When you look at why the SEC has been able to be so dominant in the BCS Era, the whole internet meme of "ESS EEE CEE SPEED" developed as a defense mechanism for fans of other conferences to mock the bravado. Make no mistake, speed and talent have been a part of the equation, but what's really been the difference in the most noteworthy non-conference matchups of the last 10 years has been all up front.
And that's exactly what we saw Saturday night. LSU used its advantages on both lines of scrimmage to slowly and deliberately asphyxiate the Washington Huskies. The Tigers dominated in every phase here: dominant running, efficient passing, swarming defense and field-flipping special teams. So let's get into the rewatch notes:
- The Tiger front seven were ridiculous Saturday. Just inhaling everything Washington was running at them. The linebacker play was fantastic for a second weekend in a row, particularly Kevin Minter, who is emerging as an every-down, sideline-to-sideline playmaker. And the defensive tackles are doing a fantastic job of keeping blockers off of him. This 2012 defense just might be a better version of John Chavis' first unit at LSU, which was very much built around the linebacking corps of Kelvin Sheppard, Perry Riley, Jacob Cutrera and Harry Coleman. Lamin Barrow and Luke Muncie continue to serve as able compliments. The ability was always there for those two, but on Saturday they were so good at handling Washington's backs and tight ends that the stud freshmen weren't needed until the second half.
- In general, I found both teams' gameplans interesting. LSU led with its wide running plays, the stretch and the toss-sweep. Typically, against a smaller, quicker front like Washington (especially a 3-4), you generally want to take pursuit out of equation by going right at them. That LSU had so much success getting outside on this unit is a tribute to the edge blocking they were getting out of the tackles and tight ends. Josh Dworaczyk in particular was fantastic in replacing Chris Faulk. The protection issues of last week disappeared, with no sacks or hurries by the UDub defense.
- As for the Huskies -- as much as I talked about Washington's high-percentage game, it didn't feel like we saw very much of it. There were a lot of misdirect passes, but nothing to constrain them. That is to say, no direction for the defense to bite on. If you can't execute your base plays, the counters to them aren't going to work on their own, and it didn't even feel like Washington really tried a lot of those base plays. For all the times Austin Seferian-Jenkins lined out wide, I can only remember a single back-shoulder fade attempt, something you'd think would be near automatic with that type of talent. It was almost as though Steve Sarkisian didn't have confidence that his players could execute those basics.
- Washington's average offensive drive lasted five plays and covered 15 yards. How long would it have taken them to cross the 50-yard-line on their own without a couple of timely penalties and a fumbled kickoff?
- Speaking of said fumbled kickoff, rough day for ODB. He continues to take risks in the return game, even on fair-caught punts. And then three bad drops. I tend to think he'll rebound well, but you don't expect that out of a No. 1 target.
- Overall the drops were fairly frustrating, but beyond the early ones out of Beckham, they appeared to mostly be due to a lack of concentration. James Wright's in particular, which looked pretty close to a lateral from my seats, was a particularly shitty effort.
- The passing game was coldly efficient, running mostly simple concepts. The fact that there were more intermediate throws had more to do with how the Husky defense was playing -- case-in-point the long touchdown throw to Kadron Boone. The play appeared to be an oblique three-level stretch, in which Boone's primary responsibility is to draw the top coverage deep to create room for the intermediate and flat throw. The safety didn't rotate over quick enough, and the corner either stumbled, or was put in a bind by the intermediate/short combo (I'd like to rewatch the play to be sure). The result is a wide-open Boone.
That's the beauty of this style of passing game in the right QB's hands. A defense can't cover everybody, and if he knows what he's looking at, Mettenberger will always be able to take what the defense gives to him, whether that's deep, intermediate or short.
- Speaking of the passing play, I love bubble-slant combo out of our 2x1 receiver looks in the I-formation.
- Speaking of the I-formation, how long do you think we have until the Geneva Convention denounces J.C. Copeland?
- Tharold Simon is developing into exactly the kind of cornerback we knew he could be. Make no mistake; Kasen Williams would be LSU's best receiver. Simon wasn't matched up on him exclusively, but he was still a big reason he only caught three balls for 19 yards.
- I mentioned the job LSU's DTs did in keeping the linebackers clean, but they also did a fantasic job of keeping Keith Price from stepping up in the pocket. His go-to move was to try and scramble outside, and with the Tiger end combo, that is exactly what a QB doesn't want to do.
- Quiet day on campus, but the Washington fans were in abundance, and appeared to be enjoying themselves. I managed to speak to a few after the game and to a man they seemed to be having a blast, game aside. Always nice to hear from folks making a 2,000-plus mile trip.