive tackle do the coaches keep you in? Maybe, but if you continue to play bad I am sure the coaches would put someone else in. Same goes for every position, but apparently not for the quarterback. Jefferson is not producing, while Lee is.

The answer is not that difficult when you watch both quarterbacks play. Lee is no superstar, but he can move the offense, make plays and during crunch time keep the team in check. I do not see that with Jefferson. I see a nervous quarterback who has zero confidence and continues to have three and out drives. Worse, when the game is on the line he has a sort of "deer in the head lights" look on his face. The quarterback is the leader. When the chips are down he is supposed to be the guy that leads his team to victory. In Jefferson when things are not going well they seem to snowball for him. LSU still needs Jefferson to win games, but more importantly they need to play Jarrett Lee more.

I hope the coaches see that.

I understand Jordan Jefferson is struggling immensely and is frustrating to watch, but the booing towards him when he's playing bad needs to stop. (Keep in mind the play calling did not help at all during certain plays.) I can not tell you how ashamed I am when I am in the stadium and I hear two people in front of wanting Jefferson's blood because of his struggles. Booing a 20 year old does not make things any easier, in fact it makes you look like an idiot.

The majority of LSU's problem on Saturday dealt with the offense, still I think there is one thing the defense needs to improve. Whether or not a team wins most of the time comes down to how that team did on third down. Third down conversions are the difference between winning and losing. Against Florida, LSU had three touchdowns that happened on third down. The thing that always gets to me is for three quarters LSU plays lights out defense on third down, but now and then in the fourth quarter that third down defense plummets. Yes, I know it is late in the game and players are tired and the opponent is more motivate considering the game is almost over, but still LSU needs to step up on third down defense in the fourth quarter.

LSU's defense is based off the principle of, "we'll let you get 5 yards, but can you do that for 80 yards?" An opponent might get short passes on the Tigers, but can they do that for 12 consecutive plays and score points? Most of the time the answer is no, but it does happen.

Last year against Ole Miss, LSU was down 22-17 with 12:08 left in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss got the ball at their 35 yard line. The Rebels went 60 yards in 15 plays. They chewed off 8:26 off the clock and converted a 3rd and 2, a 3rd and 10 and a 3rd and 7. In the Penn State game LSU lead 17-16. The Nittany Lions went on a 12 play, 65 yard drive that chewed up 5:57 and resulted in the winning points. On that drive LSU gave up a 3rd and 3 and 3rd and 4. Even this year that problem has surfaced. Against Florida, LSU gave up a 51 yard pass on 3rd and 8 and this past week against McNeese State,LSU let McNeese convert three third downs before stopping the Cowboys on downs. Great defenses prevent this.

Let me clarify: this is not as big of a problem as say the quarterback play, but this defense has tremendous potential to be special. When you are a special unit you make plays in all quarters, in all games, all the time.

On Saturday LSU's defense will get a real test against Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton. LSU's fourth quarter third down defense is as important to the outcome of this game as their quarterback play.

Geaux Tigers!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Les Miles Does Not Give a Damn, Neither Do I

In regards to the extremely explicit language please do not tell my mother. If she finds out I am almost certain that I will not be getting any Christmas presents this year.

Now to the game.

Wow. Breathe it in! I do not care if the game was nearly a week ago I am still recovering! Few things are a satisfying as beating Florida and a head coach who makes it a habit to have his Florida Gators stomp on the eye of the Tiger at Tiger Stadium. Yes sir, I hate Mr. Urban Meyer and his classless antics.

For an entire week LSU was the butt of every clock joke out there. The nation watched as Les Miles yet again failed in Clock Management 101 during the Tennessee game. LSU won after it was determined the Volunteers had too many players on the field during the last play of the game. Despite the victory, Les Miles and LSU were still the laughing stock of college football.

One week later LSU found itself in a battle with the Florida Gators. Despite having controlled the entire game, LSU still found itself trailing late in the fourth quarter. After Florida took a 29-26 lead, LSU got the ball with 3:21 when the Mad Hatter came to life again.

The playcalling was questionable up to that point and by no means were my emotions under control during that final drive. Shortly after a pass interference call on Florida that gave LSU the ball on the Florida 43 yard line, Les Miles seemed to again be reverting back to his clock management blunders. On three straight plays LSU ran the ball for a total of seven yards. LSU was faced with a 4th and 3 at the Florida 36 yard line.

I saw it happen and I witnessed it unfold. Miles and his staff were sending the field goal unit out. Instead of going for it on 4th and 3, Les Miles would rather have his kicker attempt a 53 yard field goal. I was numb and dumbfounded that LSU's coach thought this was the best course of action. My language was that of a sailor and my blood pressure was definitely rivaling my grandma's. Seconds before a delay of game LSU called a timeout with 35 seconds left.

I was convinced. LSU fans were convinced. Florida was convinced. The nation was convinced that Les Miles and the LSU Tigers were opting to kick a 53 yard field rather than go for it on 4th and 3. After all the Mad Hatter had just burned 40 seconds off the clock.

The team came out on the field and got in position. From a TV screen 53 yards seems like a mile. I waited and then one moment, one instance before the ball snapped it hit me for one smidgen of a second. For one nanosecond of time a thought popped in my head. I have no idea why this thought came to my head nanoseconds before the ball was snapped, but it did. Somehow this thought came in my head and settled and it somehow made sense.

It hit me. "I think he might fake it." And a moment later the ball was snapped and our world of reason and order was flipped upside down by the Mad Hatter. I was a deer in the headlights as I watched the play. It looked like the ball had no chance after holder Derek Helton lobbed it too soon, but somehow the ball bounced. It seemed the Florida defense was just going to get kicker Josh Jasper right before the first down marker, but somehow he got the first.

Les Miles fooled everyone. He fooled the nation, he fooled Urban Meyer and the Gators, he fooled his own fans and he even fooled his own players. One week after being subject to so much criticism Miles found himself in yet another crucial moment when he decided to yet again roll the dice.

The ensuing chaotic review was even more gut-wrenching than the actual play. When the ruling on the field was officially confirmed the reality of the situation officially set in.

Les Miles may be erratic and have press conferences of incoherent talk, but Les Miles is no idiot. He sold it to everyone. We all thought we knew what was unfolding. The clock was ticking and Miles was yet again struggling to get things taken care of. In a moment of panic he opted for a 53 yard field goal. He was going to put it on the kicker's leg, but as we later found out something happened during that timeout when Miles changed his mind and rolled the dice.

The fake field goal first down was only the beginning. On the next play Jarrett Lee found Terrence Toliver for a 28 yard gain. After a spiked ball and an incomplete pass, Jarrett Lee threw a jump ball to Terrence Toliver in the corner of the end zone. In one last moment of chaos for the Mad Hatter and the LSU Tigers, Toliver made the grab and came down with one foot in bounds. Touchdown. Ball game. LSU wins 33-29.

Halfway through the season LSU stands at 6-0. Even now, I am still uncertain what this team is ultimately capable of, but after their best team effort of the year (and yes I know improvements can be made) and after seeing the Riverboat Gambler resurface for the first time since the 2007 I suddenly feel a sort of, I don't know, confidence that if LSU plays to their best of ability they can beat anyone on their schedule. More importantly, I think LSU can do this.

There is something encapsulating about Les Miles. I am well aware that in a month I might hate his guts and curse his coaching, but for now I can acknowledge and accept that this is a coach who is erratic is his methods but determined in his ultimate goal - to win the game. Period.

Geaux Tigers!

What is Going on With the New Orleans Saints?

Someone give me an answer. Someone tell me what is going on in New Orleans. Right now through five weeks the Saints are a modest 3-2. After an embarrassing performance in a 30-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, I am officially in panic mode. I am officially sounding the alarms, ordering a Code Red and officially starting to question whether this team can even make the playoffs.

In Week 1 the Saints beat the Vikings in a defensive struggle 14-9. We, the fans, were satisfied because the Sean Payton Saints rarely win dragged out defensive games. In Week 2 the Saints managed to pull out a last second victory, 25-22, against an amped up 49ers team. Again, we were happy because despite playing lousy the Saints managed to pull off a victory against what we considered another NFC playoff team. Then in Week 3 the Saints lousy play caught up to them. Despite chances to win in the end, New Orleans lost 27-24 in overtime. The following week the Saints were to play the lowly Panthers. This was the game the Saints would finally wake up in 2010 and quick screwing around on offense. As it has been so characteristic in 2010 the Saints defense played well, but the offense was inept. Saints survived 16-14. And finally in Week 5 the Saints went against the struggling Cardinals who were starting for the first time at quarterback an undrafted rookie. New Orleans lost 30-20.

I know not having Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush on offense hurts and I realize how much more difficult winning is after winning the Super Bowl, but what the Saints are putting out on the field on Sunday is not average, sub par or mediocre. No, it stinks. There is no excuse for the type of football the Saints are currently playing.

Thomas and Bush’s absences are a big hit for New Orleans, but in no way should that be detrimental to the offense breaking, say, 25 points in a game. The defense has not been as turnover-savvy as last year, but still the unit has been effective. The problem lies with the offense and more importantly red zone efficiency. I would love to look up the stats, but I honestly am too lazy to go to and search around (pathetic, I know). How many times this year have the Saints been in the opponent’s territory and a) turned it over, b) shanked a field goal or c) kicked a field goal when all the team had to do was convert a 3rd and short? These mishaps are hindering the offense tremendously.

One of my friends kept joking with me about the Madden Curse. I am honestly starting to believe him. Drew Brees numbers are not bad; it’s just more so than in the past he seems to be making foolish mistakes in crucial moments of the game.

As a complete unit, the offense really just looks bad. Here are some examples of things I am continuously seeing each Sunday.

-A Saints receiver drops the type of throw he rarely misses.

-When the team needs seven points and not three, on third down all too often the team fails to convert the first down. (This was seen in the Cardinals game when it was 13-13 and the Saints had to resort to kicking a field…one in which John Carney so eloquently shanked.)

-On the occasional big throw Drew Brees has been a little off. Most quarterbacks would have made that same throw, but Drew Brees normally makes that difficult throw. All too often this year Brees seems to be somewhat off on the occasional big throw.

The list goes on as there have been far too many foolish penalties and turnovers to name a few.

Nothing can ever tarnish the magic of the 2009 Super Bowl season. Still I, along with other fans, want to see the Saints SUSTAIN EXCELLENCE. Build off of last year. Grow. Develop.

Right now Sean Payton’s team is in real gut-check because with five games down the unit is only a modest 3-2, but with all things considered 3-2 could be much worse. There is no Super Bowl aura around this team; the nation has seen how the Saints are vulnerable. It’s up to them to respond, to get back up and go to work.

I am a Saints fan. I am hopeful things can turn around. Who Dat!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Les Miles is an Agent of Chaos

Have you ever seen the movie the Dark Knight? Batman is terrorized by the character known as the Joker. In short, all the Joker wants to do is cause chaos. He desires no money, fame or whatever. All he wants is to cause chaos. Despite some obvious differences in appearance among other things I believe Les Miles is an agent of chaos.

He wants the team to win, but how he goes about doing that makes me believe Les Miles wants chaos. I use to think time management was something Miles did not understand. Nope. I just think he does not care. In his mind Miles thinks the clock is just a number. Why should that stop him and his play calling?

Here's the thing we need to start evaluating - is Les Miles smarter than the rest of us, kind of like the Joker was in the Dark Knight? I know this is crazy, but LSU's coach is crazy so I am trying to find an answer to the craziness I constantly see.

Maybe in some messed up way Les Miles's plan for the Tennessee game was to win on an untimed down. Maybe it was on his bucket list. I do not know, but there has to be some explanation for a team being in disarray in the final moments of a game, there has to be some reason a massive substitute was made in the game's final seconds.

To the public this is another one of Les Miles head-scratching games, but I think there is more to the madness.

Albert Einstein once said insanity is doing something over and over and over. Well, against Auburn in 2007 Miles mismanaged the clock. Tigers still won. Against Ole Miss in 2009 he mismanaged the clock again. Tigers lost. Against Tennessee on Saturday he mismanaged the clock yet again. This time Tigers won. So as far as times where Miles has mismanaged the clock LSU has won two of three games. Not bad.

Now comes the hard part - what is Miles next move? Nobody has any idea. Only in the depth's of Les Miles's brain does the answer lie. For the past 24 hours I have been trying to think of what it could be.

Here is my list so far...

On First and Goal at the opponent 3 Les Miles sends out the field goal unit, except the kicker is none other than All-American Patrick Peterson.

On Third and 2 on the opponent's 17 yard line Miles will elect to do a flea an offensive line man.

On 3rd and 15 after one of the quarterbacks have driven the team down the field, Miles elects to put the other quarterback in and run a quarterback sneak.

With less than 30 seconds left and LSU having just run a quarterback sneak to the right side of the field and the clock ticking, Miles will elect to make a massive substitute to waste more time. Wait. This one already happened. My bad.

"Some men aren't looking for anything logical. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn."

-Alfred's quote from the Dark Knight describing the Joker (reminds me of Les Miles)

Chaotic Miles Pulls a Rabbit Out of the Hat

We can speculate later. We can scrutinize the Tigers 16-14 win over the Tennessee Volunteers later in the week. We can rip apart Les Miles time management issues later in the week. We can discuss the mistake-prone offense LSU runs later. That will be addressed, but for now let's bask in the fact LSU won yet another game.

And what an ending.

Having recently graduated LSU I knew getting tickets to LSU home games would be that much more challenging, and the price would be even more steep. My motivation for getting tickets to LSU games was being in the stadium and experiencing those wins when all odds pointed to an LSU loss.

Even if the clock showed zero.

There is something magical about being in a stadium when your team finds a way to win at the very last moment. That moment, that instance when your team pulls out a victory everyone is just happy. There are no mixed emotions. There is no breaking down of the game, highlighting who and what looked good. Nobody downgrades the victory. No, for a short while after your team finds a win there is just a feeling by all of your teams fans of joy. Joy because after the odds were stacked against your team and defeat seemed imminent, they somehow won. How they looked doing it is irrelevant at that moment you are going crazy with 92,000+ of your closest friends. I will go a step farther and see it's even more enjoyable when you are in the student section. You spend four quarters screaming your lungs out for your team hoping that somehow they just find a way to win. At the end of the day a victory is the most essential part of your day of tailgating and rooting for your team. If a loss results, all the trouble you went through was not worth it in the end.

After back up quarterback Jarrett Lee completed a 4th and 14 I thought LSU would score with a little less than a minute remaining. I figured Les Miles and his staff would finish the drive, more importantly prevent any chaos from ensuing. But moments later I saw myself watching LSU pull the same time management garbage they pulled against Ole Miss last year. With 32 seconds left the Tigers ran a short run to the right side with Jordan Jefferson.

The clock ticked. LSU decided it needed to substitute different players into the game. The clock continued to tick. Certain players where confused on what was going on. The clock continued to tick. And then with only a mere two seconds remaining the ball was snapped. Jefferson, unaware of the snap, had to chase down the ball and jump on it. The game was over. The 5:41 drive was for nothing, the tailgating was for nothing. Les Miles, in the most critical moments of the game, managed to gag once again.

Or did he.

As it has been so characteristic during his tenure at LSU, Miles pulled a trick out of his hat. During the substitution chaos Tennessee had too many players run on the field. After the Tennessee team celebrated and Coach Derek Dooley and his players screamed in celebration and Tiger Nation cursed, a flag was seen on the field.

LSU would be granted one more play after the Tennessee penalty. Only moments earlier Tiger Stadium let off a noise we can only hope will never be heard again. Les Miles, LSU's chaotic coach, mismanaged the clock and yet again embarrassed the team and university...or so we thought.

On the untimed last play of the game the stadium lay in dead silence as we all hoped to witness the impossible - watch LSU win a game with no time left. Stevan Ridley was given a toss to the left of the offensive line. He side stepped one defender and met the last one on the goal line. In one last burst of energy Ridley passed the goal line and Tiger Stadium let off a euphoric cry of happiness. Les Miles, the Mad Hatter, had somehow, someway managed to pull a victory out of his hat in one of the most unlikely ways.

When the chips where down and the clock struck zero, Les Miles and his insanity managed to get LSU a victory.

They say cats have nine lives. In that case how many lives does Les Miles have?

Monday, September 27, 2010

LSU vs. West Virginia Recap

After a 20-14 win against West Virginia the LSU Tigers are 4-0, but even with an untarnished record there is still plenty to talk about.

In Week 1 LSU surrendered 24 points to the North Carolina Tar Heels. Since then the defense had been in lockdown mode. Against Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and West Virginia, LSU has given up a COMBINED 24 points. The offense needs work (we will get there), but for now let's focus on the excellent job Miles has done on getting this defensive unit together. After the nightmare 2008 campaign, Miles hired long time Tennessee Volunteer defensive coordinator John Chavis. In 2009, the unit looked okay. This season Chavis's crew has taken the next step. Against West Virginia, one of the Big East's premier offenses, LSU shut down the Mountaineers to a measly 177 yards of total offense. The one thing about this unit I am liking more and more each game is there tackling. There are no missed tackles. Guys make the tackle on attempt one. I am also starting to see a young Laron Landry in Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu is a guarantee for at least one big time play a game whether that's a sack, forced fumble or whatever, Mathieu, even as a freshman, has a knack for disturbing an offense's flow.

Equally as impressive as the defense was the special teams. In a game that featured little offense having LSU score off a punt return and block a field goal might of been the difference for the Tigers. As each week passes more and more people across the country are beginning to see the superhuman himself, Mr. Patrick Peterson. Peterson's punt return seemed so effortless; he moves at a different pace. I know it let West Virginia back in the game, but I have to admit Peterson's Heisman pose was worth it. The only thing holding No. 7 back from making even more plays is the cramps he frequently gets in the second half of games.

Now on to the bad news. The offense.

The word "suck" is thrown out a lot these days. Someone may say there team sucks, but truly not understand the meaning of the word. Well, in the case of the LSU offense, their offense did indeed suck. For the third straight week Jordan Jefferson threw for less than 100 yards. This week he threw for 76. On a team with a great secondary, a great defensive line, a solid offensive line, a good running back corps, a good wide receiver corps, the Tigers have an inefficient quarterback. I stood by Jefferson all last year. I believed he would mature from his mistakes in 2009. I believed Miles this summer and I believed Jefferson when he said things would change. But after four games I have say there needs to be some sort of change. There has to be some accountability. Jefferson looks worse than last year. His presence in the pocket has taken a nose dive and his inability to make simple downfield throws seems to have gotten worse. The booing does not help and if you participate in that I am certain you are an idiot. Les Miles needs to give Jarrett Lee a chance this year. Lee needs to be given more snaps.

(Call me crazy but Jarrett Lee in 2008 is better than Jordan Jefferson in 2010. Lee was good for lets say 24 points a game. And every other game he was good for a pick six. Lee had some games where he put up more than 24. With LSU's current defense a couple interceptions would not be the end of the world. I will take that over LSU's current situation. Wow I can't believe I said that, but that is how bad the quarterback situation has gotten.)

I really do hope Jefferson turns it around. I hope the light goes off in his head, but from what I am seeing he is hurting the team by being on the field. Miles needs to realize this and give more snaps to Lee. If Lee does not get on the field anymore, honestly what must happen for it to ever happen?

The quarterback of the 2010 LSU Tigers does not have to throw for 300 yards a game along with two touchdowns. Simply put, the quarterback just needs to be a game manager. Jefferson is not succeeding at this. The LSU defense and the special teams seem more and more like LSU's best chance to score. I am dead serious.

But all the blame can not be placed on Jefferson alone.

The play calling for the LSU offense is abyssal to say the least. Once again the game plan stunk and the creativity we all loved about Miles's offensive play calls was no where to be seen. What frustrates me the most is Miles and Crowton's insistence to continue to run plays that have NEVER worked. For instance, the short side of the field option. If I told you that every Saturday morning Gary Crowton shows up with six pieces of notebooks with six plays written on them in crayon you might believe me, right? That's how bad the offensive game plan is.

And this leads me to my final point. Does Les Miles adapt or is he arrogant? Right now the defense is leading LSU to victories, but with the meat of the schedule coming up the Tigers offense must get better. Will Miles, after weeks of the unit struggling, realize a change must be made, new plays must be put in, Lee needs to be given a chance or will he simply stick to his guns and insist upon the same, ineffective, wasteful offensive game plan?

I hope the offense turns it around. I hope the unit gels and gets the ball rolling, but I am skeptical to believe that Miles will adapt. He is who he is and Les Miles has rarely been one to change his approach.

Regardless of the outcome.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gutsy Week 2 Win for Saints All Too Unfamiliar

I remember it very well. It was 1996 and the Saints were about to start the season. To open that year New Orleans was playing the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers were only two years removed from winning the Super Bowl. I was nine and did not care. My team, the Saints, were going to be on TV and I was happy.

Right from the get-go it was San Francisco's game. There was no question the Saints did not belong on the field. By halftime I was so upset I turned the game off as the Saints were already down 24-0. New Orleans would eventually lose 27-11. My whole childhood the 49ers always outclassed the Saints. If the Saints looked like they had the game, San Francisco just found a way to win. For years San Francisco was New Orleans's biggest roadblock. From 1993 to 1999 the two franchises squared off 12 times and only once did the Saints ever win.

Now look back at that Monday night victory. It was a very frustrating game to watch and as the game progressed it really seemed like it was not the Saints day. With a chance to go up 26-14, the Saints had to settle on a field goal. The 49ers then drove down and tied the score. In the past, the Saints would of withered. They would of folded and lost in overtime. But for some reason, and this is why the Saints are unique group of guys, they prevailed.

Much like the 49ers of the 1990s, the Saints found a way to win. It was not pretty, but Drew Brees found a way to get the team a victory, Marques Colston found a way to come up with a huge catch, Garrett Hartley found a way to hit the game-winner.

And this is the biggest aspect of this Saints team I enjoy the most. The 48-27 wins are terrific and more enjoyable, but it's games like these that make me realize how special this crew really is. It's one thing to win a game, it's another to fight an entire game and when the chips are down still find a way to win.

The Saints have no doubt a lot they need to work, but with that said it can not be overlooked how this team, just like the Steelers and the Colts of the NFL, displayed the resiliency to gut out a victory when a loss seemed imminent.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What We Learned About LSU Against Mississippi State

LSU beats Mississippi State 29-7

For the 2010 season the LSU Tigers have been a box of chocolate team. Each half of football you do not know what you are going to get. After an impressive 29-7 win against the Bulldogs of Starksville I had 4 main points I wanted to address about the Tigers.

1. LSU has a defense

The one thing fans came away from the LSU win smiling about was the LSU defense. For the first time in a few years the LSU defense really looked like it could be a force. On paper a 29-7 victory does not seem like that big of a margin, but if one were to have watched the game it would be realized just how much the LSU defense had the game in control. Outside of only giving up 7 points, the LSU defense also picked off Mississippi State 5 different times. The biggest thing that stands out about this unit is their ability to disguise blitzs and cause havoc for the quarterback. Even with a struggling offense, having a good defense will keep LSU in big games. On paper right now I think LSU has a chance to beat Florida because of their defense. Same goes for Alabama. If you have a good defense you can stay in games.

2. Drake Nevis is a beast

My former Communication and Gender classmate is ripping through offensive lines. In 2009 LSU struggled immensely with the pass rush. This year because of the maturity of players like Drake Nevis the Tigers defense is able to get a consistent pass rush and in turn allow for defensive coordinator John Chavis to send in more blitzs. Last game Nevis had an interception and nine tackles. Defensive tackles do not get nine tackles a game, that just shows you how special of a player Nevis is. He is as important to LSU's defense as Patrick Peterson.

3. Gary Crowton has the creativity of, well, someone not creative.

I will continue to hope he turns things around. I will continue to hope the offense starts, well, being more productive. But I am also a realist. The offensive game plan for LSU is all too simple week in and week out. Crowton, the so-called Wizard, continues to run the same predictable plays. I joke with my friends that Crowton has six pieces of notebook paper. On each paper, written in crayon, he has six plays. Honestly when you watch a game that seems like what's going on. All too often there will be a situation where LSU will line up on a crucial third down and as fan you realize what the play is. So if you the fan know the play, what do you think the opposing defensive coordinator knows? THE PLAY! One moment in Saturday's game sticks out the most. It was 3rd and Goal at the three. LSU had run the ball the previous two plays with Ridley. On this third down, the Tigers come out in a I-Form with ZERO WIDE RECEIVERS. Mississippi State packs everyone in and, gasp, LSU surprisingly decides to run with Ridley to the left. And surprisingly LSU is stopped for a one yard loss. Everyone in the stadium, including Mike the Tiger, knew the play. THAT'S A BIG PROBLEM. I have found no reason to think Gary Crowton will address these issues.

4. Offense progressed as game went on

The offense sputtered in the first half. Despite numerous times where the Tigers had good field position, LSU continued to get field goals. With that said, LSU did show progress in the second half. It was 12-0 when Mississippi State, with their back up quarterback now in the game, just scored. At 12-7 the next drive was crucial for Jordan Jefferson and the offense. Jefferson drove the team down for seven big points. Later on in the third he scored another touchdown to put LSU up 26-7. It might not have been much, but one half removed from 4 field goals I do take it as a positive sign when the offense puts up two touchdowns. Hopefully against West Virginia the team can build on that.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

NCAA and NFL Football Predictions: Week of September 10

NCAA Top 25

I will give my thoughts on the games that are worth thinking about. I do not feel like typing about how West Virginia is going to destroy Marshall. Boring.

So without further ado...

23 Georgia @ South Carolina

Aaron Murray looked impressive in his first start for the Bulldogs, but even more impressive in Week 1 was the South Carolina offense. Since 2001 these teams have squared off nine times. Of those nine games, seven have been decided by an average of 5 points. Bottom line: look for another close one in Columbia this weekend. I will take Georgia in a close one. Stephen Garcia and the Gamecocks should pull out the upset, but I like Aaron Murray and I think he helps the Bulldogs avoid another early season slip. Also, South Carolina struggles at pulling out victories in close games.

Georgia 34-26

20 Florida State @ 7 Oklahoma

This is the first time these two schools have squared off since the 2001 Orange Bowl when Oklahoma defeated Florida State 13-2 to win the title. Oklahoma's defense as well as quarterback Landry Jones looked shaky in the Sooners' opening week 31-24 win against Utah State. I like Florida State in this game because I think for the first time in several years Florida State has a veteran quarterback who can put up points on the board regardless of the opponent.

Florida State 30-24

9 Iowa vs. Iowa State

This game always is tricky. Seems one year when you are settled on Iowa winning, Iowa State pulls out an upset. It's a rivalry so that happens. I like the Hawkeyes because the game is at home, plus Iowa brings back a defense that was suffocating to say the least.

23-10 Iowa

13 Miami-Florida @ 2 Ohio State

Game of the Week! This is the first meeting between the two teams since the 2003 Fiesta Bowl where the Buckeyes prevailed over the Hurricanes in two overtimes. The game is remembered for the controversial pass interference call. Miami keeps yapping that this is the game they will not only payback Ohio State, but put themselves back on the college football map. I am sure it sounds cute Miami-Florida that you guys are upset and are going to travel to Columbus and win a big game and yadda yadda Miami football is back. Sorry ain't buying it. In the words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend!" Ohio State is a national championship contender and there is a reason for that. Terrelle Pryor made the next big step when Ohio State beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl last year. On the big stage expect Pryor to one up Jacory Harris on the ground and air. Miami does not have the horses to win in a hostile environment.

Ohio State 34-24

19 Penn State @ 1 Alabama

I am getting sick and tired of every media source out there hyping up this game. Two years ago the media hyped up the Alabama/Clemson game. Clemson got embarrassed. Last year the media did the same thing with Virginia Tech. VTech fell in the end. This year the media is trying to build up this game. All that matters is this: Penn State has a true freshman quarterback. Period. The Crimson Tide will roll on Saturday. Alabama has too many weapons and their defense will cause nightmares for Penn State all afternoon.

Alabama 41-17

11 Oregon @ Tennessee

Oregon ran for what seemed like 1,000 yards last week in their 72-0 win over New Mexico. Even with that impressive win and a Tennessee football team that will struggle this year, I still look for the Vols to cause some problems for the Ducks. Tennessee will keep it close for the first half, but ultimately Oregon will push the game away with, gasp, it's running game.

Oregon 35-19

21 LSU @ Vanderbilt

LSU plays Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde football. You really do not know what you are going to get. One game the Tigers play 3 lousy quarters and 1 good quarter, the next week they play 3 great quarters and a lousy fourth. It's a coin flip. I will hope LSU gets everything together, but the Tigers are who they are. The defense will be solid and the offense will get it's points. No style points will be present.

30-13 LSU

Michigan @ Notre Dame

So what if it isn't Top 25. This is a rivalry game. Sometimes I think it must be hard to be a Notre Dame fan. The instant your team wins ONE GAME the media circus explodes. The Irish looked good in the opening season 23-12 win over Purdue, but again it was Purdue. Michigan on the other hand beat Connecticut, a BCS sleeper. I think Denard Robinson's ability to both pass and run the ball on opposing defenses will be just enough for the Wolverines to sneak out a win in South Bend. RichRod finally has a QB.

27-23 Michigan


Raiders at Titans

Raiders have a new look at quarterback as JaWalrus has been replaced with Jason Campbell. I expect Oakland to be better than in recent years, but I can't see there defense having anyone who can stop Chris Johnson. Campbell and Co. will keep it close but Jeff Fisher and the Titans are set on getting back to the playoffs and beyond.

Titans 28-17

Panthers at Giants

The Panthers finished strong last season. The Giants finished awful. I think the good feeling Carolina had at the end of last season will carry over to week one. I am unsure of what to think about this 2010 Giants team. I still see them sneaking in the playoffs, but in week one Matt Moore and Co. get the last laugh.

Panthers 27-24

Colts at Texans

The Texans are 1-15 against the Colts. Reread that if you must. Colts will blow open the gates by going up 14-0. Texans will get a couple scores to make it respectable (14-10), but ultimately Indy will bring the hammer down once again on Houston because Peyton Manning is a machine.

Colts 33-20

Broncos at Jaguars

This is an interesting game because, well, I do not think either team is particularly good. Both teams have QB issues (Tebow isn't ready) and both have suspect defenses at times. David Garrard has not progressed like the Jacksonville organization has hoped. The Jaguar team is Jones-Drew and that's it. Denver will gut out a win in a game that will surprisingly be one of the weekend's most exciting.

Broncos 28-23

Falcons at Steelers

Pittsburgh does not have Big Ben for four weeks. Atlanta is being talked about as the team on the rise. This is a recipe for Atlanta to make a statement. Pitt has a defense, but Dennis Dixon is going to struggle against an improving Atlanta defense. Matt Ryan will make viewers forget about his sophomore slump.

Falcons 31-17

Dolphins at Bills

I feel bad for Buffalo fans. For the past ten years the Bills have stunk. Despite move after move the team does not seem to be getting any better. Even with new head coach Chan Gailey I do not see things changing at all. The opposite can be said about Miami. Chad Henne is maturing fast and Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are ready to cause opposing defensive coordinators head aches with the Wildcat offense.

Dolphins 27-10

Lions at Bears

The Lions made a lot of adjustments this offseason on the defensive side of the ball. The Bears made adjustments on the offensive side by bringing in offensive guru Mike Martz. I like the Lions in an upset because I think Detroit is optimistic about the future while the Bears are sort of waiting for the house to collapse. Jay Cutler is a coin-flip quarterback. You never know what you are going to get with him. If he starts to play bad it always seems to snowball.

Lions 21-20

Bengals at Patriots

How good is this new Bengals offense going to be? They drafted well, but they did pick up Team Obliterator aka Terrell Owens. Tom Brady just signed a monster contract, but unfortunately this offseason the Pats have been hit hard by the injury bug. I should pick Cincy to upset the Pats. It makes sense, but at the end of the day I have a very difficult time picking against Belichek in Week 1.

31-28 Patriots

Browns at Buccaneers

Both of these teams struggled immensely last year, but Cleveland more so than any other team with a losing record really finished strong in 2009. I know Tampa Bay beat the Saints in Week 16, but for some reason I like Cleveland in this game. I think we see the old Jake Delhomme for most of the game. He will get enough scores for the Browns to move to 1-0.

Browns 21-16

49ers at Seahawks

I have no idea what to expect from the Seahawks. Pete Carroll has always been an average NFL coach, but maybe this time is different. San Fran on the other hand is talking about Alex Smith finally being ready to take the next step and be an efficient, effective QB week in and week out. This game is a crap shoot because no one knows which Matt Hasselback will show up: the recent Matt or the Super Bowl Matt.

49ers 30-21

Packers at Eagles

Both teams have high expectations. First, Green Bay is the popular Super Bowl pick for the 2010 season and Mr. Aaron Rodgers is every one's MVP. On the other end Kevin Kolb is the face of the Philadelphia Eagles. With McNabb gone it is officially his team. Kolb was good in his two games last year, but Rodgers is better. Green Bay is going to have a New Orleans-like offense this year. Philly is not capable of hanging with that.

Packers 42-27

Cardinals at Rams

Hmmm. One part of me says, "Arizona is in disarray at the QB position, plus St. Louis looked alright in the preseason. Pick St. Louis in the upset." The other part of me says, "The St. Louis Rams stink. That was preseason. Sam Bradford is a rookie. Be realistic." What the hell. Arizona runs Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower to a victory.

Cardinals 26-17

Cowboys at Redskins

Cowboys have the weight on the world on their shoulders. Super Bowl or death. The Redskins on the other hand are just looking forward to being a good team again. With McNabb, keep an eye on the 'Skins. If Dallas has a better offensive line they should win this game before the fourth, but Albert Haynesworth is $100 million man so I expect him to make an impact and keep Washington in the game. Ultimately, Dallas prevails behind Romo's arm.

Cowboys 35-24

Ravens at Jets

Game of the Week! This was a good game until Ray Lewis and Darrell Revis started talking. Now it's a great game! How much more pumped are you for this game after all the trash talking!? Maybe I have something wrong with me (I'm sure I do), but trash talking makes me anticipate the game that much more. Ray Lewis loves running his mouth, but the thing about him is he backs it up. This game will come down to quarterback play. I feel Joe Flacco will do much better against the Jets' defense than Marc Sanchez will do against the Ravens' defense. This will be a game till the end.

Ravens 28-27

Chargers at Chiefs

Year Two in the Matt Cassel experiment kicks off on Monday. Unfortunately, the Chiefs go against the Chargers. Kansas City has some good young talent in Jamaal Charles, but Phillip Rivers is one of the league's best quarterbacks. Kansas City will surprise people by keeping it close for a half with defense, but Rivers will push the game away in the late third with some backbreaking drives.

Chargers 37-22

Monday, August 09, 2010

Les Miles is Sitting on a Loaded Pistol

College football will be upon us in less than a month and like any other year predictions are abundant. We all think we know how our team is going to do because of x, y and z. We feel our opinion is worth listening to because of our involvement in alumni relations, high school football or just because we have been watching football for most our lives. The story is always the same. So without further ado I thought I would give my breakdown on the 2010 LSU Tigers football team. After all why would you not want to listen to my insightful predictions for the upcoming season?

For the first three years at LSU Les Miles was on cloud nine. He won a national championship and compiled an impressive 34-6 record that included going 19-5 in the SEC. But in the past two seasons that record has dipped to a disappointing 17-9, including 8-8 in the SEC. How did it get so bad so fast in Baton Rouge for Les Miles? And why should there be hope for the Tigers this coming year?

Whatever improvements LSU made in 2009 from 2008 (an improved defense), there was equally as many setbacks (lack of an offense). The question is does LSU have the mindset and skills to improve and avoid another season of disappointment? The answer is yes and here are the main reasons.


For the past however many months the national media has taken turns either a) ragging on Les Miles b) criticizing Jordan Jefferson's potential or c) highlighting why LSU can not sniff Alabama's jock strap. (Do not get me wrong last year I spent a lot of time yelling at Miles and Jefferson.) These criticisms on the football program have in turn lit a fire under Les Miles and the LSU football team. When your program is nationally dissed (4th in the SEC West at the SEC Media Day) a team comes together. It has happened to LSU teams in the past. Add in the fact that Les Miles has his back against the wall and I have to believe things will turn around. There's a reason he won 34 games in his first three seasons. Sure he had "Saban's players," but he still won 34 games. Look at Miami Florida. Randy Shannon has a heck of a lot of talent, but his teams have really never done much. Bottom line: Miles was a winner in the beginning. That was not a fluke. He needs to find that magic he use to show on the sidelines.


Since Ryan Perrilloux's debacle LSU has not had a strong quarterback behind center. Far too often inexperience has gotten the best of the LSU quarterback. Despite Jordan Jefferson's shortcomings in 2009 (held on to the ball too long and accuracy issues) he still showed moments of promise. Say what you want about the guy he still finished with a respectable 17 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Add in the fact that he was the 5th most efficient passer in the SEC you can see why I truly believe he will drastically improve this year. Jefferson was one of the youngest quarterbacks to be starting in SEC history. When Russell and Flynn came to LSU they were not thrown onto the field. They had time to slowly understand the offense and better yet go on the field when they were ready. Jefferson did not have this and I feel like this is all too commonly overlooked. With a year under his belt I feel LSU's offense will be much more in sync because of Jefferson's maturity and the emergence of a much better offensive line.


In 2009 the LSU offensive line was surprisingly one of the worst in the SEC. Better yet, it cemented an LSU offense that ranked 107th nationally. This is the biggest question mark and the biggest thing I am most concerned with. Last year's offensive line for the majority of the season stunk. It never got into a groove so two things suffered immensely: first, with no offensive line there is no run game. Meaning LSU fans got very familiar with 2nd and 9s instead of 2nd and 4s. That's crucial when you really break that down. With a young quarterback, whether or not it will be a scoring drive starts with progress on first down. And more times than not on first down for LSU in 2009 they ran the ball. And more times than not LSU did a poor job moving the ball. Secondly, with a poor offensive line and an inexperienced quarterback you are probably going to have a) a quarterback on the run a lot and b) an inept offense that struggled the majority of the season. Both of these were true. This aspect can not be overlooked. Even a slightly improved Jefferson and a more in sync offensive line will greatly benefit the LSU offense. I am confident in both.


Former Florida wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales is one of brightest spots this past offseason for the Tigers. Gonzales is widely known for the successes he had with utilizing Percy Harvin. I think what excites me the most is how LSU has a player of equal mold to Harvin - Russell Shepard. Shepard is a serious threat every time he steps on the field. The spring game for the Tigers was not the greatest showcase of LSU's potential, but the one bright spot for Shepard's ability to consistently get open. Add in the fact LSU has Reuben Randle and Terrence Toliver and you can see why I expect to see great improvement from the wide receivers group. Gonzales is one of the best in the business at getting his players to maximize their potential meaning the three-headed monster of Shepard, Randle and Tolliver should cause havoc for any team in the SEC.


Patrick Peterson is not a human. He is not a normal person like you or me. Patrick Peterson is a freak. He origins are as mysterious as Captain America or Superman. Peterson is 6'1" 222 pounds. Take that in for second. LSU has a cornerback that is 222 pounds and he has not lost any speed. Like I said he is a freak. (Just to give you an idea Darrelle Revis is 5'11" 198 pounds.) Some people have suggested moving him to safety. My question - why? With Peterson being the shutdown corner he is that's one less side of the field LSU has to worry about, better yet if gives them options. The other corner is Morris "Mo" Claiborne. Claiborne has been having an impressive camp. With two shutdown corners LSU will be able to blitz that much more and that makes all the difference. One of the issues with LSU's defense last year was the struggles LSU's cornerbacks (other than Peterson) had throughout the season. One of the glaring problems was how LSU gave up big 3rd downs. Having one superb cornerback and another up and coming cornerback gives Chavis options on third downs.


The offensive line stunk last year and the defensive line stunk. I would go as far as to say the defensive line was worse. It's like dominoes when you really put together LSU's 2009 problems. Without an effective pass rush the run defense was lousy therefore the rest of the defense had to play that much better. (Now keep in mind LSU's defense was not terrible last year, but they were not spectacular. Still improvements need to be made. These are the hopeful solutions.) Of all the young players getting on the field this season, I am most excited about the defensive line. There's Sam Montgomery, Chris Davenport and Josh Downs to name a few. Add in senior Drake Nevis and there's reason to believe this unit can rebound.

Playing the underdog role, Jefferson's quarterback growth, a revamped offensive line, Billy Gonzales's impact, Peterson Island and Mo and a back to basics defensive line are the six reasons I am optimistic about LSU's 2010 season. Now believe me I'm well aware of the past struggles and I am well aware of the uneasiness about LSU football this season. I know things could get worse for LSU in a hurry, but I look at Miles and I look at Jefferson and I think had LSU won that game against Ole Miss or Penn State, just one more game, all the talk would of been how Miles got his 4th season of at least 10 wins. Now granted things did get bad last season, but it's interesting to note how drastically things switch. If there is one thing that has the biggest impact on the LSU's season I think, no question, it would have to be Jordan Jefferson's maturity. How that guy changed his game this offseason will be directly correlated with LSU's final record. (By the way I read Jefferson watched highlights of every single play he was involved in last year. He took notes on what he did wrong. And at SEC Media Day one of the most impressive things spectators commented on was the maturity of Jordan Jefferson. Whether or not a good interview translates into a good quarterback remains to be seen.)

I think after seeing Les Miles's most recent press conference where the Mad Hatter was displaying a childish grin I have to agree with my dad. Les Miles is seating on a loaded pistol and no one knows it.

Geaux Tigers!


Here is my call. I am sick of thinking I will jinx the team. The Saints won the Super Bowl so the word jinx is dead...I think.

North Carolina

This is the first game of the season meaning the team will be rusty. I am willing to bet that 95% of my age group is going to be cursing the TV if LSU does not score within 38 seconds into the game. This will be mostly a defensive game. North Carolina has a good defense, so does LSU. The biggest factor in this game will be LSU's ability to neutralize UNC's amazing defensive line. Look for the Tigers to pull out a close one.

LSU 19-17

@ Vanderbilt

The Tigers will travel to Vanderbilt to take on a Commodore team that just lost their head coach about a month ago. Vandy will be down this year despite returning quarterback Larry Smith. The LSU run game will be pivotal in this game. I think Michael Ford and Richard Murphy propel LSU to blow up this game.

LSU 27-7

Mississippi State

Last year the Bulldogs really thought they had LSU. Unfortunately they could not get six inches. What a shame. 2010's game will not be a blowout. I do not expect LSU to struggle in their home opener. It will be a close game at the half, but the second half the Tigers put on the after burners. Jefferson and Shepard cause havoc while The Freak bulldozes a quarterback.

LSU 31-14

West Virginia

It's been a while since some Tiger Stadium magic has taken place. WV comes ready to play and jumps on LSU. Jefferson plays a terrific game. LSU's defense struggles against Noel Devine. WV has a fourth quarter lead, but Jefferson leads the Tigers back for a thrilling victory.

LSU 34-30


A week after a dramatic win against the Mountaineers, LSU gets jumped on by a struggling Vols team. Tigers defense makes some key second half stops that swings the momentum. Shepard is again a huge factor and a nightmare for defenses.

LSU 27-21


The Swamp has not been kind to LSU in recent years, unfortunately I do not see that changing. For the third week in a row LSU finds itself in a hole, but the Tigers are unable to shake a 14-0 deficit. The offensive line struggles in the trenches against the Gators. Also, the run game does not get going and Jefferson has to lead the team to victory on his own. Not the Tigers day.

Florida 34-16

McNeese State

LSU demolishes yet another Louisiana team.

LSU 44-14


LSU travels to Hell to play the Auburn Tigers. Game comes down to the four quarter where Auburn scores a late touchdown to crush LSU's dreams. Tigers play very well in defeat.

Auburn 24-21


The entire state of Louisiana eagerly awaits for the Game of the Year. Les Miles and his crew do push ups in broken glass to get pumped for the game. Unlike 2008, Bama's last time in Tiger Stadium, LSU does not have a pick-six quarterback leading the team. Jefferson gets LSU out to a fast start. Russell Shepard and Reuben Randle cause trouble for Alabama all afternoon. Alabama makes a fourth quarter rally only to be denied by Chavis's defense. Score one for the good guys!

LSU 28-23


Like I said, another Louisiana blowout. Yawn.

LSU 35-7

Ole Miss

LSU redeems themselves after back-to-back years of falling to the Rebels. The running game allows LSU's play action to get a couple scores. Even Masoli can not rally the Rebels after an impressive third quarter showing by the Tigers.

LSU 31-19


The Razorbacks get redemption after last year's dramatic overtime loss. LSU defense fails to make a key stop towards the end of the game. Jefferson has a solid performance, Peterson has a great game, but is not enough to rally the Tigers.

Arkansas 28-20

Final call: 9-3

Even with only a one game improvement from 2009 I still think LSU makes great strides in 2010.