The Bulldogs have a better team. Furthermore, they had the law of averages on their side. LSU defeated Georgia twice last season. Expecting three in a row was a bit much. In addition, Georgia was riding a 16-game home winning streak.
Make that 17 in a row after its 45-16 victory over LSU last Saturday. Now, that score truly is what's alarming and disturbing. There's no way LSU should have lost by a such a wide margin.
Worse yet, the Tigers appeared tentative and intimidated. Maybe lesser teams act that way, as did LSU when it lost at Florida in 1996, 56-13, in the last time it allowed more points than in the Georgia debacle.
This no ordinary team, either. LSU is the defending Bowl Championship Series national titleholder, and even if the loss of several key players has weakened the Tigers, they still should rate as one of the best the Southeastern Conference has to offer. Instead, they've lost two of three league games and must visit Florida on Saturday. The schedule has worked against LSU, sending it on the road to face its three strongest opponents. That's no excuse for its paltry showing against Georgia, though.
After LSU lost at Auburn, 10-9, redshirt freshman quarterback JaMarcus Russell said he was surprised by his opponents' speed. Once the Georgia game had ended, LSU sophomore running back Alley Broussard expressed marvel at the Bulldogs' tenacity. Their reactions merely supported a concern expressed by Coach Nick Saban in the spring and again at the start of fall camp.
Many of the players now making major contributions were on the team last year but never fully understood what it took to win a national championship, Saban had said. Judging from the results, they haven't learned yet. It takes a willingness to work, to focus, and to play as you have practiced. Anything less than that won't translate into championships results.
It doesn't help that LSU already has suffered more critical injuries than it did all last season. Senior cornerback Corey Webster continues to be nagged by assorted ailments, which may partially explain his performance against Georgia. Nickel back Mario Stevenson is out for the season with a broken foot. Junior Skyler Green has never been able to shake the effects of a preseason ankle sprain. His return ability and wide-receiver skills are sorely needed on a team without direction.
Saban implored the Tigers to play with conviction and aggression against Mississippi State. LSU did just that in coming away with a 51-0 victory. All that did was build up a false sense of security. If it seemed LSU was headed on the right path, it was lie. It was nothing more than fool's gold.
Mississippi State may be the worst team in the SEC. If not, the Bulldogs certainly don't have a quarterback the caliber of savvy Georgia senior David Greene. Having buckled under the pressure of LSU's blitz last season, Greene combined to throw five interceptions in two losses to the Tigers. Given another chance, he threw a school-record five touchdown passes in the rematch.
With the help of an adept coaching staff, Greene figured out the Tigers' defense and the best way to victimize it. When he audibled at the line of scrimmage, LSU wasn't quick enough to counteract what he had called. The Tigers' defense still isn't playing instinctively, which must be done in order to perform well in Saban's complex system.
As if defending Greene weren't difficult enough, LSU must now contend with Florida sophomore quarterback Chris Leak, the architect of the Tigers' lone loss last season. Leak has improved since that 19-7 decision in Tiger Stadium. The same can't be said of the LSU defense. Lack of communication, which Saban talked about last spring, remains a glaring weakness.
What's worse is the disjointed effort of the offense. The line hasn't blocked with the authority needed to open consistent holes for the running backs, or to give ample time to those operating in an increasingly ineffective two-quarterback system. Without Green at his best, the receiving corps isn't as formidable as it should be. Combine all that with the turnovers that plagued LSU against Georgia, and the result is an embarrassing loss.
If truth be known, LSU is probably more athletic than last season. What the Tigers need now are football players -- those who understand the game and how to play it. It's one thing to go through the motions, both in speech and action. It's another thing to back up what you say.
The Tigers must quit worrying about appearances and style and produce something of substance. If they don't, they're going to lose all confidence and the swagger that once set them apart. Just because last year's team overachieved doesn't given this season's squad license to do the opposite.
MOORMANN: Georgia shocking<br>in offensive flurry
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