Just how good is 4-0 LSU?
LSU is all the buzz in college football these days. Everyone has recognized the collaborative effort that Joe Brady and Steve Ensminger have put into the potent offense the Tigers have had. It’s been particularly Brady’s passing input that has dazzled onlookers.ll about the X and O’s though.
It’s not as the saying goes, you have to have the Jim’s and the Joe’s, and LSU’s Joe Burrow is a prime example. The senior signal caller who earned All SEC offensive player of the week for the third time this season is playing a special brand of football.
A good offensive scheme is tough to defend, but if you were to replace the starters with mere mortals, you would not have an offense producing 57.7 points per game. The players carrying out the assignments make a significant difference. The receiving corps of the Tigers is a deep, talented bunch.
LSU has not had this much offensive success this early in the season since the 1908 Tigers, a National Championship Foundation title winning team. Those 10-0 Bengals were coached by Edgar R. Wingard and led by star Doc “Kandy Kid” Fenton, averaging 60.7 points for the first four contests. Their schedule was much different than the 2019 squad’s, featuring YMGC of New Orleans, Jackson Barracks (N.O.), Texas A&M and Southwest Tennessee.
The Tigers cleared their biggest hurdle thus far with the impressive 45-38 win at Texas but many more challenges await. The meat of the SEC schedule begins October 12 when Florida visits Tiger Stadium.
The LSU attack, averaging 73 plays per game and eight yards per play, is churning out 563.5 total yards per outing with 431.7 yards coming through the air. The rushing attack is second to last in the SEC ahead of only Vanderbilt but that hasn’t mattered so far.
Joe Burrow is first in the conference and second nationally as a passer in quarterback rating, racking up 1,520 yards and 17 touchdowns with only two interceptions while completing 80.6% of his tosses. He is on course to hit or exceed 5,000 yards passing this season. Rohan Davey’s school mark of 3,347 yards passing set in 2001 is in jeopardy. Jamarcus Russell and Matt Mauck share the school record with 28 TD passes in one season, and Burrow is 11 away from that mark.
Ja’Marr Chase is the second ranked receiver in the conference with 20 grabs for 397 yards (19.9 yards per grab) and five touchdowns. Justin Jefferson is right behind him with 21 catches for 392 yards (18.7 yard average) and five scores as well. The duo has the chance to post numbers together not seen in Baton Rouge since Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry cleared 1,100 yard a piece in 2013. At their current pace, both Jefferson and Chase can clear that 1,100 mark.
There is some cause for concern though.
The defense will have to begin to pull their own weight. Allowing 23.8 points per game through four games, that average included a dominant effort against triple-option Georgia Southern in a 55-3 season-opening blowout. More versatile offenses have caused issues.
Inside linebacker Jacob Phillips paces all SEC tacklers with 35 stops as a plus but coordinator Dave Aranda’s defense is allowing too many explosive plays (20 yards or more).
The primary concerns appear to be improper positioning, misalignment, poor tackling and better effort. Those errors fall on the players themselves for the most part. If a player takes a bad angle toward the ball carrier or fills the wrong gap, the result is usually a big play for the opposition. That is something the coaches can continue to address but it the guys on the field must execute with more consistency.
Despite its overall dominance, the offense is not consistently demonstrating a threat in the running game. That starts up front. There is a depth issue on the offensive line, not from bodies but a dropoff from the starters to the backups. Ed Ingram’s return from suspension will help.
The Alabama’s, Auburn’s and Florida’s can make the Tigers’ offense one dimensional if the running game does not show more. The offensive line will have to assert themselves. Otherwise, the defenses can tee off on Burrow, applying pressure and negating the danger the passing attack can bring. Balance matters against the best opponents.
A week off is followed by a visit Oct. 5 by quarterback Jordan Love, a future NFL first round draft pick, and his Utah State Aggies. The SEC schedule looms the following week.
This LSU team has broken ground, showing it is capable of reaching great heights with an explosive offense and a QB who could be making an acceptance speech at the Playstation Theater in New York on the corner of Broadway and 44th in early December.
Let’s hope that the next two weeks will afford head coach Ed Orgeron and staff the opportunity to rest some players, take a deep breath and figure out what it will take to get the Tigers ready to contend for the SEC title and a lot more.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…