Shot Across the Bow

I was reading the Ole Miss preview on Team Speed Kills, and I perked up a bit when they asked Red Cup Rebellion who he fears more, LSU or Bama.  Here's the response:

Alabama by a wide margin (or margarine if you don't understand the English language). LSU does not worry many of us at all. I have to admit that most of my worry comes from the fact that we beat LSU 31-13 last season while losing to Alabama. Unless John Chavis is just that good of a defensive coordinator, I wouldn't bet the farm on LSU. They were dominant over no in-conference foe last year, with their largest margin of victory over an SEC school coming in the form of a 34-24 victory over a horrible Mississippi State team. Their deceptively dominant Peach Bowl victory (Georgia Tech turned the ball over seven times while garnering only ten fewer offensive yards than the Bayou Bengals) is really all they are going on to build up their expectations. People are talking about Jordan Jefferson, but I'm not buying it yet. He was mediocre against us in a loss, lost to Arkansas (completing less than 50% of his passes against their porous secondary) and averaged 5.7 yards per attempt against Georgia Tech. In case you were wondering, that's worse than Tyson Lee AND Wesley Carroll did against GA Tech. Sure, LSU won that game is strong fashion, but it wasn't because of Jefferson. Charles "I only rushed for 10 yards on 10 carries against Ole Miss" Scott should continue to be an overrated back on an overrated team. Why isn't QB uncertainty as big a problem for Alabama as LSU? Because Alabama hits teams in the mouth with the running game, and they don't let up. They don't fall behind by enough that passing becomes essential, and when they do, they have Julio Jones. I'm not certain McElroy will be good, but I think it's safe to say he'll play better than Jefferson in 2009 since he won't be asked to do nearly as much. Alabama will have a stingy, almost air-tight defense. Scoring against Alabama will be like birthing a child: rare, painful, and messy. If the Rebels can get into the endzone early and force a turnover or two, then I like their chances against Alabama. Otherwise, Alabama's an "L."

Also, Alabama's coach is Nick Saban while LSU's is Les Miles. Miles is a buffoon. How do you win only 7 regular season games with the talent LSU had last season? Baffling.

Awesome. 

Hey, I think Ole Miss is overrated as all hell this season (they are going to be introduced to the statistical concept of "regression to the mean"), so it's only fair Ole Miss thinks we are overrated as well.  But how salient is his critique of our beloved Tigers?  Let's break it down.

ONE.  "Unless John Chavis is just that good of a defensive coordinator, I wouldn't bet the farm on LSU."

I disagree.  We will improve simply by dumping Mallveto.  LSU's defense went from #2 in the SEC in scoring defense to #9.  In one season under their steady hand.  The defense improves simply by subtraction.  The defense was simply horrid against the pass, going from #4 in the conference to #11 in pass defense.  Considering the defense has spent nearly a decade near the top of the SEC in all of those categories, either we saw a sudden drop in talent or the two-headed defensive co-ordinators were really, really bad.  I think option B is the more likely of the two.  Chavis doesn't need to be Buddy Ryan, he just needs to not be Mallveto. 

TWO.   "They were dominant over no in-conference foe last year, with their largest margin of victory over an SEC school coming in the form of a 34-24 victory over a horrible Mississippi State team."

A very good point, actually.  MOV is a great indicator of team quality.  Going through the SEC slate, here was LSU's MOV by game: 5, 10, -30, 7, -14, -6, -18, -1.  Ouch.  The 38-3 trouncing of GT puts a nice face on the end of the year, but his overall point is correct: LSU wasn't very good last year.  Here are OM's and Bama's MOVs:

Bama: 35, 11, 3, 4, 20, 6, 25, 36, -11
Ole Miss: -6, 1, -7, -4, 2, 10, 18, 45

Bama was certainly dominant last season, but you start to see my skepticism of Ole Miss.  That blowout of MSU is a huge outlier, though it does look like a team that slowly got stronger as the year went on.  But, really, they are hanging their hat on the upset of Florida and the blowout over a reeling LSU team in freefall.  A team, they now argue, flat out stunk.  Which, well, we kind of did lay a turd last season, so it is true.  The question is, is that the true level of this program or just a one year aberration? 

THREE.  "Their deceptively dominant Peach Bowl victory"

Stop.  There was nothing deceptive about it.  LSU dominated that game.  The game was 35-3 at the half.  We were nearly even on yards?  Maybe that's because LSU only gained 80 yards in the second half whole protecting a massive lead while GT gained 172 yards playing catch-up, and failing to score once.  And, for the record, here are the seven GT turnovers:

FUMBLE in the 2nd quarter (14-3 LSU)

DOWNS in the 2nd quarter (21-3 LSU)

INTERCEPTION on the last play of the 2nd quarter (35-3 LSU)

DOWNS in the 3rd (twice)

DOWNS in the 4th

FUMBLE in the 4th

It's not like LSU needed seven turnovers to build a massive lead.  It really was only two.  By the team they committed their third turnover on a worthless INT, the score was 35-3 and the game was essentially over.  While I think we can read too much into one game, there is no way to state the Peach Bowl was deceptively dominant unless one completely misconstrues the stats of that game.

FOUR.  "People are talking about Jordan Jefferson, but I'm not buying it yet. He was mediocre against us in a loss, lost to Arkansas (completing less than 50% of his passes against their porous secondary) and averaged 5.7 yards per attempt against Georgia Tech."

Well, I understand being skeptical of Jefferson.  I am, too.  I do think leaving out the fact he can run is a little misleading, but I think it is perfectly fair to worry about his passing ability.  I do think it is reasonable to expect a sophomore to improve, and I don't think anyone is projecting JJ to be better than Snead or Tebow (or if they are, they are deluded).  Once again, if we're gonna talk about yards per attempt, Lee averaged 6.96.  Really, we had two freshmen who, well, played like freshmen.  The rule of thumb is that a player's biggest improvement is between his freshman and sophomore years.  I don't think either guy suddenly needs to be Bert Jones, they just need to show moderate improvement (Lee to cut down on the INT's and Jefferson to be more of a passer). 

Later on, he states "I'm not certain McElroy will be good, but I think it's safe to say he'll play better than Jefferson in 2009 since he won't be asked to do nearly as much."  I will absolutely take some of that action.  And why is Jones such an asset for Bama but LaFell doesn't even merit a mention for LSU despite, you know, catching more balls and for more yards (with Lee and Jefferson throwing to him).

FIVE.  "Charles "I only rushed for 10 yards on 10 carries against Ole Miss" Scott should continue to be an overrated back on an overrated team."

Uh huh.  1174 yards.  5.4 yards per carry.  18 touchdowns.  Scott broke down a bit due to injuries last season, but I think it's a reach to say he's an overrated back based on one terrible game.  That's just drivel. 

SIX.  "Alabama's coach is Nick Saban while LSU's is Les Miles. Miles is a buffoon. How do you win only 7 regular season games with the talent LSU had last season? Baffling."

First off, no fan of a team coached by Houston Nutt should be casually tossing out the buffoon label.  Secondly, LSU won eight games last year.  Sorry.  We also won a national title in 2007.  It wasn't like an alien was coaching the team then.  If he gets the blame for 2008, he gets the credit for 2007.  And he does admit the team is talented, which kind of feeds my theory that last year was the aberration and the team will go back to its string of double-digit wins (or what Miles did in all of his previous seasons at LSU, a feat Saban managed twice in his tenure here). 

Also, didn't he just get through saying all of our players suck?  Scott is overrated.  The defense stinks.  Our whole team is "overrated".  Yet now Miles is a failure because he squandered all of that talent?  I ask, according to this analysis, what talent? 

All in all, I think he overstates the case against LSU.  I do agree that the QB puzzle is a bigger concern than some fans think.  We could very well be whistling past the graveyard.  The defense is a huge question, which is a legit concern: what impact will firing the two-headed co-ordinator have?  I think the defense will improve dramatically, as a lot of our problems last season seemed tied to the simple fact that it was apparent no one had any idea what was going on.  However, he is hitting on the fundamental problems with this LSU team.  Just because he's overstating the case doesn't mean there is no case. 

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