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LSU running backs Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice

Bayou Bengal Briefing: Getting philosophical with Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice

Nick Suss

Welcome to SEC Country’s daily morning column covering LSU football with LSU beat writer Nick Suss. Today, we discuss running backs getting deep, drives ending short, basketball games staying close and much more.

Twitter psychology

Being famous is hard.

I don’t say that from knowledge. I’m just as anonymous as anyone else in Baton Rouge. But anecdotally speaking, famous people seem to resent their own fame.

Just take Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. It’s hard to be more famous in Louisiana right now than those two. Fournette is the state’s golden boy, the man who was supposed to carry Louisiana on his shoulders and for two-and-a-half years, he kind of did. And Guice is the Steve Young to his Joe Montana, the Aaron Rodgers to his Brett Favre. He’s the heir apparent. And a damn good one at that.

But Wednesday, neither one of them seemed to be particularly happy with their status.

Let’s start with Leonard’s unique predicament.

As someone who has been in Tiger Stadium and heard the ovation Fournette gets when he runs out onto the field, I can say he got a little more back than just hate.

But it’s hard to blame him for thinking the way he is. There was so much blowback from fans who resented Fournette’s decision to sit out the Citrus Bowl. It’s almost startling how quickly a certain sect of the LSU football fan base turned on the man who it had all but anointed its savior.

The above tweet was a culmination of a five-tweet-long rant that included such confrontational lines as “They will come and they will go” and “If a man show a flaw, that means that flaw really exist.”

I’m no psychologist, but that seems pretty obvious to me: Fournette wants you to know he wasn’t faking his injury. He really was hurt. And he doesn’t appreciate anyone insinuating otherwise.

Now to Guice. The rising junior is at another stage of fame. While Fournette is dealing with those trying to tear him down, Guice seems to be struggling with all the positivity.

“Wish I could live the normal life,” Guice tweeted. “Not really a fan of all the attention.”

I’ll admit. I’m pretty guilty here. Here I am writing about Guice today. A whopping two days after I last wrote a Bayou Bengal Briefing about him.

But Guice is going to get attention. He’s the star of one of the most popular college football teams in the country and he’s considered a Heisman Trophy frontrunner. The attention isn’t going to go anywhere.

So long as the attention doesn’t turn negative, though, Guice should be OK.

LSU football analytics break

On Thursdays in the Bayou Bengal Briefing, I like to take a look at LSU football from a more analytical angle. So, today, let’s talk about sustainability.

One of the biggest problems the LSU football team encountered in 2016 was that its offense couldn’t quite find a way to stay on the field long enough. As I’ve mentioned before, LSU ran the fourth-fewest plays in college football in 2016, but thanks to big plays from Guice and Co., the offense made up for that flaw.

But thanks to some data I compiled from cfbanalytics.com, I think we can look a little deeper at why this was the case.

Stat Result National Rank
Average Drive Start Own 29 113th
Average Yards Per Possession 34.4 29th
Percentage of Possible Yards Gained 48.4% 42nd

LSU ranked among the top 30 teams in the country in yards per possession and in the top 50 in percentage of possible yardage gained. But the issue is that LSU just had too much yardage to gain.

Out of 128 teams, LSU ranked 113th in field position, starting its average drive on its own 29-yard line. As a frame of reference, Alabama ranked No. 6 in the country in field position, starting on average at its own 35-yard line.

Six yards doesn’t seem like much of a difference. But when you consider that LSU and Alabama gained an identical amount of first downs per possession (1.65) and LSU actually gained more yardage per possession (34.4) than Alabama (33.7), you start to understand how vital those six yards can be.

A 34-yard drive from the 29-yard line gets you to your opponents’ 37-yard line. From there, a field goal is 54 yards. But a 33-yard drive from the 35? That’ll take you to the 32-yard line and a much more manageable 49-yard field goal.

Football isn’t really a game of inches. It’s a game of yards. And every additional yard pays off.

Three things: LSU basketball versus Auburn

The LSU basketball team went back and forth versus Auburn on Wednesday night, but the Orange and Blue Tigers eventually took down the Purple and Gold ones. Here are three observations from the game:

Thing 1: LSU’s interior showed up to play

Despite the loss, LSU set a new season high for rebounds in a single game with 46 and offensive rebounds with 22. Forty-two of LSU’s 74 points came from inside the point and another 10 came from the free throw line. Effectively, 73 percent of LSU’s offensive production came from being aggressive and pounding Auburn. That’s an uplifting sign, if even just for the offense.

Thing 2: Aaron Epps is getting better

Epps was thrust into LSU’s starting lineup when Craig Victor was kicked off the team last month, and he’s done serviceably. But Wednesday night, he actually played great. Epps posted his first double-double of the season with team highs in points (15) and rebounds (13). He also played 34 minutes, which is by far a career high. His previous best was 29 versus North Florida in November.

Thing 3: Eight minutes of Elbert

Elbert Robinson had himself a ballgame Wednesday night. The big fella only played eight minutes, but he put up 8 points with 3 rebounds. He also drew 1 foul and gave out 3. Even in his limited action, Robinson led the Tigers in +/- with a +15 rating and was the fourth-most productive LSU played by PER.

ICYMI

News moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and read it once in a while, you could miss it. Here’s a smattering of some of the biggest LSU football news you might’ve missed Wednesday:

Arbitrary Analysis, part 4

Friday is Inauguration Day. Depending on how you read calendars, that makes Thursday either the last day or the penultimate day of Barack Obama’s presidency.

To commemorate the occasion, we at the Bayou Bengal Briefing have been counting down the LSU football team’s biggest and most memorable wins of the Obama administration. Monday, we discussed No. 5. Tuesday was No. 4 and Wednesday was No. 3. Today, I unveil my No. 2 pick.

No. 2: LSU wins the conference (2011)

Winning the SEC is always an achievement. Dominating the SEC Championship Game is something else entirely.

Tyrann Mathieu and the 2011 LSU Tigers blew out Georgia in its home state, crushing the Bulldogs, 42-10. But people forget LSU trailed 10-0 deep into the second quarter of this game. Until, of course, Mathieu broke the game open with a punt returned for a touchdown.

Mathieu returned four punts for 119 yards and a touchdown that day, two of which are in the highlight reel above. But what might be even more astounding than that is that LSU pulled off a 42-10 victory while only completing 5 passes. That’s not a misprint.

LSU completed only 5 passes for 30 yards and still blew Georgia off the field.

But that’s what happens when you score on a punt return and a pick six. That, and you win the SEC in the most dominant season in the conference’s history.

Check back to the Bayou Bengal Briefing for our No. 1 pick for the best LSU football game of the last eight years.

Let’s go bowling one more time

A handful of former LSU football players will be taking part in college all-star games and NFL showcases over the next couple of weekends. Here’s a quick reminder of which players to watch and when to watch them:

  • On Saturday, edge rusher Tashawn Bower, defensive end Lewis Neal and offensive lineman Josh Boutte will compete in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. That game takes place in Carson, Calif.
  • Also on Saturday, tight end Colin Jeter will participate in the East-West Shrine Game. The Shrine game won’t be too far from the last place Jeter took the field. This time he’ll be in St. Petersburg, Fla., as opposed to Orlando.
  • Next weekend, center Ethan Pocic, cornerback Tre’Davious White, linebacker Duke Riley and wide receiver Travin Dural will participate in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Pocic, White and Dural will wear their regular numbers, while Riley will lace up wearing No. 0.

Yesterday in weird LSU football news

Former LSU safety and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark signed on as a member of the Louisiana Bootleggers’ coaching staff on Wednesday.

In case you’re not familiar with the Louisiana Bootleggers, they’re a 7-on-7 team that harvests Louisiana talent and showcases it in camps and tournaments.

Clark seems like he’s the right guy to mentor these kinds of kids looking for exposure. So much of the focus on 7-on-7 goes to offensive guys. You know, quarterbacks and receivers. The fun ones.

But DBs are necessary, too. And I know this is Louisiana, where it seems like defensive backs grow on trees. Still, someone has to be there to pick these guys off the trees so they can pick off passes from the QBs.

So here’s to you, 7-on-7 leagues. You got yourself a good coach.

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