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Some General Thoughts Heading Into Alabama Weekend

No. 1 different thing about this season going forward? No more this guy...  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
No. 1 different thing about this season going forward? No more this guy... (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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I plan on posting a "Dissecting Gary's Crowtons" piece later this week about way to attack the Alabama defense, and in most cases, I will generally stick to game analysis and recruiting, but since the Auburn game I've seen a lot of memes rise amongst certain segments of our fan base. I've given up in trying to change their minds; all I can do is offer my own opinion is the most reasonable way possible. So here's my take.

1) Why do people care so much about how Les Miles talks?

I've wondered this for awhile now, both back in 2005-2007 when 95% of our fans loved Les and now when it's more a 50/50 split. People OBSESS over the way he words things (which, I agree, is generally odd, but does typically make sense). I've seen columnists write entire stories over Les Miles quotes. Poseur does a fabulous job of poking fun at it at times, but doesn't abuse the privilege. If the mocking was occasional, I wouldn't think anything of it. But it's more trouble to me that it's become a common theme. Particularly in the face of winning. When we were 7-0 the haters realized they had little they could bitch about, so they resort to talking about how Les Miles talks.

Take Pat Forde, for instance. He's devoted a section in his "Forde Yard Dash" column to mocking Les' speech for about four weeks running. Maybe I'm just biased because I'm not a fan of Forde, and I find most of his writing to be self-aggrandizing rubbish, but why? Okay Pat, we get it. Miles talks funny. Why is that relevant or even interesting anymore? Okay, so you just do it for humor's sake, you say? Telling the same joke over and over usually doesn't work well.

But the larger issue is what I'm concerned with. People make a direct correlation between his speech and his coaching ability. Why? What do the two things have to do with one another? I've seen people say... "Well if he can't communicate to the media, what makes you think he can communicate to his players?" Well, the repeated top 10 recruiting classes notwithstanding, multiple testimonies all indicate they LOVE Les.

We can talk about Miles coaching strengths and weaknesses until we are blue in the face, and there are plenty of reasonable cases to be made in criticizing him. But trying to draw some abstract connection between the way he talks and the way he coaches is not one of them....

2) There's more evidence to suggest that Auburn is the exception, rather than the rule.

There's been a good bit of criticism for our defensive performance against Auburn. I'm not saying all of it is unjustified. I've seen people say, "Now we're going to get bowled over" by everyone. Suddenly the defense we've spent the first six games of the season almost endlessly praising is average at best in the eyes of many.

Drawing conclusions from one game is a bit obtuse. If you watched just the Florida game, you would think our offense is amongst the best in the nation. We all know that isn't true. So why are some making that same leap of faith (ignorance) with the defense?

I've said since the Auburn game that I firmly believe Auburn is the best team in the country. I think the only team that can keep pace with their scoring is Oregon, and I'll take the physicality and athleticism of Auburn's defense over Oregon's any day of the week.

That notwithstanding, they are extremely difficult to defense. They have four guys who are extremely capable of carrying the rock, including their stud QB. If you think Newton cannot throw by now, you haven't been watching closely enough. I believed that too... and was proven wrong. He leads the nation in passer efficiency. He's got a big arm. And their offense is very well designed and leaves a lot of men running free since the threat of Newton running is always a major concern. Auburn also pushes the pace offensively, which makes it very difficult for defenses to mix up looks, sub packages and overall just attack. These are all things we've done well defensively and didn't get to do at Auburn.

With the remaining conventional offenses left for us to face, don't be surprised if the LSU defense you see is more like the swarming one you remember from the Vanderbilt or West Virginia or Mississippi State game.

3) We have 2 QBs, and we need them both.

ATVS has probably been one of the few vocal sources that highlighted the "necessity" (not luxury) of the dual-QB system we operate. From what I've seen, neither QB has effectively illustrated the ability to operate this offense at a high level by themselves. Lee looked solid against Tennessee, tremendous against Florida and then porous the following two weeks. Is that because teams now have film on him? Is that poor offensive management? Probably a little of both.

The QBs MUST raise their level of play, but they also must be used effectively. We don't need to sprint out Lee for a pass... not his forte. We don't need to make JJ take 8-10 throws from the pocket, not his forte. Use JJ as a modified runner and allow him to throw on rollouts and let him utilize his athleticism to make plays. He's looked more confident and capable when he's had the ability to "freelance" a bit.

Lee, on the other hand, would probably do better with a script. Keep him in the pocket and throwing slants, bubble screens and the occasional shot downfield. We have zero deep passing game. We've hit two long balls all season long (I'm talking long throws, not just a seven-yard throw that ends up a 29-yard catch). We have to find a way to manufacture these big plays (and yes, you can manufacture big passing plays through design).

Just as Billy has said repeatedly, there's no reason to do this two series, one series, one series shuffle. If you are playing both out of need, play both AS YOU NEED. If we're in situations where we can expose a defense through the pass, do it. If we're in a situation where the QB's running will be necessary, do that. If you watched Florida/Georgia last weekend, you saw a little of what I'm talking about. The Florida coaches are in a similar predicament as we are. For all intents and purposes, Trey Burton (the runner) would be more effective in the offense they have built. However, John Brantley is a significantly better passer. So they used both and even Jordan Reed some as well. They pushed the pace of the defense by running a hurry up. I was undecided on its effectiveness, but it ended up being one of the best offensive days they've had this season. Why? Because they MADE the offense happen, rather than just waiting for it to come about. Curiously, we ran some hurry up in the McNeese game as a way to jumpstart the offense. I remember it working fairly well. Could we see more of it this week?

4) The Myth of the Alabama Defense

What is it about Nick Saban that things seem to magically improve by the very mention of his name? Ask some Tiger fans and they'll act like football never existed prior to Saban. Yes, it's true, Saban created the game, instituted it at LSU, then decided he should get to pick people from across the country to come play at LSU. He also fathered the BCS and was so amazing he gifted Les a National Championship in the process.

With all due respect to Alabama, as I know they are talented team, but where is all the hype about their defense coming from? They yielded 315 yards to Tennesssee (we gave up 217). They gave up more yards than us to Florida too.

Are they solid? Sure. But dominant? Not really. They tend to be opportunistic and excel at RZ defense. The game they lost, they failed to do either of those things. One thing about a defense that plays like that is that they can be dominating if they build up turnovers, but they can also be wholly ineffective if you take care of the football. They are 98th in the nation in sacks. Marcel Dareus is a nice player, but he's not monster of a pass rusher on the interior like Nick Fairley was, which was our major problem vs. Auburn.


There's probably more I missed, but that's all for now, folks.