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Thursday, October 30, 2008

LSU can beat Bama

BATON ROUGE - It may suddenly not seem likely that LSU will beat Alabama a week from Saturday in Tiger Stadium, but I believe it could.

It is good that LSU is playing a weak Tulane team Saturday in order to prep itself for the mighty, undefeated and No. 2 Crimson Tide. LSU has been working on parts of its Alabama game plan this past week as it prepares to play Tulane. Teams often do this when playing arent-a-win opponent, which is what the Green Wave is. So, LSU has the best of both worlds. It sort of has an open week to regroup after the disastrous loss to Georgia, but it has a game on Saturday so as not to be sluggish or rusty for the next Saturday.

LSU has plenty of time to repair some things on defense and put some new things in. It can try some of these things against Tulane or try new players against Tulane to get their feet wet. Look for that to happen on defense. More good news is the fact that Alabama does not have as dangerous an offense as do Florida and Georgia.

The Tide is No. 1 in the SEC in rushing offense 205 yards a game, but it's pretty average in the passing department. Alabama is No. 10 in pass offense with 165 yards a game. Quarterback John Parker Wilson is much improved under new coordinator Jim McElwain. Major Applewhite was just not ready for that job last year and moved on. Wilson is No. 4 in the SEC in passing efficiency (right behind Jarrett Lee) with a 133.7 rating.

Alabama will surely move the ball on LSU. Doesn't everybody this year? But it will not hang 50 or 40 on the Tigers. If LSU can hold it in the high 20s or low 30s, the Tigers will have a good chance of winning. Only Florida stopped LSU's running game this season, and LSU really was out of that game early, which was the main reason the running game stalled.

LSU will be able to move the ball against Alabama very well. The Tide's pass defense is only No. 9 in the SEC with 200 yards a game, just ahead of LSU.

LSU also has more talent than Alabama. It just has not been playing well and has not been coached well. This is the LSU coaching staff's chance to save its season and show people what its got.

I sincerely hope LSU does beat Alabama for I don't think I will be able to take another week of the incessant whining, excuses, transfer of blame and other delusional behavior from LSU fans and from the those fans disguised as media members. The only reason LSU has lost these two games by so much is because it is just not any good so far this season. It has one more chance to show it is a good team on Nov. 8.

I'm worried about some of these fans and some in the media. They're going off the deep end. One grown man even called a radio show in tears after the Georgia loss. LSU needs a big win bad. Until Nov. 8, stay off the bridges.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Les, lay off Lee

BATON ROUGE - Apparently this losing when allowing 50 or more points is affecting the normally nice Les Miles.

On Saturday after the game, on Sunday night with reporters, on Monday afternoon at his press luncheon and again on Wednesday morning on the Southeastern Conference teleconference, Miles opened fire on redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee.

Enough is enough already. It's really amazing, coming from Miles, who is viewed as this coach whom players love.

And I believe they really do and want to play for him. Lee, though, may want to play well for the rest of the season to get back at Miles, which can be a good thing, too.

I would like to ask Lee that, but naturally he has not showed for any interviews since Saturday. But you can't blame him, because the person most at fault for the 103 points allowed by normal Florida and Georgia teams has also not had to show for interviews - defensive co-coordinator Doug Mallory, who is calling the plays and running the defense moreso than other co-coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto.

Of course, Peveto hasn't been around for interviews either, with the exception of after the South Carolina win.

Funny, that's what former defensive coordinator Bo Pelini used to do. Show up when you do well. Hide like hell when you don't.

Lee, on the other hand, should be interviewed so he can defend himself.

Is Miles ripping Lee at every chance to try to shift attention from the questionable hire he made after last season of Mallory and Peveto instead of going out and getting the best and brightest coordinator? Had he really looked at his defense late last season against Kentucky, Ole Miss and Arkansas,he would have realized that a new scheme was needed. Allowing 400 or more yards of offense is not new to LSU's defense.

Miles has criticized his defense, but not nearly as much as he has gone after Lee. He doesn't always mention Lee's name, but it's obvious it's Lee he is talking about.

Funny thing, just a couple of weeks ago, Miles said it's not his style to call out players. Ever since then he has been calling out players. It started after the Florida game with free safety Curtis Taylor.

Miles never mentioned Taylor's name, but he said the senior free safety. He's upped this game with Lee. I haven't seen a player singled out like this since Nick Saban ripped Josh Booty after the interception that directly set up UAB's game-winning field goal in 2000.

And that loss was much more Booty's fault in more ways than this Georgia fiasco was Lee's fault. Take away Lee's interceptions and LSU still loses by a lot. Georgia gained yards and scored points at will against LSU's Lou Tepper-like defense. Without the 17 Miles says Lee gave Georgia, Georgia would have just drove for those 17. Miles' calculation of 17 is also wrong.

Georgia drove a lengthy distance for its field goal after Lee's second interception. And by the time Lee threw his second interception return for a touchdown, the game was over. So it's really seven points, Les, and Lee and your running game tied that right back up at 7-7. You also were right back in it at 21-17 before your defense began screwing up again.

Watch the repeat of the game tonight, Les. It's not Lee. It's your defense. And if you and Gary Crowton would coach Lee better, you wouldn't be talking about him so much either. Many of his interceptions are on very similar plays. Lee, at times, looks as poorly coached as your defense, and your defense is not playing many
redshirt freshmen.

So, lay off Lee like your defense is laying off opponents.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A house divided

BATON ROUGE - My niece, who is also my godchild, is a freshman at Georgia. She's returned home today to Mandeville for the big Georgia game at LSU.

Her mother put a little Bulldog magnet on the refrigerator back in August when the family first went up to Athens, Ga. Her little brother was very upset at the fridge decor as he is a huge LSU fan complete with hate of all things Saban.

"This is an LSU house," he said.

The magnet remains, perhaps out of respect for the daughter and perhaps out of respect for the money going over to UGA, which is a better school than LSU and harder to get into. Their dorms are also not relative squalor, and Athens is probably the best college town in America.

We've been planning a visit to Mandeville but have not been able to get the schedules to work. We were asked to come by Sunday afternoon, but I said that's a busy day for me.

"Oh yeah," the new Georgia mother said. "You're going to have to writing a lot about Georgia's win over LSU."

Little brother was not within earshot at the time.

Georgia may have the better school, but we'll find out Saturday which has the better football team. It's going to be a great game. But I'm wondering if it will be as competitive as Thanksgiving in Mandeville.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thinning the herd

LSU has lost two commitments in the last two days -- wide receiver Rantavious Wooten switched to Georgia and linebacker Willie Ferrell opted out of his commitment.

This is yet another exhibit of why you can't get too excited about recruiting until signing day.

What does it all mean?

Actually, not much. Kids change their minds all of the time. Ferrell was more of a fringe (i.e. three-star) type of prospect. Wooten hurts a little more as he is going to another SEC school.

Still, wide receivers are pretty much a dime a dozen.

However, it's usually better to keep classes together than have guys peeling off. Another day or two like this and then it will be time for concern.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Well-timed loss

BATON ROUGE - I meant to write this last week but didn't get to it. As we all know, I am basically a one-man band. There's no two-quarterback system here.

I was going to mention last week that if LSU was going to lose a game this season, a loss at Florida would be the best week to do it. And the Tigers did just that. Boy, did they!

But if LSU can get its pass defense problem fixed - and those of you who read me regularly know that problem has been around for weeks - the Tigers remain in good shape for everything they accomplished last season.

Naturally, they have to win out. Two-loss national champions are rare and very lucky. But if LSU wins its next four, it will be in the top three in the nation if not better. And that would be even better than it was going into Florida.

A win at South Carolina Saturday, then at home next Saturday against No. 9 Georgia, which could even be higher next week after it beats Vanderbilt if teams ahead of it continue to lose, would push LSU back into the top 10.

After a tuneup with Tulane, Alabama will come in on Nov. 8 likely at 8-0 and ranked No. 2. A win there and LSU is right back in with an 8-1 record. Alabama will be 8-1, too, but its loss would be much more recent, which is usualy very important in the polls, and Alabama's loss would be a West loss. LSU's loss is an East loss. So the Tigers would have the tiebreaker for the SEC title game.

Four straight wins is an extremely large task to ask a team with obvious defensive problems and inconsistent play at quarterback. But the Tigers have made similar runs this decade. It could happen. And a very key ingredient in LSU's defensive problem throughout this season will not be in the mix over this next stretch of the schedule. None of these upcoming opponents run the spread offense, which LSU just cannot figure out.

The defense will improve against the traditional offenses coming up. It will be interesting.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Excuses, excuses, excuses

BATON ROUGE - Several LSU football players on Monday said they were not used to losing, which makes a lot of sense. The Tigers have been one of the winningest programs in the nation this decade. The 51-21 disaster movie at Florida Saturday was the Tigers' first loss in regulation since 2006, if you don't count LSU's overtime losses as losses.

What that game really was was LSU's first butt kicking since 2005 when Georgia slapped it around 34-14 in the SEC Championship Game. That's what the players are not used to.

The people really not used to LSU losing in such a fashion, though, are the fans and the many fans disguised as media members. The explanations I'm hearing for LSU's Lossesville in Gainesville are hilarious, ridiculous and delusional.

Here they are.

- Florida is great. It would have beat anyone in the nation on Saturday.

Uh, Florida just lost on Florida Field to Ole Miss, which is 3-3 and fired its coach just last season. Florida played well, but LSU played horribly. LSU's coaches also did not do a good job adjusting as the game went on.

- Florida is so fast and talented.

Uh, LSU has as much speed and talent as Florida. If not, then everything people have
been saying and writing about LSU coach Les Miles' recent recruiting classes are not true. Rivals.com must be wrong.

LSU didn't all of a sudden get slow and not talented. The problem is even the fastest players look slow when they are not in the right place, or in LSU's case, when they're still running onto the field or do not know the play before the ball is snapped.

LSU is starting three first-year starters in the secondary, but I've been hearing for months how talented they are. Are they are suddenly not talented? Or are they not being coached properly? Don't tell me Chad Jones is not fast and talented. LSU's
coaches need to start showing more speed and talent in getting the plays out there, picking the plays and preparing their players.It might be a good idea to decide on the best 11 and quit trying to substitute so much.It's great to try to match up well with an offense by inserting a fast guy, but not if the sub doesn't know the play or is in position
in time. I'd rather a slower guy who knows the play and is set.

- LSU had nothing going for it coming into the game. Florida had everything to play for. It had a loss. Its back was to the wall. Ricky Jean-Francois' comments fired the Gators up.

Uh, good teams win regardless of what it has going or not going for it on a given week. They just win regardless of the game hype. Jean-Francois' comments had nothing to do with the game. He had no vicious intent in making those statements. Jean-Francois is just a guy who likes to talk. The comments were not even taken that seriously by the Gators.

They were already fired up. And none of Jean-Francois' comments were "misinterpreted" as LSU said, and as so many papers just bought hook line and sinker. His comments were also not blown out of proportion or taken out of context.

That's just more of LSU's apologist media at work.

- Here's the best one. One LSU media member said that he knew the Tigers were going to lose just before the game because of the atmosphere at Florida Field.

Uh, LSU won amid as strong and loud an atmosphere at Florida in 2002 and 2004 and could have won in 2006.

Atmosphere? Are you kidding me? Should LSU have worn space helmets? Would that have done it?

Sometimes, you just get your butt kicked, and there is no explanation other than you were not a good team that day. Now the question remains is LSU any good. Again, all LSU has this season is a win over a bad Auburn team. That and a lot of excuses.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fallout from the wreckage

The 51-21 beatdown LSU took at Florida on Saturday did more than just send the Tigers tumbling out of the top 10.

It basically eliminates any hope LSU had of repeating as national champions.

Even if the Tigers were to go 11-1 in the regular season and win the SEC title game, a 30-point defeat is hard to ignore.

It's the same reason USC was left in the Rose Bowl last season as a two-loss team and LSU played in the title game as a two-loss team. USC's loss to Stanford was so bad it basically eliminated the Trojans.

Had LSU been more competitive, then the Tigers would have been in good shape.

As it is now, the best thing LSU can do is regroup, try to win the SEC West and the SEC Championship Game and enjoy the Sugar Bowl.

Of course, the way the Tigers played on Saturday, none of that will be easy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Brando's thoughts

Here is what CBS Sports' Tim Brando wrote this week about the LSU-Florida game in his Shreveport Times column this week.

LSU’s matchup with Florida will be a different one to be sure. All of the intangibles — homefield, revenge, a great quarterback who wants to flex his muscles — will all be with the Gators.

There’s no question that Florida is the more desperate team, having to win and allowing Tim Tebow — who has struggled this year — a national stage to reassert himself.

Usually, that matters this time of year. This time, though, I think LSU is just too physical for Florida, a team that has struggled on both its offensive and defensive fronts.

I think a late game field goal will get it done for the Bayou Bengals.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Not so fast, Urban

BATON ROUGE - Let's not be so quick to judge, Urban Meyer, particularly since your own Gator den has not been so pristine.

In reaction to LSU defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois' silly comments about wanting to take Florida quarterback Tim Tebow out of the game Saturday in Gainesville, Meyer trumpeted out the following sentence:

"You won't hear anybody say anything like that on this team."

So far so good. No Gators have been caught trash talking, but Meyer's comments could be taken as a veiled shot at LSU coach Les Miles and his program. If the worst thing an LSU player has done is Jean-Francois' comments, than LSU is doing pretty well.

In fact, excluding former quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, Miles' team has had very few incidents with the law over the last year. And, it should be noted, Perrilloux was never actually arrested while under Miles' watch. He was questioned by police a few times, but there were no arrests. Linebacker Derrick Odom was arrested multiple times early last season for violent behavior and was kicked off the team. And that's it.

Not so with Mr. Meyer. Florida safety Jamar Hornsby was arrested about a year ago on a charge of credit card fraud and still has his case pending. He allegedly used the credit card of a woman who was killed in a motorcycle accident. Meyer kicked him off the team.

And late last season, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor battery for his role in a fight over a bag of potato chips at a sandwich shop in Gainesville. Cunningham remains on the team. Former LSU receiver Xavier Carter, who is from Melbourne, Fla., was at the scene as he has often been during arrests of LSU players over the last year. He was arrested for resisting arrest when the world class sprinter sprinted from the scene. Cunningham remains on the team and is a starter. In April of 2007, Gator offensive lineman Ron Wilson was arrested for firing an AK-47 assault rifle into the air at a Gainesville nightclub. He was later arrested again on a charge of possession of marijuana and narcotics equipment that was later dropped and he is back on the team.

But, hey Urban, it's great your players don't trash talk.

Les the rapper

Somehow -- don't ask -- LSU coach Les Miles was asked about his relationship with Snoop Dogg, and his performance at the Baton Rouge Rotary Club during the summer, on the SEC's weekly coaches teleconference today.

Here's what Miles had to say:

"My performance? I'm the worst rapper in the history of rap. My players enjoy his music among a number of other artists. My kids, the same. He came to town and I had the opportunity to meet him. I enjoyed the very few moments that we spent together. The fact that he represented opportunities for youth football in California and how he viewed his family. The people that introduced me to him were all ex-coaches and players and quality people.

"I had a very pleasant meeting. He got wind of the next day that I had an alumni function and he decided to stop in and say hello. That's kind of the total. A couple of his songs I enjoyed and still do. My performance is something that is no more than a weak attempt at Snoop's style of music.''

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ricky Jean-Francois, what were you thinking?

BATON ROUGE - The last thing the LSU football team needed to do was get the Florida Gators mad. Florida is already questioning itself after a home loss to Ole Miss two weeks ago and a lackluster performance Saturday at Arkansas until the very end. Florida coach Urban Meyer has admitted there are some problems on offense. Quarterback Tim Tebow's numbers are significantly down from last season.

The Gators' hides are against the wall as undefeated and No. 3 LSU prepares to roll into town after a refreshing week off.

And LSU defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois goes and tells a reporter from the Orlando Sentinel that he wants to take Tebow out of the game.

"If we get a good shot on him, we're going to try our best to take him out of the game," Jean-Francois is quoted as saying in the Orlando paper in a story by Jeremy Fowler. "With his size and his heart, it's hard to get a clean shot."

When asked what the impact of a clean hit on Tebow might be, Jean-Francois said it would be like "a car wreck without a seat belt," and that, "if he does get hurt, there's a trained medical staff at Florida, so you can go to the training room on Sunday."

Fowler interviewed Jean-Francois on the phone late last week for the story in a very good newspaper. The story has balance. It also quotes defensive end Tyson Jackson, who has taken a few quarterbacks out at LSU and was penalized for a late blow to the head of Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson last season. Jackson said LSU linemen do not play dirty because "that's not our style."

LSU is now saying that Jean-Francois was "misrepresented" and "misinterpreted" in his interview, but it is hard to argue with those quotes. And Jean-Francois has been around. Thiw was not his first interview. He is a fourth-year junior who enjoys being interviewed. He is expressive and usually gives long, interesting and funny answers."

"I don't think he had malicious intent for Tim's health, but I also don't think he was 'misrepresented,'" Fowler told Gannett Louisiana on Tuesday afternoon.

Jean-Francois was just answering questions. But he could have answered them in a different way. He should not have brought up the "trained medical staff."

Fowler also said Jean-Francois' tone was not joking around. He instead said it matter of factly. Even if he was kidding about the "trained medical staff," it was still not a very smart thing to say.

While his comments were not evil, I can see where they would get Florida players and coaches angry and motivated. And the Gators were already injured and backed in a corner.

Not a good move, Ricky. This is probably not a big deal. Bulletin board material rarely wins or loses a football game. But it is also important not to automatically blame the messenger.

Perfect memory

Old friend Bo Pelini is taking some heat in Nebraska with back-to-back losses to Virginia Tech and Missouri. It's not an unfamiliar situation for Pelini. Check out this from an Associated Press story on Pelini and the Huskers:

Pelini said the situation at Nebraska is similar to the one he faced in his first year as LSU’s defensive coordinator in 2005. LSU won its opener 35-31 at Arizona State but gave up 560 yards, including 461 passing by Sam Keller, who later transferred to Nebraska. LSU lost its second game 30-27 in overtime to Tennessee after blowing a 21-0 halftime lead.

"Believe me, after my first two games at LSU, they wanted to run me out of the state," Pelini said. "You can ask anybody down there. I was No. 1 on the hate list in Louisiana for a while, and we changed that around."

Pelini said there is good chemistry and character on the team and that he isn’t letting a blowout loss affect the way he goes about his business.

"At no time do I feel I have to crawl in a hole and separate myself from the world," he said. "That’s not how I approach things. I’m the same guy I was two weeks ago. We have to stay the course and keep working."

I'd say Pelini's account of those first two games at LSU are right on the money. And, given time, he'll likely straighten out Nebraska as well.