Tag:Rueben Randle
Posted on: March 1, 2012 1:51 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: LSU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at LSU.

Spring Practice Starts: March 2, or a day after it had been scheduledthat date two days after the start had originally been scheduled. Les Miles has said the delay is due to getting new defensive backs coach Corey Raymond up to speed.

Spring Game: March 31

Returning starters: Seven on offense, five on defense, both specialists.

Three Things To Look For:

1.  Is Zach Mettenberger ready to take over at quarterback? Miles has made no secret of his expectations for the former Georgia and JUCO quarterback, saying he expects the Tigers to immediately take a step forward in the passing game thanks to the big-armed senior--not that with Jordan Jefferson (fresh off his rock-bottom performance at the NFL Draft combine) finally relinquishing the reins, there's really anywhere for that passing game to go but up. But for the Tigers to live up to their preseason No. 1 ranking, Mettenberger will have to live up to his advance hype and then some. Unlike during the days of his Jefferson-Jarrett Lee platoon, Miles won't have many options if he doesn't; none of the other three quarterbacks on the roster (including brother-of-Phillip Stephen Rivers, a redshirt freshman) have taken a college snap or come with much in the way of advance hype. (In retrospect, maybe it's no surprise Miles lost his cool over Gunner Kiel's decision to go to Notre Dame instead.) 

2. Can anyone fill the shoes of Rueben Randle? The Tigers aren't exactly hurting at wide receiver, not with Odell Beckham Jr. looking to build on a highly promising freshman season and the brutally underused Russell Shepard bound to get the attention of his coaching staff one of these years. But both players are more the shifty, undersized type that thrived on Randle opening up coverage underneath than a replacement for Randle's 6'4" downfield presence; Beckham's 11.6 yards per-reception average in 2011 was nearly 6 yards shy of Randle's (outstanding) mark, for instance. And outside of Beckham and Shepard, no other wideout on the team finished in double-digits for receptions in 2011. Mettenberger's deep touch is nice, but it won't do a whole lot for the Tigers if someone -- sophomore Landry Fields, maybe, or junior Kadron Boone -- can't put it to use down the field. 

3. How will the Tigers react to their BCS debacle? Even without the likes of Jefferson, Randle, or Morris Claiborne, there's still no roster in the FBS more fully stocked with talent than this one. (It won't surprise anyone if the Tigers' entire starting defensive line -- Barkevious Mingo, Anthony Johnson, Bennie Logan, and Sam Montgomery -- ends up starting in the NFL as well.) Miles has been a master motivator in the past, and if he turns his team's faceplant in the Superdome into a rallying point and driving force, there's no reason they can't run the regular season table again. But if it instead becomes a black cloud that hangs over their spring drills and results in half-hearted efforts from player and coach alike, the Tigers don't have to look any further than the previous team to lose a national title game to Alabama -- Mack Brown's Texas, still struggling to recover from their loss in Pasadena -- to see how damaging the consequences can be.

To check in on the rest of the SEC and other BCS conferences, check out the Spring Practice Schedule

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Posted on: January 25, 2012 1:12 pm
 

LSU TE Peterson questions BCS play-calling

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

As historically dominant as Alabama's defense was in 2011, the consensus among LSU fans -- or anyone who watched the BCS national title game, really -- has been that the Crimson Tide got plenty of help in New Orleans from a Tiger offensive braintrust that didn't do their own team any favors. But as now ex-Tiger tight end DeAngelo Peterson has made clear with his comments at the Senior Bowl, it's not just the fans that feel that way.

"The game plan we were working on before the game, I don't think we used it," he told reporters after Senior Bowl practices Tuesday. "I don't think we used it ... I felt we were going to run all the plays we'd been practicing, but they really were calling none of it. I just think the playmakers on offense, they didn't really have a chance to make any plays. That's the big thing that bothers me. We didn't have the opportunity."

Peterson added that he wasn't alone in being frustrated.

"The play-calling bothered the whole offense," he said. "They were doing stuff that we never did all year. The game plan was to spread the ball out, get the ball to me, get the ball to Rueben (Randle), let Russell (Shepard) run the ball every now and then, give the ball to our running backs. In that game, Russell played like two plays, Rueben had like one ball, I had one ball ... I feel like if they had went to the game plan and given the playmakers the ball, they would have done something with the ball."

Peterson felt free to speak his mind during the season as well. But he isn't the first departed LSU senior to publicly question the offensive coaching during the Tigers' BCS meltdown. Quarterback Jarrett Lee said at his own all-star game appearance he "could have been given ... an opportunity to come in and get something going, you know, give them, Alabama, something else to worry about." In the game's immediate aftermath, guard Will Blackwell described the choice between Lee and starter Jordan Jefferson as a "pick-your-poison kind of deal" before saying the coaches "picked the wrong one."

The good news for Les Miles is that to-date, the Tigers still on LSU's roster haven't expressed such doubts in the media, sparing Miles the awkwardness of potential suspensions or other punishments. (Shepard might be viewed as the exception after temporarily declaring for the Draft on Twitter, but now that he's safely back in the fold, that teapot-tempest already appears over.) The bad news is that even if they haven't expressed those doubts publicly, the agreement between the LSU seniors suggests that silence doesn't mean those doubts aren't there. It doesn't help Miles that the seniors have a point: weapons like Randle and Shepard should have gotten the ball more often, Lee should have seen at least a series or two, the play-calling was completely unimaginative.

It's bad enough to lose a national title game that ruins what could have been one of the all-time great seasons in college football. But if the Tigers continue to struggle offensively in 2012 -- with Steve Kragthorpe and Greg Studrawa retained to run the offense for a second year -- and those quiet doubts are allowed to fester, the fallout from that fateful night in the Superdome could make that terrible defeat that much more terrible.

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Posted on: January 14, 2012 7:57 pm
 

LSU leading WR Rueben Randle entering draft

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

LSU may have kept one receiver in the fold. But their best one is off to the NFL.

Junior Rueben Randle -- the Tigers' leading receiver in their undefeated (and ultimately unfulfilled) march to the BCS National Championship game -- announced Friday that he would be forgoing his final season in Baton Rouge to enter this April's NFL draft. Randle's father Emmett Randle confirmed that his son had filed the necessary paperwork to join the draft as a third-year player.

“There was no one particular thing,” Emmett Randle told the Baton Rouge Advocate. “It was a combination of things that told him he needed to move on.”

One of those things is likely that Randle could prove to be a first-day draft pick; Emmett said that the NFL had graded Rueben as a potential second-round pick, and with prototypical pro size at 6'4", 208 pounds, Randle's stock shouldn't be harmed by pre-draft workouts.

It's that same rare combination of size and athleticism that made Randle one of the nation's most elite, highly sought-after recruits in the class of 2009, when he was regularly tabbed as one of the top five prospects at any position. The sky-high expectations meant that his production as a freshman and sophomore -- 44 total receptions, just over 700 yards -- was viewed as something of a disappointment.

Randle made good on his potential and then some in 2011, however, leading the Tigers with 53 receptions, 917 yards, and 8 touchdowns. His 17.3 average yards per-reception led the SEC among receivers with at least 50 catches. (We here at Eye on CFB named him first-team All-SEC for the impact his downfield receiving threat made on the LSU offense.)

So the move makes sense from Randle's perspective. But it won't make it any easier for the Tigers to take, not with Morris Claiborne and Michael Brockers having already elected to enter the draft as well. Fellow receiver Russell Shepard will be staying in Baton Rouge, but the national title game (as well as the Tigers' first meeting with the Tide) showed how badly the LSU offense needs to develop its deep passing game against truly elite defenses--and now the Tigers will lose their only bona fide downfield threat. The hole left by Randle's decision won't be an easy one for Les Miles to fill.

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Posted on: December 7, 2011 8:24 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 11:53 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-SEC team

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the SEC.

Awards

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR 

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. No SEC player was more electrifying to watch on a weekly basis than the Tide workhorse, whose raw strength and unmatched determination could turn an average four-yard gain (usually into the teeth of half the opposing defense) into must-see TV. Of course, the elusive, explosive 70-plus-yard bursts -- like his showstoppers against Ole Miss and Auburn -- weren't too shabby, either. Few have ever combined those gifts like Richardson, and no one in the SEC was any better this season.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. Claiborne wasn't just the best one-on-one man-coverage corner we saw this season, bar-none, SEC or elsewhere--he might have been the best defender we saw this season, SEC or elsewhere. By erasing his side of the field (except for those lone occasions when he was tested and -- as AJ McCarron found out -- usually ready to make a pick), Claiborne set the tone for the best secondary in the country and played arguably the biggest role of any LSU defender in getting the Tigers to the national title game.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Les Miles, LSU. James Franklin 
has earned legitimate consideration for his work at Vanderbilt. But when you look at not only the juggernaut constructed by Miles in Baton Rouge but his ability in steering it through the storms of the preseason bar fight incident, suspensions, and quarterback controversy, there's not really any other choice to make in this slot.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Brad Wing, P, LSU. A punter, over a running back like Isaiah Crowell? When we're talking about the nation's third-best net punting average for a No. 1-ranked prfect-record team that thrived on field position, you bet. That Wing's best two games came at the best possible times -- at Alabama and vs. Georgia in Atlanta -- makes his selection even easier.

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Tyler Wilson, Jr., Arkansas. It was far from a banner year for quarterbacking in the SEC -- only three teams were even able to keep the same starter for all 12 games -- but you wouldn't know it from watching Wilson, whose 3,422 passing yards led the league by nearly 600 yards. No team in the conference was more dependent on their quarterback, but despite taking frequent poundings behind a suspect line Wilson repaid that faith to the tune of a 10-2 record.

Honorable mention: Georgia's Aaron Murray led the league with 33 touchdowns and was the East champions' clearcut best offensive player, but his 12 interceptions were also an SEC high. AJ McCarron struggled for Alabama in the LSU showdown but still finished the year with an SEC-best QB rating and that spot in the BCS title game.

RUNNING BACK

Trent Richardson, Jr., Alabama. It won't win him the Heisman Trophy, but Richardson's brilliant 2011 season -- 1,583 yards, 23 total touchdowns, an eye-popping 6.0 per-carry average despite a league-high 263 carries, and more highlight-reel runs than any running back in the country -- deserves to have cemented his status among the SEC's all-time backfield greats. Not even his predecessor Mark Ingram was ever better.

Michael Dyer, Soph., Auburn. The only back besides Richardson to average more than 100 yards per SEC game, Dyer was often the only thing the sputtering Auburn offense had going for it--and he still finished with 1,242 yards while averaging better than 5 yards a carry.

Honorable mention: Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy quietly enjoyed a breakout season as the league's second-most explosive back behind Richardson, scoring 13 touchdowns and averaging 6.2 yards a carry.

WIDE RECEIVER

Jarius Wright, Sr. Arkansas. Though not the most heralded of the Hogs' star-studded receiving corps entering the season, Wright quickly established himself as Wilson's go-to receiver and arguably the league's top wideout, finishing in the SEC's top two in receptions (63), yards (1,029), touchdowns (11), and average per reception (16.3).

Da'Rick Rogers, Soph., Tennessee. Like Wright, Rogers was supposed to take a back seat to fellow Vol wideout Justin Hunter. But when Hunter went down with an ACL injury in Week 3, Hunter stepped forward to lead the SEC with 1,040 receiving yards and 67 receptions--despite often being the woeful Volunteer offense's only threatening playmaker.

Rueben Randle, Jr., LSU. Rather than take a tight end, we're promoting a third receiver to our first team to make room for the SEC's biggest downfield threat. Randle caught "only" 50 passes (fourth in the conference) but saw eight of them go for touchdowns and averaged 18.1 yards per completion, making him one of only three BCS-conference receivers nationally to clear both 50 total catches and 18 yards a reception.

Honorable mention: If we'd gone with a tight end, Georgia's Orson Charles (44 receptions, 572 yards, 5 TDs) would have been an easy choice. Alshon Jeffery didn't have anything like the All-American season expected of him at South Carolina, but he was still the only receiver outside Wright, Rogers, and Randle to finish in the league's top seven in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

OFFENSIVE LINE

OT/OG Barrett Jones, Sr., Alabama. Whether at guard or tackle, Jones was hands-down one of the nation's best offensive linemen and a deserving All-American who's about to become quite the wealthy individual in the NFL. An easy selection.

OG Will Blackwell, Sr., LSU. The league's best prototype guard this season, Blackwell punished opponents in run blocking and played a major role in LSU's weekly second-half bulldozings on the ground.

C William Vlachos, Sr., Alabama. The SEC's best center, Vlachos put both his considerable strength and veteran guile to use in leading Alabama to the SEC's most productive rushing attack.

OT Alex Hurst, Sr., LSU. As effective as the LSU ground game was, the line also had to give Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson time to uncork those bombs to Randle. And thanks in large part to senior tackle Hurst, they did; the Tigers allowed the fewest sacks in the SEC.

OT Rokevious Watkins, Sr., South Carolina. Even without Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks averaged more yards per-carry and scored more rushing touchdowns than any team in the league outside of Alabama and LSU, and the much-improved Watkins was a huge reason why.

Honorable mention: Both Georgia tackle Cordy Glenn and center Ben Jones had strong senior campaigns (following) iffier junior seasons and have strong arguments for first-team inclusion. Kentucky never got anything going on offense, but guard Larry Warford was a bright spot.

ALL-PURPOSE

PR/WR/KR Joe Adams, Sr., Arkansas. Instead of reading this comment or looking up his stats, just watch this video:
 

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Melvin Ingram, Sr, South Carolina. His 13.5 sacks and 8.5 sacks -- both among the SEC's top five totals -- might have been enough anyway. Add in his two defensive touchdowns, critical fake punt touchdown rumble vs. Georgia, and skill at kick-blocking, and he's a total no-brainer.

DT Josh Chapman, Sr., Alabama. When you're the nose tackle that anchors a run defense that not only finishes No. 1 in the nation but allows an unbelievable three rushing touchdowns all season, yes, you've had quite the campaign.

DT Malik Jackson, Sr., Tennessee. Don't hold the Vols' poor team numbers (or record) against Jackson; the ever-active veteran finished with 11 tackles-for-loss (second among SEC tackles) despite receiving constant attention from opposing offensive lines.

DE Sam Montgomery, Soph., LSU. Picking the best LSU defensive lineman is like picking which cast member of Arrested Development How I Met Your Mother is your favorite, but we'll go with Montgomery, who combined incredible disruption (9 sacks, 13 tackles-for-loss) with stout down-to-down run defense.

Honorable mention: Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox led all SEC tackles in tackles-for-loss with 12.5 and Auburn's Corey Lemonier led all SEC ends with 9.5 sacks; both deserve a tip of the cap.

LINEBACKERS

Jarvis Jones, Soph., Georgia. Todd Grantham's 3-4 system made a star out of Justin Houston a year ago, but it paid even bigger dividends for Jones, who led the SEC in both tackles-for-loss and sacks and his Georgia defense -- one of the nation's best -- in tackles overall.

Courtney Upshaw, Sr., Alabama. Of the many terrors in the Tide linebacking corps, Upshaw may have been the biggest, collecting 17.5 tackles-for-loss, 8.5 sacks, and as much general havoc caused as any player in the country.

Danny Trevathan, Sr., Kentucky. No SEC player filled the whirling-dervish tackling-machine middle linebacker role better than the veteran Wildcat, who led the league in tackles for a second straight year and seemed to be three or four places at once late in the season.

Honorable mention: We're pretty sure that Crimson Tide inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower makes the first team in any other league in the nation; given the Tide's unreal rushing defense numbers and Hightower's role in them, we won't argue if you want to put him first in this league, too.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Jr., Alabama. Much as we've talked up Alabama's run defense, the Tide's pass defense was No. 1, too, and Kirkpatrick was the best player in pass coverage Nick Saban had in 2011--quite the accomplishment considering the competition.

CB Morris Claiborne, Jr., LSU. As much as we admire Claiborne's mustelid teammate in the LSU secondary, Claiborne's outrageous cover-corner skills means that if forced to pick one or the other to build our secondary (or team) around, we don't even have to think very long before taking Claiborne.

S Mark Barron, Sr., Alabama. Ho-hum, just another All-American season as the leader of the nation's top pass defense and the second-leading tackler on the nation's top rush defense.

CB/S Tyrann Mathieu, Soph., LSU. The Honey Badger is a tad overrated as a corner--which is why he wound up playing safety late in the year when Eric Reid suffered an injury. But it's pretty much impossible to overrate his nose for the ball or knack for the big play, which stands alone as the best in the nation.

Honorable mention: Casey Hayward and his five interceptions (and outstanding ball skills) for Vandy could and maybe should have him in the All-American discussion ... but since this is the SEC secondary we're talking about, he's here. The same goes for Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo and LSU's Reid, and though not quite in that class, Mississippi State corner Johnthan Banks had a season worth mentioning as well.

SPECIALISTS

P Brad Wing, rFr., LSU. We're assuming the Ray Guy Award voters left him off because they expected to simply hand the thing over each of the next two seasons.

PK Caleb Sturgis, Jr. Florida. His 21-of-25 season was a rare positive for the Gators in difficult season.
Posted on: December 5, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 4:57 pm
 

Richardson, Mathieu headline AP All-SEC team

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Associated Press has released its selections for the 2011 All-SEC team, with Alabama running back Trent Richardson named the league's Offensive Player of the Year and Tyrann Mathieu the Defensive Player of the Year. Les Miles was unsurprisingly named the SEC Coach of the Year and Isaiah Crowell the Freshman of the Year.

Here's the full first and second teams ("u" signaling a unanimous choice), with some commentary after:
FIRST TEAM

Offense


WR — Jarius Wright, Arkansas, 5-10, 180, Sr.
WR — Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee, 6-3, 215, So.
L — u-Barrett Jones, Alabama, 6-5, 311, Jr.
L — Will Blackwell, LSU, 6-4, 290, Sr.
L — Cordy Glenn, Georgia, 6-5, 348, Sr.
L — Rokevious Watkins, South Carolina, 6-4, 340, Sr.
C — William Vlachos, Alabama, 6-1, 294, Sr.
TE — Orson Charles, Georgia, 6-3, 241, Jr.
QB — Tyler Wilson, Arkansas, 6-3, 220, Jr.
RB — u-Trent Richardson, Alabama, 5-11, 224, Jr.
RB — Michael Dyer, Auburn, 5-9, 210, So.
K — Caleb Sturgis, Florida, 5-11, 183, Jr.

All-Purpose — Joe Adams, Arkansas, 5-11, 190, Sr.

Defense

T — Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State, 6-4, 295, Jr.
T — Malik Jackson, Tennessee, 6-5, 270, Sr.
E — Melvin Ingram, South Carolina, 6-2, 276, Sr.
E — Sam Montgomery, LSU, 6-4, 245, So.
LB — u-Jarvis Jones, Georgia, 6-3, 241, So.
LB — Danny Trevathan, Kentucky, 6-1, 232, Sr.
LB — Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, 6-2, 265, Sr.
CB — u-Tyrann Mathieu, LSU, 5-9, 175, So.
CB — Morris Claiborne, LSU, 6-0, 185, Jr.
S — Mark Barron, Alabama, 6-2, 218, Sr.
S — Bacarri Rambo, Georgia, 6-0, 218, Jr.
P — Brad Wing, LSU, 6-3, 184, Fr.

SECOND TEAM

Offense


WR — Rueben Randle, LSU, 6-4, 208, Jr.
WR — Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina, 6-4, 229, Jr.
L — Chris Faulk, LSU, 6-6, 325, So.
L — Alvin Bailey, Arkansas, 6-5, 319, So.
L — Larry Warford, Kentucky, 6-3, 336, Jr.
L — Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State, 6-4, 320, So.
C — Ben Jones, Georgia, 6-3, 316, Sr.
TE — Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn, 6-5, 250, Jr.
QB — Aaron Murray, Georgia, 6-1, 211, So.
RB — Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt, 5-9, 208, Jr.
RB — Vick Ballard, Mississippi St., 5-11, 220, Sr.
K — Drew Alleman, LSU, 5-11, 183, Jr.

All-Purpose — Dennis Johnson, Arkansas, 5-9, 213, Jr.

Defense

T — Josh Chapman, Alabama, 6-1, 310, Sr.
T — Michael Brockers, LSU, 6-6, 306, So.
E — Corey Lemonier, Auburn, 6-4, 240, So.
E — Barkevious Mingo, LSU, 6-5, 240, So.
LB — Dont'A Hightower, Alabama, 6-4, 260, Jr.
LB — Chris Marve, Vanderbilt, 6-0, 242, Sr.
LB — Jerry Franklin, Arkansas, 6-1, 245, Sr.
CB — Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama, 6-3, 192, Jr.
CB — Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt, 5-11, 188, Sr.
S — Antonio Allen, South Carolina, 6-2, 202, Sr.
S — Eric Reid, LSU, 6-2, 208, So.
P — Dylan Breeding, Arkansas, 6-1, 211, Jr. 
Our thoughts:

The linebackers in this conference are pretty good. If you didn't know it already, we'd think seeing Dont'a Hightower -- a Butkus Award finalist -- reduced to a second-teamer would be proof enough.

How do you solve a problem like Tyrann? The kind of season Mathieu has enjoyed clearly deserves to see him named a first-team All-SEC player ... but if we're strictly talking about who we'd take to play cornerback, we'd go with either second team player (Alabama's excellent Dre Kirkpatrick or Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward) over the Honey Badger, whose strengths lie more in his unparalleled knack for the big play and ferocious run support rather than one-on-one coverage. If we're in charge, we either drop one of the safeties for Kirkpatrick and simply name three corners, or we assign Mathieu to the all-purpose role.

Not always about the numbers. Nothing against Fletcher Cox or Malik Jackson, who each had oustanding seasons for Mississippi State and Tennessee, respectively. But given that this is the conference boasting both the No. 1 and No. 3 rush defenses in the country, it's something of a surprise to see both first-team interior defensive linemen come from teams. Alabama's Josh Chapman, in particular, didn't rack up many tackles or sacks but was the rock-solid anchor that paced the Tide rush defense to their top-ranked billing.

Sorry, Rueben. Can we just add a third wideout to the first team? LSU's Rueben Randle doesn't have the overall numbers of either of the first team receivers, but no wideout in the league was a more consistent, more dangerous downfield threat than Randle, as his 18-yard average per reception illustrates. As with Hightower, we're not sure who we'd drop from the first team, but Randle's nonetheless had a full All-SEC caliber season.

Nope, still scratching our heads. Certainly Auburn punter Steve Clark had a fine year. But we were nonetheless more than a little surprised when he was named a Ray Guy Award finalist, and it looks like the AP voters were, too; they've gone with LSU's impeccable Brad Wing first-team and Arkansas's Dylan Breeding for the second.
Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:45 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 5:23 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Georgia vs. LSU



Posted by Jerry Hinnen

GEORGIA WILL WIN IF:
they can avoid giving LSU easy points. No kickoff returns for touchdown, no short fields following fumble giveaways, no pick-sixes or 60-yard bombs over the top. Simple, right?

Not against LSU, it's not; such is the Tigers' incredible strength in special teams and defense that they rank a mediocre 62nd in total offense ... and still a robust 13th in scoring offense at 38 points a game, better than all but seven other BCS conference teams. But as those low yardage totals indicate, putting together 8, 9-play drives that cover 75, 85 yards are not what LSU wants to do or what plays to their strengths. Even the 14-play, 77-yard march that got the Tigers on the board vs. Arkansas had to survive a botched option pitch and a near-interception from Jordan Jefferson to hit paydirt.

The Tigers can bang out those kinds of drives, of course, thanks to Spencer Ware and Michael Ford and the rest of LSU's pounding ground game. But Georgia can answer that with the nation's No. 6 rush defense, Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins, Christian Robinson and the rest. If Ware and Co. find some tough sledding somewhere between their own 20 and the end zone, is Jefferson good enough to repeatedly execute in the passing game -- against the nation's fourth-ranked secondary in opponent's QB rating, no less -- enough to put those usual 38 points on the board? 

Probably not--which is why if Aaron Murray can protect the ball against Morris Claiborne and the rest of the LSU ballhawks, if the Dawgs can avoid getting burned in special teams, if Drew Butler can match Brad Wing inside-the-20 punt for inside-the-20 punt, if the Dawg secondary can keep Rueben Randle from shortcutting a long drive into a quick one, the Dawgs will have a chance. Those are big -- gigantic -- if's, of course. But that's where the Dawgs have to start.

LSU WILL WIN IF: they play their game. Georgia shouldn't be able to stay even in the special teams department when no one else has. Georgia shouldn't be able to run well enough to keep Murray out of the 3rd-and-8's in which Barkevious Mingo can tee off and Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, and the rest of the defensive backs thrive. Georgia shouldn't be able to get their receivers free against that secondary. Georgia shouldn't be able to offensively overcome to kinds of holes Wing will put them in.

LSU is the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. Georgia's good, but are they so good that if LSU plays to their potential, they'll be able to win anyway? No.

THE X-FACTOR: When Arkansas went up 14-0, the immediate reaction was "how will LSU respond?" Those 14 points represented a deficit more than three times larger than their previous season high ... and it was still erased and then some before halftime. But that was at home, against a team with no ability to stop the LSU ground game, and they got the benefit of Mathieu's game-swinging punt return. Let's say the Bulldogs not only ride a surge of early energy and momentum to a two touchdown first half lead, but hold on to keep a narrow edge into the game's final 20 minutes. Then how does LSU respond? It's a de facto road game. It's against the best defense they've seen since Alabama. It's for the SEC title. Do they keep their unflappable 2011 cool in that situation, too? Or not? 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: November 22, 2011 2:25 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Arkansas at LSU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: the Hog defensive line plays the game of its collective life. As noted here in the run-up to LSU-Alabama, the Tigers' big plays come almost exclusively in the passing game; even with Spencer Ware and Michael Ford around, LSU ranks among the nation's lowest producers of long runs even as they rank among its most consistent in grinding out 4, 5, or 6 yards a carry. Without that steady diet of chain-moving runs, though, what happens? Against Alabama, what happened was that Jarrett Lee found Rueben Randle blanketed, the LSU passing game got neither big plays nor small ones, and the Bayou Bengal offense as a whole (even in victory) limped to its worst offensive showing of the year.

Obviously, the Hog defense isn't going to be able to do the things Alabama's did, and there's a danger it could get run over completely; already, the Razorbacks have given up 197 rushing yards to Alabama, 381 to Texas A&M, 291 to Auburn, 222 to Vanderbilt. But in players like ends Jake Bequette and Tenarius Wright and tackles D.D. Jones and Byran Jones, the Hogs have the potential to play much better than those numbers would suggest. If they can occasionally slow down Ware and Ford and force the LSU passing game to methodically move down the field rather than pop the big one to Randle on second- or third-and-short, their offense will have a chance at outscoring an LSU unit that -- for all its many strengths -- isn't as consistently explosive.


LSU WILL WIN IF:
their secondary comes to play. Let's be honest: Dennis Johnson has given the Razorback running game a real spark over the past several weeks, and the potential return of Knile Davis might spark them further still. But against the nation's No. 4 run defense, the Hogs simply aren't going to win the game on the ground. Tyler Wilson, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Co. are going to have to get theirs. And they've got some hope--against the only other truly dedicated pass-first offense they've faced this year, LSU gave up 463 yards, 7.1 an attempt, and two touchdowns to West Virginia.

But since then, Morris Claiborne, Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu, Ron Brooks, Brandon Taylor (and the rest) have been on lockdown, allowing zero touchdown passes over their last seven games while collecting seven interceptions. Nationally, only Alabama boasts a lower opposing QB rating. If the LSU defensive backs do anything similar to Wilson like they'd done to everyone else this season that wasn't West Virginia, the Hogs won't stand a chance.

THE X-FACTOR: Adams has long since proven his ability to change a game with his punt returns, but Brad Wing and the elite LSU punt coverage unit mean he may not get much of a chance. The bigger issue: if the Hogs can avoid the backbreaking turnover. Wilson has been largely careful with the ball but may face heavy pressure and has had a brainfart or two here or there; see his gift-wrapped pick-six vs. South Carolina. And Johnson has already given up a handful of critical fumbles this season. If the Hogs hand an LSU team that thrives on field position those kinds of early Christmas presents, forget winning--they'll be lucky to keep the game competitive.  
Posted on: November 12, 2011 10:39 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 1 LSU 42, Western Kentucky 9

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



LSU WON: 
We wouldn't say there were any "anxious moments" for the Bayou Bengals -- Western Kentucky's offense was always a little too nonthreatening to think they might actually pull off the Upset of the Century -- but we also doubt many Tiger fans were thrilled at being up just 14-7 at halftime or needing a goalline stand to keep the score 21-7 in the third quarter. Still, thanks to a pair of quick Alfred Blue (pictured above) touchdowns either side of the third quarter break, LSU was able to cruise through the final period. Jordan Jefferson got the start, played the entire first three quarters, and finished 8-of-15 for 168 yards (an impressive 11.2 per-attempt average)with one sterling 59-yard strike to Rueben Randle.

WHY LSU WON: Because they're LSU, and they were playing Western Kentucky. But the Tigers were able to make the game's ending as non-stressful as expected thanks to a dominating second-half defensive effort. Through the first 30 minutes, the Hilltoppers put together four clock-churning drives and ate up nearly 19 minutes of first-half possession. Even if only one of them ended in points, they succeeded in keeping LSU off the field and themselves in the game. 

Second half? Not so much. WKU's first five third- and fourth-quarter drives went like this: six plays, punt; five plays, turnover on downs (see below); three plays, interception; four plays, punt; three plays, punt. Not one took more than 3:16. And not surprisingly, with far more opportunities to do damage than they had in the first half, Blue and the LSU offense did a lot more damage.

WHEN LSU WON: It probably wouldn't have mattered if, down two touchdowns midway through the third quarter, the Hilltoppers had punched in after a long kickoff return helped earn them a second-and-goal at the 2. The Tigers would have pulled away eventually; one of these teams is No. 1 in the country for a reason and the other is, putting it politely, not. But things would have been far more interesting down the stretch if fullback Kadeem Jones hadn't been stuffed on second down, a third-down play-action pass hadn't just missed, and Jones wasn't stuffed again on fourth. Jefferson handed WKU a safety when he was falgged for grounding on the ensuing possession, but it hardly mattered--if you're going to pull off the Upset of the Century, you can't not score on three tries from inside the 2.

WHAT LSU WON: A few grumbles from the locals who would have liked to have seen the 'Toppers put away more quickly, but otherwise, another week spent at the top of the college football world.

WHAT WESTERN KENTUCKY LOST: Lost? WKU hung in there against the No. 1 team in the nation for a good 35, 40 minutes of gametime. Add that experience to the fat check they'll pick up for playing tonight, and they've won more than they've lost tonight.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com