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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Breaking down the game

GAME: LSU (7-5, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) vs. Georgia Tech (9-3, 5-3 ACC).

TIME: 6:30 p.m.

SITE: Georgia Dome (71,500), Atlanta.


RADIO: The LSU Sports Network statewide.

RANKINGS: Georgia Tech is No. 14 in the Associated Press poll and in the BCS.

POINT SPREAD: Georgia Tech is a four-point favorite.

2008 SEASON: LSU: W Appalachian State, 41-13; W North Texas, 41-3; W at Auburn, 26-21; W Mississippi State, 34-24. L at Florida, 51-21; W at South Carolina, 24-17; L Georgia 52-38; W Tulane, 35-10; L Alabama, 27-21 OT; W Troy 40-31; L Ole Miss 31-13; L at Arkansas, 31-30. GEORGIA TECH: W Jacksonville State, 41-14; W at Boston College, 19-16; L at Virginia Tech, 20-17; W Mississippi State, 38-7; W Duke, 27-0; W Gardner-Webb, 10-7; W at Clemson, 21-17; L Virginia, 24-17; W Florida State, 31-28; L at North Carolina, 28-7; W Miami, 41-23; W at Georgia, 45-42.

BOWL HISTORY: LSU is ninth in bowl appearances in college football history as it enters its 40th tonight. The Tigers are 20-18-1 in bowls and have won three straight. Georgia Tech will be in its 37th bowl and has a 22-14 record.

SERIES HISTORY: Former SEC charter member Georgia Tech leads the series that dates back to 1915 by a 12-6 count, but the Tigers have won the last four beginning in 1961. This is the second bowl meeting. LSU defeated Tech 28-14 in the 2000 Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Tech's last win over LSU was 6-2 on Oct. 8, 1960, in Atlanta. LSU is 3-4 aganst Tech in Baton Rouge with the last victory on Oct. 5, 1963, when the unranked Tigers defeated the No. 7 Yellow Jackets 7-6. Georgia Tech was in the SEC from 1933 through 1963.

INJURY REPORT: LSU - Backup QBs Jarrett Lee (ankle) and Andrew Hatch (broken leg) are healthy and will play if needed. GEORGIA TECH - Starting CB Jahi Word-Daniels (hamstring) is doubtful.

NOTES: LSU has an interesting quarterback recent history in the Georgia Dome. Through its six games in the Georgia Dome this decade, the Tigers have either had to replace a quarterback in the game or started a new one because of recent developments. In 2000 at the Peach Bowl, starter Josh Booty was benched at the half in favor or Rohan Davey, who led the Tigers to a come-from-behind, 28-14 victory. In 2001 at the SEC championship game, Davey started but was injured and replaced by Matt Mauck, who led LSU to a come-from-behind, 31-20 win over No. 2 Tennessee. In 2005 in the SEC title game, starter JaMarcus Russell injured his shoulder and was replaced by Matt Flynn, who did not deliver a win against Georgia. Flynn came right back later that month to capture Peach Bowl offensive MVP honors in a 40-3 win over Miami. In 2007 in the SEC title game, Ryan Perrilloux started over an injured Flynn and also won MVP honors as the Tigers defeated Tennessee 21-14 to reach the national championship game. ... Georgia Tech opened the 2008 season against former LSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, who moved on to lower division Jacksonville State after getting kicked off the Tiger team by coach Les Miles. Perrilloux rushed for 67 yards on 18 carries and completed 22 of 37 passes for for 136 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 41-14 loss. "I thought about that a couple weeks ago when the bowls came up," Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "With Perrilloux, we played LSU's quarterback, and then we wind up playing LSU in a bowl." Said Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson, "We didn't exactly slow him down. He had a pretty good day." ... Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich is a former assistant athletic director at LSU. ... Tech is located just two miles from the Georgia Dome and thus is the closest team to its bowl this season, but the Yellow Jackets have not played in the Georgia Dome since losing to LSU in 2000. .... LSU is 5-1 in the Georgia Dome this decade. ... Tech starting senior defensive tackle Darryl Richard is from Destrehan, and freshman backup defensive end Jason Peters is from Baton Rouge.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Coach O on the way?

It appears Ed Orgeron will be headed back to the SEC as an assistant on Les Miles' staff at LSU.

If that's the case then this could be a pretty good thing for Miles and the Tigers. No one doubts Orgeron's ability to recruit. And he was considered to be a quality position coach during his career. It was just as a head coach at Ole Miss that he was in over his head a bit.

Here is the bigger question. How is the chemistry going to be on this staff? You'll have a former SEC rival head coach as the defensive line coach. You'll have a new defensive coordinator who appears he'll be paid less than one of his position coaches. (OK, I know, if John Chavis is making $500,000 how much can he gripe if O gets more?).

Miles is apparently banking on Orgeron working as well as Gary Crowton, another former head coach who is now on the LSU staff.

By the way, what does is say when LSU has to shell out more than $1 million for two defensive assistants?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Good news on coordinator?

If indeed John Chavis is LSU's next defensive coordinator, then that should be good news for LSU fans.

First, the Tigers' defense should be better if for no other reason than having just one defensive coordinator. Maybe it's just me, but I think teams do better with one coordinator and one voice for a particular side of the football. I know it's been done and I'm sure some teams have even been successful, but I think it becomes a little more difficult with two coordinators instead of one.

Second, I think Chavis is a pretty good coach. He's been in the SEC and knows the league. His philosophy -- make big plays when they count -- should sit well with LSU fans.

He was the American Football Coaches Association's Assistant of the Year in 2000.

Yeah, Tennessee had its problems this past year. But the Vols were third in the SEC in scoring defense at 16.8 points per game. I think LSU fans would take their chances allowing 16 points per game.

Friday, December 26, 2008

McFarland concerns

Jamarkus McFarland of Lufkin, Texas, committed to Oklahoma on Christmas Day. McFarland had also considered Texas and LSU.

McFarland's decision is softened by a class that already included All-American defensive lineman Chris Davenport of Mansfield.

However, the bigger concern appeared in a story in the New York Times. If you don't want to read the whole story, here is a sampling.

Of the four universities, L.S.U. made the worst impression. After the Tigers lost to Georgia, 52-38, on Oct. 25, McFarland, his mother and his grandmother attended a catered meal at the home of Tigers Coach Les Miles.
“He was very dry,” Adams said of Miles.
Adams was further turned off by L.S.U., she said, when she saw hostesses sitting on the laps of recruits.

Adams is McFarland's mother, Kashemeyia Adams.

The concern isn't that Miles is dry. Heck, a lot of football coaches are dry. But you do have to wonder about this whole hostess thing, especially after the Colorado scandal a few years back.

I would go so far as to say that it isn't even prudish to have that concern.

It look as if the LSU recruiting process is as undisciplined as the team has appeared to be in recent years.

Anyway, you're not going to sign every five-star kid. But it probably doesn't hurt to evaluate yourself in light of what prospects and parents say.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The anti-Perrilloux?

Who knows what Russell Shepard will do for LSU on the football field. But say this for the guy, he is off to a great start with Tigers fans.

He committed to LSU early. Then he stayed with LSU even in a season when the Tigers' quarterback situation was so mangled it looked like 2002 - or worse - all over again.

So when Shepard said earlier this week that he has already signed and sent in his letter of intent papers, you have to be impressed with his ability to stand by his word.

He's also been actively calling other prospective recruits to get them to come to school with him.

Best of all, there have been no pronouncements of Heisman Trophies and the like.

So unlike the last time LSU signed one of the nation's top quarterback prospects (that would be you Ryan Perrilloux), this time LSU looks like it got it right.

Monday, December 22, 2008

No. 1 with a bullet

I have to admit, I was a little surprised to see LSU ranked No. 1 in the Collegiate Baseball poll.

It's not that I didn't think LSU would be in the college baseball elite. The Tigers did go to the College World Series last year.

It's just that I had some concerns about their pitchers -- particularly their starters.

Apparently, those concerns are unfounded.

Anyway, after several years of little build up to a baseball season, this year figures to have the most build up for an LSU season since Skip Bertman was coaching the Tigers.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Basketball's big test

We'll learn a little more about this LSU basketball team this afternoon when they play Texas A&M.

Now, by no means do I think this is a must-win game. Rather, I think it's a good gauge of where this team is with SEC play just around the corner.

I'll say this for Trent Johnson, he has used this schedule wisely. He's been able to implement his system in a rather stress-free atmosphere. He's been able to build his team's confidence. And the Tigers have padded their record.

Their schedule is so bad -- last nationally -- that it will hurt LSU if the Tigers somehow end up as a proverbial bubble team.

However, if LSU gains confidence and momentum, the weak schedule won't matter if the Tigers don't have to worry about the bubble.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Early look at '09 doesn't look so good.

NationalChamps.net has released its 2009 Early Bird College Football Preview.

You can view the rankings here.

The news is not good for LSU fans. The Tigers are ranked 16th nationally. Worse, LSU is the third-rated team in the SEC West behind Alabama and Ole Miss.

Now these rankings are based on what teams have returning and what they are losing.
Although LSU currently isn't ranked and 16th would be an improvement, I don't think being ranked behind Alabama and Ole Miss is what LSU fans had in mind.

If you resisted the link, I'll tell you that Florida and Alabama are 1-2 in the poll.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

SEC West gets a little easier

I am still in shock over the doings at Auburn in the last few weeks.

One bad season -- and it really wasn't THAT bad at 5-7 -- and Tommy Tuberville is, essentially, fired.

Then, instead of hiring a big-name coach or someone most consider to be better than Tuberville, Auburn goes out and hires Iowa State coach Gene Chizik.

Are you kidding me?

In a bad season, Tuberville won five games. In two seasons at Iowa State, Chizik won five games.

I realize Chizik was the defensive coordinator in Auburn's unbeaten season. I know he got rave reviews as a defensive coordinator at Texas.

But he was hired to be the head coach.

On the surface, this has got to be one of the worst hires in the SEC in recent memory. Even Ed Orgeron was coming in as a successful assistant and no one knew how bad he would be as a head coach.

Unless Chizik completely shocks the world, Auburn will be in the market for a new coach in three years.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On Peveto

LSU coach Les Miles, apparently, could get a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to his coaching staff.

Co-defensive coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto is one of six finalists for the Northwestern State head coaching job, although that number may go up one or two. NSU has begun the interviewing process and Peveto is set to interview in the middle of next week.

If Peveto were to land the NSU job, then Miles -- who has yet to fire an assistant at LSU --could make changes to his defensive staff without having to do any dirty work.

Peveto would take a hefty cut in pay at NSU as the Demons' head coaching job will probably pay only about half of what he is making at LSU. Of course, that could beat the alternative.

It isn't a given, though, that Peveto lands the NSU job. The finalist list includes a couple of coaches with head coaching experience.

Still for LSU fans, it bears worth watching what happens in Natchitoches.

Monday, December 08, 2008

What BCS title game should have been?

BATON ROUGE - I jumped Texas from No. 2 to No. 1 in my last Associated Press poll dispatch Sunday. The BCS national championship game should be Texas and Oklahoma.

With every contender having one loss now, the Longhorns are No. 1 because they have the finest victory of the season - a 45-35 win over my No. 2 team, Oklahoma, on a neutral site. And Texas has the best body of work. Texas is the last team to hold the Sooners to below 40 points. The Longhorns' only loss was to Texas Tech on a spectacular touchdown catch in the final moments. That is the best loss of the losses of the contenders. That loss on Nov. 1 also ended probably the toughest four-game stretch that any team has had this year - the win over highly ranked Oklahoma on Oct. 11, a victory over highly ranked Missouri on Oct. 18 and a victory over highly ranked Oklahoma State on Oct. 25.

As for No. 2, no team has finished stronger than Oklahoma. The Big 12 is clearly the best league in the nation this season and deserves an all-Big 12 national title game. The Big 12 defenses are not the best, but that SEC argument doesn't hold up this year. Big 12 offenses were better than SEC defenses this year. The Big 12 offenses would put up similar numbers against SEC defenses. For the most part, the SEC schools significantly lacked quarterback talent this season.

Florida is coming off a victory over No. 1 Alabama, but how strong was that No. 1 ranking if Florida went into the game as a 10-point favorite? Alabama was fortunate to stay undefeated as long as it did and get to No. 1 because most of the teams on its schedule thought to be good in 2008 were clearly not - Clemson, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn. Florida also has a loss to Ole Miss, which is not as good as the Texas Tech team that beat Texas nor is it as good as the Texas team that beat Oklahoma.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Recruiting effect?

So what will be the effect of LSU's apparently in-limbo coaching staff on recruiting?

The Tigers could be in a situation where an assistant coach is recruiting on the road at the same time a prospect is hearing about a new coach coming to town.

This is just one reason it would probably be better for Les Miles to either make a move with his co-defensive coordinators or any other assistant now than to let this go on, say, past signing day.

If he's not going to make a move -- which would probably be a mistake but certainly within his rights as the head coach -- then he needs to say as much to end this speculation.

As it is, it's hard to imagine LSU's current situation being helpful to Miles as he tries to hold this recruiting class together while finishing strong.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Not good news

The SEC Championship Game is this weekend with Alabama and Florida playing for a spot in the BCS national championship game.

That alone would be bad news for LSU fans.

If that's not bad enough here is some more bad news for LSU fans, courtsey of SI.com's Stewart Mandel.

I have to believe this is somewhat knee-jerk reactionary. Here's why, both Alabama and Florida could be breaking in new starting quarterbacks next season. Tim Tebow may leave Florida early for the NFL and John Parker Wilson (who I expect will turn back into John Parker Wilson at some point) will be out of eligibility at Alabama.

Truth be told, the team that may be in the best position as far as quarterback play next year very well could be Ole Miss with Jevan Snead. That's assuming LSU can't figure something out at the position in the West.

My point is this: You can never pencil in anything when it comes to the SEC. Both Alabama and Florida have young, talented teams. But LSU showed what can happen to a talented team without strong quarterback play.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A good matchup?

If LSU indeed lands in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, then the Tigers' beleaguered pass defense may get a break.

That's because Georgia Tech will be the ACC representative in the game and the Yellow Jackets are predominantly a running offense.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that Georgia Tech is 9-3 overall and 2-0 against the SEC with a rout of Mississippi State and an upset of Georgia at Georgia.

At this point in LSU's season, with three losses in the last four games and only a miraculous comeback keeping it from four straight losses, there may not be such a thing as a good matchup.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

LSU should order some Chavis with a blitz chaser

BATON ROUGE - Former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis is hot, he's available, he's known for the blitz and he is Southeastern Conference aged.

LSU coach Les Miles needs to act quickly and try to hire the 52-year-old Chavis as soon as possible. Arkansas may already be looking at Chavis. And if South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson becomes the new head coach at Mississippi State, Chavis may want to be the defensive coordinator at South Carolina. He is a native of Dillon, S.C.

Chavis had been Tennessee's defensive coordinator since 1995, and through most of those years the Vols had among the best defenses in the SEC. He is also known as a blitz bandit. The blitz is his answer to everything, and his blitzes come from every area of the field. The blitz has been a problem at LSU for most of the last four seasons, particularly this season. Chavis knows the SEC. He cut his teeth going against the master - Steve Spurrier when he was at Florida.

With Lane Kiffin replacing Phillip Fulmer as Tennessee's new coach and with Kiffin's father Monte Kiffin likely coming in as the new defensive coordinator, Chavis is out from his alma mater. The elder Kiffin is the defensive coordinator with Tampa Bay in the NFL and known as the best defensive coach in that league.

What Miles should do is hire Chavis in time for LSU's bowl, so he can begin installing his new system immediately. That would add some much-needed spice to LSU's bowl for players as well as fans. It would also give the Tigers new defense a jump start into the 2009 season.

LSU's seniors probably do not need to play a lot in the bowl anyway as they are probably the least interested in whatever bowl that may be.

Chavis is interested in LSU, which paid former defensive coordinator Bo Pelini in the $450,000 range. Chavis made about $340,000 last season at Tennessee.

Unless Miles has someone better in mind, he should order some Chavis now. And LSU could bring in the holiday season with some Chevis.

Monday, December 01, 2008

What went right, wrong, and is ahead

What went right: As expected, LSU had a very good running game with a very good offensive line. Unfortunately, coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton were not content to build the team around that. They did not run enough. They instead tried too much to be a passing team with two very inexperienced quarterbacks in Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch, who may also not be that talented.

What went wrong: The defense was supposed to carry the team until the offense came around under the young quarterback or quarterbacks. Instead, the defense grossly underachieved with a lot of speed and talent and became the worst defense LSU has had since Lou Tepper in 1999. There were some new starters at cornerback, outside linebacker and strong safety, but they all were in the program for some time and were well recruited. The fault of the defensive problems is squarely on new co-defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto. Miles promoted the pair for "familiarity of call," as they both worked under previous defensive coordinator Bo Pelini. The defense started its downfall late last year, however, and continued like an avalanche this season because opponents benefited from "familiarity of call" on their end since LSU has been doing the same thing for four years now.
Also, Crowton and Miles did not prepare any of their quarterbacks well for the season and totally mishandled the position. As soon as Hatch was injured, they should have gotten Jefferson ready. Had Jefferson been allowed to play earlier, LSU may have beaten Alabama, had a better chance against Ole Miss and may have beaten Arkansas.

What’s ahead: If Les Miles is as great as his legions of supporters in the fan base, the athletic department and most pockets of the apologist media say he is, LSU will be a national contender again next season. But if that is really going to happen, Miles has to hire a defensive coordinator who knows how to blitz, when to blitz and how to disguise blitzes like former coach Nick Saban. Whoever gets the new DC job should break out the defensive film from 2002, 2003 and 2004. And with Russell Shepard coming in next year as the likely new starting quarterback, Miles and Crowton need to drastically improve on their coaching of a freshman quarterback.