The workweek is more than halfway over, and what better way to celebrate than by jumping straight into today’s Bayou Bengal Briefing. Today, we play a quick round of devil’s advocate, provide updates on the availability of some players for Saturday’s game and laugh at a little bit of irony. Let’s get to it.
The Devil’s Advocate: Leonard Fournette edition
I’m about to type a sentence that might induce a couple of nightmares: Leonard Fournette might not play Saturday. As you can read about here, Fournette is set to be a game-time decision when the Tigers take on Missouri this weekend. And, obviously, that’s a bad thing. Your team is worse when your best player is absent. (Unless you’re the New England Patriots, apparently.) But what if it wasn’t?
Let’s play devil’s advocate.
It’s obvious that a lot has gone on in Baton Rouge this week. There’s the matter of forgetting an old coach. There’s the matter of welcoming a new coach. There’s a new play-caller, new position coaches and a new practice schedule. On top of that, the team is coming off a devastating loss and its opponent is coming off a game where it put up a 70-spot. There are a lot of distractions.
So, there’s a chance that playing without Fournette might actually benefit the team.
I know, I know. It sounds crazy. But hear me out. Interim coach Ed Orgeron has been insistent on the idea that the new offense under his and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger’s tutelage is going to spread the ball around a little more and play looser. And what better way is there to breathe variety into an offense than for it to be unpredictable? When you have a player like Fournette, every play you don’t use him is an opportunity wasted. But when you’re limited to actual human football players, there’s more room for creativity.
And with that in mind, Derrius Guice might not be as big of a step back as one might think. There are only three players in the SEC who are averaging more yards per carry than Guice’s 8.24, and none of them are named Fournette. Yes, this is largely due to the fact that opponents don’t pack the box for Guice the same way they do for Fournette, but he’s still proven himself to be a more than capable spell. Not to mention the fact that Danny Etling’s best half of football this season, his first against Jacksonville State, came with Guice in the backfield, not Fournette.
Now think of this from Orgeron’s perspective. Coaching your first game without your best player is a win-win for a coach. If the team wins, he proved he can improvise and get results without his most dynamic weapon. If the team loses, people will blame circumstance instead of him. A Fournette injury shifts the blame away from the coach and onto the trainer’s table. Which could be good for the morale of the new coaching staff in the long run.
But hey, it’s just a theory. Maybe it’s a bad one. But that’s why they call it devil’s advocate, right?
Oh, Danny boy
Fournette might not be playing, but Etling will. Orgeron announced Wednesday on his weekly radio show that he’ll be sticking with Etling at quarterback but won’t be afraid to mix Brandon Harris in if Etling struggles.
LSU’s offense is looking for an identity. It looks like that identity might involve a little bit more of an aerial attack than LSU’s seen since the days of Zach Mettenberger. And how will that affect Etling? Well, if history is any indication, pretty well.
In games where he’s attempted 29 or fewer passes, Etling’s passer’s efficiency is 101.62. In games where he’s attempted 30 or more? 116.96. Of course, his overall record in both situations isn’t very good, but that has more to do with what surrounded him at Purdue than what he was or wasn’t doing.
The end (possibly) of the Davon Godchaux saga
On Monday, defensive lineman Davon Godchaux was arrested. Shortly thereafter, he was suspended indefinitely from football activity. On Tuesday, the charges against Godchaux, which included false imprisonment, were dropped. And Wednesday, Orgeron lifted Godchaux’s suspension.
That said, Orgeron wouldn’t say for certain whether Godchaux will be available to play Saturday. Godchaux is LSU’s fifth-leading tackler with 20 and he has two tackles for losses, both of which were sacks.
Orgeron said he wants to wait until he has all the information before returning Godchaux to the field, which begs the question: How much more information is there? Well, as it comes in, we’ll let you know about it.
Checking back in with the projections
Last Thursday, we broke down which historic teams ESPN and NumberFire projections said this year’s LSU team most closely resembles. Interesting enough, in the span of seven days, four of those five teams have changed. So, here are, according to advanced metrics, the 2016 LSU Tigers’ closest doppelgangers.
• 2003 Virginia Tech Hokies (95 percent match)
- Final record: 8-5
- Postseason: Insight Bowl (loss)
- Worth noting: One year later, Virginia Tech won the ACC and played in the Sugar Bowl
• 2006 Clemson Tigers (94 percent match)
- Final record: 6-5
- Postseason: None
- Worth noting: Clemson was 1-2 against ranked teams that season, all of which were on the road
• 2009 Pittsburgh Panthers (94 percent match)
- Final record: 10-3
- Postseason: Meineke Car Care Bowl (win)
- Worth noting: Pitt peaked at No. 8 that year before losing the last two games of the regular season
• 2015 LSU Tigers (93 percent match)
- Final record: 9-3
- Postseason: Texas Bowl (win)
- Worth noting: This team finished the year 3-2 against ranked opponents
• 2015 Georgia Bulldogs (92 percent accuracy)
- Final record: 10-3
- Postseason: TaySlayer Bowl (win)
- Worth noting: Like Les Miles, this was Georgia coach Mark Richt’s final year with the school.
Irony on the tweets
During his aforementioned radio show, Orgeron was asked about social media. He promptly admitted that he doesn’t even run his own Twitter feed. But within minutes of the show wrapping up, Orgeron “tweeted” this:
Great time talking about The Tigers on the radio show tonight!!!
— Coach Ed Orgeron (@Coach_EdOrgeron) September 29, 2016
Either Orgeron has a supreme flair for inside humor, or some poor sap scheduled this tweet before the show and didn’t remember to cancel the tweet in time. Either way, this deserves a good chuckle.
But it begs the question: Who gets the privilege of being Orgeron’s ghost writer? And do they have to type in coach O’s classic Cajun accent? Do they have to translate tweets from English into French back into English? There are so many questions that no one really cares to answer.
But whoever it is that’s in charge of Orgeron’s Twitter account, they sure have his energy down. Orgeron’s last five tweets contain a combined 21 exclamation points. Now, that’s excitement!