I sent 5 questions to our friends over at And The Valley Shook to get some answers leading up to the matchup in Baton Rouge on Saturday night. Several of their authors sent back responses.
1. With a somewhat lackluster start against a depleted UNC team, and first-half troubles against Vandy, what is going on down in Baton Rouge?
To a degree, it's more of the same from last year - an offense still searching for an identity. But at least this year's attack is developing a strong run game. Power from Stevan Ridley and the other backs couple with explosive outside speed from Russell Shepard. If LSU can commit to that and develop a passing game that compliments it, the offense will improve.
Same as last year. LSU is winning, just not winning with enough style to keep people happy. The offense has looked pretty ugly, but there are the seeds there for a power run game with the occassional explosive big gain from our talented recivers. We're still waiting for that to flower. As long as LSU keeps winning, I'm happy.
I think we're still growing as an offense. People want to point solely to poor QB play (and that's certainly part of the problem), but let's not forget how many new starters we are ushering in. New center, new right guard, new right tackle, new left tackle, 2 new TEs, 2 new starting WRs and a newer RB core as well. We'd be foolish to think all of this would come together into a monster attack right off the bat. Some of that is just getting on the same page. Some of it is that our QB needs to progress mightily.
2. Is Les Miles on the hot seat at all, or are Tiger fans patiently waiting out what appears to be a rebuilding year offensively?
There's always been a segment of fans who never liked him because he was the guy who followed Nick Saban, and there's another segment who call for a coach's head after every loss. But he's definitely burned through his political capital with the fans in the middle. It may not be at the tipping point just point yet, but people definitely want to see the course of the last two seasons corrected. If it's not, we'll see what happens.
As you know, Tiger fans are well-known for their patience. I don't know the inner workings of the AD, but I feel comfortable saying that Miles' seat is pretty hot. The fans are pretty much demanding SEC titles every year and a team that never ever makes mistakes. You know, just like the Saban Era, in which LSU never blew games to teams like UAB and won 10 games, er, once.
Depends on who you are referring to. For most of the fans, I'd say yes. To the administration, I doubt it. Too much $$ and while the last two years haven't been shining, too many programs have been burned before by overreacting to such things. That's frustrating if you are fan because of the tendency to always want immediate results/changes/improvement, but just over two years ago, this guy won a National Championship. Only a handful of guys do that. And several "great" coaches don't even reach that summit.
3. In the SEC coaches teleconference, Les Miles basically said that playing Jarrett Lee is not an option. Are Tiger fans behind that decision or would they like to see him get a shot at unseating Jordan Jefferson?
I don't know that it's so much "not an option" so much as it's not one they consider ideal. The ideal for Miles is for Jordan Jefferson to start playing better. He was decent in the first game, beyond terrible in the second. Miles has used the phrase "it's a game feel" pretty steadily this week, which tells me that if Jefferson and the offense come out with another first half like we all saw against Vanderbilt, Lee may get his chance. But I think Miles would prefer not to have to do that.
No one is more popular than the backup quarterback. Even a backup quarterback with a propensity for throwing pick sixes and who looked beyond lost in games against Alabama and La Tech last year. But he did throw a pretty ball in the fourth quarter of a 24-point win over Vanderbilt. I'd like to see Lee put it all together because I like his tanacity, nut honestly, there is almost no evidence that Lee can perform as a an SEC quarterback.
No, they aren't. As much as everyone hated lee in 2008, they are ready for him to be the starter again. I think that's a little bit of fool's gold. But I don't think there's a single fan opposed to seeing Lee get a shot and most want it to happen sooner rather than later.
4. Defense has been the Tigers strongpoint so far this season. Tell us a little bit about the defense and what strengths they rely on and what weaknesses, if any, they try to avoid.
Wild and young. There are just three seniors in the starting lineup, and a number of freshmen, both true and redshirt, in heavy rotation. Drake Nevis is anchoring a defensive line that is probably the deepest and most athletic LSU group since the 2006 crew. But they aren't the heaviest bunch either, and we'll be watching how they hold up down the road against the better power-running teams. Patrick Peterson has been cutting the secondary in half, but if there's been a place where the youth is really evident, it's been in the secondary. The young guys were torched in that crazy fourth quarter against UNC.
Fast. Really fast. It's still a unit that is finding itself, as there are freshmen and underclassmen everywhere, but there is an absolute stud in the middle of each unit which makes the defense go: Drake Nevis at DT anchoring the line, Kelvin Sheppard at MLB leading the middle of the defense, and Patrick Peterson as God in the secondary. I'm surprised at how stout the run defense has been, but I'm also stunned at how dominant the front four has been. It's a young and undersized defense, which are obvious weaknesses that I'm sure will get exploited eventually. But right now, I couldn't be happier with the defensive play, particularly up front.
The defensive line has currently performed as well as any in the nation. I believe we're 2nd in TFL. Drake Nevis is playing at a Glen Dorsey/Chad Lavalais level in the middle right now. The young guys are getting better and better. We are deep and talented there. The secondary was much raved about, but still has a lot to prove. Weakness wise, we're uncertain at FS (we rotate 3 or 4 guys and no one has established themselves) and we're green at LB. However, the LB play looked much improved with the return of Ryan Baker, who appears to be a true force as a WLB.
5. LSU pretty much owns Mississippi State over the history of the two teams meeting. The Bulldogs almost pulled off an upset last year in Starkville and are looking to come down to Death Valley and walk away with a win. Do you see any chance of that happening? How do you think the game will play out?
I'll have a degree of worry until the offense gets settled, but right now I just can't see State getting too many points on the LSU defense. My best guess is that the game plays out similarly to LSU's game with Vanderbilt last week. State's defense will keep things close for a half or so, but the Tigers' depth will take over in the second half, they'll pull and take care of business.
Well, of course there's a chance. But, no, I don't see it happening. I think State is really going to miss having a back like Dixon, and from what I saw last week, their passing game isn't good enough to pick up the slack. LSU wins another sloppy game which is universally derided as not impressive enough.
Well, there's always a chance. Unfortunately for Miss. State, nearly upsetting LSU last year was probably the worst thing they could do for their chances this year. There's little hope of sneaking in here and surprising the Tigers. The players should be well aware of last year's outcome and set to not let something like that happen again. This will be LSU's first matchup against a mobile QB though, so that always makes things tricky. I see State keeping it respectable in the 1st half and LSU will run away with it in the second with Ridley having another huge half. I think it's a situation where the depth and talent will win out in the end, particularly in a home game.