We’re three games in to the college football season and, already, a lot has happened with our state’s beloved LSU Tigers.
The sky came crashing down on Tiger fans’ hopes and dreams for a special 2016 season, or so we thought, in a sloppy week one nightmare affair against Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in which LSU’s offense was excruciatingly bad.
Two drives into the Tigers’ second contest against Jacksonville State, it was more of the same until the team turned to Purdue transfer Danny Etling.
Since taking over the job, Etling has been efficient and effective in guiding the offense to more points and yards, but avid Tiger fans noticed not only a change in quarterback, but in play-calling as well.
LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is calling a more pro-style game with Etling under center, which begs the question: Was Harris not capable of running these plays or was it a lack of trust in Harris to execute? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, but regardless the Tigers appear more in rhythm with No. 16 under center. In his first week of preparation as a starter, Etling completed 63 percent of his passes, avoided turnovers and scrambled away from pressure to avoid negative plays. This week’s tilt with Auburn should answer any questions that remain.
Dave Aranda’s defense has been a bright spot in the early going, despite giving up a few big plays to opposing receivers against Wisconsin and Mississippi State. The returns of Tre’Davious White and Kendell Beckwith have been instrumental and Jamal Adams is still one of the country’s best safeties, but what gives me, and should give you, hope going forward is LSU’s play along the defensive front. The long-awaited arrival of defensive tackle Trevonte Valentine was worth the wait. The 6-foot-4, 356-pound nose tackle is the type of run-plugger LSU needs to survive in the SEC, starting this week against an Auburn team that likes to run. Veterans Davon Godchaux, Lewis Neal and Frank Herron have also elevated their play against the run, something the Tigers needed to happen when Christian LaCouture was lost for the season in fall camp. In a down year for the SEC (Yes, this is in fact not the 2007-2013 version of the conference) LSU can still make a run at a conference championship with home games against Ole Miss and Alabama lingering in the season’s second half.
The road trip to Auburn this week and the trip to Gainesville to play the Florida Gators are far from gimme’s and LSU has an intriguing trap game against Southern Miss sandwiched between the Florida trip and their home game against Ole Miss, but LSU should be favored in all those games.
LSU’s conference chances are conditional to stopping the run and forcing a bad crop of conference QB’s to throw against an LSU secondary that should be in top form soon. Quarterbacks need also be weary of No. 49 in purple and gold and the rest of an evolving LSU pass rush.
It’s impossible to project where the Tigers will finish this season, but I’m still sipping the purple kool-aid despite the rumblings of a fan base that would rather have a reason to go ahead and fire Les Miles than root for the team.
Call it sunshine-pumping if you will, but double-digit wins may still be in the cards for the Mad Hatter and LSU.