EDIT: As you might imagine, we put this together before last night's news on Mettenberger's torn ACL. We'll have more on that later.
Well, with the 2013 season in the books, how do you sum things up for this LSU team?
About what I expected with a surprise loss against Ole Miss and a surprise win against A&M. I was thinking 9-3 at the start of the season with just how many people we lost on the defensive side, losing to Georgia, Alabama and A&M. The offense was solid, while the defense is young and should greatly improve by next year.
A good season that had great potential, but was still a lot of fun. The team finished around where everyone thought they would, 2-3 losses against a tough schedule and went through a lot of growing pains. The defense took it on the chin for most of the season because of the mass exodus to the NFL, and the offense flew the highest it has in a very long time. The offense outperformed every expectation that I had going into the season and made watching the games a lot of fun. Overall, it was a very exciting season. If you enjoy close, compelling football, this season was a blast.
Plus, the team was undefeated at home for the second time in three seasons. I'm proud that the team defended our home.
Essentially what I expected from this team. I hated to be pessimistic heading into Athens and Tuscaloosa, but those were two games I would have been surprised to win on the road. The only loss I didn't like was Ole Miss, which in retrospect looks worse, despite being at the end of a long stretch of games and in Oxford. The emergence of Beckham and Landry as 1,000-yard wide receivers just blew my mind, as well as how Mettenberger flourished under Cam Cameron's new system. Jeremy Hill? Well, he was exactly what we expected, and Magee's emergence in the A&M and Arkansas games gives us a definite known heading into 2014. While the defense was not up to our usual expectation, the offense balanced it out. Also, someone who hasn't gotten a lot of love: Colby Delahoussaye, who has brought stability to our field goal game after Drew Alleman's hit-or-miss 2012. 9-3, it's not a bad way to be.
I think I'll remember this team largely for their inconsistency. Showing up to completely dominate A&M's explosive offense, but hardly sneezing at a stop against Georgia. We completely dominate what could be the best team in the conference, but stumble over Ole Miss' backups. For much of the season, it just seemed like we didn't have that "voice" to steer us straight when we veered off path.
What makes it a little more painful is that this team was pretty damned close to 11-1, but couldn't get late stops against Georgia or Ole Miss. At the end of the day, the record looks a lot like what many of us predicted, but it's disappointing because one of the L's comes to Ole Miss... a lowly, beaten up, depleted Ole Miss, which is probably the single worse loss of the Miles era.
Inconsistency nails it. this was a young team that never quite came together. All of the ingredients were there for a special season, and instead we had a good one. Nothing to be ashamed of, and there were certainly some wonderful moments, but there is a sense that this team could have been so much more.
What struck me was that I just didn't recognize this team for most of the year. A high-powered offense coupled with a defense that can't make stops. What is this? And the defense really was a disappointment. Not the young kids, who pretty much played as expected, but the veterans. Pretty much every veteran defensive starter regressed, sometimes horribly so. We were counting on the returning vets to carry the underclassmen until they were ready, and really, the underclassmen covered for the veterans. That bodes well for the future, but it was a bit of a disappointment this year.
I agree with Poseur -- the "how" was a bit odd, but the what was about what I expected, give or take a game. The Georgia/Bama games were tough losses, but not unexpected. The Ole Miss game, particularly with them playing with a ton of injuries, was a huge downer.
But seeing the team rise up to take down A&M (and their loss to Mizzou obscures it, but just about everybody in Baton Rouge thought the Aggies would house LSU) and then rally by Arkansas was encouraging, and frankly, just fun. Yeah, Arkansas stunk, but given the way that game played out it would have been easy for that team to just roll over and they didn't. If they can finish with a strong bowl win, that's another 10-win season, with another great recruiting class coming in and the momentum still rolling LSU's way.
So what about this regular season will you remember the most?
For me it's three things:
I think you have to remember the offense being the driving force of this season. It has been a long time, if ever, that we have seen an LSU offense carry a team to this successful of a season. We have had potent offenses before, but they were balanced with more dominant defenses. This was just an offensive onslaught that was more balanced than previous years. You saw LSU history made with having a pair of 1,000-yard receivers, you saw Jeremy Hill being Hill (although he wasn't featured as much as I thought he would), the emergence of Terrence Magee as a solid backup back, and you were continued to be amazed by the hands of Jarvis Landry and the toughness/grit of Mettenberger. How Landry is not a Biletnikoff finalist is beyond me. It was funny because before the Arkansas game they showed that catch from last year and I was thinking "Man, those catches aren't even surprising from him anymore," and then he makes that 4th quarter catch and he still finds ways to make your jaw drop.
The other is on the negative side and that was the porous defense from the upperclassmen. Freak disappointed for much of the season, Barrow just seemed too slow, Welter became a continuous joke in my household, and our older corners just didn't improve. I think Ego and Loston played well enough to get passes in my eyes, but overall, we relied too much on the true freshmen to perform on defense and that is a very hard thing to do in order to have success in the SEC.
Finally, although it was one drive against a bad team, I think we saw the torch passed on at quarterback and that flame looks very bright. For a true freshman to come in the last game of the season, down by three with 3:04 and 99 yards in front of him for a win, the poise that Anthony Jennings showed was beyond impressive. Any mobile quarterback can take off running anytime, but it was handled so well that if you aren't an LSU fan, you wouldn't believe he is a true freshman that had never really played this year before that except for running plays and garbage time.
I'll remember it as a step forward in a lot of ways, moving beyond 2011 and the disappointment that surrounded it.
A lot of people didn't think that LSU would ever be a great offensive team, and I think we saw that it was capable of doing that. What's more, they did it without making the radical changes a lot of humanoids and pundits believed were needed. The Tigers were still a power-running-and-play-action team, just one that did those things incredibly well, created a lot of big plays and had a lot of fun. I think there will be more of that to look forward to in the future.
Speaking of the offense, I'll remember how much fun it was to watch Mettenberger just keep finding Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham time after time. And Jeremy Hill busting big play after big play.
The defense wound up being the problem that a lot of people thought it might be before the season, but for like Cdub said, it was the veterans that we expected to hold things down that faltered. There are some youngsters that are going to be a lot of fun to watch in the coming years, particularly Rashard Robinson. But there's no doubt it's a unit that has a lot of work to do this offseason.
I think the defense will be better next year, especially since the younger guys got a lot of work in. Rashard Robinson and Tre'Davious White may have entrenched themselves as the starting cover corners going into 2014, potentially giving us our best overall cornerback tandem since Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne in 2010. Seeing Robinson shut down Mike Evans during a rainy Texas A&M game was about as impressive as it gets, even if Johnny Manziel wasn't himself in the back half of this season.
One position that I'm really hoping develops as we get into spring practices is linebacker, a supposed strength in 2013 that was a detriment at times - Lamin Barrow's senior campaign disappointed often. Guys like Kwon Alexander and Lamar Louis give me hope going into 2014, with guys like Deion Jones, Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith competing for time as well. The young guys showed flashes of brilliance, and could be devastating if they could learn how to do those things consistently. On the recruiting end, getting Clifton Garrett could be a huge lift to the linebacking corps. It's going to be interesting to see how these guys develop going into next fall.
I'll remember this as the team that finally put 2011 behind them. I never thought that the secret to getting over the BCSCG loss would be to play Alabama in an essentially meaningless game, but that is what it took. This team and we fans have been singularly focused on Bama for about three years, and that just ain't healthy. There's more to the season than just one game, and losing to Ole Miss brought that into stark relief, as did getting our doors blown off by the tide.
But instead of packing it in, I think this team, and even more so the fans, found the value in just beating an SEC opponent for the intrinsic value in winning. Beating a conference rival helped. The Texas A&M game was the team's most complete performance since 2011 and while the Arkansas game was a struggle, it ended with one of those drives that will go down in Tiger lore.
Above all, I will remember Zach Mettenberger. We have not praised that guy enough. The way he limped off the field against Bama, now with a few weeks of distance, wasn't him getting mad at his o-line, but the desire to walk off the field on his own power. He wanted things to end on his own terms. And when they didn't, he seemed to have genuine joy for his replacement making the big play. Mettenberger didn't win a title at LSU, but I'd want him in my huddle. He was an amazing Tiger that I don't think we appreciated enough until he was gone.
Does anybody have a bowl game destination preference?
I want the Cotton and I want Baylor, though I realize that's unlikely.
I want the Cotton for the time slot, but dear God do I not want to see Baylor or Okie State and their offenses. I'd much rather poke the corpse of Mack Brown with a stick.
Going somewhere new and seeing a B1G team like Michigan would be cool though. Though I hate the Outback and Cap One time slots. Plus I'm still bitter over the 09 Capital One Bowl's field.
QUIT READING MY MIND, BILLY
I want the Cotton, just because it offers the best TV time slot and national exposure for the team for where we've fallen in the pecking order. I know there's probably considerable Arlington fatigue, but all of the other things surrounding the game make it too appealing to turn down. I wouldn't mind the Outback just because LSU hasn't played there since 1988 when it was the Hall of Fame Bowl, but for some reason I feel that's unlikely. I'm still praying for that Michigan-LSU match-up in one of the B1G/SEC New Year's Day bowls in Florida.
I would say Cotton Bowl as well, especially if we can say we were Mack Brown's last loss. Now the Aggie grad side of me is living vicariously through LSU
Cotton for me as well. I want no part of Baylor or Oklahoma State though. The Outback could be fun, but Tampa...eh.
What's with all the intimidation? Everyone knows Tigers > Bears or Pokes. Bring on ye mighty offense of the Big 12 and we shall show what ESSSSS EEEEEE CEEEEEE SPEED is all about, yanowutimean?
I would like to get revenge on Mack Brown for 2002 and to give the Longhorn Network something to obsess about for the next eight months.
Well, I'm partial to the Cotton because it's just down the road, but let's be honest-- I hate that stadium and will do just about anything to not go there. I don't like paying $50 to park one mile from the stadium and then stand in a one-hour security line just to get to another one hour line to get in the doors. Words do not describe how much I hate that place. I'd love the Outback. We haven't been in a long time, Tampa is nice, and I wouldn't mind a Wisconsin teaser. If there is a way to play Michigan, that's still my dream match-up, though I don't see that happening this year.
But we had the kind of season where we can't really complain about our bowl match-up. What we get is what we get, so long as it ain't the Peach. Can we please not go to the Worst City in America? I'd rather go to the Music City Bowl because at least it's in Nashville.