There is a book on how to beat LSU. It hasn’t really worked mind you, but there is at least a general theory, born out of the Auburn game. Rush three linemen, drop eight men into coverage, and hope Burrow gets frustrated by being forced to go underneath.
I’m not going to pretend I have the tactical acumen of Billy, nor I can break down film like Seth, so I’ll leave the actual X’s and O’s analysis to those guys. All I can do is math. So let’s stick to our strengths, and look at the numbers.
Is there anything in Oklahoma’s statistical profile that leads one to believe they can execute, for lack of a better term, the Auburn Strategy.
First, you need to be able to generate pressure with just your defensive line. For example, Auburn ranked 18th in the nation in Defensive Line Yards and 42nd in Standard Downs Sack Rate. Florida, another team to slow down the LSU attack, ranked 22nd in Line Yards and 10th in Standard Downs Sack Rate. Oklahoma, respectively, ranks 45th and 2nd.
So that’s the good news for Oklahoma. The Sooners are really good at generating sacks on standard downs. From an advanced stat standpoint, what’s the bad news?
Well, everything else.
Auburn ranked 3rd in DFEI (the per possession scoring advantage a team’s defense would be expected to have on a neutral field against an average offense), Bama 12th, and Florida 14th. None of them could really slow down the LSU attack. Oklahoma ranks 63rd, a good ten spots behind Ole Miss. Essentially, Oklahoma is a mediocre defense (LSU ranks 15th by the way), with a great pass rush.
So let’s look at that pass rush in more traditional numbers.
Oklahoma has 35 sacks on the season, ranking 22nd in the nation. Auburn only had 28 and Florida had 46. LSU, by the way, had 33, and we’re not beating our chests about our pass rush.
The thing about Auburn is that, although they had less sacks overall, their top three in sacks were all linemen. Marlon Davidson had 7.5 sacks and was a damn force of nature. Oklahoma also generates a lot of pressure from their front three, but Ronnie Perkins is now suspended for the game. The Sooners went from profiling like Auburn to now missing perhaps the biggest piece which made that so.
The Sooners’ sack numbers are also propped up a tad by destroying Texas, one of the worst teams in the nation at preventing sacks. OU had 9 sacks against the Longhorns (LSU had 5). To give some credit, their next biggest game was against Baylor in the Big 12 title game, notching 6 sacks.
But it’s almost as if it’s easier to sack the second and third string quarterbacks in their first real meaningful action of the season. If Joe Burrow were to get hurt, I’d be pretty worried about Myles Brennan getting sacked a lot simply due to not being up to game speed.
Hey, those 15 sacks count, but they also came in two games against a lousy offensive line and backup quarterbacks pressed into duty. OU had 20 sacks in their remaining 11 games, a little less than 2 a game. Considering they will be without their top pass rushes, I’d expect more of that performance than the Texas/Baylor variety.
But most importantly, we’re using Auburn and to lesser extent Florida and Bama as the model on how to slow down LSU’s offense. And that’s the biggest flaw in the argument: they really didn’t slow down LSU all that much.
LSU gained 508 yards against Auburn and scored 23 points. LSU had multiple wasted drives resulting in zero points:11-41, 9-43, 8-74, 10-73 (ok, that was a field goal). If your plan is to give up 231 yards on 38 plays, and only three points… well, good luck on that being replicable.
And that’s the best case. Florida allowed 511 yards and 42 points. Alabama allowed 46 points on 559 yards.
Th only team that remotely stopped LSU was Mississippi St, who held LSU to “just” 413 yards and 36 points. And that was because LSU settled for three short field goals early.
The fact is, there is no book on how to beat LSU this season. The offense has been a machine, grinding opposing defenses into dust. That includes some of the best defenses in the country. LSU beat two defenses ranked in the top 5 of FEI and four in the top 15.
Maybe Oklahoma has the secret sauce, but color me skeptical.