It's a little late, but here's the fifth roundtable (email) discussion between Richard, Poseur and I on the Mississippi State game and the state of the team in general. A little later than usual this week, but Poseur and I kind of got on a roll.
Billy: Well guys, should we cancel the season or what? What are your feelings right now after the Mississippi State game?
Richard: I think that things still aren't as dismal as the rest of LSU Nation tends to believe. We won, for crying out loud. But then again, we won ugly again.
Every single misstep this season can be rationalized. The Washington game featured a team on the rise, with a very good quarterback and genuine program energy for the first time. The Vandy game was against a conference opponent that had a pretty solid defensive unit. ULL was never close and we played it conservative. Mississippi State was on a wet field, in the morning, after travel problems.
The problem comes when you look at these games in the aggregate. You can rationalize the unattractiveness of our wins individually, but collectively you get a pretty ugly picture with some disturbing trends. The offensive line was woeful against Mississippi State, losing battle after battle to the Bulldog defensive line. Well, guess what? Georgia might have the best defensive line in the conference.
I'm thrilled we won the game, and I take two big things from this game: (1) the gutsiness of our defense, and (2) the putrescence of our offensive line. I hope the former is the one that comes to define the season and not the latter.
Kind of lost in the shuffle of all of this is that Jordan Jefferson had a very good day. He set his career marks in yards, completed some big passes, and had another high completion percentage. We just need to get our running game to stay in front of the chains. Jefferson's not quite good enough yet to make a living on 3rd and long. I think if we are in 3rd and >10, we are pretty much doomed. He's not ready to beat a good defense with his arm when everyone knows he's throwing, and the offensive line is not going to give him enough time to work it out.
Poseur: I have no idea what to say. We know nothing right now. This team is poised to beat an inconsistent Georgia team and then face a Tebow-less Flroida. LSU, from there, could catapult into a truly special season. Or this team could get crushed by UGA and Florida in back to back weeks, and this season spirals out of control. Both views are justifiable and you can pull whatever data you want to support either. I just don't know.
I was exhausted after the State game. And, yeah, I know LSU shouldn't need a goal-line stand to beat MSU, but here's the thing... we GOT a goal-line stand. With their backs against the wall, this defense sacked up and came up absolutely huge. For all of the talk about how mentally weak this team is for not being able to put away inferior teams, they sure showed some mental toughness in this game. So I don't know whether to be excited or mad. Probably both.
The "preseason" ends now. LSU has simply not exorcised the demons of last season. Well, here's the chance. LSU needs to go out there and win. Can they? Certainly. They can also just as easily get blown out of the building.
The worst thing right now is the relentless negativity from a large portion of this fan base. You know what? Stop it. I don't think anyone is blind to the problems on this team, particularly on the lines. But I simply have never seen a fan base so... so... pissed off for being 4-0. I ask simply? What did we expect? Who was picking this team to go 11-1? The baseline expectation was about 9 wins. This team is almost halfway to that goal. Why are people so angry that LSU is not as good as Alabama? Guess what? We're not. Sorry. Bama looks friggin' awesome. We're not as good as they are. OK? But LSU doesn't look like a horrible team. They look like a team that just can't get out of its own way right now.
Here's my biggest complaint, and I can't believe the tone here and everywhere in the LSU blogosphere is one of disappointment, but it is the focus on minimizing risk. Minimizing risk is fine, but it is coming at the expense of reward. I'm not going to rehash why I hated kicking the field goal on 4th and goal from the two, but it is symbolic of this season. Miles, who built a reputation on calculated gambles, is refusing to gamble at all. He's folding every hand, essentially. The offense is run on this principle and this principle only: don't turn the ball over. You cannot run a successful offense this way. Part of getting positive results is risking negative results. I absolutely detest this attitude which seems to permeate the coaching staff.
It is how losers think. And I'd rather we not lose. I'm not asking for tons of trick plays or anything, but open the offense up. Take risks. Yes, some will fail. But the culture of stagnation will surely change if the team goes back to trying to make something good happen instead of just trying to avoid something bad.
Sorry, I didn't mean for this to be a rant.
Billy: Rant away. There are times when I don't think LSU fans deserve to have good times -- they clearly don't value the wins as much as they value complaining. If you troll on enough message boards, you notice that the same people say the same things time after time -- and that the results on the field don't really change them. Lose, and the program's gone to crap, win, and it wasn't a pleasing-enough win or the other team was so bad that a win was pre-ordained. The latter in particular was really bad after the Chick-Fil-A bowl, and frankly, it was complete BULLSHIT (there, I said it) because half those people picked Tech to shred LSU's defense before the game.
I think the creation of the message board fan has spawned a group of people (and really this could apply to fans of anything, not just college football or LSU) who would rather be able to say they got it right. Whether LSU succeeds or fails, they want to be able to say they got the last word to some other stranger on a Web site. It's really quite pathetic when you think about it.
But back to the matter at hand - I'm with you Poseur. I have absolutely no idea what to think. About this team, or college football in general right now. Every team in the league, sans maybe Alabama, has played up and down week to week. Would anybody have bet that South Carolina could score over 30 on Georgia or beat Ole Miss after they only managed 7 points in their opener? Or that Joe Cox be would be lighting up scoreboards after the Oklahoma State game?
Outside of the league, Florida State lost to South Florida (who was down to the backup quarterback after losing a pretty good senior, 3-year starter in Matt Grothe) a week after destroying BYU -- which came just a week after needing a minor miracle to beat the fighting Ryan Perriloux's of Jacksonville State. Miami just got demolished by Virginia Tech after flashing top-five ability. And the same Oregon team that looked beyond inept against Boise State, beat Cal like it was the Kyle Boller days again. At least LSU can say they WON on a day that they played that badly. Ole Miss damn sure wishes they could say that.
Honestly, I don't know what happens next. LSU may get hammered behind the bushes on Saturday, but I can't say it would totally shock me to see the Tigers come out firing and beat the Bulldogs, either. It seems like it's that kind of year, perhaps. With all these wild swings happening with other teams, who knows if it can happen with LSU?
However, without a doubt, this offensive line is flat-out playing some terrible football. Whether by design or by necessity, the play-calling seems scattered and without reason at times. Defensively, pass-rush is still a bit of a problem, as are the occasional coverage busts. Special teams had a bizarrely bad game after showing a lot of improvement versus Vandy and ULL. On the upside, LSU has a quarterback playing with a lot of confidence and, for the most part, avoiding the big mistakes. In the SEC, that alone can be worth its weight in gold.
Will things get better? I honestly don't know. If they don't, we will have to see what happens then. But I, for one, am not going to give up on this team, and plan on going to every game I can. I love LSU, and I love college football, and I refuse to rob myself of that enjoyment.
Alright guys, let's keep this going. We're a quarter of the way through this schedule -- do you feel like you have any feel for the rest of the SEC yet?
Poseur: Yeah, those jerks and their websites. Always wanting the last word. I hate those guys. Oh, waitaminute...
I've just been informed I have an LSU website. Never mind. Those talking heads rule.
I do think our fan base has gone from hungry to ridiculously spoiled in record time. To hear anybody complain about how any team from 2005-2007 "underachieved" (actual quote) makes me want to go out and kill someone. How can anyone complain about teams that all finished in the top five in the country? It's mind-boggling. But it also puts the current complaining in perspective.
If three straight top five finishes weren't good enough, then this team, which probably won't finish in the top five, is destined to disappoint. But that's not their fault, that's the fan's fault for having completely unreasonable expectations. No team coming off an 8-5 season should have those kind of expectations.
As for the SEC? Who knows? You think LSU is confusing, try Georgia . I think Bama and Florida are clearly the class of the conference, but to think either is unbeatable is going too far. It seems the bottom of the conference is better, but the middle class may be a bit weaker. And if you know what to make of Ole Miss, email me. I think Auburn could be much better than we thought, or it could be a mirage from playing bad teams. South Carolina looks to be a tough team and will have a puncher's chance of upsetting Florida . They could also lose by 50. LSU isn't the only enigma in the conference.
Billy: At least none of us have either said that Trindon Holiday should play defensive end, and our debates don't come down to who can add the most emoticons or !!!1!11!! after every sentence.
There's a lot of hypocrisy going around -- because the same people who will say that all that matters is winning are the first ones to complain about a win that didn't suit them. People are making this week out to be a bellwether of all things to come, but if LSU does somehow win on Saturday, does that mean all the problems are solved and everything will be fine? Of course not. But that didn't stop people from prophesying doom after this past Saturday. People want to have their cake and eat it too, but I suppose that's not a unique quality to football fans.
But this confusion is my point exactly -- what are things going to look like a month from now? You show me somebody who says they know and I'll show you somebody who will probably be dead wrong. Jevan Snead is completing just 49 percent of his passes right now. Florida still struggles to throw the ball, and Georgia can barely hang on to it. Does anybody really want to bet on those trends to continue?