This is more just trivia and information than analysis.† I went into more detail about x's and o's here.
No SEC West team has a loss outside of the SEC West yet. That may not change in the next few weeks, but one thing is certain: the number of undefeated teams in the division will be reduced considerably from the current number (5).
Below are the upcoming intra-divisional games. Two games in each of the next two weeks are between pairs of currently unbeaten teams.
Texas A&M @ Miss st.
Alabama @ ole miss
LSU @ Auburn
Ole miss @ Texas A&M
Auburn @ Mississippi st.
Alabama @ Arkansas
Texas A&M @ Alabama
I thought of one scenario where there could be no undefeated teams and a 5-way tie for first at one loss apiece.
LSU beats auburn, who beats miss st., who beats A&M, who beats Alabama, who beats ole miss. That would assume wins in other conference games.
LSU has won 15 of 28 (going back to 1982) and 4 of 7 games (going back to 2007) in the state of Alabama. The last game (in Tuscaloosa last November) was of course a loss though.
When LSU travels to the state of Alabama, we are generally talking about close games though. Last year wasnít close, but the few times before thatÖ (Even years are Auburn, odd are Alabama)
Spencer Ware was one of the few offensive play-makers when LSU last visited Auburn in 2012. Over his right shoulder is Gene Chizik.
2012: LSU, 12-10
2011: LSU, 9-6, o.t.
2010: Auburn, 24-17
2009: Alabama, 24-15
2008: LSU, 26-21
2007: LSU, 41-34
Auburn only has one recent single-digit game at Tiger Stadium, the 30-24 LSU win on a touchdown right before the final gun in 2007. That had been the fourth straight LSU-Auburn game decided by less than 7 points.
Another interesting thing I read was that Les Miles is just one win short of his 100th victory at LSU (in his 10th season).
Before I get to the main topic, Iíll mention a couple other things. Once again, please check out my LSU-Auburn Rivalry blog. Iím apprehensive another streak will come to an end. Itís much shorter than Mississippi St. was though: LSU has won three in a row and six of seven. Also, I had an observation about the computer ratings that I didnít notice at first. Even though Nebraska is #3 right now, if you average it by playing week, the Huskers fall to 8th. So when Nebraska has a bye week on the 11th, theyíll have a more accurate rating after that point. Not that I expect theyíll have an easy time of things this weekend.
Iíll start with the good news from the LSU-NMSU game.
Brandon Harris didnít have a lot of rushing yards, but he took advantage of his opportunities.
Brandon Harris obviously came in and did very well for the second week in a row. 11/14 for 178 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions. He also had five rushes for 36 yards and two touchdowns. His yards per carry probably would have been better without the touchdown runs, but I like how he showed he can run into a guy bigger than him and keep going. I think Les Miles admires that ability more than anything, so hopefully Harris made a persuasive enough case to start the next game.
Other freshmen of note were RB Leonard Fournette, WR Malachi Dupre, and WR/PR Trey Quinn.
Not much to say about special teams, but just about all the kickoffs went through the endzone (and no miscues on extra points), and our punter had 147 yards in three kicks. We only allowed 7 yards in punt returns.
The defense was put under a lot of pressure with four turnovers and a three-and-out in the first quarter. Kendall Beckwithís interception return for a TD (while a good thing) also added to pressure on the defense. They didnít allow any points during that stretch (until the final minutes of the second quarter, which Iíll get to).
New Mexico St. did miss a 40-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter, but that was when the Aggies had good field position after a turnover (and then a 15-yard penalty). They only obtained one first down in that drive.
I liked some of the different looks on offense. LSU HAS to be able to get the ball outside for short-yardage situations. When itís a run and everyone knows itís a run and they go up the middle, itís not happening. It didnít even happen against New Mexico St., which isnít a good team in general and is especially bad against the run.
So even though the diamond formation resulted in a fumble, it wasnít the fault of the formation, it was a good hit/bad holding onto the ball after the line of scrimmage. There was nothing wrong with the play itself. I would not be surprised if they at least tested it on Auburn once or twice.
There were also a couple of good (more conventional) option and pitchout plays that LSU understandably got away from with Mettenberger in the last couple of years, but why they werenít there against Mississippi St. I have no idea. I think if LSU had just one of those plays and executed it (either for a touchdown or for the purpose of spreading out the field) during that goal-line stand, they would have won the game against the Bulldogs.
Three-and-outs are nice, but something else I like to see is a stop after giving up a first down or two. Against Wisconsin and Mississippi St. at times, it seemed like if they got that first first down, it was all over. I mentioned the missed field goal, but there were too additional stops at the LSU 47 in the first half while it was still only 14-0. The LSU offense had a three-and-out of its own between those two drives.
So there were a couple of situations that you donít like to happen, but I like how they responded anyway.
Say what you will about the defense (although I noted they can catch the ball when you throw it to them and can also pick it up when itís on the ground), New Mexico St. does have an offense that can produce points and yardage, so to keep them from even having scoring opportunities on all but two plays the whole game is good work.
There were some bad things, especially in the early going. It was another slow start on offense. Seven offensive points in the first quarterÖ no wonder they had zero for the first 20 minutes against Mississippi St. and only 7 for the first 2 Ĺ quarters against Wisconsin.
Of course, a big contributing factor to that was turnovers. You just canít do that. In this case, you canít give hope to the other team when theyíre in a hostile environment with the odds stacked against them. Next week, when LSU is in that situation, itís just asking to lose by 30 points or more if you start turning it over early. Iím not just talking about field position and points off of turnovers. Even if you donít give the other team good field position, that means you had good field position yourself and squandered the field position and the momentum you were lucky to have.
I mentioned how LSU should try to spread out the field when they have the ball. If Cam Cameron would watch the LSU defense, maybe that would register in his mind a little more clearly. They gave up a play of almost 80 yards for a touchdown because they had too many people spread from sideline to sideline and no one had an angle after the runner went through the line of scrimmage. There were at least three similar plays between the Wisconsin and Mississippi St. games. A couple of them might have been short passes, but it was a similar issue with no one having any kind of angle on the ball-carrier. I know, one scoring play, but I think the Auburn offensive line might just be able to create more openings for plays of that nature.
New Mexico St. still had 274 yards (although it would have been fewer than 200 without the touchdown play), still completed more than almost half of its 33 passes, and still gained 4.6 yards per rush. Thatís not as good as I was hoping for. The final score was great, but it does matter somewhat how you got there.
Also, third-down defense in the first half was not satisfactory. In two of the Aggiesí first three drives, they converted from 3rd and 6. There was another third-down conversion in the second quarter (from 1 yard) and nearly a fourth for the half before a fumble on that same down.
There is no excuse for LSU to have had five penalties in this game. They were only for 35 yards, but it creates similar types of issues to the turnovers I mentioned. I didnít see the hands to the face. I saw the hand to the LSU playerís face on the same play, but there was some unnecessary sloppiness. Giving them a first and 5 toward midfield (for example) was not good.
I touched on this with the turnovers, but Jennings was bad. He ran himself (first drive only) and set up a couple of good running plays, but that was it. He only completed two passes for 11 yards, and none of the incompletions looked like good passes that I remember. One of the passes was for 7 yards and a first down, so it was really just one good passing play. Jennings threw two interceptions, was sacked once, and lost a fumble (on a separate play from the sack).
The hesitation with Harris was that he was liable to commit turnovers. Well, I think this should settle that (since I originally wrote this, Harris was named the starter). I know they want to give Jennings respect for his hard work as a backup and for practicing better and so forth, but next game will be game 6 of the season and most importantly game 2 of the SEC season.
I wish Jennings all the best and I hope heís able to contribute to the team, but weíre past the time to be nice. He doesnít need to start the next game, and I donít think you even take Harris out unless heís proven to be overall ineffective or mistake-prone in multiple possessions (or, God forbid, hurt). If Jennings canít handle the pressure at home against New Mexico St., I donít want to see him in the early going at Auburn. Heís a capable athlete, but Iím not comfortable with him at this point.
I want to say something about the boos. Someone said this about the NFL once: ďWe boo because we care.Ē If Iím in a stadium, especially paying an arm and a leg to be there, Iím going to voice my displeasure with certain coaching decisions. Everyone understands that when you want the coach to go for it and he sends out the punter, no one is booing the punter as a person. But somehow where quarterbacks are involved, people donít seem to get it. There probably were some people who wanted to express displeasure to Jennings for the turnovers, but I believe the majority of the people were making clear that they didnít like seeing the same guy come out and throw the same type of pass with the same result. The message wasnít, ďWe donít support you.Ē
Iím sure Auburn worked on improving some areas this week as well, so Iím still expecting it to be very difficult for LSU to win the game next week. Iíve been surprised by enough Les Miles teams in the past not to despair too much until the game is over and we have fewer points though. Or at least until weíre more than 20 points behind midway through the fourth quarter.
Also, no matter what happens, I donít envy Auburn fans too much. Their next five games after LSU are Mississippi St., South Carolina, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Georgia. Every other one of those is on the road. I didnít even mention the game in Tuscaloosa the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
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Let me know if any of you would be interesting in participating in a poll. I may start one next week if there is sufficient interest.
LSU plays Auburn this week, so if youíre interested, here is my LSU/Auburn Rivalry blog.
1 Auburn 1
2 Florida St. 3
3 Alabama 5
4 Oregon 4
5 Oklahoma 2
6 Miss. St. 10
7 BYU 7
8 TX A&M 6
9 UCLA 16
10 Nebraska 23
11 Ole Miss 8
12 Notre Dame 12
13 Ga. Tech 17
14 LSU 13
15 Arizona 22
16 E. Carolina 14
17 Baylor Ė
18 Georgia 15
19 S. Carolina 9
20 Louisville Ė
21 Okie St. 20
22 NC State 24
23 TCU Ė
24 Marshall Ė
25 Missouri Ė
Full computer rankings 1-128 (as I will explain, these are not in agreement with the top 25 given above)
Out of rankings: (11) Penn St., (18) Rutgers, (19) Arkansas. (21) Washington, (25) Virginia
Explanation and future rankings
As I mentioned last week, this is my transition week into adopting all or most of my computer rankings.
I would have liked to have kept Arkansas, after its very good game against Texas A&M, and Virginia, which lost to two top-10 teams above and beat a top-20 team. I didnít keep them because they were not in the top 35, and I didnít want to deviate more than 10 spots.
The team where I deviated the most was East Carolina. I couldnít justify putting them behind a Baylor team whose best win is Iowa St. Georgia has one win over an ACC team, but East Carolina has two.
South Carolina is the only two-loss team that made it, but the Gamecocks did so on the strength of their wins. Virginiaís just werenít strong enough to merit consideration.
I donít like ranking Missouri, but they have three wins over FBS teams. Obviously one of them is a very good win. I consider Indiana a bad loss, but it will take some time for them to show up that way even if the Hoosiers are in fact bad. Indiana is 2-2, including an FCS win; but the FCS team they beat is Indiana St., who is otherwise undefeated and has a win over an FBS team. So for right now itís just sort of a mediocre loss. I do have Missouri a few spots below where the computer put them though.
I certainly didnít want to put USC (the loss to Boston College isnít looking so good) or Minnesota (who was destroyed by TCU) in the top 25 even though the computer had them there.
The only other team I was really reluctant to rank was Marshall, but theyíre undefeated, and I couldnít justify putting anyone else ahead of them.
I tried with Michigan St. and Ohio St., because I certainly think either would beat Marshall; but there just isnít a good argument being that Iím trying to transition into the objective system. Michigan St. was the best available team; but they were 10 spots lower than Marshall, so there was really no way to justify bridging that gap. Ohio St. was even lower.
Michigan St.ís only wins are Jacksonville St., Eastern Michigan, and Wyoming, so I donít think thatís good enough. At least Marshall beat Akron (who beat Pittsburgh). I know that isnít much to go on, but itís more than Michigan St. has; and again, the formula is something to go on as well.
Itís also more than Ohio St. has to go on. Navy and Cincinnati are just not looking like good wins right now. Cincinnati only beat Miami U. and Toledo, and Navy now has three losses after losing to Western Kentucky. Even if the Buckeyes do have better wins than Marshall does, that still doesnít address the loss to Virginia Tech, whose only other wins are William and Mary and Western Michigan.
Cincinnati travels to U. Miami (the one in Florida) in a couple of weeks and also plays East Carolina in November, so if they win a string of games, that will help Ohio St. of course. Two byes and two wins over MAC teams (with two FBS wins between them) doesnít help much right now though.
Ohio St. and Michigan St. both have decent opportunities to join the top 25 next week.
I moved the top 25 teams an average of four spots each. There are only four teams that I moved 7 or more spots up or down. I moved Arizona down 8, North Carolina St. down 7, East Carolina up 10, and Louisville up 7. I am trying to avoid any larger jumps next week.
Note that I still moved East Carolina down two spots compared to last week, I still moved Arizona up 7 spots as compared to last week, and I moved North Carolina St. up two spots as compared to last week despite a loss.
I want to go back to the teams I skipped over for a second, Iíll have no problem ranking USC if they beat Arizona St. next week and are still in the computer top 25. I just think they need that additional quality win in light of Boston College losing to Colorado St.
Minnesota has a bye week, so theyíll probably fall slightly on their own. If their past opponents are still good enough for them to stay in the top 25, I will probably still put them there. TCU plays Oklahoma, and Michigan travels to Rutgers, so we shall see. The Gophers are 22nd in the computer formula right now, so if they stay 22nd, that wonít bother me anyway.
Iím not 100% sure that next week wonít be another transition week, but Iím leaning toward going to the computers exclusively or almost exclusively (sometimes I slightly rearrange the very top teams in early October) next week. I take serious issue with a relatively small number of the results for this point in the season.
I predict I will stick to the computer rankings in full after the games of October 18. Alabama plays Texas A&M that day. Auburn is idle, but in the two weekends before their bye (i.e., this coming weekend and the following weekend) they play LSU and Mississippi St. Mississippi St. is idle the week of the 18th as well, but not before playing Texas A&M and Auburn. Florida St. plays Notre Dame on the 18th. Oregon plays UCLA on the 11th (which could also make or keep UCLA #1), followed by Washington on the 18th.
Nebraska plays Michigan St. this Saturday, but I doubt they can get enough points in the next three weeks under any combination of wins and losses by the other teams I mentioned. The Huskers are idle on the 11th and play Northwestern on the 18th.
Oklahoma is back at #10, but they have a decent combination of games in the next three weeks: TCU, Texas, and Kansas St.
I had a couple more LSU thoughts. I never fully process everything the first night. As you may know, LSU has not had an undefeated season since 1958. Now that Iíve seen two national championships, really my long-term hope as a fan is to see another, so the first loss will always be somewhat frustrating.
There has been a game or two every season going back as long as I remember where I get intensely frustrated with the coaches and so forth. I was going to detail several of them, but I decided it would be pointless griping to do so. Hopefully it wonít happen again this season even if there are losses. I think I gave an adequate explanation of why I felt that way in the post-game blog.
I do have some hope that this season can turn out well. Some of the prognosticators have already written LSU off as a contender, but how many one-loss teams have been written off for the two-team playoff (aka BCS) only to come back into the picture or even to play in the title game? There was a one-loss team just about every year.
Of course, in 2007 we had a one-loss team many did write off at #1 (Ohio St.) and a two-loss team at #2 (LSU) going into the championship. If they have to finish with one loss to make the playoff, that means they have to win nine in a row to do so. I certainly wouldnít put money on that, but I would be less surprised by that than I was by everything that happened in the 2011 calendar year.
Les Miles and LSU after the Tigers won the SEC Championship in 2011.
To paraphrase the Mark Twain quote, the reports of LSUís long-term demise are greatly exaggerated.
Iím not worried about it yet. The last time I was worried about it was 2009 when LSU lost to Houston Nuttís unranked Ole Miss Rebels. Disastrous time management and Les Milesí instructing quarterback Jordan Jefferson to spike the ball had caused time to run out on LSUís final possession at the Ole Miss 6-yard line (Final score: Ole Miss 25, LSU 23), not that they really deserved to win anyway. That was LSUís 8th loss in 20 games. Rather than spiraling downward from there, LSU has gone 47-10 since the 2009 season ended. If youíre winning over 80% playing the type of competition LSU typically plays, youíre doing something right.
However, a long-term decline is inevitable. I donít think a single early-season loss to a veteran dual-threat quarterback is a sign itís all going to hell in a hand-basket, but at some point LSU is not going to be a serious title threat for a while. It will even happen to Alabama. Saban may have to retire, but it will happen. It wasnít that long ago that Alabama had no serious national-title-contending teams for a decade or so. When they did win in 1992, it was their first national championship since 1979.
Anyway, if LSU has peaked, it has still been a period of success to be extremely proud of. Compare the Tigers to other top programs from around 2003 (the year of LSUís first national championship since that 1958 undefeated team I mentioned).
Seasons with losses of four games or more since 2003 (inclusive):
LSU 2, with two BCS championships, one runner-up in the same period.
Ohio St. 2, with two BCS runners-up
Oklahoma 2, with one BCS runner-up
Oregon 4, with one BCS runner-up
USC 4, with one BCS championship, one runner-up (and one AP title)
Texas 4, with one BCS championship, one runner-up
Florida 5, with two BCS championships
Auburn 6, with one BCS championship, one runner-up
Florida St. 7, with one BCS championship
LSU has won two national championships since the last time either Oklahoma or Ohio St. won one, so I wouldnít switch places with them either.
Tennessee had won a national championship in 1998, just 5 years before LSU won in 2003, but the Vols havenít had a season with fewer than four losses since 2004. They had a decent run in 2007, but the loss to LSU in the SEC championship game (after Les Miles told everyone to have a great day) was Tennesseeís fourth. Thatís certainly an example of a program I hope LSU is not similar to in the foreseeable future.
Alabama wasnít really a relevant team in the early 2000s, but theyíve had 4 seasons with four losses or more in case you wanted to know, all from 2003 to 2007. Of course, since then the Tide has had three BCS championships and two Sugar Bowl berths.
Tennessee and Alabama were the only programs that won a major national title from 1992 forward that I did not include on the list above. I included Oregon, which hasnít won any, but they arguably should have made the BCS championship game in 2001 and have been a consistently strong program since, so I thought they deserved inclusion.
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I did pick LSU #10 going into the season and #7 most recently, and I had not ranked Mississippi St.; but I canít say Iím shocked by this outcome. I especially wasnít surprised it came down to the last play, but I was surprised by the margin in the visitorsí favor after three quarters.
You can only beat a rival like that so many years in a row. I know theyíve had some bad teams in that stretch, but theyíve also had good teams and LSU has at least had mediocre teams who could have easily lost.
I did think the streak would end in Starkville, so the idea of it being at home and at night gave me some hope. On the other hand, I heard one of the announcers today pick Mississippi St., and I didnít really have an argument with the points he made.
Even though the Bulldogs had not played anyone (which is why I hadnít ranked them, along with the fact that they had just barely qualified for a bowl game last season), I was concerned by the apparent strength and versatility of their offense. The Mississippi St. offense had given LSU problems in the past, although before they had similar plays with a two-quarterback system.
Itís nice to have location and recent history in your favor, but you have to make plays. Too many times, LSU just didnít make them even though opportunities were there. I was disappointed that the players seemed to allow themselves to get discouraged similar to the way they did against Wisconsin. But on the other hand, I have to give some credit for responding late even though, unlike against Wisconsin, it was not enough.
That said, if the coaches want the players to make the right plays, they need to make the right calls are made. You might look at the game summary or whatever and conclude LSU was just never in it until it was too late, but thatís not the case. I would admit they didnít get the offense going the way it should have been until too late though.
There were good calls that gave LSU a first and goal at the 2 (after the opening touchdown by the Dawgs), but I donít consider four runs up the middle good play-calling after that point. You have to do something to spread out the field (pitch, bootleg, play action, something) at some point. You know, kind of like how Mississippi St. gained yards against LSU and how Wisconsin gained yards against LSU despite an almost complete lack of a passing game in Week 1.
This failure would keep the Tigers scoreless until the waning minutes of the first half. Seven points rather than 0 right there would have been huge.
The comeback from 17-0 and 17-3 at the half did not materialize, but it could have. After the LSU defensive touchdown to open the first half, the Tigers had a great chance at a stop on 3rd and 11. So without making it a full blitz, LSU rushed into the backfield (and then just stood there), and the second Mississippi St. got the ball out of the backfield, they just needed one halfway-decent block to get a first down. Then, they drove to the end zone.
That first stop is just huge against this kind of team. LSU would have had so much momentum having the ball (and probably at least satisfactory field position) down by only 7, not counting the missed opportunity for points in the first half.
Then the Bulldogs scored again and would lead by as much as 24, but who knows what would have happened if LSU had gotten the ball back right away before the first State touchdown of the second half? Think about how much of a break the Mississippi St. defense got. LSU had the ball to end the first half, but deep in their own territory, the Tigers decided to let the half expire, so that didnít tax the State defense. Then they had halftime, then Mississippi St. had the ball, then LSU scored on a turnover and gave the Bulldogs the ball back, then a long drive followed that. Even if LSU doesnít score on that possession, that still could have tired the defense somewhat and led to more success (and sooner) later on in the game.
Dak Prescott rolls out on third and 7 before putting the Bulldogs up 31-10.
(Apologies for the picture. No matter what I did, I couldnít make it larger on Wordpress. I'll try to post it directly on the bottom.)
This was not only Mississippi St.ís first win against LSU since 1999, it was only the second since 1991 (and LSU was terrible all but three years of the 1990s). 1991 was also the last time the Bulldogs won at Tiger Stadium. I believe I was there, actually. I wonder how much the ticket prices have increased since then.
This was also only LSU's second home loss since October 2009 (the other was by four points to Alabama in 2012).
Anyway, hopefully this is a learning experience for the players, but John Chavis and Cam Cameron shouldnít need learning experiences at this point. I hope they learned something anyway. Maybe LSU should just pretend theyíre already down three scores when the game starts from now on. Iím not just talking about the offense. Mississippi St. was held to three points in the final 24 Ĺ minutes
This might not be LSUís year being that the new quarterbacks and mixture of old and new running backs are not coming along as LSU fans hoped, but itís also not over. Auburn lost to a team that finished with three conferences losses early last year and then went all the way to the national championship game. That team was LSU.
On another positive note, this is by far the most traffic my site has ever gotten in a single day. There are three hours left in the day here on the West Coast, and Iíve almost tripled my previous record.
LSU/Mississippi St. Rivalry blog (now updated)
LSU/Mississippi St. Notes and Week 3 Top 25
LSU Adds to Winning Streaks in Opener (Wisconsin post-game)
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