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ATVS Roundtable: Regular Season Wrap-Up/Bowl Game

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The whole gang puts sums up our thoughts on the regular season and LSU's potential bowl destinations.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the regular season has wrapped up, how do you classify this season? There's been a lot of talk about disappointment, but what does the ATVS staff say?

Cody

I'd like to start by throwing out these two words that I feel describe this season. "Roller coaster."

Bradyball2000

At first thought the season is a disappointment. However, you have to consider the state of the team this year. I read somewhere that with all the freshmen playing this year we only finished 1 game worse than last season. We may not be going to a so-called sexy bowl game, but we still have a chance to play in a bowl against a quality opponent. That is always good for recruiting and going forward. So I guess I would say this season was a building block ... or in other words a cornerstone.

Paul

Considering how vocal I was during the pre-season about my lessened expectations, it'd be totally disingenuous for me to say this season was a "disappoint." The record sits a little ahead or right where I expected. So, from that perspective it's not disappointing at all.

That said, what's discouraging is the continued troubles with the offense. My mind's eye envisioned a team that struggled early, but improved as the season progressed, even to the point that people would be penciling us in as playoff favorites heading into 2015. Instead, we were hamstrung by porous offense, again, and we're entering another offseason wondering if we'll have enough offense to match the lofty standards set by our defense.

So, disappointment may not be the right word, but I certainly had hopes of finishing much stronger than we did.

cdub71323

I think at the start of the season, I thought 8-4 or at worst 7-5, but it was still a frustrating season for me. So, you can put me in the same boat as the one above me in that regard.

Obviously when you lose four guys like Mett, Hill, Landry and Beckham, your offense is going to struggle, but it was just how it was handled.  You would have thought after our first two-QB system attempt we would have learned our lesson, but we didn't.  You have to build a level of comfort with one of the QB, whether it be Jennings or Harris, which I think I would have preferred Harris if we are looking to the future.  The problem is are we still going to have a QB issue next year?  Jennings is just bad as a passer and Harris now lacks the experience he could have gained.

The defense obviously had some lapses but how much could that be attributed to the lack of offensive production?  Another problem we will be likely facing is replacing starters once again on the d-line with Rasco gone and the departure of Hunter.

Billy

I think frustrating is the right word.

I came into this season knowing that there'd be highs and lows with a team this young, and I always say the difference from eight to 10 wins and from 10 to 12 is usually just a few plays, and that's how things played out. But I definitely didn't see the offense struggling the way it did, from the offensive line issues early on and the quarterback issues throughout. Struggles for sure, especially with a young receiving group, but not like this.

But I still think that with a good close in recruiting and some luck through the NFL departure season, this team is in good shape to contend in 2015. I like that the young players on this team stayed together for the most part, and engaged with the coaching staff. They played with guts and showed they could fight through adversity. Now it's time to improve, starting with the bowl game.

Finding improvement at quarterback is obviously job one, but underclassmen departures will be huge as well. If LSU can at least keep some of the defensive guys  and at least one offensive lineman, they could return a complete team in terms of experience for the first time in a while.

Poseur

I used "frustrating" in my season review, but let's use harsher language here: this is the worst season of Les Miles' LSU career. Now, the good news is that if a 8-4 (4-4) season is even in contention for the worst year, you're a pretty damn good program. But I have high expectations for this program because that is where Miles raised them to, and I'm not going to pretend this year wasn't a profound disappointment. First things first, everything LSU needed to happen after its 0-2 start happened. LSU isn't in Atlanta right now not because it took the defense a month to figure out how good they actually were, but because LSU dropped gigantic steaming turds against Bama and Arkansas. We grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory against the Tide, and then proceeded to drop the program's single worst offensive output in two decades. The only reason LSU did not win the West this season is because this team threw it away in November. All of the pieces were there: the top ranked defense in the SEC, a bruising ball-control offense, and two excellent special teams specialists. This is the formula, and the formula failed.

Even more frustrating was that this season contained many of the worst losses of Miles' career. I think all four of these losses would make a top ten of Bad Losses of the Miles Era. We had the first home night loss to an unranked team (State), one of the largest margins of defeat in a decade (Auburn), one of the biggest gut punch losses in turning a sure win into a loss in the final minute (Bama), and the worst offensive performance of the Miles Era (Arkansas). There's no way to spin that. These weren't moral victories, these were soul crushing defeats.

And is the team building for next year? The defense is already there. It ranked top in the SEC and top 10 in the nation. The power run game and ball control offense was there. All of the elements of a prototypical LSU team were there, only to be sabotaged by the complete and total mismanagement of the quarterback position (and let's not blame this on Jennings - the fact the coaching staff didn't have another option they trusted when he played so poorly is on them). That mismanagement cost this team the SEC title and if it continues, it will cost next year's team the national title.

Jake

I don't think it's a disappointment per se. I mean, I think we could've done better and the Bama loss and then subsequent Arky horror show sting. But considering where we were earlier in the season when some people were legitimately talking 4-8 and 0-8 in the SEC....8-4 isn't the worst thing in the world. A bowl win puts us at 9 wins which all in all is alright. It's not a successful season, it's not 2008, it's just "okay".

zrau

Honestly, this season was just about in line with how I expected it to play out (I was waffling between 8-4 and 9-3 depending on the day), though the defense was far better than I expected it to be. The offense, however, was far worse.

The defense picked up considerably from 2013 and improved throughout the year, setting a great tone heading into 2015. The defense was far better than I expected it to be, It's clear that Kendell Beckwith's usurpation of DJ Welter's Mike job changed the complexion of the defense, and for the better. Honestly Beckwith eventually being "the guy" at MLB wasn't surprising. But the rise of Davon "Da God-Chaux" Godchaux at DT was in some ways, and allayed the fears many of us had in August when news of Quentin Thomas' biceps injury broke. Godchaux was eventually the interior defensive lineman we knew would have to step up to take a lot of snaps, and his play opposite Christian LaCouture (who was great in his own right) allowed the defense to perform at the level we've come to expect. Godchaux's got the opportunity to be as good as he wants to be. The rise of Jamal Adams after Dwayne Thomas' injury (get well soon No. 13) was also a great surprise, and we'll likely have both of them on the field at times in 2015, which could be a terror for opposing offenses given their penchant to fly to the ball.  From the first half against Wisconsin to the last snap against Texas A&M, the defense improved overall, though not without its obvious sputtering (Alabama, groan).

Offense was a different story, as it took the line some time to gel and play at the level we expected. The OL was going to be the fulcrum of what everyone knew would be a run-first, "three yards and a cloud of dust" offense that only passed when it needed to (or saw the opportunity to, in the case of Logan Stokes' TD catch against Ole Miss). The RBs performed about as expected, and it's clear that losing Kenny Hilliard hurt us over the last three games (red zone woes, ahoy). We were flawed at quarterback and wide receiver as well, also not unexpected. The biggest issue with the offense always seemed to be getting everything to click at the right time. If the offensive line gave Jennings or Harris good protection, they'd bail on the pocket early or make a bad read and/or throw. If the offensive line gave the QBs good protection and they'd make a good throw, the receiver would drop it. The RBs, while the best skill position unit, became fumble happy against Kentucky and Ole Miss. All of those things are not only potential drive killers, but potential confidence killers. We could never get the ball rolling in totality, and that's the No. 1 issue heading into 2015 in my mind. It's not like we were expecting everything to fire on all cylinders and fuel a dominant offense. We were looking for good enough, and we couldn't muster that when it meant it the most. I wasn't expecting the offense that we had in 2013, but I was certainly expecting better than what we got. Granted, I also expected a worse defense.

As it stands, 8-4 and a bowl game provides us with a great opportunity for growth heading into 2015. Site, to me, is immaterial. I want to face the strongest team possible, not a glorified non-con game at a neutral site.

Cody

I think Zrau hit our defense on the head. With guys like Beckwith, Godchaux and Adams stepping up our defense grew exceptionally well as the season went on (minus a couple of slip-ups). I think if we are able to find some edge rushers to fill in for Rascoe and Hunter we should be pretty happy with where we are at heading into 2015 on the defensive side. Also, Rashard Robinson where you at??

With that being said... The offense was disappointing, but that was pretty expected. Obviously I think we handled the QB situation poorly, but like Billy said in previous conversations, there must have been something that prevented the staff from putting in Harris in numerous situations. After thinking about it, I think I'm okay with it because apparently Harris didn't show enough growth or improvement even on the practice field in order to make the coaches confident enough to put him back on the field come game time. But the offense as a whole was very "mehh." Fournette and Williams showed great promise with Kenny and Magee filling their roles as expected. O-line was a bit up and down but was able to figure out better and better as the season went on. And the WR's were about where we expected them to be... Inconsistent with flashes of greatness.

My one worry thanks to some late struggles though would have to be at kicker/kickoff specialist. Not sure exactly what is going on there, but I definitely don't feel good about Delahoussaye, Domingue and Gamble filling in for each other like a merry-go-round.

Madi M

I don't have much to add. I agree with pretty much everything said. Looking ahead to 2015 I don't have many concerns about our defense. Our CB play has looked a little inconsistent, but improved over the season. I'm also slightly concerned about replacing some of our departing guys. I think overall the defense will continue to improve into next season. I'm primarily concerned about Miles' propensity to favor seniority at the QB position. I really think Harris has the ability to be a passing threat. Based on why I've seen I don't think Anthony Jennings can pose any real deep passing threat.

Thoughts on the bowl game? Any preference of site/opponent?

bradyball2000

I'm not really excited about the idea of going to the Texas Bowl because we just went to Reliant in September. But it was a fun trip and will be so again. The same can be said about the Outback Bowl in Tampa. Saying all that I think wherever we end up the fans will follow as in years past.

crabshire

I want the Texas Bowl.

I live in Houston.

These two are in no way related, of course.

Cody

I second Mr. Abshire's thoughts.

Madi M

I would selfishly love the Taxslayer Bowl (Gator), because I'm from Jacksonville so I will be there for the New Year. However, I also would like a quality opponent to measure our progress.

zrau

Whatever game provides us the strongest opponent, destination is immaterial to me. I'm probably not traveling to it, so all of my hopes are focused on preparing for and playing against the strongest team possible.

Paul

Considering the playoff committee has no outlined parameters, my top choice is one of those semi-final playoff games.

Billy

Paul, I told you, you can't hold Jeff Long's children as hostages to get us in the playoffs.

Poseur

I kind of want the Liberty Bowl because our last trip to the Liberty Bowl has passed into myth. I mean, it spawned a Sports Illustrated article back in the day. Can you imagine the trouble you can get into in Memphis?

But we're looking at a list of underwhelming opponents, so I think I'd like to play in the bowl that also takes Texas. It's always fun playing Team Arrogance.

Paul

What I want: Some place fresh against a team we haven't played in the past 10 years.

What I will get: Some shitty place in Florida against a plodding Big 10 team which will produce the three most brutal hours of football on New Year's Day and leave my eyeballs and soul entirely lifeless.

That Capitol One Bowl rematch with Iowa will sure be a barn burner!

cdub71323

I would say the Texas Bowl, especially to give us the Longhorns.  Nothing like a little recruiting advantage late in the season

Billy

I'd like to think the league office won't stick people with a rematch that nobody's going to want -- including the bowl site.

I'm pretty agnostic about the whole thing. The game itself is nice, and a win always helps improve the mood in the offseason, but honestly the most important thing for this team is the bowl practices. The payouts don't matter, since, the league splits the whole pot equally, and the prestige is mostly just an emotional construct (and honestly, if it's not a playoff bowl none of you REALLY care all that much).

Otherwise, give me a decent timeslot -- something that doesn't infringe on family fun time in the holidays, or force me to watch hungover -- and a new opponent. Somebody we don't see often. Or Notre Dame. Never get tired of beating them.

Poseur

LSU's all-time record against Notre Dame is currently stuck at 5-5. It would be nice to move that winning percentage above 500. That would be something minor to play for, and who doesn't love hating Notre Dame?