LSU / Florida & SEC Week 6 Recap

I just finished watching the home-TV version of the LSU / Florida game (as opposed to the on-campus TV version I watched Saturday night), and a lot became clear that I didn’t really gather on the first watching.

The first watching, it’s fair to say, wasn’t a very attentive one. There was the fact that it came after a long day of tailgating (the best part of the trip), the fact that the TV we were watching on was getting a satellite feed while another TV near us was over-the-air (and about 8 seconds ahead), the fact that me and another guy tried to switch ours to over-the-air and screwed that up badly (pissing off a guy named Big John pretty seriously), the fact that much of the rest of the first half was spent talking to a Baton Rouge Police sergeant (not called by Big John – an old friend) and the fact that we tried to go sneak into the stadium at halftime and missed the start of the third quarter. So another watching was clearly in order.

And here’s what I saw:

- LSU’s offense is inept. Purely and completely. I think it’s partly the coaching, partly the play calling and partly the problems of Jordan Jefferson. It’s easy to just go down the list and see problems. Offensive line: can’t protect the pass well and can’t create a run game at all. On the telecast, Gary Danielson said Les Miles told him this is the most physical and best offensive line he’s had. I’m not sure how smart Miles is, but I would at least expect to old Michigan lineman to know offensive lines. So what’s wrong? Play calling: LSU’s sole scoring drive, and the only one that went for more than 31 yards (aided by 35 yards in penalties), was the only one that showed any life at all. Brandon LaFell caught a 26-yard pass that looked good; and represented 27% of LSU’s passing offense. Otherwise, it’s all a big WTF? If I make it to another LSU game this season and they run that ridiculous “option” sweep, I’m going to come out of the stands and charge the field. I’ll do that because a) it will have driven me insane and b) I think I’d have a pretty good chance of getting to the ball before as the play develops. Quarterback – Jefferson again crumbled like a Dixie cup in the second half. I think Joe Namath would do better escaping a pass rush in the pocket … today.

- LSU’s defense is getting a lot more credit than it deserves. The Tigers held Florida to its lowest rushing total of the season (193 yards) and its lowest score (13). But it was clear in watching the game again that Urban Meyer played the Tigers just as he planned to. The Gators controlled the ball for 36:30, their biggest time-of-possession advantage of the season. Florida ran four more plays, put up 168 more yards and scored 28 more points against Kentucky in 32:03. Meyer wanted to control the clock and thought he could pound the middle of LSU’s line to do so. And he was right. I don’t think it was lost on Meyer that this was LSU’s winning game plan in 2007. LSU held the ball 35:52 in that game. Had LSU stopped Florida’s dive plays, I imagine Meyer would have opened up the offense and asked Tebow to carry more of the load. He didn’t need to. It was a brilliant game plan in a contest where Florida didn’t need to show the world a blowout.

- I do love our defensive speed. As witnessed by Perry Riley and Chad Jones chasing down Brandon James on 4th-and-2, the speed of LSU’s secondary and linebackers is impressive and fun to watch. And it reinforced the wisdom of Meyer running inside, not trying to rely on a speed advantage outside.

- Coaching head-scratcher of the week. It was mentioned several times that Florida’s center (one of the Pouncey twins, but I’m not sure if it’s Ma or Pa Pouncey) was signaling to the line by jerking his head before the snap, which helps overcome crowd noise. Danielson said it’s something he’s seen on tape and he’s sure LSU coaches have seen it as well. He gives Miles & Co. too much credit. It took five offsides penalties before LSU’s coaches apparently reacted to it. With just over five minutes left in the second quarter, Tracy Wolfson reported that John Chavis had instructed his line to charge into Pouncey the next time he did it, draw the false start penalty and end that nonsense. I can’t imagine she would make that up, but Pouncey continued doing it for the rest of the quarter without getting bull-rushed. Then on the opening play of the second half, Rahim Alem made a point to work the crowd noise, Pouncey jerked his head and he was charged into. On that play the ball was snapped too quickly to draw the penalty, so LSU did it again on the next play, the penalty was called and Pouncey didn’t jerk his head again all game. Several problems there. First, the LSU coaches obviously were not aware before the game that he would do it and that the smart move would be to charge him. I would not be surprised at all if they learned this via headset from somebody watching the telecast. Secondly, I guess Chavis’ line just ignored him when he finally mentioned it in the second quarter? And finally, it was comically obvious that stopping it was a huge priority to start the second half, which just reinforces how ridiculous it was that it wasn’t recognized and stopped early in the game.

In the end, I really don’t think LSU was anywhere close to winning this game despite being within a touchdown for the first 52 minutes of the game. Meyer knew what he was doing, and he was in control the whole game. LSU managed 52 yards of offense on one drive (26 on one play) and otherwise had nothing. And it was clear early on that the Gators would own the middle rush.

With Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas ahead (yes, I’m going to stupidly assume wins over Tulane and La. Tech), there’s a good chance for another LSU implosion this season. A 7-5 finish, unfortunately, is not out of the question. I sure wouldn’t say this team looks better than Miles’ 2008 squad.

Elsewhere in the SEC:

Bama beat Ole Miss in sufficiently-convincing fashion. The Tide offense has come down a bit of late (303 yards per game against Kentucky / Ole Miss vs. 461 per game against Va. Tech / Arkansas), but Fonzie had his guys rolling right along.

Arkansas did, in fact, deflate the Auburn balloon. Turns out giving up 500 yards can come back to bite you sometimes. I shouldn’t have believed in the War Eagles.

I picked the Vols to beat the group of guys who used to play football for Georgia, but 310 yards for Crompton? Yow. Seeing that score was the point on Saturday where I knew LSU was going to lose.

South Carolina beat Kentucky, as I guessed. Second-tier SEC East teams we don’t play; not much interest beyond that.

I missed the call on MSU / Houston. But 490 yards of offense looks good for the Bulldogs, until you see they gave up 553.

Vandy lost to Army in overtime. But LSU beat Vandy, too!

For the week: 3-3; for the season: 41-7.

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