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ATVS Roundtable: Bye Week Thoughts

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The krewe — our newest contributor included — talks LSU after Act I of the 2019 season.

LSU v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

So we’re at the one-third mark of the season, 4-0 and with the best offense in the country (???!!!!!). How’s everyone feeling about this team right now? Surprises? Disappointments?

Dan

I’m in the camp that the defense will be fine assuming injuries round out okay. So let’s just get that out of the way.

I want to talk about an offense that we all expected to be good. We returned skill players galore, brought in more talent and finally had some OL depth. Of course, we also hired yet another assistant savior, Joe Brady. We knew this group would be strong. We didn’t know it would be THIS strong. LSU’s offense is just dunking on folks like every drive is an homage to Shaq in his prime. They get on and off the field so quickly and not in a shitty “oh another 3 and out” type of way that you almost feel short changed for not getting to see them enough. Ensminger and Brady went to the market with a pocket full of time of possession and swapped it out for buckets of points and none of the merchants were the wiser.

It’s the first time in over a decade that when the offense takes the ball it’s less a hope and more a “3 or 6 here?” proposition.

And look, I love our shit-talking, Archie personified quarterback. The numbers are gaudy but that dude walks into every building like he built the damn place and I’m not sure this offense would be as good as it is without his deep belief in what’s installed and his ability to execute it to perfection.

So yeah, I’m pumped. We may actually beat Bama. I’ll fucking take this over putrid attempts to prove our toughness via running into piles of humanity 45 times a game. Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

Kennedi

Well this is the most confident I’ve felt about any LSU team since the week before Alabama in 2015, to be honest. We all know how that ended, so I’m not willing to sit back and expect the them to go all the way like I did then. But these are two very different teams and 2019’s Tigers don’t have an offense that just involves Leonard Fournette trucking guys for 75 percent of the game or a subpar passing game. This LSU team seems built to win in the current college football landscape and OFFENSE, sweet, sweet offense. I know we were told about an offensive overhaul, but oh my God, I never expected anything like this. The biggest surprise of the season may be how smoothly it was able to get off the ground running. And honestly, all this success worries me because I have trust issues with Louisiana sports and can’t help but feel like it will all crash and burn soon enough. Can this team beat ‘Bama? I honestly don’t know, but it’ll at least be an entertaining game this season.

I do agree that the defense will be fine, if not elite, once they’re at full strength again. I wouldn’t say disappointment per se, but my first thought when thinking about a disappointment was junior safety Grant Delpit. Just off memory alone, he hasn’t seemed as consistent as expected so far this season. He struggled with tacking in games against Texas and Vanderbilt and got absolutely trucked by a Texas running back in the second half, but looking at his stats, he’s been serviceable in LSU’s secondary. He hits at fifth on the team with 16 tackles, adding a fumble recovery and two pass breakups. Delpit is no doubt one of the best players on this team, if not the best, but he just hasn’t shown the same penchant for big plays like last season and I would love to see more of that.

The bye week is coming at the perfect time and the rest of the season will be interesting to say the least. I do need Joe Burrow mic’ed up for every game so we can hear all of his trash talk, though.

Evan

I’ve never been this bummed about LSU having a bye week. Normally I enjoy having a stress-free Saturday where I can enjoy a full slate of college football, but man... I really wish I could be watching Joe Burrow launch bombs instead.

That being said it is still a perfect time for a bye week considering players have been dropping like flies all of a sudden. I know everyone is calling the defense a huge disappointment, but injuries are much more frustrating to me because of how random and out of control they are. Losing Lawrence, Chaisson, Divinity and Marshall sucks big time.

Now about that defense? Count me in the semi-concerned group. As someone who has seen every Saints game of the Sean Payton era, I can tell you things can be MUCH worse than they are. However, the idea of this defense playing the way they are going up against Tua Tagovailoa, Jerry Jeudy and Najee Harris is the stuff of nightmares. Rounding into form as soon as possible is critical as we approach early November.

If you wanna get to the part of me that’s REALLY paranoid, I just can’t shake how similar this Burrow hype feels like Fournette in 2015. When we go to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9 they will be SICK of hearing all the Heisman hype just like they were SICK of hearing about Fournette in 2015. We’ve seen it this week on Twitter where every single Bama fan is apoplectic each time a pundit puts Burrow’s stats next to Tua’s. Maybe the national media would be talking about Tua more if he had gone on the road and shredded a Top 10 Texas team, but sure his win over *checks notes* Duke sure does look good.

Now that I’ve established that Bama is haunting me and living rent-free inside my head, let’s talk about the good. We’re watching the Saints offense on Saturdays now. The other day I went back and watched Mettenberger highlights and remembered how in 2013 we celebrated Miles “finally opening the offense up.” Half of Mett’s throws were comeback routes to Beckham and Landry after play actioning to Jeremy Hill out of an I-formation. We were so naive.

Even if it’s far from perfect, this is about as fun a first four games as I could’ve asked for, right up there with 2011 and 2015 minus the trip to Starkville. I will try with all of my might to enjoy the hell out of this season and not let the threat of Bama ruin this fun, but I can’t make any promises.

Also, if Satan is reading this and wants to buy my soul in exchange for putting the Florida game at night, hit me up with a DM bro.

Crissy

I think LSU fans have every reason to be high off of what this team has accomplished thus far. I mean, did we expect to see a season at this point in time where the offense was so highly regarded, to the point it overshadows the defense? Joe Burrow and Joe Brady have created something special and truly historical here. With that has come a lot of hype — and rightfully so, at least at this point.

But we must also appreciate the fact the schedule has been, well, easy so far. There are much more difficult SEC opponents on schedule, and Burrow and the rest of the team will need to prove they can deliver the same dominant performances down that stretch. Burrow’s errors are few and far between, but there have been some misread coverages and some plays he’d like to have back in some of these games, including those against “lesser” opponents.

He’s also getting noticeably more confident by the week, almost to a fault.

One thing I have seen a lot from in reports by some of the national media is this “huge jump” in Burrow’s accuracy. Yes, he worked hard this offseason and made some noticeable improvements, and is a bit more accurate. But the stats sheet lied plenty last year, and I think a lot of those not-so-great numbers can be blamed largely on his supporting cast. The receivers have shown more improvement in catching the ball than Burrow has as a passer. He’s always been solid throwing the ball.

The shortcomings of the defense recently have been a surprise and a disappointment. But we can pretty much chalk that up to an issue of injuries, and I expect things will be back in full swing when players get healthy again.

Poseur

Thank you, Crissy, for not mentioning Bama. I mean, who cares at this point? We’ll deal with that when it’s time, but how about we sit back, open up a few more cans of whup ass, and enjoy the shock and awe that the LSU offense is raining down on its opponents? Because this is a ton of fun. Besides, I really, really, REALLY want this team to score a point-a-minute against Florida. I want Myles Brennan to come in and throw for 200 yards after Joe Burrow has already set a new LSU single game passing record. I want the damn scoreboard operator to quit in frustration. We got some other bills coming due, and I want to enjoy every last second of those pantsings.

Joe Burrow is just the cockiest little bastard. If he played for another team, I’d probably hate his ever-living guts, but he’s our smug bastard, so I’m going to enjoy it. He talks smack, backs it up, and then goes home early. He’s the second coming of Bert Jones, and the sad part is I have t go back to 1972 to find a truly solid analogous quarterback from LSU.

But as much oxygen as Burrow takes from the room, and I get it and he deserves it, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks to our exceptional receiving corps, who became one of the first teams to ever honestly live up to one of those “we put in extra work with the Jugs machine” stories. They’ve been outstanding so far. But even more amazing has been the play of the offensive line. The real question going into this year was the line, and they have delivered. they haven’t been perfect, but Burrow has had time to find his receivers and put up those 2 minute scoring drives. None of it works without those guys protecting the QB, and that was the biggest offseason question. So far, the answer has been a resounding yes.

I’m not panicking about the defense yet, but we’ll know a lot more in October. The Auburn and Florida games loom large.

Adam

I really hate to be That Guy right now, but I disagree with Poseur and PaulDan. The defense is absolutely a problem. Yes they were tired against Texas but that’s because they couldn’t get off the field in the first place. Texas’ seven points heading into the half is misleading as hell, they should have had the lead and the game. Even with a banged up defense, Northwestern State should not be able to march downfield against LSU in the first quarter. I’m glad LSU has the offense to boat race teams, but what happens when they have to play a team that can return their serves? You can’t have their running back drop a touchdown on 4th down in every game.

And then when you do factor in the injuries, it’s just making things worse.

At this point I’m not ruling out Utah State scoring 30+ next weekend. For as much as we love to sit around and gush over Brady’s offense, Aranda’s defense has been struggling. And he’s running out of time to adjust. Shootouts are fun when you’re the winning side of them and you get to celebrate the better offense of the day but they’re less so when you’re not.

Dan (reprise)

I look at it as dueling expectations. We had modest ones on offense and now we are probably overly enthused. We had unrealistic ones on defense (people were talking about this as the spiritual sequel to 2011), and now that they are merely good we’re reaching “FIRE EVERYONE” temperatures quickly.

We’re 38th nationally in SP+. We’re allowing 1.91 points per drive defensively. It was 1.72 and 1.75 in the last two years respectively. So yes, a downturn, but it’s not train wreck levels yet. Injuries hurt. Texas has a really good offense. I’ll forgive the guys for not giving a shit about Northwestern State. I also think Aranda is tinkering right now. He’s not worried about maximal performance against this part of the schedule so much as figuring which ones of his twos and threes can be useful in October and November. The only way you find that out is letting them see the field and with that comes growing pains. It’s probably safe to say we aren’t going to knock skulls in on defense in 2019, but I think it’s far too premature to think this unit is bollocks.

Billy

Honestly, right now the defense is allowing a lower yards per play compared to last year (4.7 to 4.8) and a lower yards per rush (2.9 compared to 3.8). Even the third-down rate is down about a percentage point. The difference has been the passing defense, and that’s heavily skewed by the Texas game and the big plays — sacks, tackles for loss and interceptions. But we’re only through the first act of this season. This unit, the offense, the special teams — they all have more of a story to tell. We’ll see whether it’s a good story or not.

But enough about the damn defense y’all. LSU is, literally, scoring at a record pace. Not a school record. Not an SEC record even. At a national-record pace.

You know, I bought into the hype that LSU was going to spread the field. You don’t practice the way they did in the spring, or in the spring game, only to come out in 21 personnel right away. And while I was glad to hear Joe Burrow talk about scoring 40, 50, 60 points a game, it was more in that “good, be confident kid” way. I even thought they’d get better. But they’ve actually scored 40, 50 and 60 (twice!) points in games this year. Is that going to continue? Logic says nah...but then you realize that even if they cut that in half, that’s still pretty good. And that would be a pretty huge drop off.

In these situations I’m inclined to say it’s more about the receivers than the quarterback, especially when different ones stand out almost every week. But Burrow’s playing with a level of control to him that you don’t see often. Even when he’s pressured or when something doesn’t go quite right, he always looks like he knows exactly what he’s supposed to do. That kind of command is rare, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it before from an LSU quarterback. Mettenberger could orchestrate, but in the end he almost always defaulted to throwing it up to Landry and Beckham. Jamarcus just overwhelmed teams and Rohan had Josh Reed. Burrow is just in the flow. Even without Terrace Marshall, I feel like he’ll just turn somewhere else, at least in the short-term.

And to Poseur’s point, don’t even worry about Alabama. Worry about the games in front of you — and all three are pretty big ones — between now and then because if you don’t win those it doesn’t matter.

Zach

The 4-0 record doesn’t surprise me, I think we all expected LSU to make it this far unscathed. And while we all expected the LSU offense to look different, nobody could’ve expected this.

Burrow looks like Melvin Mason (my quarterback in NCAA Dynasty mode, he won back-to-back Heismans nbd) come to life. I’m past the point where I’ve ironically thought Burrow could win the Heisman and take the program to the promise land, I actually think he could???

I said in one of our preseason round tables a healthy Terrace Marshall was going to live up to his high school ranking and reintroduce himself to the college football world; through four games he’s got 20 catches, 304 yards and six touchdowns so consider him reintroduced.

I’m not sure how concerned I am about the defense, but it’s growing each week. The defensive front needs to get healthy fast. I’m hoping that once we get past Utah State and into the heart of SEC play, Lawrence and company will be good to go after having a near month off. I call my dad after every game and we think that the two biggest reasons the defense isn’t quite living up to its preseason billing is 1) the LSU offense running at a faster tempo will result in the defense being out there longer and 2) Aranda’s tinkering with the twos and threes to see who he can count on when the meat of the schedule picks up.