Granted, this could be a product of having way too much time on your hands.

Or my hands, actually, in a sports world still in hibernation.

But contrary to popular rumor, LSU's 15-0 national championship season wasn't quite perfect.

Nit-picking, at best, I know.

But dig around the national championship trophy long enough and there will be flaws to be found.

None of them really bit the Tigers, obviously, as you'll take 15-0 any way you can get it.

So maybe this constructive criticism could be reserved for this season, assuming there is one.

Head coach Ed Orgeron and his staff will have their hands full replacing 14 departed NFL draft picks, including a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, fellow named Joe Burrow.

Surely there will be some sort of drop off from one of the best teams in college football history.

And maybe these little things will matter then when you're not scoring at will.

So, maybe, just maybe …

Give me a second. I know I found something wrong with last season. It took a while, but I know it's in my notes here somewhere.

Oh, yes. Here it is.

The return game. You know, special teams. That's it. LSU traditionally has loads of it, gets plenty from it, either by punt or kickoff.

None of them went 15-0 like this one did, but over the years it was always the one thing you mark down in advance. The Tigers were always dangerous on returns.

Last year, virtually nothing.

And it almost seemed by design, premeditated.

The new rule allowing a fair catch on a kickoff seemed to suit the Tigers just fine. If you could get the ball on the 25, it seemed like a pretty sweet deal.

Discounting kicks in the end zone and the five onside kicks tried against LSU, the Tigers had 38 chances to break one — and called for a fair catch 24 times.

It was puzzling more than anything, the way returners' hands went up almost as soon as the ball left the toe.

And it wasn't much different with punt returns, when the Tigers (mostly freshman Derek Stingley) forced 91 punts yet only 21 of them were returned (granted, a few went in the end zone, a couple of others out of bounds).

But, like the kickoffs, most of them seemed predetermined, hands going up quickly unless there were way wide-open spaces.

Yeah, I get it. With that offense, all you wanted was the ball — you didn't really care where you started.

But you'd think Stingley is too good of an athlete to be wasted raising his hand all game.

Just a suggestion.

But my real pet peeve with football is the coin toss.

LSU was very good at it last year. I don't know what algorithms the Tigers were using, but they won the coin toss in 10 of the 15 games, including all three in the postseason.

For the most part, the coin-toss decision-making was spot-on. Who knows? The other may have been game captain error.

They deferred until the second half in nine of the 10. For some reason they wanted the ball first against Arkansas. I have no idea why.

You always defer that. It's the biggest no-brainer in sports.

So what if you score first to open the game? If you're getting the ball to open the second half, you have a chance — it has to fall right — to basically get consecutive possessions.

It's free money. Like a built-in forced turnover.

And last season LSU had it fall just right a number of times.

Of those nine times when they deferred, the Tigers scored in the final minute of the first half eight times. The outlier was Georgia in the SEC Championship game, in which the Tigers kicked a field goal at the 2:22 mark for 17-3 lead.

But those Tigers, who seemed to score whenever they put their mind to it, rarely took advantage of it.

The six times it got the ball to open the game, LSU scored five touchdowns (and missed a field goal attempt against Florida).

But the nine times LSU opened the second half with the ball — several notable times packing a potential knockoff punch — the Tigers scored only three touchdowns, and a field goal.

The Vanderbilt one needs an asterisk. The Commodores opened the second half with a onside attempt, which LSU returned to the Vandy 1-yard line. The other two touchdowns were against Northwestern State and, if you want to call it a knockout punch, a score against Oklahoma that pretty well salted the game away at 56-14.

Against Alabama, for instance, the Tigers scored two touchdowns in the final 26 seconds for that don't-pinch-me 33-13 halftime lead — and got the ball to start the second.

Imagine how stunned the crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium would have been if the Tide had trailed 40-13? Instead, Bama was Bama and there was a whole lot of drama before the Tigers put it away late.

Same thing at Texas, which might not have ever produced the heart-stopping third-and-17 if LSU had quickly stretched a late-begotten 20-7 halftime lead.

Same thing with the closest game of the season, the 23-20 win over Auburn where LSU opened the second half with a dud drive.

Again, that's perhaps scratching too far beneath the surface for anybody's good.

It all turned out pretty good.


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

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