BATON ROUGE, La. — The numbers don’t lie. Through three games, Ed Orgeron is the most successful coach in LSU history with a 1.000 winning percentage.
The numbers, however, are about to get a heck of a lot more truthful as Coach O finishes the year running the gauntlet that includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M.
But we aren’t concerned with those games just yet. This is an analysis of how Orgeron and LSU have graded in their first three games together. Spoiler alert: So far, so good.
Under Les Miles and Cam Cameron, the LSU offense was a push lawnmower. Not a push mower with a combustible engine, mind you. The old-school kind that people who look like this guy still use.
Orgeron and new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger have upgraded to a riding mower and clicked off the governor switch.
In four games under Miles, LSU averaged 21 points and 339.5 yards per game. Of those yards, only 147.8 per game came through the air.
Under Orgeron, LSU is averaging 536 yards per game and 41.7 points per game. The Tigers have eclipsed 200 yards passing in all of those games, averaging 232 per game.
It’s hard to argue with anything he’s done on that side of the ball because, well, you can’t.
Missouri, Southern Miss and Ole Miss all came to Tiger Stadium with powerful offenses that had success against opponents, win or lose. That success stopped against LSU. All three teams scored their season-low in points when facing the Tigers.
Ole Miss, the best team of the three, did move the ball on LSU like no one else has this season in the first half on its way to 21 points. But the Rebels could do nothing after halftime. Tight end Evan Engram, the top receiving target in the SEC, was rendered a non-factor with three catches for 15 yards.
LSU’s defense already was rolling under Dave Aranda before Orgeron was promoted to head coach, but with linebacker Duke Riley emerging into a playmaker the caliber of Kendell Beckwith, Jamal Adams, Arden Key and Tre’Davious White, it is only getting better.
Special Teams: C+
In every week since he has taken over, Orgeron has emphasized the need for the Tigers to improve on special teams. They have not been particularly bad, but nothing extraordinary has happened despite having a punt returner (Tre’Davious White) and kickoff returner (Donte Jackson) capable of delivering special returns. (White had an amazing return for a touchdown against Jacksonville State before Miles’ firing, while Jackson has had a couple of long returns negated by penalties.)
However, punter Josh Growden is making noteworthy gains after a nightmare season debut against Wisconsin. He averaged 44.8 yards per punt against Ole Miss with a long of 57 and two downed inside the 20.
LSU entered the season ranked in the Top 5, and while other highly touted teams like Stanford, Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Michigan State have all watched their seasons go by the wayside, Orgeron has returned LSU to the team people thought it would be. All it took was his trademark energy and a little bit of imagination on offense.
Another potential factor: Orgeron cut down on LSU’s practice time throughout the week. The Tigers clearly have been fresher than their opponents in the second half, outscoring them 73-7 in three games.
They do, however, need to get off to quicker starts. Some sloppy play and penalties helped Southern Miss and Ole Miss go to halftime tied with the Tigers. LSU’s upcoming opponents are more capable of turning early mistakes into bigger deficits. Slow starts haven’t become a big deal yet, but if the habit continues it will eventually bite LSU.
When Orgeron took over for Miles, most folks gave him little-to-no chance of being able to keep this job on a permanent basis. But he has done all the right things engaging the fanbase and former players, and now he’s picking up the on-field results to go along with making the right moves off the field.
These next four games will expose any weaknesses Orgeron has as a coach. But so far they have been nearly impossible to find.