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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Off week thoughts

LSU hit the off week at 7-1.

So here are some bye week thoughts:

1) LSU has the worst quarterback situation in the conference. Arkansas has two SEC-level quarterbacks and LSU has none. This is a product of both evaluation and development. The microcosm of this is Russell Shepard. LSU still has no idea what to do with Russell Shepard. Worse yet, there is no immediate hope in sight.

2) The LSU defense looked really good all season until getting gashed by Auburn. Granted, Cam Newton may be the best player in college football. And Auburn does have some skill people to go along with Guz Malzahn's offensive wizardry. But the scary thing for LSU fans is the ineptness of the Tigers' offense is putting so much pressure on the defense that it will eventually break.

3) That Patrick Peterson for Heisman campaign was short-lived.

4) This team could still end up 10-2. And then what LSU fans? Happy at 10-2? Or sad that Les Miles buys himself some more time?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lucky Les just keeps laughing like the devil all the way to the bank of W's

AUBURN, Ala. - He followed Satan as LSU's coach and will never really beat him. So why not join him?

According to ESPN's Pat Forde, Miles must have made a deal with the devil. A few days after LSU's devilish, 16-14 win over Tennessee three weeks ago, Forde wrote under the headline, "Got a devil's haircut under The Hat," that Lucifer is why Miles wins so much and makes so much money despite his "unique flair for coaching lunacy in pressure situations." It's all because he tunes "his headset frequency to 666."

Forde ended up being prophetic as two weeks after he wrote that, LSU landed at No. 6 in the USA Today and Harris polls that are part of the formula for the Bowl Championship Series standings, where LSU ended up - you guessed it - No. 6. That's 6-6-6.

Miles continues to rise from the flames of that "win" over Tennessee. After a week as a national coaching embarrassment, his bold fake field goal call beat and embarrassed Florida genius/coach Urban Meyer, who should have seen it coming. Miles tipped his hand so much by calling a timeout before the fake that he may as well have tipped his cap to Meyer and yelled across The Swamp, "URBAN, Watch the fake!" That win made him 6-0.

Now he's a Lucky 7-0 and playing in the nation's premier game at 2:30 p.m. today on CBS here against 7-0 and nearly as lucky Auburn, which is No. 4 in the BCS. ESPN's College GameDay is at Mizzou for the first time in history for No. 4 Oklahoma (6-0) and No. 16 Missouri (6-0) only because that network has to make sure it's not at an SEC stop every week.

Few give Miles a chance. Auburn, which has not played as difficult a schedule as LSU, is a touchdown favorite. But if Miles visited Victoryland dog track near Auburn this morning, would you bet against him?

Yes, Auburn has Cam Newton at quarterback, but all he's got is skill, size, savvy and a Heisman waiting for him. LSU has Lucky Les. Even student journalists are hot on the trail. Miles had to deal with a question from the Auburn Plainsman student paper on the SEC teleconference week that labeled him lucky. Miles shrugged it off as usual.

"Yeah, I prefer to be lucky," he said. "I think that's met with some earnest preparation and some hard work. I kind of enjoy that. I hope that that continues."

Later that night on his own radio show, the least respected national championship coach in college football history dealt with the following exchange:

RADIO SHOW HOST JIM HAWTHORNE: From the Baton Rouge area, a call from Gary. Gary, thanks for calling, you're on the air live with coach Les Miles.
GARY: Hey, Les, how you doing?
MILES: Doing well Gary.
GARY: Well, just wanted to let you know that I took the naked pictures Jordan Jefferson has of you and you're free to ... (Phone was cut off before the caller said "play Jarrett Lee all the time at quarterback," or something like that.)
MILES: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
HAWTHORNE (not amused): And that's really funny.
MILES (still very much amused): Ahh, that was kind of humorous.
HAWTHORNE (aggravated): That's really funny. All right uh, we'll take a break right now. And come back with more.

You really have to admire Les Miles. Virtually nothing gets to him, certainly not a radio caller who - like many of us - cannot think of another reason why Miles continues to play Jefferson instead of Lee, who has been much better lately, all the time.

His players love him, and he loves his players. They are very talented. They usually play hard for him. And when the plays and players get in on time, they usually play smart for him. And sometimes even when the plays and players don't get in on time, they still play smart for him. Check the Tennessee game. It's all added up to a 58-15 record and a $3.8 million salary with a buyout in double-figure millions next year and the year after if he gets fired.

Miles may not know how to keep time on a football field, but the economics graduate from Michigan can obviously count. No wonder he's laughing.

Here are five things to look for in today's LSU-Auburn game other than Jefferson's picture collection:

1.Jarrett Lee will start at quarterback for LSU. Auburn's secondary is so weak and Lee has been so hot, that this is the perfect Saturday for it. And Miles admitted that if he did decide to start Lee, he would not say so publicly.

2.Auburn quarterback Cam Newton will read and react while running in a basketball-style motion offense. Then he will pass, pitch or keep. It's amazing. "You can read the defensive end while going at a downhill motion or a lateral motion," he said. "If he shoots upfield, then that's a simple keep. If he doesn't and you feel like he can't grab or tackle the running back, you hand it off. If you see someone open, you throw it."

3.Lead changes. There were six in LSU's win over Florida. There were five in Auburn's win over Arkansas.

4.Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, one of the best in the SEC, versus LSU right guard T-Bob Hebert.

5.LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis, the best in the SEC, versus Auburn right guard Byron Isom.

CBS' Gary Danielson weighs in on LSU-Auburn

CBS' Gary Danielson has an interesting take on LSU. Here is what he said earlier this week on SEC Tonight on CBS College Sports.

"If you look at a picture where they put together many pictures of different people's faces, when you look real close it's like a mash of nothing. And when you back away it's a beautiful picture. That is how it is when you look at LSU.

"It seems like they are making all these mistakes. They are playing two quarterbacks. They are a bad passing team. They are lining up wrong and clock management is bad. But when you back away, they are perfect. It's a wonder if he (Les Miles) can do it again. All these things seem to be working against them, yet they keep on doing great things. Can Les keep this thing rolling along again?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How big is LSU-Auburn?

Consider what BCS guru Jerry Palm has to say about Saturday's LSU-Auburn game when you want to talk about the significance of this one:

"If the winner of the Auburn-LSU game is able to get to 13-0, I believe that that team will end up at No. 1 at the end of the season. It may take awhile for that progression to happen, but I believe the voters and I know the computers will take a team that is undefeated in the best conference in the country and put them at the top. Now that makes Oregon No. 2 and means Oklahoma does not control their own destiny.''

Monday, October 18, 2010

Couple of thoughts

After Mississippi State went into Florida and won does that:

1) Devalue LSU's win at the Swamp a week earlier?

or does tha

2) Increase the value of the Mississippi State win?

Just a thought.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

This one will not come down to a fake field goal

BATON ROUGE – The amazing thing about LSU’s wondrous win at Florida last week was that Coach Les Miles’ muddled clock management may have actually helped his cause.

As it happened, kicker Josh Jasper did not find out that the fake was on until only about 15 seconds left on the play clock after Miles huddled the team together during a timeout and called the fake. Punter/holder Derek Helton and Jasper were busy practicing what they thought they were about to do – hold and kick. Special teams coach Joe Robinson fortunately got word to Jasper after the timeout. Jasper then told Helton.

Wonder how many fakes Les has called over the years that the kicker never heard about? Who knows? Or maybe the kicker got it, but not the holder? We’ll never know.
The good thing was neither Helton nor Jasper had time to think about what they were about to do, much less panic. They also inadvertently sold the fake by practicing holding and kicking if the Florida coaches were watching for clues. Robinson’s last-second instructions? Could have been something about the wind. That’s happened before.

Miles, who has not called an early timeout in his life, also may have inadvertently sold the fake by calling his timeout so tardy in the play clock with his team lined up for a 53-yard field goal. If Miles called a timeout immediately after both teams were lined up for the kick, the Florida coaches may have thought, “Oh, he called timeout because he’s thinking about a fake.”

But he called the timeout the way he often does – amid mass hysteria. “Oh no, we’re about to get another delay of game penalty. Timeout! Timeout!” So Florida’s coaches may have surmised: “Oh, that’s just typical LSU screwing up the clock again. Surely, they’re not thinking about a fake.”

Some clock-weary LSU fans thought Miles had his ticker-kicker etiquette reversed when he called a timeout with Jasper about to kick. Usually, the coach on DEFENSE calls a timeout just before a kick to freeze the kicker.

When asked after the game when he first started thinking about a fake, Miles said, “Decided to do it during the timeout.” Then he winked at the questioner. Miles actually thought about faking before the timeout. He wanted to see what kind of defense Florida would show.

“As soon as we saw what they were going to do, I decided,” he said, but he realized it was getting late in the clock. He didn’t want to hurry such a huge play and called his final timeout. “Then I’m thinking, ‘Well, I hope he doesn’t change it.’ And certainly he would know that I would never do this NOW. Certainly, he’d just stay with the call. His call was a max block. I felt like my call was the right call.”

Amid all the national lampooning of Miles leading up to the game, it was “genius” Florida coach Urban Meyer who goofed at game’s end. Forget about the clues or would-be clues Miles was leaving all over The Swamp. If an opponent is trying to kick a 53-yard field goal, you put on a safe block and keep some guys still for containment purposes. Yes, Jasper was in his range, but his last attempt from that far against Tennessee was horrible. Also, Meyer had viewed film of LSU’s famous fake in 2007 the week of the game. Mr. Meyer, you just clocked by Les Miles. You may need to see a doctor again.

Which brings us to tonight’s LSU game against McNeese. Here are five things to look for:

1.ANOTHER FAKE - As soon as the Tigers face a fourth down in field goal range, Miles should call the same fake field goal and see if Helton can flip it without a bounce this time. It’s not about results. It’s about process, and that was the worst toss by a kicker since Garo Yepremian in Super Bowl VII.

2.MICHAEL FORD – Rejoice. The hero of spring – if there is such a thing – will get to carry the ball more than just a few times tonight. Seriously, he has looked good on nearly all of his seven carries.

3.A RELAXING BLOWOUT – If this game comes down to a fake, someone’s on the take. McNeese is without its starting quarterback and best two running backs because of injuries.

4. VICTORY NO. 131 – LSU is 130-25-8 against in-state colleges going into this first meeting with McNeese. The only Louisiana schools to beat LSU other than Tulane were Louisiana Tech in Ruston in 1904, Loyola of New Orleans in 1922 in Baton Rouge and Centenary in 1932 in Shreveport. Centenary’s 1-3-1 record against LSU was mistakenly omitted from Friday’s papers.

5.MORE JARRETT LEE – Look for the rejuvenated quarterback to play more than Jordan Jefferson and throw for 250 yards.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Safe for now

When the season started, I thought there was only one way Les Miles could get the fan base firmly in his corner.

Of course, that way would also take him off the hot seat -- and no matter what he says, he began the season on it.

Anyway, that way was pretty simple -- win either at Florida or home against Alabama. He wouldn't have to win both, but at least win one.

Well, he's won at Florida. I think he is safe as far as his job. As far as the fan base, I wasn't planning on the Tennessee debacle, so that might be a little harder winning back the hearts.

But you figure a win over McNeese and then a huge game at Auburn and then comes Alabama.

Of course, it would be just like Les to win those and stub his toe against Arkansas.

Friday, October 08, 2010

How about a refreshingly routine ending to today’s game?

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – There was perhaps a forgotten hero in LSU’s 16-14 win over Tennessee last week.

His name is Ted Stickles, who is LSU’s game management guru emeritus. Game management as in game administration from a security and crowd control standpoint … not from the game and play clock standpoint that the LSU football team so desperately needs.

Stickles, a former LSU swim coach who set world records in the individual medley at Indiana in the early 1960s, has been overseeing LSU games since the 1970s. He retired several years ago, but he can’t stay away from LSU stadia. He’s a quiet LSU fixture with a badge. He was there at Alex Box when storms tore up the outfield fence. He was there at Tiger Stadium when they ran out of water.

And on Saturday, he was right there on the LSU side of the north end zone in Tiger Stadium at the end of perhaps the strangest alternate ending to a game in LSU history. He was there when game officials threw a flag just before what looked like the last play because Tennessee had two too many players on the field. Unbeknownst to a crowd of 92,932, LSU’s last disastrous snap on third and goal from the 1 would not be the last play of the game. The hurried snap with just a few seconds to go that eluded LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and apparently ended the game with Tennessee going wild and LSU inexplicably not getting a chance to score, would instead be wiped clean by that little yellow flag.

“I went from misery to, ‘There’s a handkerchief in the end zone,” LSU coach Les Miles said. (Many say he’s still miserable, though.) LSU got another play from inside the 1 with no time remaining, and tailback Stevan Ridley scored for the 16-14 win. Without Stickles, though, it might not have happened.

“I was standing at the fence near Gate 5 at about the 10-yard line (near the north end zone),” Stickles said Thursday. “I didn’t see the flag at first. I was watching Tennessee celebrate. Then I saw the flag.”

It was midway between the goal line and the end zone about five yards from the LSU sideline.

“I started to walk up to it, and I saw somebody went to pick it up,” Stickles said. “It was somebody with a media credential. I didn’t recognize him, but that doesn’t mean anything. There are always a lot of people down there. It was a younger guy, but I had no idea who it was. If I saw him again I probably wouldn’t recognize him. But before he picked it up, I said, ‘Hey, let’s leave it there for a minute until we see what’s going on.’ Then I just stood by it.”

Tennessee rocked on at midfield with Vols’ coach Derek Dooley jumping on assistant coaches and anyone he could find. But then he noticed something.

“I just saw this mingling,” Dooley said a few days later. “And something was going on. I knew it.”

The mingling was a huddle of officials.

“No more than about two minutes later, an official came over to pick up the flag, and they made the call at midfield.”

Even if our suspect had lifted it, officials would have still known a flag was thrown. But how would they explain that to Dooley? “Uh, we threw a flag. Just don’t know where it is,” they could have said.

“Thanks Ted,” is what Miles and his team should say.

Hopefully, tonight there will be a more routine ending when No. 9 and No. 12 Florida meet at 6:30 p.m. Here are five things to look for other than a flag for an overpopulated substitution.

1.LSU’S BEST EFFORT – The last time LSU coach Les Miles was a national clock embarrassment just eight games ago at Ole Miss, the Tigers responded with a 33-30 win in overtime over Arkansas with sensible clock management for a game-tying field goal with :04 left. The players have circled the wagons, and Miles may have put a six shooter to offensive coordinator Gary Crowton’s head.

2. JARRETT LEE – He looked like a new quarterback on LSU’s final drive last week. Of course, he looked like the old Lee just a possession before, too, so don’t get your hopes too high. If Crowton is careful with him, though, he could get by with only a couple of interceptions and a lot of completions.

3. STEVAN RIDLEY – If Crowton just calls a running play to the SEC’s leading rusher last week on third-and-goal at the 1, there is no cluster clock controversy of simultaneous substitution stupidity. Aren’t you glad LSU didn’t have to kick the extra point at the end because Tennessee didn’t want to come back out? Surely Crowton would have sent in some extra point pistol formation with seven subs and a reverse just before the snap. Keep it simple, stupid. RUN RIDLEY. PLAY DEFENSE AND SPECIAL TEAMS!

4. PATRICK PETERSON – LSU will need a long punt return to set up or get a score. Florida allowed a 41-yard punt return to Alabama’s Julio Jones last week that helped set up a touchdown for a 17-0 lead in the second quarter of the Tide’s 31-6 win. “He is absolutely the No. 1 concern on our football team right now,” Florida coach Urban Meyer said.

5. GRIT – Florida will just have just a bit more than LSU. The Gators have never lost two straight games under Urban Meyer with the second one at home.

PREDICTION: LSU plays very well, but its defense can’t stop Florida at the end. Gators win 17-13.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

He's nationwide

Give Les Miles credit. He has LSU on the national stage -- although maybe not the way LSU folks want.

Here are some links to get a national perspective:

From the Wall Street Journal, yes, the Wall Street Journal:

From Sports Illustrated.com

From CBS Sports Line.com

How about regionally? How is Les holding up there.

Here is one from the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger

Yep, it hasn't been a very fun week for Miles.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

LSU-Tennessee thoughts

What can be said that hasn't been said? But here goes:

1) One clock management foul-up is a mistake. Three is a trend that makes it understandable when the "hot seat'' and "Les Miles'' are used in the same sentence.

2) It's OK for LSU's players to run up to the line of scrimmage in the last two minutes of the game when the team is behind.

3) If you have two quarterbacks that really means you have none. The biggest mistake may have been not developing Russell Shepard last year.

4) LSU will win against ULM and McNeese. But is there another game -- maybe Ole Miss -- on the schedule where you can confidently say LSU is going to win?

5) If LSU goes 8-4 after a 5-0 start are you upset?

6) If you haven't already resigned yourself to the fact that LSU is a sloppy, underachieving football team, now would be a good time.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Dooley’s Tech teams better than his first Tennessee outfit

BATON ROUGE – The last time Derek Dooley directed a strong football team in Tiger Stadium it was LSU back in 2004.

Former LSU head coach Nick Saban used to appoint two of his assistants as head coaches of the two LSU teams for the annual spring game. Dooley, a running backs coach, had added assistant head coach to his title after the 2003 national championship and got one of the teams. Jimbo Fisher, LSU’s offensive coordinator, had the other one. Saban stood at midfield during the game.

Bent on establishing toughness on the offensive line, which lost starters Stephen Peterman and Rodney Reed from the ’03 team, the rising young son of Georgia legendary coach Vince Dooley kept calling runs up the middle after a first-and-goal situation inside the 3-yard line. Run after run failed. Finally on fourth down, Dooley yelled for his squad to, “Go for it.” Then Saban yelled louder from midfield, “Hey Vince, you don’t have Herschel Walker in the backfield.”

Dooley laughed hysterically. It was a rare glimpse of Nick Saban - stand-up comedian. Dooley will likely find no reason to laugh today when he coaches a Tennessee team that may not be better than the Louisiana Tech teams he brought to Tiger Stadium in 2007 and 2009. No. 10 LSU (4-0, 2-0 SEC) hosts Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at 2:30 p.m. on CBS.

Dooley became a head coach like his father before him less than three years after that scrimmage when Tech hired him, largely because of his connection with Saban's name. In ’07, his Tech team lost 58-10 at LSU, which went on to win the national title while the Bulldogs finished 5-7. Dooley had a breakthrough season in '08 in Ruston, going 8-5 with an Independence Bowl, but he didn’t get the chance to play LSU, which went 8-5 in a breakdown season.

Dooley’s '09 Tech team finished just 4-8 but it played LSU well, losing 24-16. Tech led 13-10 at the half and was within 17-13 midway in the fourth quarter. Tech outgained LSU 322-246 as LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee completed 7 of 22 for 105 yards in place of the injured Jordan Jefferson. Had Dooley's defensive backs knew how to catch, he may have won. He won't have a chance today.

Poor recruiting by Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer in his final seasons – 35th nationally in 2008 and 23rd in 2006 – has taken its toll. Coach Lane Kiffin leaving after one season in 2009 did not help either. Dooley had to kick off several players for disciplinary reasons. At the moment, Rocky Top has its worst football team since Johnny Majors went 5-6 in 1988. LSU will have no trouble winning tonight whether it passes well or not.


1.PATRICK PETERSON ON OFFENSE – This is going to be fun. LSU coach Les Miles revealed Wednesday that Peterson has been practicing on offense since early this season. This is the perfect game to let the Heisman hopeful play tailback, receiver and Wild Tiger quarterback. It’s on CBS and LSU should win easily enough to let Peterson do just about anything in addition to playing cornerback and returning kicks. Maybe he can throw a pass to himself.

2.MORE THAN 100 YARDS PASSING - LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson will surpass the century mark for the first time since the opener. Alleluia! Tennessee is among the worst in the SEC in pass defense.

3.MORE OR LESS BOOING OF LES – LSU athletic director Joe Alleva has asked Tiger fans not to boo today in light of the scene late in last week’s game as Jefferson and the offense stumbled around.

“Tiger Stadium is at its best when it roars as one voice in support of the Tigers,” Alleva wrote in a letter to fans on LSU’s website Friday. “But when some are vocally disapproving of our own players or coaches, it is detrimental on many levels. It impacts the morale of the players. It reflects poorly on our reputation. It sends a poor message of sportsmanship to the young people in the crowd , and it delivers a negative message to recruits in attendance.”

Can it also lower ticket prices?

4.MORE THAN 200 YARDS RUSHING – Tennessee is also one of the SEC’s worst at defending the run.

5.TRAFFIC – Don’t get caught in it and miss kickoff of No. 1 Alabama and No. 7 Florida at 7 on CBS.

PREDICTION: LSU 31, Tennessee 6.