BATON ROUGE, La. — From Alabama’s dominance to Washington’s emergence to Lamar Jackson straight jumping over fools, there have been plenty of notable stories in college football this season. But, in my mind, none have been as surprising as the utter demise of the SEC East.
Three teams from the SEC East were ranked in the preseason edition of the AP Top 25. But in this week’s edition of the College Football Playoff standings, less than three months later, the SEC East was the only Power 5 division that didn’t have a representative in the top 25.
Which got me to thinking.
The main reasons LSU is still ranked right now are the strength of its losses and the way the Tigers have pounded on inferior competition, especially since Ed Orgeron took over. But what if LSU played in the SEC’s lesser division?
Using the magical what-if machine that is the human brain, we can answer this question. Let’s assume LSU played Missouri’s schedule, an easy transfer to make since the two schools have already played each other.
We can automatically mark down Missouri’s two wins against Eastern Michigan and Delaware State as victories for LSU. If Missouri can beat two teams by a combined 119 points, I’m fairly certain LSU could eek out a couple of victories. And though Missouri lost to Middle Tennessee State, I’m going to mark that as a win for LSU, too. The Blue Raiders are good, but no match for LSU.
Then comes the fun part. You get to replace LSU’s conference games of Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss and Alabama with games against Georgia, Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina. Using ESPN’s Football Power Index as a predictive index, LSU would be heavily favored to win in all of those games, with a matchup against Florida proving to be the most difficult of the tasks.
And the last test, or first depending on your vantage point, would be the season opener. Instead of playing No. 7 Wisconsin in Green Bay, LSU would face No. 16 West Virginia in Morgantown. Given the way LSU played at the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Mountaineers come out on top in that one. But it really is a coin flip.
What do you think? Vote in the poll below to chime in on what record LSU might have if it played an SEC East schedule.
Three things: Arkansas edition
That was a fun thought exercise, but let’s snap back to reality. In the real world, LSU has a game to play this weekend against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
When they’ve been at their best, there haven’t been many teams that have played like the Razorbacks. But at its worst, Arkansas has looked dismal. Here are three trends to watch for when the Tigers and Razorbacks match up Saturday night:
1. Arkansas likes having the football
No team in the FBS averages a higher time of possession than Arkansas. The Hogs hold the ball for more than 35 minutes per game, which doesn’t sound very long until you consider that LSU’s average is down around 29 minutes per game. If left to its intentions, Arkansas has a way of draining clock better than anyone else in the business.
2. Arkansas is willing to gamble in close games
Just because it handles the clock well doesn’t mean Arkansas is a run-only offense. Arkansas has the SEC’s third-most efficient pass attack this year and has proven willing to throw in tie games. No SEC team has gained more yards through the air than Arkansas when games are knotted up, and only Ole Miss and Florida have had more effective aerial assaults when leading between one and seven points.
3. Arkansas isn’t great on third down
The Razorbacks rank 108 out of 128 FBS teams in opponent third-down conversion rate, allowing foes to convert at a clip of 44.6 percent. Among SEC teams, only Kentucky’s defense has been less effective on third down.
You are who you play like
In last week’s edition of “You are who you play like,” I outlined the eery similarities between the 2016 LSU Tigers and the 2006 Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Well, just as numberFire projects similar teams, numberFire also projects historical games that are comparable to this week’s matchups. And, wouldn’t you know it, the ’06 Scarlet Knights are back.
With 87 percent comparability, LSU-Arkansas matches with the 2006 contest between Rutgers and Cincinnati. And, believe it or not, that game had a huge ripple effect on the history of college football.
Long story short, Rutgers came in undefeated, but Cincinnati won. Cincinnati’s coach at the time, Mark Dantonio, parlayed the victory into a head coaching job at Michigan State, where he’s become arguably the best coach in program history. Cincinnati then turned around and hired Brian Kelly, who later took Notre Dame to a national championship game.
If you’re an LSU fan, I bet you’d be happy if just one of the coaches in this game turns out to be as good as Dantonio or Kelly. Granted, of course, that that coach is Ed Orgeron.
Even slow news weeks in Baton Rouge are packed with intrigue. Here are some of the best stories that you might’ve missed in LSU sports over the last couple of days:
- For Ed Orgeron and Danny Etling, playing Arkansas might mean a little more.
- The Advocate’s Scott Rabalais has a three-step plan for beating Alabama in 2018.
- Derrius Guice only touched the ball twice against Alabama. No way that’s happening again.
- LSU’s offensive line didn’t look great against Alabama. Here’s how coach O wants to fix that.
- Pro Football Focus ranked Tre’Davious White among its top-10 draft risers from this year.
- Our recruiting expert Sam Spiegelman picked a fantasy Survivor team using LSU players.
- Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has some interesting thoughts on the Golden Boot trophy.
Cross one name off, flip one back on
It looks like the first domino in the 2016-17 head coaching search has fallen.
Fresno State, one of the other schools with a head football coaching vacancy, has made a decision as far as who its next head coach will be.
— Fresno Bee (@FresnoBee) November 10, 2016
As SEC Country’s Alex Hickey pointed out on the Twitter machine, that keeps LSU in the mix for Fresno State alum and sought-after offensive coordinator and head coaching candidate Lane Kiffin.
If Lane Kiffin is moving on next year, you can cross the alma mater off the list. Hmm… https://t.co/Pv9MHhJUU4
— Alex Hickey (@bigahickey) November 10, 2016
As I say every time I bring up Kiffin, I know that Kiffin doesn’t have many fans around these parts. But there’s no doubt he’d be an upgrade to Steve Ensminger as LSU’s OC. And he might be an upgrade to Orgeron as head coach, too, depending on your interpretation of Kiffin’s tenure at USC.
It’s all speculation at this point. And if I were Kiffin, I wouldn’t leave Alabama for anything short of a prime head coaching position. But LSU is one of those. So, it’ll be interesting to see what happens.
The other National Signing Day
Wednesday was the beginning of the early signing period for most college sports, meaning that high school athletes could sign their paperwork to play at the next level starting then.
Here’s a link-for-link rundown of the next generation of LSU sports:
- The men’s golf team might have the best recruiting class in the nation.
- The volleyball team signed three players.
- The baseball team signed a handful of players, including this guy.
- Here’s a miscellaneous list of Baton Rouge-area kids who signed, including to LSU.
Today is Nov. 10. Let’s finish today’s Briefing by looking back at the last time LSU played a football game on Nov. 10.
On Nov. 10, 2012, a roster stocked to the brim with future NFL stars led LSU to its 13th consecutive win over Mississippi State, 37-17.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger led the Tigers with an outstanding QBR of 88.1, out of 100. The tandem of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. (pictured) combined to rack up 13 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown, and Jeremy Hill led all rushers with 48 yards on 15 carries.
For Mississippi State, the game represented the move toward a changing of the guard. The Bulldogs came into the game ranked, marking the slow change toward national respect. And they also turned to a backup quarterback named Dak Prescott for one drive. Prescott promptly completed his only pass attempt for a 9-yard touchdown.
The game won’t go down as an historic one, but it extended LSU’s win streak on Nov. 10 to three games, one that still stands today and will until at least 2018, the next time the 10th falls on a Saturday.