Bad call on pass interference tip in LSU game – reviewable?

Early in the second quarter of LSU’s loss to Georgia on Saturday, the officials waived off a pass interference flag against the Dawgs because it was very incorrectly ruled that the pass was tipped by a Georgia player at the line. The bad call ended an LSU drive and forced the Tigers to settle for a 51-yard Colt David field goal instead of potentially tying the game at 14.

Not the hugest of deals in the grand scheme of things, as David’s long field goal gave the Tigers three points in place of the potential seven. But I wondered at the time why there was no review of the call, no challenge by Les Miles and not even a timeout called to buy some more time for the officials to look at the play.

It turns out that Miles believes such an event is unreviewable:

Notwithstanding his nonsensical “basically, they have to pick the thing up and wave it off, otherwise you’ve got no shot” line (do what?), is he right?

I’m not so sure.

In the 2008 NCAA Rules and Interpretations (PDF), they have a section of interpretations – for the first time, it seems – about what’s reviewable. And it includes this example:

Seems to me that’s exactly what happened on the LSU play. I’d like to think big-time football programs keep law students as interns and on standby in the booth for just such moments, but I guess that’s not the case. And on the replay, Miles was talking to an official after the play, so maybe he was incorrectly told the play is not reviewable. Or maybe I’m reading that interpretation wrong and it’s not reviewable. On its broadcast, CBS said it was a reviewable call.

If the play is reviewable, it would be a shame for nobody on the LSU staff to know that, and more of a shame if the official incorrectly told Miles it wasn’t reviewable. And even more of a shame for the replay official to not realize it and stop the action. If Miles was told that by the official and didn’t independently know the reality, I guess he would have been at a loss to do much about it.

But I wonder what the protocol is to tell an official you think he’s wrong about the crew’s ability to review a play. I think probably you call a timeout without lodging an official challenge, and then use that time to get the official to think more about things.

This time, the badly blown call and lack of review was fairly insignificant to the outcome of the game. But put this call in the position of something like LSU’s drive-killing bad call against Auburn in 2006, and it’s something everybody ought to know the reality of and get right.

SEC Week 9 Recap

I’m a little shocked at how accurate my prediction was for what would go down in the LSU / UGA game. It was a game of poor defense ultimately decided by the capabilities of the opposing quarterbacks.

Jarrett Lee didn’t come through. He needed a big game with few mistakes. He had his best game by production (287 yards, 3 TDs), but also his poorest overall effort (three interceptions, 50% completion rate) on Saturday. In the simplest of terms, he lost this game for LSU.

Forgetting Lee’s mistakes for a moment, LSU was in control of the game. The Tigers actually had an effective run game early, with Charles Scott laying down 41 yards on LSU’s second possession. Mixing good passes in, LSU marched 72 yards with ease to tie things up at 7 – 7.

Sure, LSU had no defense early, but they clamped down on the Dawgs in the second quarter and got the game to 21 – 17 with five minutes to go in the half and the ball in Lee’s hands. But instead of driving the Tigers down the field to either take the lead with a touchdown or make it a one-point game with a field goal, Lee chucked a horrible pass into the UGA secondary, got picked off and ended up handing the Dawgs another three points.

That 24 – 17 lead became 38 – 24 after a disastrous third quarter in which Lee didn’t complete a pass and got yanked for Andrew Hatch. Only a big Charles Scott run kept the game somewhat close. Things, of course, got really out of hand with Lee’s third interception and not even the generous Georgia defense could save LSU at that point.

Gary Crowton had a great gameplan for Georgia. The Tigers dropped more rushing yards and passing yards on the Dawgs than any opponent this year (497 total yards – also LSU’s biggest output of the season) and only Alabama has scored more on the Dawgs. The ugly reality was that LSU had to put up big numbers to compensate for the horrible Tiger defense, and they did. With a competent quarterback, this would have been about a 48 – 45 win.

But the bigger problem does still lie in the Tiger defense. As Leslie himself said:

“It certainly has to be reviewed as to the specifics of what happened and who and why,” Miles said, and on the word ‘why,’ he put strong emphasis. He then went back and forth on if what defensive co-coordinator Doug Mallory is calling is too complicated or not.

“And if the answer is not an easy one, then it’s maybe can’t,” he said. “Can’t we call something that the guys can figure out? But to me just off mind’s eye from the game, I don’t think the coverage was particularly difficult. It’s not like we were involved in a bunch of combo coverages and a bunch of different things. It was pretty simple.”

Your problem, Mr. Miles, is that you don’t have a defensive coordinator. Mallory has position responsibility for the defensive backs – how much in-game coaching are they getting when their coach is sitting up in the press box trying to plan for the next UGA possession? If he’s on the phone with them explaining what they need to be doing, who’s planning the defense – the linebackers’ coach who also carries the ridiculous “co-coordinator” title? His guys also need a lot of in-game attention, you know.

After this week’s game, the Tigers sit at No. 35 nationally in total defense, No. 68 in scoring defense, and No. 61 in pass defense. The strong spot (if you can call it that) is that LSU is No. 27 in rush defense. And, not coincidentally, they have a full-time coach working with the defensive line.

To recap recent history:

- 2000: 46th in total defense (Phil Elmassian)
- 2001: 75th in total defense (Gary Gibbs)
- 2002: 8th in total defense (Will Muschamp)
- 2003: 1st in total defense (Will Muschamp)
- 2004: 3rd in total defense (Will Muschamp)
- 2005: 3rd in total defense (Bo Pelini)
- 2006: 3rd in total defense (Bo Pelini)
- 2007: 3rd in total defense (Bo Pelini)
- 2008: 35th in total defense (Nobody)

It’s not surprising that “nobody” is a better choice for defensive coordinator than Gary Gibbs, but it’s easy to see the effect of the coordinator role on defensive performance. Muschamp built the defense; Pelini maintained it; Miles destroyed it.

Elsewhere in the SEC:

I was surprised at the level of defensive collapse by Auburn Thursday night. Lack of a consistent offense wasn’t a shocker, but looks like it’s time for Tuberville to fire somebody else.

And I guess Duke winning was an upset. I blew the pick, so it has to be. Otherwise, Florida laid serious wood to an incomplete Kentucky team, Alabama was sufficiently ready for Tennessee, Houston Nutt got his revenge and Croom beat a patsy.

For the week: 5 – 2
For the season: 51 – 14

SEC Week 9 Predictions

Getting an early jump on the weekend action, what with Auburn playing Thursday night and me heading down to Baton Rouge Friday morning (Wisdom readers, let me know if you’ll be out at the game – capnken@betrsites.com). And let’s face it, there’s a lot to talk about.

Sure, the showdown with Fonzie next month now appears to be No. 13 LSU’s most important game, but No. 7 Georgia coming to town is a very big deal. The Dawgs have targeted LSU since somehow not being invited to play in the BCS Championship Game last year after finishing second in their division, the two teams haven’t met since the 2005 SEC Championship Game and the loser of this game is out of the BCSCG dance.

So, then, what to expect? I start any analysis of games by looking at past performance. My subjective views picking games are based in understanding recent history.

Here’s where the teams stand eight weeks in to the season:

Georgia – No. 26 nationally in total offense (46th in rushing, 22nd in passing), No. 35 in scoring offense. No. 12 in total defense (3rd in rushing, 66th in passing), No. 27 in scoring defense. Tossing out everybody’s patsy games, they’ve beaten 3-3 South Carolina, 1-3 Arizona State, 1-4 Tennessee and 3-2 Vanderbilt. They lost to 5-0 Alabama.

LSU – No. 40 nationally in total offense (36th in rushing, 51st in passing), No. 38 in scoring offense. No. 24 in total defense (16th in rushing, 51st in passing), No. 44 in scoring defense. Tossing out the patsy games, they’ve beaten 2-3 Auburn, 1-4 Mississippi State and 3-3 South Carolina. They lost to 5-1 Florida.

Both teams’ losses were high on the humiliation scale, so I’ll call 41 – 30 and 51 – 21 more or less a wash in terms of hammering statistical rankings. LSU comes out worse in that comparison, but they earned it.

There is, of course, one common foe – South Carolina. The Cocks put up 289 yards and 7 points on Georgia; 254 yards and 17 points on LSU. Georgia dropped 252 yards and 14 points on the Cocks; LSU put up 363 yards and 24 points.

Beyond the South Carolina comparison, LSU does not fare well in the statistical comparison. Neither team has a really significant win, and both lost to a quality opponent.

Georgia – notably – has been improving on defense, holding three of its last four teams under 250 total yards (Alabama put 324 on them) after giving up 599 yards to two patsies to open the season. LSU’s best defensive performances were against its two patsies to start the season, and the Tigers haven’t held anybody under 250 yards since.

On offense, Georgia has also rung up 400-plus yards in three of its last four games (Alabama, again, the exception) after a lackluster 252 yards put up on South Carolina. LSU cracked the 400-yard mark only once in its last four games – 427 put up on Mississippi State.

There’s a big imbalance there that concerns me. I expect Georgia to have the more powerful offense. But over the entire season and especially of late, the Dawgs outshine the Tigers on both sides of the ball. There’s not a lot of hope offered LSU in the numbers.

More subjectively, it’s important to look at the weaknesses of the two teams. For Georgia’s offense, it’s finishing drives. The Dawgs have scored 25 offensive touchdowns and made 15 field goals. And they have just two non-offensive scores (a punt return and an interception return). The high field goal to touchdown ratio coupled with the Dawgs’ penchant for penalties is why they are No. 26 in total offense but just No. 35 in scoring offense.

Much has been made of Georgia’s young and injured offensive line, but they still allow just 1.14 sacks per game.

For LSU, the offensive weakness is, of course, the quarterbacks. Jarrett Lee shows flashes of competence but remains young and shaky. And Andrew Hatch is Andrew Hatch. Our line protects well (one sack per game) and enables the run, but until our quarterbacks can really open up the offense and get the ball to LaFell, Byrd, etc. downfield, it’s too easy for good defenses to contain the LSU offense.

Defensively, both teams are weak in pass coverage, with Georgia performing worse than LSU there. But Georgia is in a better position to exploit poor coverage with Stafford at the helm.

Put these two teams on the field and have them run the gameplans we’ve been seeing from both, and Georgia wins on Saturday. That’s obvious in the numbers and past performance.

What LSU needs is a radical change in their approach to this game – and a lot of faith in Jarrett Lee.

Like with the brilliant plan put in place against Florida last year (keep the ball away from Tebow at all costs), Miles and Co. need a Georgia-specific plan this weekend. My suggestion is this:

- Georgia will move the ball and they will score points. Chances are Stafford will pick apart LSU’s poor coverage no matter what, so focus on heavy pressure, lots of blitzes and let what happens downfield happen. Don’t let receivers get behind the coverage and keep the Dawgs from getting the long touchdown – force them to execute a red-zone offense if Stafford beats the pressure. Chances are they’ll end up with a field goal or two instead of touchdowns.

- Jarrett Lee has to attack the Dawgs’ weakness, pass coverage. Hard. Trying to be conservative and take pressure off the young quarterback will result in Georgia bottling up the LSU offense. Open it up and air it out. The Tigers have to put faith in Lee to hit his receivers and not make stupid throws.

Yes, I’m calling for a shootout. It goes against LSU’s post-JaMarcus mentality, but it is what’s called for in this game. LSU’s pass coverage won’t stop Stafford, so try to stop him with pressure but expect a big day for the Georgia offense. And that will need to be countered by a big offensive show by LSU. Fortunately, Georgia’s weakness in coverage opens the door for that.

I think LSU’s defense will be up to the challenge, but it would be a lot to ask of Lee. Maybe he’ll have a career day, but I see him falling just short.

Georgia 44 – 42

Yes, I’m projecting not only an outcome, but also a strategy. If LSU tries to run its standard game, this one could look more like the Florida score.

Elsewhere in the SEC:

No. 2 Alabama at Tennessee: The hope for the Vols in this game lies with Bama’s last two games – a four-point win over Ole Miss and a three-point win over Kentucky. There’s nothing in the Vols’ performances this year that would suggest anything they bring to stop Alabama, but could two shaky games at home translate into an upset on the road for the Tide? I think it’s possible, but I’m not banking on it.

Bama 21 – 17

Kentucky at No. 10 Florida: The Wildcats lost their top running back this week to go along with losing their top receiver. Things unravel from here.

Gators 38 – 10

Auburn at West Virginia: West Virginia is the poster child for overrated teams in bad conferences, and I have a hard time picking them to win much of anything. And they’re in a rebuilding year. But Auburn gives me no reason to pick them to win against anybody these days, having lost to Vandy and Arkansas in back-to-back games. But maybe the week off will have helped Tubs pull together some kind of post-Franklin offense.

Auburn 23 – 17

Ole Miss at Arkansas: Houston Nutt coming home to play a bad Arkansas team and talking about how his Rebels could easily be 6-1. He has a lot to prove, and I look for him to do just that.

Ole Miss 31 – 20

Duke at Vanderbilt: The ‘Dores achieve their dream of bowl eligibility against Duke.

Vandy 21 – 20

MTSU at Mississippi State: The Bulldogs lost to a poor WAC team to open the season, but I think they have themselves together enough to not lose to a poor Sun Belt team now.

Mississippi State 28 – 17

SEC Week 8 Recap

It does not bode well. Not well at all. LSU should not have to “pull one out” against the likes of South Carolina. It should not take halftime adjustments to finally shut down a one-dimensional offense ranked No. 104 in rushing being led by a freshman starting his first game.

LSU’s offense is unspectacular, but that’s expected and should be OK. But it’s not. Last night the Tiger offense scored one more touchdown than the No. 7 offense in the SEC. Last week it scored four fewer than the No. 2 offense in the SEC. And this week the No. 1 offense comes to Baton Rouge.

We will not win a shootout against Georgia. We won’t be able to adjust ourselves out of a poor plan and poor play early (see Florida). Barring some bit of sorcery conjured up by one or both of the guys pretending to be our defensive coordinator, next week’s game could be very ugly.

Elsewhere in the SEC:

Georgia’s lackluster win over Vanderbilt does offer a measure of hope for LSU. I’m sure UGA fans will say “the Vandy game is always tough”, just like “the South Carolina game is always tough”, but the Dawgs still manage to make enough mistakes week in and week out to keep their opponents within striking distance. This was, though, a good week for Georgia to finally start finishing drives and not settling for field goals.

Alabama was lucky to come away with a win over Ole Miss. The Rebels outgained the Tide and held Fonzie’s boys scoreless in the second half after giving up 24 in the first. Losing Mt. Cody was a big blow to the Bama defense, but there’s something to this problem of finishing games. Cumulative scores by quarter for Bama and its opponents: First – 95-3, Second – 76-20, Third – 32-21, Fourth 23-47. I imagine it has a lot to do with the youth of the team and problems executing adjustments. Saban can gameplan them up real well during the week, but it’s harder to get them to adjust well during the game. Fortunately for Alabama, they execute real well to start games.

Tennessee can feel good about itself for rolling Mississippi State 34 – 3 thanks to two interceptions returned for touchdowns, but this was a 6 – 3 game at heart. Lots of problems remain for Fulmer. And I blew the pick.

Kentucky had to come from behind to beat Arkansas. Sad.

For the week: 4 – 1
For the season: 46 – 12

LSU’s glaring defensive problem is not on the field

Critics of two-quarterback systems like to say that when you have two quarterbacks, you really have no quarterback. And they’re right. Doesn’t the same, though, hold true on the sidelines?

LSU has two defensive coordinators, and therefore has no defensive coordinator. And it’s really starting to show.

The Tigers, of course, make their living on defense. In its 2003 championship season, the Tigers finished No. 1 in total defense; No. 1 in scoring defense. In last year’s championship season, the Tigers finished No. 3 in total defense and No. 17 in scoring defense (reflecting 38 points given in six overtime periods).

Going in to the South Carolina game, the Tigers were ranked No. 32 in total defense; No. 52 in scoring defense. And that’s not a statistical fluke of the humiliation at Florida. LSU gave up 320 yards and 21 points to an Auburn team that could manage just 208 yards and 13 points against Vanderbilt and 284 yards and 24 points to Mississippi State, which managed just 116 yards and 2 points against Auburn.

And tonight against South Carolina, the Tigers gave up 226 yards and 17 points in the first half before turning up the quarterback pressure and shutting down the Cocks in the second half.

The LSU defense is just not very good. It’s certainly not the kind of defense we’re used to.

Yes, the Tigers returned just five starters this year. Losing Glenn Dorsey, Ali Highsmith, Jonathan Zenon, Craig Steltz and Chevis Jackson surely had an impact. But the two-deep depth chart features seven seniors, eight juniors, three sophomores, three redshirt freshmen and just one true freshman. That’s 15 upperclassmen and seven underclassmen – the same mix LSU won a national title with in ’03. This is not a young, green team.

No, the glaring difference in on the sidelines. After losing Bo Pelini to Nebraska, Les Miles replaced his defensive coordinator with – nobody. Pelini did not have position-coaching responsibilities; he was focused solely on running the defense. Same with Will Muschamp when he was at LSU.

But now LSU has this ridiculous “Co-Defensive Coordinator” setup with defensive backs coach Doug Mallory and linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto also “sharing” the responsibility of running the defense. To fill Pelini’s parking space at the Football Operations Center, Miles hired Joe Robinson to take over special-teams duty from Peveto and help out with the defensive line (the one area of the defense that actually still has a dedicated coach).

And it’s not like Miles is a defensive coach like Nick Saban, whose defensive philosophy drives the strategy. Saban now has a Defensive Head Coach as well as Defensive Coordinator under him at Alabama, and those guys have position responsibilities as well. But there’s no doubt who’s in charge of the Bama defense.

Let’s see – our defense is in general disarray with the most troubling spots being pass coverage by the linebackers and defensive backs. Gee, that wouldn’t have anything to do with LSU not having one guy dedicated solely to any of those responsibilities, would it?

That, friends, is how you dismantle a defense.

With the possible exception of Will Muschamp, there’s not a defensive coach in America who wouldn’t have packed his shit faster than Tony Franklin and headed straight to Baton Rouge had Leslie dialed him up. Fonzie is at Alabama; Pelini at Nebraska and Muschamp at Texas as the most sought-after head-coaching candidate right now because of what they did on defense at LSU. It’s a fantastic stepping-stone for any defensive-minded coach.

And Miles hired – nobody. He didn’t even elevate Mallory or Peveto to the position. He eliminated it. Now LSU is left to overcome a problem when it should be strengthening a fantastic defense. That’s inexcusable.

SEC Week 8 Predictions

It’s a given that No. 13.0 LSU really needs to show its worth this weekend in Columbia against the Cocks. The humiliation at the hands of Florida last week left the college football world – and any Tiger fan with a brain – wondering what this team is all about.

And the No. 35.5 Cocks are on a four-game winning streak and sit on the brink of having a pretty good year after a 1-2 start. Their only quality victories, though, have come over Ole Miss and Kentucky in a pair of seven-point wins.

The Cocks are No. 1 in the SEC and No. 2 in the country in pass defense, allowing just 132 yards per game. And 8th-place in SEC rush defense is still No. 30 in the country, so Carolina is No. 3 in the country in total defense.

The Tigers supposedly have a good ground game, and turning Jarrett Lee loose to throw into Cock coverage seems rather ill-advised. But Carolina has no run game (last in the SEC, No. 104 in the country) and leans heavily on the pass. The key for the Tigers here is not giving up a lot of pass yardage and points so we don’t have to turn to our own pass game to keep up.

Unfortunately, LSU now sits at No. 9 in SEC pass defense and total defense, and No. 10 in scoring defense. That could be a problem. LSU does not want to get in to a touchdown contest with the Cocks.

This one concerns me. I’m not going to pick the Cocks, but my confidence is not high.

LSU 34 – 31

Elsewhere in the SEC:

No. 22.5 Vanderbilt at No. 9 Georgia: Vandy just doesn’t stack up well against the Dawgs – or against anybody, really. Except Auburn. We hope you enjoyed your time in the Top 25; good luck on that bowl eligibility thing.

Dawgs 45 – 17

Ole Miss at No. 2 Alabama: Imagine the Tide football complex … luxurious, high-tech and filled with pictures of the Bear and crimson-colored shag carpet. You have to think there are a lot of televisions in the complex, and you can bet your life that Fonzie has been playing Ole Miss’ win over then-No. 4 Florida non stop this week. The Kentucky scare was a great motivational tool for Saban, and combined with being able to show his kids what happened to Florida, you have to figure there will be a lot of focus and no let-down this week.

Bama 31 – 20

Arkansas at Kentucky: Could there be a less-compelling SEC game this season?

Kentucky 24 – 17

Mississippi State at Tennessee: The only game that could be less compelling than Arkansas / Kentucky. The only appeal here is the potential to watch Phil Fulmer squirm on the sideline and possibly be escorted out of the stadium and permanently off campus by his athletic director sometime in the second half.

Mississippi State 8 – 5 (3 OT)

Jordan Jefferson redshirt – can you do that?

From The Advocate (the Baton Rouge daily, not the national gay newspaper) this morning:

Miles said Wednesday that he “leaning toward” seeking a redshirt for freshman quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who has taken one snap this season and injured his right (throwing) shoulder on the play vs. Mississippi State. Miles said the final call will decide on how things play out the next few weeks with Lee and sophomore backup Andrew Hatch

From what I understand (correct me if I’m wrong), the “redshirt” opportunity is gone as soon as a player takes that first snap. What Leslie would be doing – and why this “shoulder injury” is key – is requesting a “medical hardship” for Jefferson to give him an extra year of eligibility. That hardship must be approved by the SEC.

Apparently that’s a fairly standard gimmick for getting a “redshirt” for a young guy who has just played a little, but it’s probably not the best strategy for Miles to tell the media that the “final call” depends on how well Hatch and Lee play in the coming games. Seems that if you’re seeking the medical hardship, the “final call” would be related to the player’s injury.

If the SEC actually considers the facts of a “medical hardship”, Leslie’s making it really easy for them to see this ruse.

SEC Week 7 Recap

Is there anything good to say about LSU’s performance in Gainesville last night? It was good to see some fight left in the Tigers down 20-0 with under a minute to go in the first half. Punching in touchdowns to end the first half and open the second half preserved a few ounces of self-respect otherwise squandered by LSU completely rolling over to Tebow & Co.

Mistakes by our quarterbacks, I get. Poor pass coverage, I get. The ball bouncing Florida’s way, sure, it happens. LSU faced some real challenges going in to the game in an extremely unforgiving environment, but the inability to run the ball or stop the run – I didn’t see that coming. Without those strengths on display, LSU didn’t stand a chance.

Give Florida credit for a great start. The Gators got a good break on the tipped-pass touchdown to open the game, and shut down LSU’s offense early. Four yards of offense and an interception – that was LSU’s first quarter. The lucky tip and two good Florida drives, and LSU was down 17-0.

But then LSU had a drive. Starting on its nine, LSU drove 42 yards on seven straight rushing plays to midfield. And then Charles Scott fumbled a bad handoff. Florida turned that into a field goal to go up 20. That LSU closed the gap to 14-20 with touchdown drives straddling halftime was impressive. The Gators, though, wouldn’t be stopped.

The next three series went Florida TD, LSU three-and-out, Florida TD. And it was over.

What was surprising was how Florida ran all over LSU. The Gators piled up 265 rushing yards, 103 of those in the fourth quarter after the game had been decided. After relying on Tebow’s arm early, the Gators turned to the run in the middle of the second quarter and really broke LSU’s back on the ground. The score that put the game out of reach was a 42-yard run, not a Tebow toss.

It was a lot to ask of the Tigers to stay in the game after turning the ball over twice, doing not much on offense and suffering the bad luck of the bounce to go down 20-0 in The Swamp. It was not a good night for LSU at all, but I’ll take the little ray of sunshine that was a 14-point comeback.

It’s not much, but I’ll take it.

Elsewhere in the SEC:

Georgia can’t be real happy with a 26 – 14 win over Tennessee that was within a touchdown going in to the fourth quarter. Holding the Vols to 1 yard rushing = very good. Giving them more points than they got on Northern Illinois = not so good. But the big concern for UGA has to be their dependence on the pass. That shows in scoring four field goals and two touchdowns. And that’s 16 points left on the field. You can get away with that against Tennessee, not so much against Florida.

And I guess CBS also has a hard crush on Knowshon, as they gave him the Player of The Game award for 101 yards on 27 carries (3.7 average) and no touchdowns. I suppose Mohamed Massaquoi’s 5 catches for 103 yards (20.3 average) and a touchdown don’t cut it against the Greatest Back Since Hershel Walker.

At least I got the pick right.

I said in my picks that if Mississippi State was 2-3 instead of 1-4 I would have picked them over Vandy. The ‘Dores are nothing special and I shouldn’t have given them a nod here.

God help Auburn after the loss to Arkansas. The program is really teetering on the brink of disaster now. Only managing 193 yards on offense against Arkansas (only Western Illinois had failed to put 300 yards on the Hogs) was bad enough, but couple that with giving the Hogs 416 yards of offense and things are not good with the War Eagles. I didn’t expect much from Auburn, but I expected them to at least beat Arkansas.

South Carolina pulled out the win at Kentucky, as expected. And lookee there, the Cocks are 5-2 after winning four straight. Bears a little more study now for the LSU game.

For the week: 2 – 3
For the season: 42 – 11

SEC Week 7 Predictions

LSU heads to The Swamp this weekend for what has become – sorry Auburn – the premier game on the Tigers’ yearly schedule. And this one’s a hard game to predict.

No. 11.5 Florida is a couple of fumbles, a blocked extra point and a better Tebow bull-rush away from being the No. 2 team in the country, and LSU is fortunate to have out-scored a team that just fired its offensive coordinator to rise to the No. 2.5 spot. Neither team has been spectacular, and the accomplishments of both this season are looking not as impressive in the rear-view mirror.

So what we have to analyze are the demonstrated strengths and weaknesses of each team.

For LSU, the clear weakness is pass coverage. Sitting 8th in the SEC in pass defense, the Tigers have laid their problems on poor on-field communication and late substitutions that leave guys confused and out of position. The good news in that is it’s a fixable problem, and LSU has had two weeks to tighten things up. More concerning is linebacker pass coverage, which has burned LSU since Darry Beckwith went out with an injury in the season opener. If Beckwith is back and at full-speed, the Tigers stand a chance to snuff out the Gators’ quick-pass offense. If not, there could be trouble.

Offensively, LSU still carries the risk of freshman mistakes by Jarrett Lee, which he’s clearly demonstrated his ability to make. On balance, he’s doing fine and LSU should be planning to lean on the run and slow the game down a bit this week, but the Florida game is one in which any mistakes made will be costly.

For Florida, their weakness is a lack of offensive identity and consistent execution. The spread of the Gators’ performance is remarkable – a rushing low of 89 yards and a high of 278; a passing low of 96 yards and a high of 319. The Gator offense gets what it can how it can, but it lacks a dominance that tends to be shown by consistent execution.

Defensively, Florida gave up 140 yards on the ground to Ole Miss and 141 to Arkansas after holding Hawaii to 60, Miami to 61 and Tennessee to 96 yards rushing. The 141 given up to Arkansas (which has the SEC’s worst rushing offense) hints at a potential weakness of the Gators and opportunity for LSU.

I really don’t think you can claim a clear advantage for either team – there’s too much unknown in what both of them are all about. I’ve watched LSU a lot closer, of course, so I’m more attuned to their weaknesses. But Gator friends of mine also lack a lot of confidence going in to the game, so I’ll take that as similar concerns on the other side.

LSU, though, has to have a solid game from Lee and not allow big gains from Florida’s air game. That much is clear.

Homer Pick: LSU 24 – 21

Elsewhere in the SEC:

Tennessee at No. 10 Georgia: Good lord it would be a calamity for Georgia to lose this game. The only X factor is that Tennessee realizes how bad they suck, so wholesale changes to their horrid offense could produce surprises, throw UGA’s game-prep off and maybe even result in points. But don’t count on it.

Dawgs 30 – 20

No. 14 Vanderbilt at Mississippi State: If Croom’s team was 2-3 instead of 1-4, I think I’d pick ‘em in this game. No, I don’t buy Vandy – not for a second.

Dores 11 – 8

Arkansas at No. 21.5 Auburn: Hey, former LSU quarterback Steve Ensminger is going to be running the Auburn offense now. There might be hope for the War Eagles after all. Another “God help them” game if Auburn were to blow this.

Auburn 13 – 10

South Carolina at No. 33 Kentucky: Looks like the Cocks have pulled things together a bit, and Kentucky hardly proved much despite staying within 3 (at the end) against Alabama.

South Carolina 27 – 17

Happy Anniversary, Earthquake Game

Today marks the 20th anniversary of LSU’s 7-6 win over Auburn in Tiger Stadium in what would become known as the Earthquake Game. If you’re reading this, you probably know all about the game, but LSU has the story should you require, and CBS has a video:

The moment has stood the test of time to earn a permanent place in Tiger football lore. It’s an exclusive group of plays – Billy Cannon’s punt return against Ole Miss and Bert Jones and Brad Davis’ last-second touchdown to beat Ole Miss are the other moments which are still fresh in the minds of LSU fans decades down the road.

Others may someday join the group, with last year’s surprise Flynn to Byrd touchdown pass with four seconds remaining to beat Auburn likely leading the contenders. But only time will tell.

For me, of course, the difference between Billy Cannon’s run or Bert Jones’ pass and the Earthquake Game is that this one was in my era. I was there, sitting in the student section right above the play. And the pandemonium that followed the touchdown was, indeed, something different and special. Many of us ended up a row or two in front of where we had been sitting and more than a few well-lubricated souls took full tumbles down into their fellow students below.

When everything settled down, there was a pair of Ray-Ban aviators lying on the bench next to where I ended up, which I claimed for myself. I have to think the transfer of shaken-off personal possessions that night was not insignificant.

And like just about every other LSU student, I made my way over to the seismology office in the geology building the next week to see the printout of the big shake they had taped up in the window.

Had the fine folks in the seismology office not publicized their finding, this game likely would have been just another nail-biter finish, and not permanent LSU lore. And truth be told, LSU fans shake the earth most every Saturday night, so the Auburn reading is not unique.

But lore doesn’t just come from a moment being extraordinary or ultimately really significant. LSU ended up 8-4 in 1988 and as SEC co-champion played in the Hall of Fame Bowl. The Earthquake Game was a spectacular moment in an unspectacular year. Of course, Bert Jones and company finished 1972 in the Bluebonnet Bowl and Ole Miss fans will tell you the timekeeper added back a couple of ticks to make the last-second touchdown possible.

Billy Cannon, of course, won himself the Heisman Trophy and stuck it to then-heated rival Ole Miss to score the only Tiger points in a matchup of the No. 1 Tigers and No. 3 Rebels. That his punt return overshadows the fact that LSU’s defense stopped Ole Miss with a goal-line stand at the end of the game to preserve the win shows that the “moment of lore” is something more than just a significant play. Cannon, who was also in on the final tackle on the goal-line stand (along with my one-time orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bo Strange), was LSU’s greatest star. And the punt return was his greatest moment – and the second most significant thing to happen in the game.

It’s still a cool run, though:

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