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The Cotton Bowl in Review

Pardon this review, as it is written more from drunken memory than re-watch analysis. I fully expected this game to be a drubbing. After the first quarter, my sentiments seemed to be in major doubt. But as I told my sister-in-law, who is an Aggie grad, a dog that shits fast doesn't shit long (5th grade basketball coach wisdom). As the game wore on, it became clear who the better team was. A&M was completely outclassed on both sides of the ball. Though, I must give credit, I expected LSU to illustrate a decided edge on Special Teams and the Aggies covered well all night long.

Much like the Ole Miss game, LSU's offense carried them to victory rather than the defense (though the d rose up and played a much better 2nd half). Once the offense got rolling in the 2nd quarter, it was no looking back for the Tigers. Jefferson wasn't terribly efficient as a passer, but made it count with two big touchdowns. Seeing the offense flourish definitely gives us optimism for the offense's potential next season. But one of the hottest topics I've seen discussed amongst LSU fans is who really called the plays Saturday? More on that after the jump.

I forgot to DVR the game, so I have yet to go back and watch through it fully (I hope to do so early this week so I can write a final season's edition of "Dissecting Gary's Crowtons" [btw, should I keep this title for next year's offense, regardless of who coordinates?]). Without watching, I cannot fully comment on the differences in the LSU offense, but two things stuck out to me: 1) Heavy emphasis on the downhill ground game and 2) Vertical passing. We've been a rushing team all season, but typically we mix our rushing styles with outside and inside attacks. I saw less attempt at stretch and horizontal plays (option, namely) and more of a straight ahead, downhill emphasis. Additionally, vertical passing has been a weakness of the offense all season long, and we took several shots down field this game. 

Again, I'm not certain what to make of it, but the offense obviously performed admirably.

The major thing that stuck out to me was the number of plays made by young studs, rather than the guys we counted on all season long. Zod, Nevis, Sheppard, and Ridley all had relatively quiet nights. But true freshmen Spencer Ware, Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid, and Tharold Simon ended up being the "stars" of the game.

Senior Terrence Toliver shined the brightest, putting on the best game of his LSU career, including a sensational catch for his 1st of three touchdowns. Toliver has been an inconsistent performer throughout his LSU career, and it was delightful to see him leave on a great note. Early this week, Toliver wrote on Facebook that he wanted to be in the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame. Good to see his performance match his expectations. This showing should certainly help his draft stock.

Jordan Jefferson may have made a statement about the quarterback position heading into 2011. While the fans continue to pine for Mettenberger, Jefferson's bowl preparation and performance may well display that he's ready to take the reigns of the 2011 offense and elevate his play to another level. As for Jarrett Lee, it wouldn't entirely shock me if he wasn't on the roster next season. It seems odd that he would leave after dedicating himself this much to the program, but with a scholarship crunch and two quarterbacks incoming, Lee strikes me as a possible attrition candidate.*

*I have no inside sources or knowledge. I do not wish for Jarrett Lee to transfer. This is purely speculation.

Back to the young talent. This offers me unbelievable hope for what's in store for LSU the next several years. The sheer number of talented youngsters who were legitimate contributors this season offers tremendous hope for the future. LSU may be positioned for another dazzling run, much like 2003-2007.LSU loses some important leaders next season, and the biggest challenge will be replacing the leadership, rather than the talent.

It wouldn't surprise me to see Spencer Ware as the starting running back next fall. He's immaculately versatile, tough and shifty. Michael Ford is the prospect most LSU fans have salivated over for the past two seasons, but he was sparingly used in the Cotton Bowl and appears to have been passed by younger talent. Ford has the extra gear that no other back on our roster displays, but he has yet to display the toughness of an every down back. I expect him to figure heavily into the offense next season. All of this is, of course, assuming Ridley goes to the NFL (which seems to be a likely possibility).

This season exceed mine and most others expectations. Miles proved that he wasn't simply a guy who "won with Saban's players." In essence, he proved his worth to a majority of Tiger fans, who thought 10 wins would be an outstanding year. Let's hope he sticks around.

The greatest take away is that the future is bright. With the coaching situation unresolved and rumors swirling, we can't be certain of what exactly the future holds. But I promise, who ever coaches the 2011 LSU Tiger team will have plenty of weapons in his arsenal.