DEVILLE: How good are these Tigers?

Four games down, seven to go.

After a quartet of games, does anyone know just how good LSU really is or can be?

 

Is it the syrupy stagnant offense of the second half versus Tennessee or the score-at-all attack of the fourth quarters at Arizona State and Vanderbilt?

 

The swiss cheese secondary in Tempe which Rick Clausen feasted upon in Baton Rouge or the suffocating swarm that has produced 15 sacks in the last three games.

 

I think it is safe to say LSU might not be as good as they were projected in the postseason. However, they are definitely not nearly as bad as some thought in the wake of the 21-point meltdown versus Tennessee two weeks ago.

 

Find a spot somewhere in the middle and click a few times toward LSU being a good football team. That may be where they stand.

 

Are the Tigers a top 10 team?

 

Sure they are and the polls reflect it as LSU rose in the rankings three spots (thank yous all around to Ohio State, Tennessee and Cal) and the thrashing of Vanderbilt - despite the 12-6 score going into the fourth quarter – qualifies as a quality win considering the play of the Commodores and their craft quarterback Jay Cutler.

 

However, in all reality, Vanderbilt is really the same old team it has always been, just the Commodores got a little more exposure because they beat the teams they should have whereas in the past the Dores usually find a way to blow it in the fourth quarter.

 

At any rate, we are all about to find out how good this team really is. Plus, coach Les Miles is going to get his first opportunity – one of three – to make up for the debacle in the second half versus Tennessee.

 

The toughest two-game stretch of the season (taking into considering the Arizona State and Tennessee twin bill) lies ahead for the Tigers when Florida and Auburn come calling. While both games come on the home field in Tiger Stadium, these are two quality opponents as Florida can strike for big numbers at any time and Auburn is highly underrated and a dark horse for the SEC West title (in this opinion).

 

Arizona State proved they are a very good team n a close call with USC and dominating wins everywhere else,  but Tennessee proves its extreme overrating with floundering on its home field to eventual SEC champion Georgia.

 

Florida has really struggled on offense in a loss to Alabama and a stinker at home versus Mississippi State. It is quickly being recognized that Chris Leak is not durable enough to run Urban Meyer's complicated spread offense and was actually more effective under previous head coach Ron Zook's system.

 

Auburn, who has the luxury of not playing Florida nor Tennessee and has its two toughest games (besides at LSU) at home against Alabama and Georgia, has done nothing but win since losing to Georgia Tech in the season opener. While the Tigers have issues at quarterback with unproven Brandon Cox running the show, the defense is very good and the clash with LSU in two weeks should be dominated by defense.

 

At any rate, enough about those guys, let's talk about what we do know about LSU.

 

JaMarcus Russell is quickly growing into a solid starter for the Tigers. Back to back great outings (albeit against State and Vandy) will be a boost for his confidence heading into this testy, two-game stretch. He is putting the ball on the money, but needs to ease back on the accelerator a bit, which should reduce the number of dropped passes.

 

Sans Alley Broussard, the backfield is playing as good as it possibly can. Joseph Addai is a workhorse and Justin Vincent and Shyrone Carey have well in reserve roles.

 

The offensive line has been dominating in every game it has played (minus the second half against Tennessee) and, despite a few injuries, will more than likely do so in most every game this year.

 

Wide receivers need to hold onto the ball a bit better as drops have really hurt Russell's numbers and have negated several big plays, including a bevy of touchdowns.

 

Defensively, the maturation of LSU's cornerbacks and the emergence of a blitzkrieg type pass rush has this unit on the rise. Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini has blitzed more recently and it has shown in the number of sacks in the last three games.

 

The defensive line is surrendering little to no yardage on the ground as LSU has shut up to No. 2 in the land against the run. Look for Florida to be forced totally one-dimensional on Saturday and Leak will be forced to win the game throwing the football (which he can do).

 

My colleague Lee Feinswog says in his editorial this week we should know where this team stands in two weeks. While they still have a tough test on the road at Alabama in five weeks, by the time North Texas visits on Oct. 29, LSU and its fans will know a great deal more about this team. Georgia has pretty much sealed the deal in the SEC East (needing a win over Florida to sew up the division crown). LSU can make a huge step in that same direction with a pair of wins over the next two weeks.

 

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Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.


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