BATON ROUGE, La. — I know that the LSU football team is two days away from playing its biggest game of the season. But it wouldn’t feel right to start today’s column off with anything but baseball.
The Chicago Cubs won the World Series on Wednesday. Well, they actually won it Thursday morning. By defeating the Cleveland Indians, the Cubs won their first World Series since 1908. When Teddy Roosevelt was the President of the United States.
And, oh yeah, the LSU Tigers were insanely good.
It’s laughable just how well the 1908 LSU football team played. Sure, the Tigers played teams such as Southwestern Presbyterian and The Young Men’s Gymnastic-Club of New Orleans, but the team went 10-0 en route to a conference championship.
But it wasn’t just the fact that they won. The Tigers outscored their opponents 442-11. That’s not a misprint. They beat Baylor 89-0. They beat Mississippi A&M 50-0. They beat the Jackson-Barracks of New Orleans 81-5. The only close game was a 10-2 win over Auburn in what was just the fourth-ever meeting between the two programs.
That said, some people don’t give LSU credit for its 1908 championship. Namely, LSU was accused by some of using professional players, which, 108 years later, is still pretty much the No. 1 no-no in college football.
As with all old-timey teams, the most fun part of looking back at the 1908 Tigers is reading the old-fashioned names. Their quarterback was named Doc Fenton. There were halfbacks named Rowson and Clarence and tackles named Marshall and Oren. It was a different time.
And a great year for Cubs fans and LSU fans alike. It’s yet to be seen if 2016 will work out the same way.
You are who you play like
Every Thursday, with the help of some nifty data collected by numberFire, I take a look at the historical team LSU is projected to be the most like. This week’s selection is a bizarre one, but a memorable and interesting comparison nonetheless.
With 95 percent similarity, numberFire likens the 2016 LSU Tigers to the 2006 Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Now, it’s important to remember before you revolt, there was a period when Rutgers was good. And it started in 2006, when the Knights finished No. 12 with an 11-2 record and a Texas Bowl championship.
Aside from the 11-2 record, though, what’s the comparison? Well, behind future NFL star (and later pariah) Ray Rice, Rutgers had an electric rush offense. And thanks to defensive whiz Greg Schiano leading the coaching staff, the defense was stout too. Look at these comparisons:
|Statistics||2006 Rutgers Scarlet Knights||2016 LSU Tigers|
|Points Per Game||29.8||29.9|
|Rush Yards Per Game||180.2||239.9|
|Pass Yards Per Game||164.9||183.9|
|Points Allowed Per Game||14.7||15.0|
|Rush Yards Allowed Per Game||106.8||104.1|
|Pass Yards Allowed Per Game||152.9||209.7|
Those numbers are downright eerie, right? A tenth of a point difference in offense, three-tenths of a point difference in defense. LSU is a little more reliant on the run than Rutgers was, but by proportion the two teams still are within 5 percent of each other in their run-pass splits. And the teams have effectively identical run defenses.
And in 2006, putting up those numbers in the Big East was still respectable. Sure, it wasn’t the SEC. But three teams from the Big East, including Rutgers, finished with at least 11 wins and among the top 12 in the nation. Plus, Rutgers handed No. 6 Louisville its only loss and was a three-overtime loss away from upsetting West Virginia in Morgantown, which would’ve won the Scarlet Knights the conference.
Point is, there are worse teams to be compared to.
We’ve got a big weekend ahead here in Baton Rouge. Here are some words for you to read to get ready:
- NCAA president Mark Emmert was on LSU’s campus Wednesday and commented on Ben Simmons’s thoughts on the one-and-done policy.
- LSU versus Alabama will come down to LSU’s offensive line versus Alabama’s defensive line. Good luck.
- College GameDay will be on LSU’s campus Saturday. Where? Here.
- What will playing at Tiger Stadium as a true freshman quarterback look like for Jalen Hurts? ESPN’s David Ching asked that very question.
- Danny Etling watched Alabama-LSU from his bed last year. This year? He’s the starting QB.
- Selfish plug: I broke down tape on all of Leonard Fournette’s 19 carries against Alabama last year. It was rough. But here’s what I found.
In Wednesday’s Bayou Bengal Briefing, I asked you guys for your second option.
If not Ed Orgeron, who do you want to be LSU’s next head football coach? The options were: Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, Houston coach Tom Herman, UCLA coach Jim Mora Jr. and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
Fisher and Herman did a nice job of splitting the vote, but ultimately Fisher won out with 41.3 percent of the vote compared to Herman’s 36.3 percent.
Holgorsen and Mora tied for third place with respectable marks of 11.3 percent of the vote.
That said, when I ran a similar poll last week that included Orgeron as an option, a resounding Greek chorus of you guys selected Orgeron over Fisher, Herman and the rest of the gang. It’s clear that Ed still is the fan favorite to get the job.
And a win against Alabama this Saturday can only help solidify his chances.
Tight end Thursday
Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is dangerous. Orgeron has repeatedly referred to Howard as the best tight end his Tigers have faced, unintentionally throwing shade at Ole Miss’s Evan Engram. And Orgeron might be right.
In a stacked Alabama receivers room, Howard has still managed to catch 22 passes this year for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns. Among SEC tight ends, only Engram and South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst have more yards.
But we all know the stats don’t tell the whole story. Because we watched the national championship last January.
Howard caught 5 passes for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns against Clemson last year, leading the Tide to a national title. But what made Howard so effective in that game was that he caught Clemson by surprise. Howard had 5 catches in Alabama’s previous five games prior to that point, so no one expected him to be such a potent pass threat.
Now, LSU is prepared. And safety Jamal Adams did a nice job of shutting down Engram two weeks ago, holding the SEC’s leader in yards per game to 15 yards on 3 receptions. There isn’t much of a reason to be afraid of Howard if you’re an LSU fan.
There are far more potent scoring threats on Alabama, from quarterback Hurts to wide receiver Calvin Ridley to the defense and special teams as a whole. Howard is a great weapon, but he’s usually expendable in the grand scheme of Alabama’s strategy.
Arbitrary Analysis, part 4
To celebrate LSU’s matchup against Alabama, I’ve spent this week counting down my five favorite scenes from Forrest Gump, a movie about the world’s most famous fictional Alabama alum.
Today, I unveil No. 2 on my countdown. Be sure to check back to the Briefing on Friday for No. 1 on my countdown.
No. 2: Run Forrest, run!!!!
Ah, the scene that sparked one million catchphrases.
Running is the most obvious motif throughout Forrest Gump, and it’s all because of this season. From a young age, Forrest was taught that the best way to escape problems is to run away. And he trusts this is true because Jenny taught it to him. And he’ll always trust Jenny.
Full disclosure: As a child, my favorite line in this, arguably the most quotable movie of all time, was: “If I was going somewhere, I was runnin’!” So this scene has sentimental value.
Is it a ridiculous concept? Yes. Is it physically impossible that a child in leg braces could run that fast? Of course. But is it an awesome scene? Yes.
Not as awesome as my No. 1, though. And I bet you can’t guess what I’m going to pick. No really. You’ll probably never guess.