My LSU beef this morning isn’t with the team

Whether it’s homerism or incompetence, there’s a narrative being laid out by The Advocate (the Baton Rouge daily, not the national gay newspaper) about last night’s LSU / Auburn game that’s just frustratingly wrong. This isn’t a criticism of the Tigers, who I think played an excellent game last night. It’s a criticism of LSU’s hometown newspaper – the outfit that puts more resources toward covering LSU football than any other and should be doing a better job.

The narrative put forth by The Advocate is that the LSU defense shut down a great offense. As mentioned in their main game story:

- “Although not a flawless performance, the thorough dismantling at Tiger Stadium — especially of one of the SEC’s best offenses — should be the tinder for a new topic of debate in Baton Rouge and around the league.”

- “For the defense, Saturday was just the latest chapter in a nicely unfolding story of season-long improvement, bordering on championship domination.”

- “LSU limited Auburn’s high-octane offense to a season-low 193 yards and forced three turnovers.”

- “Auburn (5-3, 2-3) entered the game ranked second in the SEC in total offense, rushing offense and passing offense.”

These themes are repeated in a secondary column headlined Tough night for Auburn:

- “Malzahn filled in more of those blanks, taking more than a fair share of time to talk about an LSU defense that held the Southeastern Conference’s No. 2 scoring offense (34.9 points a game), the No. 2 rushing offense (247.3 yards per game) and the No. 2 team in total offense (464.9 ypg) to three points, 112 net rushing yards and 193 total yards.”

It’s a nice story and very complimentary of LSU’s defense. Unfortunately, it’s not reality. I can’t find a single reference in The Advocate’s post-game coverage to the recent history of Auburn’s offense, and specifically the spectacular flame-out of Dead Arm Chris Todd.

And it doesn’t take much to understand the real story here – Auburn’s offense started the season really strong but has completely unraveled as their passing game disappeared and the team became one-dimensional. Through the first four games of the season (La. Tech, Miss. State, W. Virginia and Ball State), Auburn was averaging 526 yards and 45 points a game. Very respectable given two non-patsies early on. But after a decent performance against Tennessee (459 yards, 26 points), something went very wrong. The War Eagles managed just 375 yards and 23 points against Arkansas (No. 105 nationally in total defense) and then just 315 yards and 14 points against Kentucky (No. 59 in total defense). In those games, Auburn passed for 133 and 95 yards, respectively.

For whatever reason, Auburn no longer has a “high-octane” offense and is clearly not “one of the SEC’s best offenses”. That LSU held them to just 193 yards and 10 points is great – it would be really concerning if they hadn’t – but it’s important to understand the context. And that context is promising. LSU recognized Auburn’s weaknesses, game-planned to take advantage of them and executed really well. That approach will come in handy against a vulnerable Alabama offense.

We should have accurate context from the Baton Rouge paper. Very good things came out of the Auburn game, but apparently The Advocate doesn’t understand what they are.

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