Last Modified: Monday, October 07, 2013 11:03 AM
STARKVILLE, Miss. — You watch LSU, six games now, and you rub your eyes, you shake your head, double-check the program ...
What team is this again?
Yeah, the one in the familiar yellow helmets, white jerseys, tasteful purple trim, the one with the slightly eccentric coach munching the 35-yard line.
Yeah, I know what you said
But, sorry, no, that’s not LSU.
I know LSU.
That’s not the Tigers.
What is this, some kind of practical joke?
This looks like one of those silly reality TV shows with role-reversal as the singular theme.
You can almost imagine the production meeting that started it.
Here’s an idea that might fly — we take a fan base starved for a workable offense, true zealots that have forgotten what a real quarterback looks like and who are just, like, totally convinced that it’s all about some play-calling that their 4-year-olds can predict in advance. We give them all of that.
Yeah, yeah, I like it.
Straight out of the NFL, a razor-sharp offensive coordinator not afraid to attack, a quarterback who plays at another level, forward passes way, way down the field, still with plenty of bruising running game just to break up the monotony of all those 29-yard completions. You know, where third-and-20 is as doable at third-and-two?
It could work.
I envision it, even, as an offense that’s fun to watch.
Breathtaking, some would say. All the bells and fancy whistles.
Yes, but here’s the good part. When these folks aren’t looking, we snatch their defense away.
Can’t leave them with nothing to fret about.
They won’t even realize it at first — let them warm up with UAB, maybe a Kent State or somebody.
LSU without a defense. Mmm....
Barely a hint of one.
Interesting. Very interesting.
Yeah, let them see how the other half lives, playing real games in real time without the safety net of a killer defense.
Nice touch. In other words, the fancy fun offense isn’t the luxury they always longed for, it’s ...
Bingo! It’s a necessity. Score or be scored upon, putting up big, big numbers, but for fun but for survival.
In fact, we’ll sub in a defense that isn’t even average, it’s actually very, very bad — Big 12 bad — couldn’t stop that grandmother of yours, the one who always could predict what up-the-middle play was coming next.
You don’t think that’s milking the gag too far?
It’s all show biz, baby.
No, it’s LSU in 2013.
This, so far, is a bizarro football season where LSU’s offense sneezes up 10-14 points as effortlessly as you hiccup ... and hopes it has time to catch its breath before its defense returns the favor and it absolutely has to do it again.
This is ... not the LSU you’ve ever known.
But this is, I’m guessing, the LSU you’re going to have to live with for the rest of this season.
This could be a season where even 59-26 victories like the one at Mississippi State Saturday night aren’t salted away relatively late.
Remember last week when Les Miles said the woes from the Georgia game were “easily correctable.”
After all that defensive soul-searching and tinkering, it took Mississippi State exactly three plays to score a touchdown — bing-bing-bing.
But enjoy the offense. Zach Mettenberger is quarterbacking at a stratospheric level maybe never before seen at the position with LSU.
Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry may or may not be the best wide receiver duo in LSU history — and I think they are — but they’re the first with a weapon like Mettenberger combined with needing their talents from start of finish.
For that matter, it’s probably fortunate for LSU that running back Jeremy Hill got his legal issues untangled for the good of the purple and gold.
They need all his numerous talents, too.
This offense has to be good. Playing offense at LSU this year means scoring 59 points and never having to say you’re sorry for running up the score.
Meanwhile, hope for the best with the defense, which is often out of position, rarely gets near the quarterback, is usually chasing somebody instead of attacking them and, any rate, has real problems tackling anybody when they do get near them.
The Georgia game was not an aberration. It was likely a preview of the second half of the season. Since shutting out Auburn in the first half — and how in the world did that ever happen? — the following eight quarters (two games’ worth) LSU’s defense gave up 88 points.
It took LSU its first seven games last year to give up that many points.
Les Miles tried to put a happy face on Saturday’s defensive effort, counting as a small victory that the Tigers held Mississippi State to three points in the second half.
It makes a good story. In truth, it all turned when freshman Tre’Davious White found himself in the right place (probably out of position) at the tight time (when a pass was badly overthrown) to intercept a pass and return it to point-blank range. It forced the Bulldogs into panic mode, probably too soon, and State realized it’s not supposed to beat LSU.
Otherwise it didn’t look to be a great defensive epiphany.
But try to enjoy the season. This is the offense you always longed for. It could be fun. It’s definitely different.
• • •
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org