DEVILLE: Tigers having an "Identity Crisis"

Everyone knows veteran sportswriter Scooter Hobbs has a way with words. Hobbs, the longtime sports editor of the Lake Charles American Press, is well known for his brash wit and colorful comments.

Saturday night, during the third quarter of LSU's 49-0 blowout of Kentucky, Hobbs made a perfect observation of the Tigers' domination of weak opponents in Tiger Stadium this year.


"I am running out of creative ways to say LSU beat the hell out of somebody," Hobbs laughed.


Hobbs' remark was the understatement of the season.


So far in five home games this season, LSU has beaten ULL and Arizona 45-3, Tulane 49-7, Mississippi State 48-17 and a helpless Wildcat team in a  49-0 rout Saturday.


The Tigers have beaten the five visiting teams this year in Tiger Stadium by an average of 47-6 – no doubt a remarkable accomplishment, even considering the quality of those opponents.


But did anyone really expect anything different?


The one thing Les Miles has done a good job of since taking over for Nick Saban before last season has been winning the games he is supposed to. Unlike Saban in his first two seasons (i.e. UAB, Ole Miss and Arkansas twice), Miles has beaten the lesser opponents. Actually, beaten doesn't fully describe how the Tigers have pummeled its inferior opposition.


However, a plethora of lopsided decisions against the North Texas' of the world isn't going to get this fan base excited. It is what Miles hasn't been able to accomplish this year that has a restless Tiger following calling for his head.


While it can be said Georgia fans would give anything to have their Bulldogs blowing past weaker competition (Georgia struggled with Colorado and Ole Miss before losing to Vanderbilt last Saturday), only winning the games you should isn't cutting it in Bayou Country.


As explosive as the Tigers have been at home, LSU's offense has produced just 13 points in two road losses, albeit both defeats came against top-five teams.


In the Oct. 10 edition of Tiger Rag, columnist Marty Mule' compared LSU's efforts against weaker opposition to that of the way Miles' team plays against a formidable opponent. The Tigers have clearly been the aggressors in their five home games, games which LSU has won by an average margin of 47.2 points.


LSU's offense has attacked its opponents by throwing the ball up and down the field. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell has been superb in the five victories, completing a combined 76 of 98 passes for 1,203 yards, 12 touchdowns and just one interception. In LSU's two losses, Russell finished 44-of-76 for 495 yards, with only one touchdown and three picks.


But Russell isn't exactly the target for blame.


The Tigers have been ultra conservative both offensively and defensively and have played with a cautious-not-to-lose attitude. In both losses, it was clear LSU allowed Auburn and Florida to dictate the pace of the game. Absent was the Tigers' go-for-the-jugular mentality they have shown time and again against weaker competition.


It is truly frustrating to watch LSU slice and dice the patsies on the schedule as if the Tigers were scrimmaging a high school team. Then, when they line up against a quality team, they crawl into a shell and play not to lose, without the reckless abandon they show against teams to which they are far superior.


It is truly an identity crisis.


Which are the real Tigers?


It is pretty obvious many of the pollsters consider LSU to be much better than it proved to be in its two losses. The Tigers are one of only two, two-loss teams ranked in the top 25 and enter week eight of the regular season ranked No. 14 in the land.


It was tough to get any kind of reading on this LSU team in the Tigers' 49-0 thrashing of Kentucky. It will most likely be equally difficult to get any sort of bearing on this team after it pummels lowly Fresno State this Saturday.


(By the way, Fresno gave up 68 points to Hawaii last Saturday.)


So it can be said that no one will truly know just how good this team is until they travel to Knoxville in week nine to face another top-10 team on the road. A win on Rocky Top will keep LSU on the threshold of the SEC race and should set up a showdown with Arkansas the day after Thanksgiving.


A loss to Tennessee will drop the Tigers to three defeats and leave LSU fans to further wonder what could have been.


From the mailbag:


I don't want to dwell too much on the Florida loss, but the bottom line is that I agree with all that you had to say this week except one thing - the poor officiating.  In the Auburn game, yes, poor officiating played a factor in that game, and I give credit to LSU for not turning into a whining baby like Bob Stoops did about the poorly officiated Oregon game. 


You mentioned the play when Jacob Hester's touchdown was overturned.  You said the replay clearly showed his knee never touched the ground.  That is true, but what made the ruling on the field overturned was it appeared that his elbow was down before the ball crossed the goal line.  An elbow being down is equal to a knee being down in the rulebook. 


But don't get me wrong, I was upset about that call too, but the Tigers had three chances to get that ball in the end zone.  Hester (1), ball through the hands of Bowe (I think it was Bowe) (2), and then of course the fumbled snap (3). 


It doesn't really bother me that LSU lost to Florida as much as it bothers me that LSU didn't respond the way I thought they would.  I thought LSU would come out in the second half and get it all together and play up to their talent and ability.  But I quickly realized that it was going to be a long second half as soon as the kickoff was fumbled and Florida got a safety. 


I expected LSU to respond more like Tennessee did in Athens last week.  At the beginning of that game it looked like it was going to be a long one for the Vols.  Little did I know that Tenn. could silence the hostile Georgia crowd and drop 51 on the Dawgs. 


Losing to Florida hurts worse for me than losing to Auburn.  That Auburn game was everything I expected it to be - a hard hitting defensive stalemate that was all about which team was going to make that one big play when they had to. 


 I don't mind losing like that.  Losing the way LSU lost to Florida just doesn't sit well with me.

Now, I am worried that LSU is going to let this stay in their heads and I am worried that there is a chance of a repeat of 1998.  LSU starts out 3-0 and then goes 1-7 in the final 8 games of the year. 


I hope I am just thinking negatively.  I just hope the Tigers don't need another Bluegrass Miracle this weekend.


- Brian Abel




Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at

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