BATON ROUGE, La. — As you either know or are pretending you don’t, our country is in the midst of an unusual presidential election.
It’s been such an unusual election, in fact, that it would be hard to imagine any question that would surprise either candidate. But much to my chagrin, the moderators at last night’s debate didn’t ask any of the important questions: questions about LSU football.
So here are three of the questions I would’ve asked our nation’s prospective leaders last night if I had the chance.
Mr. Trump, you’ve described yourself as an excellent negotiator. What would you have done about the Florida-LSU situation if you were in Greg Sankey’s position?
I’m not sure how Trump would respond to the question, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he suggested that LSU would get to play the home game and Florida would have to pay for it.
Secretary Clinton, you’ve long supported same-sex marriage. What is your opinion on the legal union between a man and a kicking net?
It’s the issue every football fan found his or herself wondering about this weekend.
After former LSU and current New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. proposed to the Giants’ kicking net Sunday, the legality of a union between man and special teams equipment came into question.
I don’t think Clinton or Trump would come out in favor of Beckham’s unholy proposal, but Hillary would be more understanding.
Trump, who has spoken out against the Giants in the past, more likely would dismiss Beckham as a distraction.
Or maybe I’m just thinking of Beckham’s actual coaches and teammates. Either way.
A question for both of the candidates: Should the college football playoff selection committee apply the transitive property when making its final decision?
LSU has two losses. One is to Wisconsin and the other is to Auburn. Wisconsin has two losses. They are to Ohio State and Michigan. Auburn has two losses. They are to Clemson and Texas A&M. Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson and Texas A&M have a combined zero losses and are all ranked in the top six.
Therefore, LSU has only lost to teams that have lost to playoff teams.
As president, would either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton pass legislation to reward teams for their transitive losses? If they did, I can think of a few LSU fans who could be persuaded to change their vote on that issue alone.
It’s been such a long time
The Cleveland Indians advanced to the World Series yesterday.
It’s been a long while since the Indians last won a World Series. Sixty-eight years, in fact. The Indians haven’t been the kings of the baseball world since 1948.
Just how long ago was that? Well, for one, the 1948 LSU Tigers football team finished behind both Georgia Tech and Tulane in the final SEC standings. Tulane actually whooped the Tigers, winning 46-0. But at least the Tigers beat Alabama that year. That’s always nice.
For the sake of further comparison, the last time the Indians made the World Series was 1997. The Indians’ timing might be a bit of a bad omen for LSU. In this week in 1997, a ranked LSU team lost a home game to Ole Miss.
You are who you play like
If you’re an ESPN Insider subscriber, you have access to a nifty collaboration between ESPN and Numberfire that compares the college football teams of today to similar teams from the recent past.
This week, one of LSU’s comparisons stands out in a weird way.
The 2016 LSU Tigers are a 93 percent match to the 2008 Alabama Crimson Tide, a team that was very good. Nick Saban’s second year in Tuscaloosa was a great one, as he led the Tide to a 12-0 regular season, but lost to Florida and Utah in the SEC Championship Game and Sugar Bowl to end the season.
So what does a team that fired its head coach have in common with the team that kickstarted a dynasty? Oddly enough, more than you’d think.
|Statistic||2016 LSU Tigers||2008 Alabama Crimson Tide|
|Points Allowed by Game||14.0||14.3|
|Rush Yards Allowed by Game||103.7||74.1|
|Pass Yards Allowed by Game||208.3||189.4|
|Rush Attempts per Game||35.5||36.3|
|Rushing Yards per Game||228||184.6|
|Passing Yards per Game||180.5||171.1|
Defensively, the two teams played to the same result. As the table above shows, this year’s LSU defense has been just as good at preventing points as the ’08 Crimson Tide were. Proportionally, the percentage of rushing yards and passing yards allowed are pretty similar as well.
And offensively, the teams employed very similar attacks. The two squads run essentially the same amount of times per game, LSU more successfully, and pass to similar success.
So far, the biggest difference has been that LSU has lost its close games. When Alabama played close, including an overtime game against LSU, it won. The similarities are in place, though. Had it not been for one or two bounces of a football, the Tigers might be in the same position Alabama was eight years ago.
We’re two days away from LSU’s first of five-straight games against ranked teams. Here are some articles worth reading to get yourself ready for the big day.
- Something to watch for this weekend? The way LSU defenders shed blocks, writes Ross Dellenger.
- For defensive tackle Greg Gilmore, this weekend is personal. So is every weekend is, but still.
- Ole Miss can score fast. Apparently, so can LSU. You ready for a shootout?
- Fournette isn’t going to be on a leash Saturday. I don’t think there’ll be an electric fence either.
- SEC Country’s Sam Spiegelman has you covered on recruiting news. And pictures of himself.
- In basketball news, LSU was picked to finish 12th in the SEC. That’s not very high.
The best of the best?
LSU linebacker Arden Key was added to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list this week. The Bednarik Award is given to the nation’s best defensive player. But is Key even the best defensive player on his own team?
Safety Jamal Adams, cornerback Tre’Davious White and linebacker Kendell Beckwith are all nominated alongside Key. So if only one could win the award, which should it be?
The flashy money is on Key. Key leads the SEC in sacks, and for my money there’s nothing more exciting than a good sack. But Key also is great at self-promotion. And as shallow as that may be, it’s a huge factor in being recognized for awards.
The impressive money is on White. I would argue that in modern football, there’s no position harder to play well than cornerback. Any contact you make is a penalty, any pass that’s caught on your watch is blamed on you and teams throw more than ever. Which makes White’s shutdown nature all the more impressive.
As for Beckwith and Adams? They’re great pro prospects and they’ll make a bunch of money whenever they’re drafted. But plenty of college football players make a lot of tackles. They’re all substance and no flash. That’s great if you’re trying to win games. But for awards? It’s meaningless.
Just imagine how good it could be
Close your eyes and think about the offensive position group that’s made the best of a crappy situation this year.
You’re thinking of the running backs, aren’t you? That’s fair. Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams have performed astoundingly in Fournette’s absence. But that’s not the right answer.
You should be imagining the offensive line. According to rankings from Pro Football Focus, LSU has a top-10 offensive line in America this season. That’s with regular right tackle Toby Weathersby having missed half the season and NCAA freshman All-American guard Will Clapp missing last week’s game.
Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes isn’t often talked about, but he deserves all the credit for this accolade. Playing one offensive line position is hard enough. But Grimes has taught his players all how to play multiple positions and slot in where they’re needed, and do it well. Just ask Maea Teuhema, who has started at guard and tackle this year. Or Ethan Pocic, who has played center and tackle.
All of LSU’s injured linemen were back at practice Tuesday. If the whole starting lineup can play together again, Ole Miss might be in for a handful.
Arbitrary Analysis, Part 4
Ed Orgeron will be taking part in the world’s least comfortable family reunion this weekend when he coaches against Ole Miss, the school he led from 2005-07.
To honor that, this week I’ve been counting down the five best and most memorable players from Orgeron’s tenure as the head coach of the Rebels. Today, I unveil No. 2.
No. 2: LB Patrick Willis
The best NFL linebacker of his generation wasn’t recruited by Orgeron, but he posted the best years of his college career under Coach O’s tutelage.
In his two years under Orgeron, Willis was unstoppable. The linebacker recorded 265 tackles, 21 tackles-for-loss, six sacks, one interception, 10 pass breakups and four forced fumbles in ’05 and ’06. In both of those seasons, Willis was voted first-team All-SEC and All-America.
Before Willis, the last time a defensive player from Ole Miss was a two-time All-American was right around when the television was invented. The awards didn’t stop there. In the NFL, Willis was voted to seven Pro Bowls, five All-Pro teams, was thrice voted linebacker of the year by NFL alumni and, someday, will be elected to the NFL Hall of Fame.
Ed Orgeron may not be the reason that Willis became the player he was. But if he even molded him in the slightest, the world owes Orgeron a great deal of thanks.