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It's the Offense, Stupid

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Forget the defensive coordinator search. It's all about the offense.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Death, taxes, and LSU's offense being ineffective. OK, maybe it's not quite as inevitable, but it's pretty darn close. Since LSU won the national title in 2007, the offense has been stuck in a ditch on the side of the road. This is not a one-year problem, this is a systemic trend.

LSU's national ranking in total offense tells the story not of decline, but of inertia. The offense is at rest, and boy, is it staying there.

Year


Total Offense


Yards/Play


2014

80

62

2013

35

7

2012

87

75

2011

86

50

2010

86

73

2009

112

89

2008

55

63

LSU's offense has ranked in the bottom half of the nation five of the past seven years in each of the major yardage categories. Outside of the 2013 blip, this offense has been pretty consistently below average. It's not just the raw yardage, it's the efficiency. This team has failed on a rate basis as well, so it can't explain its failures with the slower pace.

The offense in Baton Rouge has been so bad for so long that we consider ranking 62nd in the nation in yards/play as a positive. It's not, though you can see why we would be confused. That's actually LSU's third-best season in the past seven in yards/play. Ranking 80th in total offense also represents LSU's third-best season in the past seven years in that category.

Think about that. Ranking 80th in total offense is a better than average offensive season for LSU. In an era in which offenses have improved their outputs by leaps and bounds, LSU has been largely left behind. The reason, of course, has been consistently terrible quarterback play.

Year


Passing Yards


Passer Rating


2014

116

71

2013

45

6

2012

94

79

2011

106

24

2010

107

92

2009

97

49

2008

71

80

Yikes. LSU has finished in the bottom half of the nation in passing yards six of the past seven years, and four of the past seven in passer rating. LSU isn't gaining many yards through the air, but at least we're inefficient in doing so. LSU has finished in the bottom quartile of the nation in passing yards five of the past seven years. Take a look at how many LSU receivers dot NFL rosters and wonder just how this is possible.

Sure, LSU doesn't have as many attempts as other teams, but passer rating is unaffected by number of attempts. It's a rate stat, and LSU's been consistently lousy there as well. It doesn't matter who is under center, unless it is Mettenberger in his senior year, the passing game has been almost completely ineffective for nearly a decade now.

Hey, but at least we can run the ball, right?

Year


Rushing Yards


2014

25

2013

29

2012

52

2011

22

2010

27

2009

90

2008

43

LSU doesn't run the ball nearly as effectively as we like to think. In order to make up for the passing game's complete inability to gain yards, the running backs have to pick up the slack. Now, LSU is not ranking in the bottom half of the nation in rushing, so I guess that's something. But LSU's rushing offense has not ranked in the top 20 once in the past seven years.

Now, it does pretty consistently rank right around 25th. If LSU was blessed with a competent passing game, this would be great, but considering we rely on the rushing game to provide nearly all of the offensive productivity, this is a bit below where we need the rushing game to be.

We've tried changing co-ordinators, and nothing much has changed. As much as we like to pretend that the Gary Crowton years are behind us, the offense isn't that much more productive today as it was under his reign of terror. Well, the running game has improved, and that's not nothing. However, the ultimate goal is to score points, and this offense is almost in the same spot as Crowton's:

Year


2012-2014


2008-2010


1

76

45

2

23

76

3

57

30

2013's offense only ranked 23rd in the nation in scoring, not that far off from Crowton's best effort in his last three season. LSU scores at almost the exact same rate as it did in the last three seasons of Crowotn's tenure. The running game has gotten a bit better, and we had a nice passing game in 2013, but other than that, nothing has changed.*

*LSU did rank 17th in scoring in 2011 and 11th in 2007. So Year 4 is pretty much a wash.

LSU football stands at a crossroads this offseason. As much attention that is being paid to the defense, I'm fairly confident it will work itself out. Miles has a tremendous track record of success there, and the team is full of talent on that side of the ball, even with the early departures.

No, the real issue is solving the riddle of what ails the LSU offense, and has for so long. LSU is coming off the worst season on Les Miles' tenure, and it is saying quite a lot that 8-5 qualifies as his worst season. Miles is entitled to a mulligan, and a year to rebuild the team after so many losses to the NFL. This was his season to get it back on track, and he gets to remove some of his deposits from the Bank of Goodwill.

2014 is over, and the mulligan is all used up. It's time to fix the offense. There's too much talent there to be putting forth these kind of results. LSU should contend for the SEC title next season, but it's not the new DC, whoever he is, who is the concern.

Miles has thrived precisely at the time people have doubted him the most. Well, it's time to prove the naysayers wrong again. No excuses. The SEC title is there for the taking, all you have to do is figure out how to get the offense out of the ditch.