LSU / SEC Week 12 Picks

What’s the difference between the 2008 LSU Tigers and the 2009 LSU Tigers? Georgia sucks this year.

Well, it’s not quite that simple, but after suffering through a very poor LSU patsy win last Saturday, this season is feeling a lot like 2008 – except that Georgia sucks. Last year, Georgia didn’t suck and LSU stood at 7-3 going into the final stretch against Ole Miss and Arkansas. And we suffered through a very poor LSU patsy win against Troy right before that.

But Georgia sucks, so LSU is 8-2 right now, not 7-3.

What’s really interesting is that ten games in, LSU isn’t much different defensively this year, giving up 311.8 yards per game compared to 311.1 yards per game ten games in to 2008. We’re 22 yards per game worse against the rush but 22 yards per game better against the pass. Minus the gifts of Jarrett Lee, however, LSU’s scoring defense is much improved at 13.7 points per game (compared to the pick six-aided 24.9 points per game of 2008).

Remember how the 2008 LSU defense was so horrible that Les Miles’ ridiculous “co-coordinator” experiment was ended and the high-profile John Chavis was brought in as the defensive savior? Kind of interesting that LSU’s defense hasn’t actually improved under Chavis this year but you don’t hear much grumbling.

I guess it’s hard to focus on the defense when your offense is this bad.

Last year at this time, LSU was averaging 394.2 yards per game. We are now averaging 310 per game, with rush yards down 44 and pass yards down 40 per game. Scoring has dropped off from 32.1 to 25 per game. And we’ve gone from allowing 1.2 sacks per game to allowing 2.7 sacks per game. And this, of course, with a “more experienced” quarterback, most of the skill guys back and the best offensive line Les Miles says he’s ever had.

Clearly there’s something wrong there. Some say Gary Crowton is over-complicating things; others say Jordan Jefferson just isn’t up to the task of leading an SEC offense. And others say the offensive line just lost too much this year (a theory I tend to agree with). But whatever the cause, it’s a glaring problem.

Which brings us to the No. 8 Tigers’ matchup with Ole Miss on Saturday. Last year, this game marked the beginning of the end for LSU’s season. The Tigers were still clinging to a No. 18 ranking with the prospect of finishing the season 9-3. It didn’t work out that way, of course.

Last year LSU managed a season-low 215 total yards against the Rebels and gave up 408 yards, which was behind only the totals given up to Florida (475) and Georgia (443) that season. And we lost, 31-13.

As I mentioned, LSU’s defense this year is about the same as it was last year; our offense is much worse. Ole Miss’ offense is about the same as last year (405 yards per game compared to 407 last year) as is their defense (313 yards allowed compared to 307 last year). The Rebels are coming off a 41-17 thrashing of a Tennessee defense that’s ranked right behind LSU, and they held the Vols to 112 fewer yards than their average production.

All of this, quite frankly, does not bode well. Even if LSU can contain McCluster and the Ole Miss offense, the Tigers will be throwing a gimpy offense (literally, with Jefferson, Dickson and Hebert semi-healthy at best and Scott out for the season) at a good Rebels defense that also happens to produce a lot of sacks (LSU gives up a lot of sacks even with a healthy quarterback and offensive line).

Ole Miss and LSU both have motivation in this game – the Tigers can finish in the top 10 with two wins to close out the year; the Rebels can reach nine wins by closing out strong. But I don’t see any advantage for LSU, especially on the road.

Rebels 31 – 9

Elsewhere in the SEC:

Kentucky at Georgia. A battle of two 6-4 teams (no, really), but these teams really aren’t comparable. Kentucky is a bad game by Auburn away from having one SEC win (over Vandy), and they’ve been generally pretty unimpressive. And while I say Georgia sucks, they are a much better team than Kentucky. Georgia needs this one bad. A win puts the Dawgs at 7-4 going in to a tough rivalry game against Georgia Tech; a loss leaves them scrambling for bowl eligibility – a term made for teams like Kentucky. I don’t see a ‘Cats win in Athens here.

Georgia 38 – 20

Mississippi State at Arkansas. The Bulldogs are staring at another 4-8 season if they don’t get past the Hogs. Arkansas still has a shot at 8-4. I don’t think MSU has the defense to slow down Mallett & Co. or the offense to fully exploit a weak Hogs defense.

Arkansas 45 – 31

Vanderbilt at Tennessee. Remember early in the season when LSU’s 23-9 win over Vandy was considered to be a great performance? Oh, right, the ‘Dores are 2-9 now and 0-7 in the conference. You have to figure Lane Kiffin and his daddy aren’t real happy with last week’s bad loss at Ole Miss. And Tennessee needs this one (and Kentucky next week) to reach 7-5 and claim bowl eligibility.

Vols 52 – 17

Patsies at No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama.

Florida and Alabama

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