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