Semi-endorsed: Special LSU uniforms for Tulane game

It”s hard not to get behind the charitable/awareness effort by Nike being organized for the LSU/Tulane game in New Orleans this weekend. The city can use the attention, and the Tigers playing the Greenies in NOLA is a great opportunity for that.

The big deal, of course, is Nike mucking around with LSU”s fantastic, “look at me, it”s 1950!” uniform. White jerseys, purple and gold shoulder stripes, gold helmet, gold pants. It”s just the way the world works.

But this weekend, we get:

Purple jersey with only a hint of shoulder stripes, white helmet, white pants. Outside of the context of helping New Orleans, this is totally not cool. Again, I”m hesitant to tear apart a noble effort, but these are some ugly-ass uniforms.

On the shoulder is the special Nike Pelican/Phoenix logo:

I”m not sure I understand why the Peliphoenix has flowing blonde hair (credit: extraface), but the logo has a bit of a throwback Deco feel to it, so for a good cause I”ll accept that instead of stripes on Tiger shoulders … for this one game.

More troubling, though, is the inexplicable “eye of the Tiger” on the special white pants:

I would like to make this perfectly clear – the “eye of the Tiger” crap is ridiculous and I”m embarrassed that the logo continues to live at the 50-yard-line of Tiger Stadium. It was pathetic to associate LSU with the band Survivor and Rocky III back in the 1980s, and it”s disgusting that LSU still embraces the “eye”. To see the logo spread to our uniforms is troubling to say the least. I fear it will become a permanent fixture.

If this special uniform is a one-off thing only for the Tulane game, fine. But giving Nike a foot in the door of LSU uniform design is more than a little concerning.

LSU must look like this:

Not this:

The first Harris Poll of 2007

I”ll start this with my usual caveat – polls don”t matter this early in the season (and the AP poll doesn”t matter at all). But it”s worth noting that the first Harris Poll of the season looks remarkably like the coaches poll and AP poll. We”re supposed to believe, of course, that the learned Harris voters have spent the first four weeks of the season studying the teams, watching games and evaluating the results of those games to come up with their rankings. That”s the point, of course, of not starting the Harris Poll until now – pre-season bias is supposed to be exorcised from the equation.

So let”s consider the state of the season so far to see which team would most logically be called “No. 1″ right now.

There are 20 teams that are 4-0 and three teams that are 3-0. It”s reasonable to give strong consideration to undefeated teams. Now, a real basic question to get to “who”s the best team right now” is not only “how many games have you lost?”, but also “how many games have you won?”. All things being equal, a team that has won four games is undeniably more accomplished than a team that has won only three.

Eighty percent of Harris Poll voters declared this week that one of the 3-0 teams is No. 1.

Another reasonable question would be “who have you played?”. The NCAA publishes a basic “toughest schedules” report that gives you a nice view of the cumulative records of a team”s opponents. That”s a basic view, of course, and digging deeper into opponents” opponents will give a better sense of schedule strength, but I”m sure the Harris voters still have day jobs.

Eighty percent of Harris Poll voters declared that the team with the 32nd-toughest schedule so far is No. 1. Not the undefeated team with the 12th-toughest (Oregon), or the 21st (LSU) or also the 21st (Wisconsin), or also the 32nd (Ohio State). And, of course, all of these but Harris” pick for No. 1 have won four games, not three.

Then there is the question of how well have the teams performed.

Eighty percent of Harris Poll voters declared that the team with the 23rd-best total offense, 13th-best scoring offense, 25th-best total defense and 27th-best scoring defense (against the 32nd-toughest schedule) so far is No. 1. Not the team with the 3rd-best total offense, 1st-best scoring offense, 5th-best total defense and 8th-best scoring defense (Oklahoma – against the 56th-toughest schedule). Not 26th / 16th / 1st / 1st against the 21st-toughest schedule (LSU). And, once again, it”s the team that”s played three games, not four, that is No. 1.

To recap – 4 out of 5 Harris Poll voters say their No. 1 team:

- Is No. 21 in total wins
- Is No. 32 in strength of schedule
- Is No. 23 in total offense
- Is No. 13 in scoring offense

- Is No. 25 in total defense
- Is No. 27 in scoring defense

What, exactly, about the Harris Poll”s No. 1 team is No. 1?

Among the 23 undefeated team, here are the leaders:

- No. 1 in total wins: 20 teams tied
- No. 1 in strength of schedule: Oregon
- No. 1 in total offense: Oklahoma
- No. 1 in scoring offense: Oklahoma
- No. 1 in total defense: LSU

- No. 1 in scoring defense: LSU

LSU has played a much harder schedule than Oklahoma, but the Sooners have incredible balance in their offensive and defensive rankings. A good case could be made for either team being No. 1 at this point in the season – a much better case than anybody could make for why the supposedly non-preseason-biased Harris Poll would arrive at their choice for No. 1 by a landslide 80 percent vote.

It seems the key resource most Harris Poll voters use in filling out their ballot is the current AP poll rankings. For a poll that was created specifically to avoid pre-season bias, that”s just unforgivable.

SEC Week 4 Recap

I”m jumping right in to recap yesterday”s LSU and SEC action – because I was so darned right. LSU absolutely destroyed South Carolina on the ground yesterday, rolling up 290 yards on 50 carries spread out to eight different players (including kicker Colt David – shalom!). Jacob Hester pounded the line, Trindon Holliday dared the Cocks to catch him and Ryan Perrilloux played the Tebow role to perfection – 8 carries for 59 yards. I hadn”t counted on Holliday and Perrilloux contributing so much on the ground, but I”m still getting used to this Crowton offense.

On a rainy field with a gimpy Matt Flynn and no Early Doucet, the Tigers” passing game was ineffective, totaling only 70 yards on eight completions. The play-by-play includes an awful lot of “Matt Flynn pass incomplete … right before “Patrick Fisher punt …”. The only question in my mind is why would LSU even throw the ball 20 times in those conditions when so many spread-offense rushing options were available. The bright spot in the air was tight end Richard Dickson, who – I believe – may be the only tight end LSU has ever thrown more than one ball to in a single game.

On defense, LSU was untouchable on the ground, only giving up an unreal 17 rushing yards. And that was with just three sacks contributing negative yardage. South Carolina”s running backs managed just 43 yards on 24 carries. I would have liked to see LSU finish stronger – 136 of Carolina”s 261 yards of total offense and 9 of their 16 points came in the last 10 minutes of the game – and the Cocks” other touchdown was set up by stupid LSU penalties, so as Leslie would say, those are things to work on.

But all in all, LSU”s performance yesterday was impressive. No letdown in a game that was ripe for one. And just enough mistakes to remind the Tigers that they need to be sharper when the Gators come to down in two weeks.

Elsewhere in the SEC:

Georgia brought Fonzie”s Army back down to Earth with a quick-strike overtime closer. Alabama may have more talent, but despite what Tide fans began to believe, Nick Saban is not God and turnarounds don”t happen instantly, even in Tuscaloosa.

Arkansas should have handled Kentucky, but once again they seemed unwilling to control the ball late in the game. The Hogs” yards gained by quarter – 1st: 131, 2nd: 238, 3rd: 49, 4th: 63.

By contrast, Kentucky toughened up after giving Arkansas nine quick points on a safety and ensuing kick return for a touchdown. The Cats could have folded at that point – down eight early in the fourth quarter after a disastrous turn of events. Instead, Kentucky powered through on the back of their fourth-string running back and launched three straight scoring drives, piling up 172 yards and 21 points in the last 11 minutes of the game.

Kentucky deserves tremendous credit for taking control of the game and pulling out a tough SEC win. Arkansas needs a quarterback and an offensive coordinator.

Down in Oxford, Ole Miss made Florida work for the win, but that”s how it goes in the SEC sometimes. The Gators will lose style points to Oklahoma in the polls, but the outcome of their next four games – Auburn, LSU, Kentucky, Georgia – is all that matters.

Auburn, Tennessee and Mississippi State all took care of business and rolled up expected wins.

For the week: 6 – 1

For the season: 29 – 6

SEC Week 4 Predictions

It looks like LSU might be in for a rainy afternoon of football tomorrow. Going on that assumption, I”m looking forward to an ugly, sloppy affair best suited to the ball-control stylings of Mr. Matt Flynn. Let”s hope he”s driving the bus tomorrow. The Cocks, of course, are high on life after beating Georgia two weeks ago. But what do Spurrier”s boys really bring to the table? Wins over two total patsies (UL-Lafayette and S. Carolina St.) and a Georgia team that isn”t looking quite as cool nowadays – their only win of significance came in the opener against Oklahoma State … which was humiliated by Troy last weekend.

South Carolina is dead last in the SEC in rush defense (192 yards a game) and sixth in total defense despite their easy road to three wins. In each of their three games, an opposing running back has hung a hundred (in each case, the back”s highest yardage total) on the Cocks, and S. Carolina St. put up more ground yards against South Carolina than they did against Bethune-Cookman.

Mr. Spurrier, meet Jacob Hester, Keiland Williams, Charles Scott and Richard Murphy. If the game goes to the ground because of the rain (or just because it”s likely to work really, really well), LSU has a battery of backs to throw at a weak Cock run defense. LSU is fourth in the SEC with 231 ground yards a game, though it”s still to be determined how tough of a schedule the Tigers have faced.

LSU”s air game is a big question mark this weekend with Early Doucet out, Matt Flynn suspect and that tropical depression on the way, and South Carolina is much stronger against the pass (second in the SEC in pass defense). So with matters of personnel and environment uncertain, pounding the Cock run defense seems like the smart plan.

On offense, the Cocks are nothing to write home about, sitting sixth in the SEC in rush offense and ninth in passing offense. They played their opener without Blake Mitchell, however, and you can count on Spurrier going deep into his bag of tricks to try to move the ball against the staunch LSU defense (first in the nation in total defense and scoring defense, first in the SEC in every defensive category they have).

Talent, past performance and the home field are clear advantages for LSU. South Carolina has the evil genius on their side, and could get help from Mother Nature and LSU injuries. A muddy field with Ryan Perrilloux in charge? Not LSU”s ideal situation.

LSU 17 – 13

Elsewhere in the SEC:

No. 20 Alabama hosts No. 21 Georgia. Fonzie has his boys believing; UGA is feeling down having lost to South Carolina and after seeing Oklahoma State get beat by Troy. But Matthew Stafford does his best work in the state of Alabama. I don”t think Georgia is particularly strong, but I sense a mid-rebuild Tide letdown. Georgia 24 – 21

No. 3 Florida at Ole Miss. The Rebels are not good, especially on defense. Florida is really good on both sides of the ball. Gators 52 – 6

No. 23 Kentucky at Arkansas. Kentucky”s powerful air attack against Arkansas” bad pass defense. Arkansas” powerful ground attack against Kentucky”s bad run defense. Which will prevail? I”m going with the Hogs for their ability to control the ball for longer periods of time. Arkansas 31 – 28

New Mexico State at Auburn. Is it at all possible that the Tigers could lose three straight games at home to South Florida, Mississippi State and New Mexico State? With what Auburn calls an offense, yes. But I have to think at some point these losses stop happening. Auburn 10 – 7

Arkansas State at Tennessee. The Vols are reeling after being destroyed by Florida and not being able to match Cal TD for TD. Arkansas State stayed within 8 points of Texas. But I see the Vols not blowing this one. Tennessee 34 – 20

Gardner-Webb at Mississippi State. Yes, Gardner-Webb. A chance for the guys at ESPN to say more nice things about Sylvester Croom. Mississippi State 13 – 10

SEC Week 3 Recap

It was good to see the LSU machine hum right along without Matt Flynn and Early Doucet Saturday night. It sounds like Doucet is not likely to play against Carolina this weekend, and Flynn is a question mark as well. Some real game experience for Perrilloux and the younger receivers may come in handy. At this point, I”m ready to call LSU “really good” given total domination over a then top-10 team, an MSU team that showed themselves to be capable of winning an SEC game and MTSU, which has an offense that”s capable of doing much more than LSU let them.

Big Test No. 2 will come Saturday.

Elsewhere in the SEC:

Auburn, of course, stunk up their joint again, falling to Mississippi State. The only pick I blew, and more than offset by my upset pick of Kentucky over Louisville.

Florida steamrolled Tennessee to assert their dominance over the SEC East and Alabama showed they”ve got some guts this year by coming from behind to close out Arkansas.

For the week: 7 – 1

For the season: 23 – 5

SEC Week 3 Predictions

So before the games actually start today, how about some predictions? No. 2 LSU is hosting the Blue Raiders of MTSU in a pillow game between Virginia Tech and South Carolina. MTSU put up 42 points on No. 9 Louisville last week, so they have a powerful offense. Or Louisville”s defense is just that weak – the Blue Raiders only managed 14 points against Florida Atlantic in their opener.

I”m tempted to call this a scare game that gets closer than it should. But I”m going with the as-expected outcome.

LSU 41 – 10

Elsewhere in the SEC:

No. 3 Florida hosts No. 24 Tennessee. The Gators have looked strong on both sides of the ball, and Tennessee has yet to show they can stop anybody on defense. Florida 38 – 31

No. 16 Arkansas at Alabama. Trickeration by Arkansas vs. Nick Saban”s defensive brain. Alabama has looked solid enough on offense, but neither team has faced much of a test yet. Alabama 17 – 16

South Carolina State at No. 23 South Carolina. Spurrier”s scrimmage before the trip to Baton Rouge. South Carolina 38 – 10

Western Carolina at No. 24 Georgia. Angry, angry dawgs. Georgia 45 – 7

No. 9 Louisville at Kentucky. The team that”s all offense and no defense vs. the team that”s mostly offense with a little defense. Kentucky 70 – 66

Mississippi State at Auburn. The Tigers enter SEC play with an unimpressive win over Kansas State and a loss to South Florida. Their hopes to stay relevant in the conference start here. Auburn 20 – 13

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt. I like the “Dores here. Vandy 27 – 15

SEC Week 2 Recap

Once again, too late and not enough time to do things justice. But here we go: Polls don”t matter right now, and being No. 2 is just as good as being No. 1. So I don”t care that the coaches didn”t move LSU to No. 1 ahead of USC, but I”d like to understand the logic for not doing so.

LSU”s steamrolling of Virginia Tech was among the most dominating Top 10 smackdown in recent memory. In every aspect of the game, LSU simply destroyed the Hokies – then ranked No. 9 in the polls. The Tigers were scary impressive while No. 1 USC had the weekend off.

An objective viewer would see that a team that is 2-0 averaging 46.5 points a game scored and 3.5 given up against a weak in-conference team on the road and a Top 10 team at home is more deserving of the No. 1 ranking than a 1-0 team that only beat a weak second-tier conference team at home 38-10. But it doesn”t matter. Long way to go in this season.

However, the display LSU put on last Saturday takes us from potential for greatness to an expectation of it. Unless Virginia Tech turns out to be Michigan in Hokie clothing, Leslie clearly has the talent and the gameplan to go through our favorable schedule unscathed.

We”ll know more about Arkansas and Alabama come Saturday, but clearly Auburn is beatable and only Florida has shown any signs of being on LSU”s level, albeit against Western Kentucky and Troy. The wildcard is South Carolina, who beat a Georgia team that seemed strong in their opener. The Cocks won”t be tested this week before coming down to Baton Rouge Sept. 22.

Elsewhere in the SEC:

- I blew the Auburn and Georgia picks thanks to those squads blowing their opportunities to win games that were within reach. The coming weeks will tell if these were bad outings by good teams or a sign of things to come.

- I also blew the Mississippi State / Tulane pick. Way to go, Sylvester.

For the week: 6 – 3

For the season: 16 – 4

SEC Week 2 Predictions

So week 2 … it”s late; I”m tired, so mostly quick picks here. No. 2 LSU, of course, has the marquee matchup against No. 9 Virginia Tech Saturday night. If ESPN has any time to show the game between tributes and vignettes on the Va. Tech shootings and Hurricane Katrina, here”s what I expect to see:

- The Va. Tech offensive line looked really weak against East Carolina. Yes, East Carolina. Look for LSU”s defensive line to dominate. The QB for Va. Tech – who is not particularly good – will need to play well for the Hokies to have a chance to score points.

- Neither LSU or Va. Tech showed much on offense in their first games, so the question is what will we see out of the teams this week. I do believe LSU was holding back, and I expect the Tigers to be more successful than the Hokies on the offensive side of the ball.

So, in the end, I see two good defenses and two questionable offenses. And I think LSU has a better chance of pulling together an effective offense.

LSU 20 – 13

Elsewhere in the SEC:

Troy at No. 3 Florida: More of the same from last week. Florida 52 – 10

South Carolina at No. 12 Georgia: The Bulldogs opened much stronger last week; Carolina has question marks from week 1 suspensions. Georgia 31 – 17

South Florida at No. 13 Auburn: A somewhat chic upset pick, but I don”t buy it. Auburn 28 – 15

Southern Mississippi at No. 24 Tennessee: Vols will not be happy after the Cal loss. Tennessee 45 – 14

Alabama at Vanderbilt: Fonzie”s SEC opener. Alabama 31 – 20

Missouri at Ole Miss: Missouri 28 – 17

Kent State at Kentucky: Kentucky 42 – 15

Mississippi State at Tulane: Tulane 14 – 10

SEC Week 1 Recap

Just a tad late on this one (look for the Week 2 preview later today). Trying to think back to a week ago Thursday, the LSU / MSU game played out pretty much as I expected. The LSU offense sputtered and seemed to have trouble adjusting to the new schemes and new guys on the O-line, and I do hold out hope that Crowton was saving the good stuff for this week”s game against Virginia Tech.

On defense, absolutely no complaints about the Tigers. Not that it was a tough game, but the results were pleasing.

I had picked this as a 24-10 game, and I think the math works out that if you take a 24-10 game and add six interceptions and a fumble, you get 45-0.

Elsewhere in the SEC:

I blew the Tennessee / Cal pick, as I stupidly thought the Vols might be able to stop the Bears on at least one drive. Stupid me.

Georgia took care of Oklahoma State, and in more impressive fashion than I had predicted. Auburn had to come from behind to beat Kansas State, but that always seemed like the outcome for that game. And all of my other picks were right, with the biggest surprise being Alabama throwing 52 points up on their patsy.

So in week one, Tennessee stumbles but no other real surprises. Indications are that Georgia is good and Florida still has an offense. We”ll learn a lot more this weekend.

For the week: 10 – 1

For the season: 10 – 1

SEC Week 1 Predictions

Can you smell it? That”s college football in the air. Unless you”re actually in Starkville for tonight”s game, in which case you”re probably smelling something else.

I”ve been trying to convince myself that today is Saturday, as Thursday night football makes Jesus cry. But nonetheless, LSU swings into action as the first spotlight game of the year against Mississippi State tonight, so let”s kick it.

Is there anything about MSU that gives them hope tonight? Not that I can think of. Even the potential for a confused LSU offense and inexperience in the defensive backfield shouldn”t be much of a factor in this game. Ideally, the Tigers make a big statement with a blowout, but I”ll cut expectations just a bit given all the changes and this being the opener.

Prediction: LSU 24 – 10

Elsewhere (Saturday) in the SEC:

No. 15 Tennessee at No. 12 Cal: After getting embarrassed in Knoxville last year, the Bears are hoping to redeem themselves and the Pac-10″s reputation as the SEC”s bitch at home. Ainge has hurt his pinky, but I”m still going Vols. Tennessee 38 – 31

Oklahoma State at No. 13 Georgia: They say Leslie”s former team is better than people think. And how tight will UGA be for a non-cupcake opener? I can see this one going either way, but the fashionable choice seems to be OSU. So I”ll go against that. Georgia 17 – 14

Kansas State at No. 14 Auburn: Wow, a fourth real-game opener for the SEC. Well done, best conference in America. Auburn 27 – 17

Western Kentucky at No. 3 Florida: Tim Tebow”s first attempt to a) play (almost) an entire game; b) play like regular QBs do; c) not get his neck broken trying to gain an extra yard on a run. Florida 56 – 13

Western Carolina at Alabama: Biggest question will be whether W. Carolina can draw more fans than Fonzie”s first appearance at the spring game. Alabama 27 – 10

Troy at No. 20 Arkansas: At least these are Trojans the Hogs can handle. Arkansas 31 – 17

ULL at South Carolina: Yawn. Cocks 45 – 13

Ole Miss at Memphis: Traveling to Memphis to open the season. Wow. Ole Miss 17 – 14

Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky: The Cats will turn it loose to try to look good. Kentucky 42 – 13

Richmond at Vanderbilt: I care not at all about this. Vandy 3 – 2

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