Don’t over analyze, LSU is OK

BATON ROUGE — It’s probably dangerous and certainly not approved by the FDA or somesuch to try to overanalyze an LSU victory over a Rice.

But, hey, that’s what we’re here for, right?

Style points aren’t supposed to matter at this stage of the journey, but then a talent-challenged Rice team shows up.

What are you supposed to do? Watch the scoreboard?

I think it ended up 42-10 LSU’s way, but it could have been most anything. There wasn’t going to be much mystery there.

There was never intended to be.

This was the SEC’s unapologetic cupcake special weekend, which tends to leave the league’s television partners grasping for smelling salts.

The conference, always a trailblazer in manipulating college football, figured out that most of the big rivalry games are Thanksgiving weekend and decided the week before would be a fine time for a little R&R break, like an open date.

But it’s too late in the season for that honest approach, so creative schedule makers scour the countryside in search of proper warm-up fungoes — a notch below Homecoming fodder — for the big games ahead.

They’re then flabbergasted when their stadiums aren’t filled to the brim and that they generate about as much electricity as the remote for the Hi-Def that you stayed home to watch at least part of it on.

For LSU it just happened to be Rice. It just as easily could have been Liberty or Idaho or maybe UMass or Chattanooga or even The Citadel, all of which visited an SEC campus this weekend, most with good intentions.

Poor CBS was reduced to trying to convince a nationwide audience that Missouri-Tennessee was compelling TV.

But let’s focus on LSU-Rice.

I am a little confused.

To the naked eye, it appeared the Tigers did pretty much whatever they wanted against the Owls, as a football factory should do against a hipster, egg head school with little regard for extracurriculars like honest football.

And 42 points is nothing to sneeze at. Least of all by LSU.

Yet I’m trying to figure out what the Tigers did wrong.

They had only one turnover — on an early (ill-advised) gimmick play apparently just to see if anybody was paying attention — and didn’t punt until the starters were taking selfies on the sidelines.

Rice had one impressive play in the first half, which it used for a 51-yard field goal, but didn’t score a touchdown until 2:55 remained in the game against an LSU defense with names known only to parents and recruiting junkies.

Still, the score was kind of, well … pedestrian, at least when talking about seriously routing an outmanned opponent.

Rice coach Mike Bloomgreen even seemed kind of proud of his lads for the effort.

But watching LSU closely, even when the Tigers are clicking, I have long marvelled at how these Big 12 or Pac 12 games always seem to end up like 66-64.

Forget defense — which, they apparently do. But where do they find the time for such nonsense?

Yet even around the SEC’s rent-a-win Saturday you found more laughable games than the fare Tiger Stadium was served up.

Oh, sure, Alabama’s 10-10 halftime tie with The Citadel raised a few eyebrows. But then it was like Nick Saban winked and said, “Just kidding,” and squeezed off a 50-17 rout.

It was probably part of “The Process” and good material for the next time he needs to scold the media.

Some found it telling that the same Mississippi State beat Arkansas 52-6 — same Razorbacks who LSU had to hold off 24-17 just last week.

Oh, but wait. That comparative accusation doesn’t really work. LSU already played Mississippi State and won 19-3 (not a single touchdown, you’ll notice).

Or you see that Auburn was beating Liberty 53-0. Not to worry, LSU’s already been there, done that, too — and beat Auburn on the road 22-21.

But there was Georgia putting up a moon shot number to beat UMass 66-27. Why couldn’t the Tigers do something like that? Then you remember LSU did beat Georgia 36-16, which we may never fully understand, but which is in the books nevertheless.

Or maybe you want to bring up the one perfectly teachable moment that the Tigers failed in Saturday night. If it was a tune-up, the perfect opportunity came when Rice kicked its field goal with 1:55 left in the first half.

There wasn’t much suspense left in the game at 28-3. But you could almost hear the cry go out on the sideline: Two-minute drill, two minute offense!

They missed out on the touchdown when Justin Jefferson couldn’t hold a pass in the end zone and botched the field goal when Joe Burrow took a sack he didn’t have to.

But, again, when it was mattered, when it wasn’t just a dress rehearsal back against Auburn, LSU drove against the clock from its own 24 for Cole Tracy’s game-winning field goal at the buzzer.

But, just to take one desperate stab at over analysis of Rice, try this. Maybe the reason, LSU didn’t put a really obscene number on the board was simple logistics.

And no short fields.

LSU’s six scoring drives were 79, 66, 79, 88, 90 and 80 yards.

They had to be doing something right. That takes time.

But, to take it one step further: None of it will have any effect on playing Texas A&M this week.

Jim Beam

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