Hobbs: Tigers passing in classroom, on the field, not so much

By By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

On an off week for LSU comes startling news, uncovered by dogged sleuths, that the Tiger football team is second in the SEC

only to mighty Vanderbilt in the all-important (but often overlooked) gridiron statistic of “Graduation Rate.”

Understand, if you’re in the SEC and insist upon keeping company with Vanderbilt, that graduation rate thing is generally

considered a good place to do it.

It is actually the second consecutive year, in fact, that the Tigers have finished second to Vanderbilt in this sweepstakes.

It is difficult to finish just behind Vanderbilt in any other football categories without firing your head coach, but this

one, we are assured, is a good thing.

Vanderbilt, of course, is a card-carrying private school and has just about retired this award since it was started in 2006.

Fortunately there is plenty of room since the school’s trophy case is not overly cluttered with bowl and SEC championship

trinkets.

So, just to recap, among SEC schools that unabashedly recruit firstly for football skills (everybody but Vanderbilt) and keep

education in its place (everybody but Vanderbilt), LSU could stake a claim to “We’re No. 1.”

This, of course, is news to make all

Tiger fans swell up with purple and gold pride, to get their swagger on

and start Tiger-bait

taunting all comers as they exclaim, “Then, how come we still

can’t throw the dad-blasted ball?”

That remains a puzzle inside an enigma wrapped around a riddle, probably too tall of a task even for the eggheads who figured

out the formula for Graduation Success Ratio, or GSR among its good friends.

Graduation was supposed to help LSU’s passing game this year in that it left Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee flat out of

eligibility, prohibiting Les Miles from inexplicably not playing Lee when Jefferson found the going rocky.

So far the results have been somewhat mixed, at best, most recently a 97-yard effort by Zach Mettenberger against a suspect

Texas A&M secondary.

Passing in the classroom, sadly, has not translated to passing on the field.

Far more disturbing, the annual GSR

rates were released Thursday just before some further investigative

reporting — checking

the SEC stats — revealed that the Tigers are consorting with the

Commodores in other areas as well, some of which don’t involve

rocket science.

LSU also ranks one slot below Vanderbilt in passing efficiency which, for strictly fan selfish and purely football purposes,

is, sadly perhaps, far more important than passing algebra.

LSU ranks 11th and Vandy is 10th. Some would say, however, that Vanderbilt had an unfair edge in passing efficiency because

it’s the only school that understands how the formula is calculated.

But in passing yards — simple addition, efficiency be danged — LSU isn’t even in Vanderbilt’s neighborhood.

The Commodores are a pedestrian eighth, 210.4 yards per game, while the Tigers come in at No. 12 with a whopping 177.4 yards

per game (yeah, I must have missed some of them, too).

But the alert fan will remember the SEC now has 14 teams and, if you’re anything like me, surely you’re wondering where in

the world did they find two teams from the nation’s best conference that have thrown for fewer yards than LSU?

The answers: Auburn (13th, at 154.4 ypg) and Florida (14th, with 137.7 ypg).

That’s unbeaten Florida, by the way, which should give LSU some hope.

But the Tigers reportedly are not content to be comfortably ahead of two of the 14 teams in passing yards, and are spending

this off week actively practicing on the passing game.

The thought, perhaps filled with good intentions and good old American work ethic, is that, well, practicing it surely can’t

hurt anything.

There are some new developments to report.

They added some excitement to the fray

last week against Texas A&M. Really without warning, they introduced

these long, majestic,

high-arcing spirals to the mix, awe-inspiring heaves outlined

against a cloudless sky deep enough downfield to make you crane

your neck.

They didn’t really complete any of them, but most fans agree it was the thought that counted.

Miles had a ball with it and has threatened to keep winding up Mettenberger and chunking them way down yonder until somebody

accidentally catches one or an opposing defense backs up the team portrait off the immediate line of scrimmage. Whichever,

as they say, comes first.

At any rate, the Tigers had plenty to work on this week as they prepared for next week’s showdown with No. 1 Alabama.

And Miles said he thinks that they are “this” close — THIS close! — to putting on a presentable air show (cracking the 100-yard

mark).

He can even sound pretty confident about it.

The theory there, I guess, is that there’s no reason that a passing game that really hasn’t done much to annoy the likes of

Towson and Idaho, is suddenly going to snap its fingers and terrorize the nation’s top-rated pass defense. Alabama is also

No. 1 in total defense and just about any other defensive category you want to dig up.

But it would be just like Miles, wouldn’t it?

In the meantime, LSU fans can taunt

Bama academically, although the Tide (75 percent) finished just below

the Tigers (77 percent)

at No. 3 in the SEC for graduation rate.

In fact, beware the Tide retort.

These latest GSR rates are from the incoming classes of the four-year period from 2003-06. So, to some degree, early on at

least, Tide fans will tell you that Miles has been actively graduating Nick Saban’s players.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com