BATON ROUGE, La. — In the second half of last Saturday night’s game, while the LSU defense was beating down on the usually vaunted Ole Miss offense, my teammate on the LSU beat, Alex Hickey, and I entered into a futile-and-headache-inducing debate.
We were trying to come to an agreement as to who is the best player on the LSU defense. Obviously, there is no correct answer. But, because we like to spread confusion, we took to Twitter and asked the question of you, the LSU fans.
Pop quiz, and not an easy one. Who do you feel is the best LSU defensive player?
— SEC Country LSU (@SECCountryLSU) October 23, 2016
Those of you who voted selected safety Jamal Adams from the group of four. On a Facebook Live chat earlier this week, more of you voiced your support for Adams when I asked a similar question.
The support for Adams is merited. He isn’t my choice, but he certainly seems to be yours.
ESPN doesn’t seem to agree with you.
In a rather unscientific experiment, ESPN has asked 10 of its writers to grade a group of players on a 1-10 scale. ESPN then compiles those votes and organizes them into their CFB Rank, a list of the 50 best players in college football.
Four LSU players slotted into this week’s countdown, but probably not the four you’d expect and definitely not in the order you’d expect. As follows, they were:
- Defensive end Arden Key (No. 19)
- Safety Jamal Adams (No. 31)
- Center Ethan Pocic (No. 37)
- Running back Leonard Fournette (No. 39)
A few things stand out about this order. First, and probably most obviously, grading Leonard Fournette as anything less than the best player on the LSU offense seems a bit foolish. Ethan Pocic is a good player and he deserves most of the praise he receives, but when Fournette is healthy, he’s darn near unstoppable.
But to get back to the original argument, the ranking of LSU’s defenders intrigues me.
Key gets most of the love for playing a flashier position. It’s hard to put together a series of highlight-reel worthy plays as an in-the-box safety who hawks around the ball and covers tight ends. But when your job is to get sacks, people notice when you get sacks.
This isn’t belittling Key’s dominance. If anything, I agree with ranking Key ahead of Adams. But that’s because I think there is a distinct difference between how valuable a player is and how effective a player is.
It’s hard to find players more effective than Adams. He does his job so efficiently that he’s often forgotten, because he takes his opponents out of games. But each sack carries more inherent value than a well-covered play from a win-probability perspective.
It’s all a matter of preference, I guess. There’s no way to settle this debate. But that’s just one of the many things that makes football so darn entertaining.
You are who you play like: bye week edition
This is usually the time of the week where I’d break down ESPN and numberFire projections for the week’s upcoming game. But obviously, there is no upcoming game. So, for this week’s “You are who you play like,” I’m going to take a look at the last five times LSU has posted a 5-2 record through seven games, to see what the Tigers might have to look forward to.
You can check out some information on those seasons in the chart below:
|Season||Final Record||SEC Championship?||Bowl Appearance?||Record Next Season|
|2014||8-5||No||Music City Bowl (loss)||9-3|
|2008||8-5||No||Chick-fil-A Bowl (win)||9-4|
|2006||11-2||No||Sugar Bowl (win)||12-2 (NC)|
|2004||9-3||No||Capital One Bowl (loss)||11-2|
|1997||9-3||No||Independence Bowl (win)||4-7|
Those five seasons walk a wide spectrum of how to build upon (or recover from) a 5-2 start. Most strikingly, LSU hasn’t done a good job of turning five-win starts into strong seasons in the last decade. But in the decade beforehand, LSU turned three different 5-2 starts into downright successful seasons, under three different head coaches no less.
More, maybe most, importantly, none of those teams went on to win the SEC. The last time an LSU team started 5-2 and went on to win the SEC was in 1988. And even that fact is a bit misleading, because two of LSU’s three regular-season losses that season came in its absurdly difficult nonconference schedule against Ohio State and Miami.
That said, since the Jerry DiNardo era ended, LSU has looked rather strong in the season following a year with a 5-2 start. The Tigers have gone on to earn nine wins each of the last four times this has happened, including winning a National Championship in 2007.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to read into this sort of thing, read away and make sure to buy your 2017 season tickets early.
The football team might be taking the week off from playing games, but that doesn’t give you the license to take the week off from reading. Here are some stories that you should read, from SEC Country and from across the Internet.
- Our Sam Spiegelman is on a recruiting visit at IMG Academy.
- Cornerback Dwayne Thomas made quite the guarantee about LSU’s game against Bama
- Ed Orgeron doesn’t handle bye weeks the same way he did at Ole Miss. Which is very good.
- LSU will hold a scrimmage where upperclassmen coach the underclassmen. What could go wrong?
- In LSU basketball news, the team is getting closer to anointing a starting point guard
- Joe Alleva’s emails got some people to thinking. This Florida situation is still silly.
Les makes more
USA Today Sports released its annual rundown of college football coaching contracts Wednesday, and you shouldn’t be shocked to know that LSU still owes Les Miles a good amount of money.
Miles ranks as the 13th-highest paid coach in America and the fifth-highest paid coach in the SEC with a salary worth more than $4.3 million. Miles, in case you have forgotten or just woke up from a monthlong coma, is no longer LSU’s head football coach.
If you take a deeper look, you can find some information on coaches who LSU might be pursuing to replace Miles. Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, for example, is college football’s fifth-richest coach with a $5.25 million contract and a ludicrous $33 million buyout clause. Houston coach Tom Herman is the highest-paid coach outside the Power Five conferences with a contract worth a little more than $3 million. And, just for fun, Frank Wilson, former LSU assistant and head coach at Texas San Antonio, makes $835,000.
Reliving the glory days
Matt Flynn is always welcome in Baton Rouge.
The starting quarterback and leader of LSU’s 2007 National Championship team, Flynn is an LSU legend on status alone. That status seems to be enough for Orgeron to have invited Flynn back to campus Wednesday to speak with his squad.
— Matt Flynn (@mflynn3) October 27, 2016
Even Flynn, a veteran of locker rooms that included notable energetic personalities including Clay Matthews III and Richard Sherman, remarked on the energy swing Orgeron has meant for LSU.
But don’t think Flynn is the kind of guy who might jump ship on Miles, the man for whom he won a National Championship. If you need proof, here’s a tweet Flynn sent out in September:
— Matt Flynn (@mflynn3) September 25, 2016
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein released a scouting report on Fournette on Wednesday. And to whom did Zierlein choose to compare Fournette to? None other than Auburn legend, Heisman Trophy winner, video game cheat code and Kia spokesperson Bo Jackson.
Zierlein said he was tempted to compare Fournette to Minnesota Viking and future Hall of Fame star Adrian Peterson, a better running back than Jackson was, but thought that comparison would’ve undercut Fournette’s size. So he settled on Jackson.
Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape to see if the comparison is valid.
|Leonard Fournette||Bo Jackson|
|Size||6-foot-1, 230 pounds||6-foot-1, 230 pounds|
|Freshman Totals||1034 yards, 10 TDs||829 yards, 9 TDs|
|Sophomore Totals||1953 yards, 22 TDs||1213 yards, 12 TDs|
|Junior Totals||670 yards, 5 TDs*||475 yards, 5 TDs|
|Most Watched YouTube Video||High schoolers try to tackle Fournette||Angry Bo Breaks Baseball Bat|
|Drafted?||N/A||Round 1, Pick 1 (1986)|
Ok, yeah. I get the comparison.
But the two guys played in completely different eras. If Jackson played today, half of his mythos would’ve been gone. There’s no way Jackson’s youth coaches would’ve let him keep playing both baseball and football, and that’s doubly true of his college coaches.
It’s the same reason that Fournette isn’t running track at LSU. He probably could. But football has to be his main focus.
Also, for as good as Jackson was, if he was draft eligible today, there’s a borderline 0 percent chance he would still be picked No. 1. Same thing with Fournette. Running backs are just used differently nowadays.
Still, any time you’re compared to a living legend, you take it as a compliment.