Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.
1. Les Miles, presidential candidate
The presidential election cycle comes with benchmarks and road signs, from the beginning of the intra-party debates to the Iowa primaries to Super Tuesday to the conventions. A news entity can dust off its coverage plan from four years ago, make a few changes, and hit the ground running.
An underrated part: after the debates and before the Iowa caucuses, LSU puts a dominant team on the field. It happened in 2003, when Nick Saban's Tigers beat a top-10 Georgia twice, survived a surging Ole Miss in Oxford, and tortured Oklahoma's Jason White in the BCS title game.
It happened in 2007, when a mostly dominant Les Miles squad survived squalor, beat six ranked teams, and won Miles' first title.
It happened in 2011, when one of the nation's best recent teams beat No. 3 Oregon on a neutral field, survived No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and crushed No. 3 Arkansas and No. 12 Georgia by a combined 83-27 to reach the BCS Championship. Alabama squad found revenge in the rematch, but for 13 games, LSU was a killing machine.
Best teams since 2005 (according to F/+):
- 2008 Florida (13-1)
- 2005 Texas (13-0)
- 2012 Alabama (13-1)
- 2005 USC (12-1)
- 2008 Oklahoma (12-2)
- 2014 Ohio State (14-1)
- 2011 LSU (13-1)
- 2009 Alabama (14-0)
- 2008 Texas (12-1)
- 2014 Alabama (12-2)
In between these three incredible seasons, LSU has been fine. The Tigers have won at least eight games for 15 straight seasons. They have seven top-10 AP poll finishes. They have ranked in the F/+ top 11 seven times, ranking second in 2007 and first in 2011.
If you believe in cycles, it's time for another great LSU moment. Debates started this week, and the Iowa Caucus will begin a few weeks after the College Football Playoff.
This sounds nice, but will reality interfere? In both ratings and results, 2014 was LSU's worst season since 2008. The Tigers went 8-5, watching a 7-2 start fizzle. Worse, that slide included a demoralizing shutout to Arkansas and a tight bowl loss to (*gasp*) Notre Dame. An excellent defense wasn't enough to overcome offensive droughts; they even (*GASP*) ranked outside of the top 10 in special teams efficiency for the first time since 2007.
LSU enters with quarterback questions, offensive line questions, and, for the first time in six years, a new defensive coordinator. For a team that finished 22nd in last year's F/+ rankings, that's a lot to overcome. Add to this the fact that LSU still plays in the country's toughest division, and the odds of this presidential cycle continuing are small.
(And here's where I remind you LSU's head coach is still Les Miles. Never tell Les Miles the odds.)
2014 Schedule & Results
|Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 10-3 | Final F/+ Rk: 22|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|6-Sep||Sam Houston State||N/A||56-0||W||98%||50.6||100%|
|27-Sep||New Mexico State||124||63-7||W||99%||53.2||100%|
|27-Nov||at Texas A&M||42||23-17||W||85%||23.8||78%|
|30-Dec||vs. Notre Dame||34||28-31||L||66%||9.6||38%|
|Points Per Game||27.6||76||17.5||5|
2. All or nothing
LSU's offense averaged 5.6 yards per play, a respectable total given the schedule, sixth-hardest in the country. The Tigers ranked 37th in Off. S&P+, which wasn't good enough but better than the narrative would suggest.
The problem was consistency. The Tigers were under 4.7 yards per play four times and above 6.2 five times. They averaged 2.3 against Arkansas and 8.4 against Notre Dame, 3.2 against Alabama and 6.4 against Kentucky.
Beyond the Ole Miss game (5.7), there wasn't a baseline-average performance. Even considering the best per-play performance came in a loss (Notre Dame), the difference between winning LSU and losing LSU was stark:
- Average Offensive Performance (wins): 4.8 yards per play, 15.4 points per game
- Average Offensive Performance (losses): 6.1 yards per play, 35.3 points per game
Everybody's offense is better in wins than losses, but that's a gulf.
If you're trying to talk yourself into LSU, here's a good time to remember how young this offense was: the Tigers bounced between a sophomore and freshman quarterback, had a freshman No. 1 running back, a sophomore No. 1 receiver, freshmen in the No. 2-4 receiver slots, and two sophomore starters on the line. Just about any offense that young is going to be volatile. It's something experience can smooth out.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||41.8%||62||Succ. Rt. +||108.0||39|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||27.6||21||Def. FP+||106.0||13|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.5||57||Redzone S&P+||120.7||15|
|Q1 Rk||29||1st Down Rk||40|
|Q2 Rk||35||2nd Down Rk||20|
|Q3 Rk||52||3rd Down Rk||48|
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Anthony Jennings||6'2, 216||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9135||111||227||1611||11||7||48.9%||22||8.8%||5.8|
|Brandon Harris||6'3, 188||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9645||25||45||452||6||2||55.6%||3||6.3%||9.0|
|Brandon Bergeron||6'2, 200||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8000|
|Justin McMillan||6'1, 177||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8267|
3. Even a big-play passing game needs more efficiency than this
The offense was young, but inconsistency at one specific position told the tale. Anthony Jennings, first seen leading a 2013 comeback over Arkansas while filling in for injured Zach Mettenberger, was LSU's starter, fending off well-touted freshman Brandon Hraris and ... occasionally affirming the coaches' faith.
In wins, Jennings was a good kind of old-school mobile QB. He contributed enough on the ground to distract defenses from Leonard Fournette, Terrence Magee, and a loaded set of running backs. And with the defense flat-footed, he burned them deep. He completed 51 percent of his passes in wins, but averaged 16 yards per completion.
In losses, Jennings was all the worst aspects of a mobile QB. He took too many sacks, and he completed just 46 percent while averaging just 12.3 yards per.
It made perfect sense that coordinator Cam Cameron would lean even more heavily than normal on the run. Fournette, Magee, Kenny Hilliard, and Darrel Williams combined to average 35 carries per game and a decent 5.2 yards per carry. On first and second down, with defenses assuming run, Jennings completed 51 percent at 16.6 yards per. But on third-and-long, he was just 20-for-45 for 255 yards. He was either throwing fruitlessly into deep coverage, or he was struggling to find receivers.
Harris was an exponential Jennings. When he was good, he was better; when he was bad, he was far worse. Against Mississippi State and New Mexico State, he completed 17 of 23 passes for 318 yards, five touchdowns, and one pick. Incredible! And against Auburn and Kentucky, he was 3-for-15 for 58 yards and a pick. Horrible.
Despite better averages, coaches didn't trust Harris enough to give him Jennings' job. Fans watching Jennings struggle assumed Harris was better, but part of that is the "backup QB is the most popular player on the team" fan sentiment. If Harris was better, he would have played more.
Harris might be better in 2015. A QB often makes his greatest leap between his first and second seasons, so Harris could jump up the learning curve. Plus, Jennings was suspended for part of the summer following an arrest, allowing Harris to work more with returning receivers.
Harris was a more touted recruit and showed elite athleticism and potential as a passer. If he takes a second-year leap, that changes LSU's season.
|Leonard Fournette||RB||6'1, 230||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9996||187||1034||10||5.5||5.2||40.1%||2||1|
|Anthony Jennings||QB||6'2, 216||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9135||86||456||0||5.3||5.0||44.2%||8||3|
|Darrel Williams||RB||6'0, 230||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9027||64||302||3||4.7||3.2||39.1%||1||0|
|Brandon Harris||QB||6'3, 188||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9645||23||178||3||7.7||7.4||56.5%||4||1|
|Travin Dural||WR||6'2, 192||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8885||10||111||0||11.1||6.2||90.0%||0||0|
|Tony Upchurch||FB||6'1, 230||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8917|
|Derrius Guice||RB||5'11, 216||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9777|
|Nick Brossette||RB||6'0, 214||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9203|
|David Ducre||FB||6'0, 239||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9155|
4. Then again, why pass?
When you're as talented as Fournette was coming out of high school, we're all just waiting.
From this perspective, much of Fournette's freshman campaign felt disappointing. He rushed for 122 yards and two scores against NMSU, then followed with 42 yards against Auburn. He averaged a solid 5.2 yards per carry against an awesome Florida defense, then 3.8 per carry over the next four games. We kept waiting for permanent awesomeness, and through much of the season, it didn't arrive.
But then he rushed 30 times for 289 yards and three scores against Texas A&M and Notre Dame. He also returned a kick for a touchdown. He ran through A&M and past the Irish. He showed the full tool box, and he did it twice in a row.
The big late games put him over 1,000 rushing yards for the season, and he showed potential as a pass-catcher as well. One assumes he'll be given everything he can handle in 2015, and it appears he can handle a lot.
He's got backups, too. Darrel Williams was decent for a freshman, and another five-star signee, Derrius Guice, joins the party. Why would you ever need Jennings or Harris to throw?
The line is undergoing a little bit of turnover. Of the seven who finished with starting experience, four are gone. Granted, Vadal Alexander, Jerald Hawkins, and Ethan Pocic have combined to start 73 games over the past three seasons, and LSU doesn't struggle to sign four- and five-star guys up front.
With solid line play, the run game will be awesome. I wouldn't expect run-pass rates to change much.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Travin Dural||WR-X||6'2, 192||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8885||82||37||758||45.1%||31.3%||58.5%||9.2||275||9.2||105.1|
|Malachi Dupre||WR-X||6'3, 187||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9915||35||14||318||40.0%||13.4%||54.3%||9.1||129||9.2||44.1|
|Trey Quinn||WR-X||6'0, 194||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9627||34||17||193||50.0%||13.0%||47.1%||5.7||-24||5.8||26.8|
|John Diarse||WR-Z||6'0, 210||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9186||27||15||275||55.6%||10.3%||51.9%||10.2||88||10.4||38.2|
|Leonard Fournette||RB||6'1, 230||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9996||9||7||127||77.8%||3.4%||55.6%||14.1||45||14.3||17.6|
|Darrel Williams||RB||6'0, 230||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9027||9||6||63||66.7%||3.4%||44.4%||7.0||-9||6.5||8.7|
|DeSean Smith||TE||6'5, 242||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9420||6||4||66||66.7%||2.3%||50.0%||11.0||18||10.4||9.2|
|Dillon Gordon||TE||6'4, 295||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8770||3||0||0||0.0%||1.1%||100.0%||0.0||-4||N/A||0.0|
|Colin Jeter||TE||6'6, 236||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||NR||2||0||0||0.0%||0.8%||50.0%||0.0||-3||0.0||0.0|
|D.J. Chark||WR-Z||6'2, 184||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8728||1||0||0||0.0%||0.4%||0.0%||0.0||-1||N/A||0.0|
|Kevin Spears||WR-Z||6'3, 195||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8758|
|Jacory Washington||TE||6'5, 221||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9225|
|Tyron Johnson||WR||6'2, 192||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9873|
|Derrick Dillon||WR||5'11, 174||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9252|
|Jazz Ferguson||WR||6'5, 214||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8983|
5. Oh right, that's why
Despite all the inconsistency at quarterback, the potential in the passing game was obvious. With all acknowledged struggles, then-sophomore Travin Dural and freshmen Malachi Dupre, Trey Quinn, and John Diarse combined to average 8.7 yards per target. Dural averaged over 9 per target as the far-and-away No. 1 target. These are excellent averages.
Of course, they were derived almost entirely from big plays. The foursome averaged a combined 18.6 yards per catch with a 47 percent catch rate. That's a lot of jump balls and minimal reliability.
All four return, which is exciting, and they could be joined by another five-star, Tyron Johnson. With Fournette pounding away and up to five receivers capable of beating coverage deep, LSU seems to have spectacular run-and-play-action potential. But someone has to get open on third-and-7, and the quarterback has to be able to hit him.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|La'el Collins||LT||38||2014 1st All-SEC|
|Vadal Alexander||RT||6'6, 320||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9311||34|
|Jerald Hawkins||LT||6'6, 309||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8897||26|
|Ethan Pocic||C||6'7, 301||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9728||13|
|Jonah Austin||RT||6'4, 336||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8700||0|
|Josh Boutte||RG||6'5, 340||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9316||0|
|Jevonte Domond||OT||6'6, 310||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8967||0|
|Andy Dodd||C||6'4, 336||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8886||0|
|K.J. Malone||LT||6'4, 289||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8657||0|
|Garrett Brumfield||RG||6'4, 309||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9517|
|William Clapp||C||6'5, 295||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9054|
|Maea Teuhema||OG||6'4, 323||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9827|
|Toby Weathersby||OT||6'5, 303||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9497|
|George Brown Jr.||OT||6'6, 283||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8722|
|Chidi Valentine-Okeke||OT||6'6, 315||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9507|
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||35.6%||12||Succ. Rt. +||133.5||4|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||29.7||75||Off. FP+||103.0||30|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||3.9||28||Redzone S&P+||122.3||13|
|Q1 Rk||25||1st Down Rk||4|
|Q2 Rk||8||2nd Down Rk||2|
|Q3 Rk||3||3rd Down Rk||11|
6. Hello, new guy
Miles has replaced defensive coordinators before. The Tigers experienced a setback in 2008, following the loss of Bo Pelini and quite a bit of defensive personnel. That year's co-coordinators, Bradley Dale Peveto and Doug Mallory, only lasted a year before Peveto ended up at Northwestern State and Mallory went to New Mexico. (Peveto returned to LSU's staff in 2014.)
Miles can survive the loss of John Chavis, in other words. In 10 years, with three different coordinator arrangements, LSU has ranked outside of the Def. S&P+ top 10 twice. Between Miles' physical style and ace recruiting, this D has a high floor.
Still, it was surprising when Miles replaced Chavis with Kevin Steele. Part of that is our fault. We only remember specific instances or seasons from a coach's tenure, and we ignore the day-to-day detail coaches deal with. But the last time most of us saw Steele was when his 2011 Clemson defense was getting emasculated by West Virginia for 70 points and 600 yards in the Orange Bowl.
Between that, Steele's time as Baylor's head coach, and his shaky performance as coordinator in Nick Saban's first season at Alabama, we can put together an awful résumé.
But Steele also produced a No. 6 Def. S&P+ ranking with Clemson in 2010. He has coached for Johnny Majors, Tom Osborne, Dom Capers, Bobby Bowden, and Saban. Saban liked him enough to rehire him after the Clemson experience. In five seasons as a coordinator, he has produced just one awesome defense, but his name carries weight in the coaching profession. That's ... something, right?
Steele's got a high bar to clear. Despite youth and iffy depth up front -- the top tackles were a freshman (Davon Godchaux) and a sophomore (Christian LaCouture), and Chavis basically played just four linemen all season -- the Tigers ranked ninth in Def. S&P+. They gave up too many big run plays, generated almost no pass pressure, and still held 10 of 13 opponents under 5.4 yards per play.
Because of personnel limitations, last year might have been Chavis' best coaching performance. Now he's at Texas A&M, and you could say Steele's on the hot seat before he's even coached a game.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Davon Godchaux||DT||6'4, 298||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9328||13||28.5||4.4%||1.5||0.0||0||0||1||0|
|Christian LaCouture||DT||6'5, 300||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9004||13||23.5||3.6%||4.0||2.5||0||2||0||0|
|Tashawn Bower||DE||6'5, 237||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9187||13||9.5||1.5%||2.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Sione Teuhema||DE||6'4, 232||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8848||9||5.0||0.8%||2.0||2.0||0||0||0||0|
|Quentin Thomas||DT||6'4, 303||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8615||11||5.0||0.8%||0.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Deondre Clark||DE||6'3, 244||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9324||12||4.5||0.7%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Frank Herron||DT||6'4, 278||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9588||4||2.5||0.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Greg Gilmore||DT||6'5, 305||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9579||6||2.5||0.4%||0.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Lewis Neal||DE||6'1, 255||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8672||13||2.0||0.3%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Mickey Johnson||DT||6'1, 310||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9265||2||1.5||0.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|M.J. Patterson||DE||6'3, 231||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8700|
|Arden Key||DE||6'6, 230||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9589|
|Isaiah Washington||DE||6'4, 225||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8711|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Kendell Beckwith||MLB||6'2, 245||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9664||13||56.5||8.6%||7.5||2.0||1||3||0||0|
|Lamar Louis||SLB||6'0, 229||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9021||12||19.5||3.0%||2.5||0.0||0||3||1||0|
|Deion Jones||WLB||6'1, 220||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8868||13||18.0||2.7%||3.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Duke Riley||SLB||6'1, 218||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8657||13||13.0||2.0%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Devin Voorhies||MLB||6'2, 208||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9156||8||4.5||0.7%||0.0||0.0||0||0||1||0|
|Ronnie Feist||WLB||6'1, 224||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9079||4||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Donnie Alexander||SLB||6'1, 201||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8703|
7. A healthy backbone
Some defenses can succeed without a pass rush. If your secondary is elite, as LSU's frequently is, you can use your linebackers conservatively, stepping them into passing lanes or bolting them to the QB as soon as scrambles. This was the Chavis formula last year, and it worked pretty well.
Still, LSU had no pass rush. Even without using linebackers and spending time with three down linemen, you'd like to think you can generate more than this. LSU had 19 sacks last year, four from Jermauria Rasco and 15 from everybody else.
Steele had an aggressive streak at Clemson. His excellent 2010 defense featured 32 sacks (15 from Da'Quan Bowers) and 60 passes defensed, so he will want to bring at least a little bit of pressure, even if his secondary is great.
It's not clear that he's got great pass-rushing personnel. Leading returning ends Tashawn Bower and Sione Teuhema combined for 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks among their 14.5 overall tackles, but their infrequent use makes them mysteries. And while incoming freshmen Arden Key and Isaiah Washington were well-regarded recruits, they're freshmen.
What we do know is that the backbone is beyond sturdy. Godchaux and LaCouture held up last year, and their backups came to Baton Rouge well-regarded. At middle linebacker, Kendell Beckwith was solid for a sophomore, mixing 7.5 tackles for loss with four passes defensed. And at safety, LSU is loaded.
Just about any coordinator in the country could produce a top-30 defense out of this personnel, specifically the guys up the middle.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jamal Adams||S||6'0, 206||So.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9847||13||52.0||7.9%||5||1||0||5||0||0|
|Jalen Mills (injury)||S||6'0, 194||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8532||13||44.0||6.7%||3||0||1||5||0||1|
|Corey Thompson (2013)||S||6'2, 218||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9078||10||28.5||4.2%||0.5||0||0||3||0||0|
|Tre'Davious White||CB||5'11, 191||Jr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9732||13||28.0||4.3%||3||1||2||6||0||0|
|Rickey Jefferson||S||6'0, 204||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9149||13||18.0||2.7%||1.5||0||2||2||0||0|
|Dwayne Thomas||CB||6'0, 182||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9167||5||16.0||2.4%||2.5||1.5||1||1||0||0|
|Russell Gage||CB||6'0, 180||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8517||2||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ed Paris||CB||6'1, 208||So.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9786||13||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|John Battle||S||6'1, 186||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8801|
|Kevin Toliver II||CB||6'2, 192||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9948|
|Donte Jackson||DB||5'11, 168||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9731|
|Xavier Lewis||CB||6'0, 186||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9217|
8. A top-5 pass defense with no pass rush whatsoever
In 2013, LSU's secondary was banged up, with only three of eight primary DBs playing in all 13 games. Chavis was forced to juggle four safeties, but LSU still ranked a solid 20th in Passing S&P+.
One year's injury issues are another year's depth. Even while losing Corey Thompson to injury and playing freshman Jamal Adams heavily, the pass defense was nearly untouchable. The Tigers allowed quarterbacks to complete more than 59 percent of their passes just four times in 13 games and held seven opponents to 53 percent or lower. If passer rating is your thing, the Tigers held 10 of 13 under 115.
Despite the loss of Ronald Martin and Jalen Collins, Steele inherits some of the best talent in the country. Adams and Jalen Mills are capable of making and preventing big plays [Update: Mills could miss at least two games due to injury]. They had eight tackles for loss and 11 passes defensed between them. LSU ranked sixth in IsoPPP+ (big play prevention). Plus, Thompson and Rickey Jefferson are back.
Cornerback is a little bit thinner, with only Tre'Davious White and Dwayne Thomas having scored major playing time, but a) White and Thomas are strong, and b) reinforcements are on the way. Between sophomore Ed Paris and freshmen Kevin Toliver II (one of the nation's best recruits this class), Donte Jackson, and Xavier Lewis, the odds are great that the No. 3 cornerback will be good.
|Jamie Keehn||6'4, 220||Sr.||71||44.9||3||25||27||73.2%|
|Trent Domingue||6'1, 170||Jr.||51||62.2||28||2||54.9%|
|Cameron Gamble||5'11, 190||So.||17||61.4||7||1||41.2%|
|Colby Delahoussaye||5'10, 176||Jr.||34-36||8-11||72.7%||3-4||75.0%|
|Trent Domingue||6'1, 170||Jr.||6-6||2-3||66.7%||0-1||0.0%|
|Leonard Fournette||KR||6'1, 230||So.||24||26.0||1|
|Darrel Williams||KR||6'0, 230||So.||1||21.0||0|
|Tre'Davious White||PR||5'11, 191||Jr.||25||10.9||1|
|Trey Quinn||PR||6'0, 194||So.||1||7.0||0|
|Special Teams F/+||13|
|Field Goal Efficiency||86|
|Punt Return Efficiency||30|
|Kick Return Efficiency||13|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||114|
9. An incredible run of great special teams
What an embarrassment. LSU's special teams efficiency ranking fell all the way to 13th, the worst performance since 2007. Fire everyone, Les. Burn it to the ground.
Joking aside, there were some issues. Punter Jamie Keehn has a booming leg, but he outkicked coverage at times. Allowing 9.1 yards per return (and one touchdown) takes some of the shine off of a 45-yard punting average. Plus, while showing off a big leg, Colby Delahoussaye struggled enough on shorter kicks to briefly cede his job to kickoffs guy Trent Dominigue.
Still ... kickoffs were good. Fournette was efficient in kick returns, then took one all the way in the bowl. Tre'Davious White was the generic LSU punt returner we've come to fear. Between Delahoussaye and Domingue, it is likely that a steady place-kicker will emerge, and if your biggest issue is that your punter's leg is sometimes too strong, you've probably got a good special teams unit. Miles always does.
2015 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk|
|12-Sep||at Mississippi State||21|
|10-Oct||at South Carolina||31|
|21-Nov||at Ole Miss||6|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||43.8% (4)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||7 / 5|
|2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||3 / 2.4|
|2014 TO Luck/Game||+0.2|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||15 (9, 6)|
|2014 Second-order wins (difference)||7.3 (0.7)|
10. Spoiler or contender?
There are some key "Yeah, but ..." interjections that keep me from going all the way in with LSU.
The offense features Fournette and one of the most explosive receiving corps in the country. The defense has an absurdly strong backbone, good corners, and plenty of options on the edges.
- Until we see steady quarterback play, we don't know that it will happen, even if Harris and Jennings have shown loads of potential.
- Until we see that the new defensive coordinator is going to meet the standard, we don't know that it will happen, even with one of the nation's best secondaries.
There is a lot to like about LSU, and thanks to experience, recent play, and recruiting, the numbers see it. The Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 projects LSU eighth in the country and gives the Tigers a 31 percent chance of going 10-2 or better despite a brutal division. Those are decent odds, and it reminds us that last year's only less-than-elite play was the exception, not the rule.
We're 15 months from a presidential election, which means the party debates are hitting fourth gear. It's time for LSU to peak again. Will it happen this time?