LSU has me believing in Bizarro World
Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, September 18, 2019
In this crazy, upside-down college football world that has become LSU and the Southeastern Conference, I’m afraid it’s nuttier than you ever imagined.
Sure, we’re only three games into the season, but it’s a whole new world and, in these precincts at least, it’s taking some getting used to.
It’s hard to keep up — made all the tougher because apparently sometime in the last year the football huddle was ruled illegal. Or, at least in LSU’s case, extinct.
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And it’s taking some getting used to.
Do you have to watch games differently? I’m starting to think so.
It’s not just the Tigers. The SEC has become one of those beep-beep Big 12 knockoffs, even with better defensive linemen, honest linebackers and fleet secondaries.
That used to be a big part of the game.
Now, not so sure.
They still get in the way occasionally, but it often seems by accident.
Strange things are happening, especially with LSU.
Me, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the idea of not only LSU leading the SEC in scoring offense, but doing it by leading the league in passing offense and passing efficiency.
Quarterback Joe Burrow, who became an overnight Heisman Trophy contender after that wild Texas shootout, leads the SEC in all three categories, is second nationally in all three and leads the nation in completion percentage at 83.3 percent.
This is LSU we’re talking about. Not the kind of company the Tigers are used to keeping.
You’d been warned, of course.
But who knew it was going to be like this? Perhaps it was in the fine print, but I don’t remember any chatter about this new offense would be such a drastic change on how you watch defense.
Everybody is doing the spread, I guess. It used to be who could block and tackle better. Now it’s who can do the most in space with the fastest and the shiftiest.
Maybe the tipping point for me was Monday with Ed Orgeron harping back to the Texas game to explain why the promising young freshmen running backs on the team hadn’t been entrusted with much work yet in favor of veteran Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Pay close attention here.
“I didn’t want to put them in the Texas game because … I felt like we had to score every time, and I didn’t want to fumble,” Orgeron said. “I’m not saying they would have fumbled, but I trusted Clyde could do it.”
Let that settle in for a moment.
Forget the fear of the fumble. Orgeron apparently inherited Les Miles’ absolute aversion to turnovers.
But LSU, with a lead, felt like it had to score every time it had the ball in the second half.
Better yet, the Tigers did. And, it turned out, they did have to score every possession for the victory that captured the nation’s attention.
So that’s the way it is now, huh?
But last week it wasn’t Texas’ high-octane attack. And at halftime, against outmanned Northwestern State, Orgeron might still have been thinking he had to score every time he had the ball in the second half.
He didn’t. There’s a limit. LSU did have to abandon soft coverages against a well-designed scheme by the Demons and just let talent take over.
Still, it was a little eye-opening for a bit there.
It’s definitely taking some getting used to.
The offense alone has most of college football’s learned minds seeing no reason why the Tigers can’t crash the College Football Playoff party.
So with Vanderbilt on the agenda this week, I was all ready to look right past the Commodores and point out how, as much fun as this up-tempo contraption has been, the Tigers better find some LSU-style defense before they head to Alabama in November, if not before, where some of the traditional rules still apply.
Forget the new world. Nick Saban still believes in defense. He won’t be thinking he and the Tide have to score every series of a second half to hold serve.
And to prove it I was going to bore you with some statistics.
I was ready to temper it with the qualifier that Alabama hasn’t been up against anything like the Texas offense the Tigers were chasing that night.
First of all, LSU. The Tigers are sixth in the SEC in total defense, a little better than I would have thought. Right at 302 yards per game.
But, still, if you’re going to go into Tuscaloosa with any hope of winning, then …
Wait a minute.
This can’t be correct. Am I reading this right?
Alabama, right now, as we speak, is No. 8 in the SEC in total defense, two spots behind this LSU defense that is causing all the hand-wringing, at 308 yards per game.
Last Saturday Alabama gave up 457 yards to a South Carolina team with a true freshman at quarterback. There were 324 yards in the air.
This is the final straw. The world makes no sense.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org