If you listen to some of the media and fans around the SEC, you’d think the LSU Tigers are just a shell of what they were in 2011. After all, they lost All-American Tyrann Mathieu in August, when he was dismissed after another failed drug test.
After defeating Auburn on the road 12-10, it seemed as if the nation jumped off the Tiger bandwagon.
When you take a closer look at the Auburn game, you realize LSU could have and probably should have won by a larger margin.
LSU stifled Auburn’s offense, holding them to 183 total yards. The Tigers, from Auburn, were only able to muster 86 rushing yards on 30 carries. The LSU defense also caused three turnovers and had a safety, which turned out to be the difference on the scoreboard.
On offfense, quarterback Zach Mettenberger fumbled twice, one time at the Auburn two yard line. The Tigers also continually shot themselves in the foot with penalties which totaled nine, for 80 yards.
The Tigers defense did look sluggish versus FCS opponent Towson, as they gave up a season high in points (22), rushing yards (181), and total yards (291).
Don’t be fooled, this Tiger defense is still elite. They currently rank No. 2 in the SEC in total defense and No. 4 nationally allowing only 217 yards a game.
The Tigers rank in the top 10 nationally in five defensive categories: total defense (4), rushing defense (9), passing defense (6), scoring defense (9) and passing efficiency defense (6). The Tigers are also ranked seventh in the country with seven interceptions on the year.
As good as LSU has been defensively, the offense hasn’t looked as dominant. LSU is 12th in the SEC and 93rd nationally in pass offense with only 203 yards per game.
“We’ve been sloppy week in and week out,” said Mettenberger.
Mettenberger started the year looking as if he would be the difference on an offense that struggled at times in 2011.
Through the first three games of the year, he completed 72 percent of his passes, (48-66, 609, 4 td, 2 int).
In the last two games, versus Auburn and Towson, he’s only completing 56 percent (30-53, 407, 2 td, 0 int).
The Tigers have improved in every major offensive category in 2012: scoring offense, total offense, rushing offense and passing offense.
Is Mettenberger the sole reason for the improvement? Absolutely not.
The Tigers returned a group of offensive linemen, who dominate at the point of attack. They also returned a stable of four running backs, who are among the best in the country. Also, it must be stated, the schedule has not been as difficult this season.
So, why is America down on the Tigers right now?
- If you take a look back at 2011, the Tigers started off the season in the Cowboys Classic, where they beat the Oregon Ducks 40-27. Much like Alabama this year, LSU had the chance to shine on a national stage. The Oregon game was a night kick, which meant the entire nation was watching.
- Two weeks later, LSU again had the Thursday night stage all to themselves, as they traveled to Starkville to face Mississippi State.
- Nine days later, the Tigers once again had the national stage all to themselves as they played in a primetime ABC matchup versus West Virginia, in Morgantown.
- This season, the Tigers played Washington and Auburn in primetime on ESPN. Hence, the outcry after the Auburn game.
The Tyrann Mathieu effect:
- The Honey Badger was all over the television in 2011. Mathieu made huge play after huge play, especially in primetime games.
- His blond mohawk resonated with fans, as they wanted to tune in every week to see what he was going to do.
- He was the premier playmaker on the college football field in 2011.
Ugly brand of ball:
- To say LSU is ugly is an understatement. It’s really hard for America to get behind a team that runs the ball and plays defense.
- The Tigers are considered boring in the world of college football.
- With Mathieu, the Tigers were sexy. Not in 2012.
The Tigers will make their way to “The Swamp” this week to take on the Florida Gators. Both teams come in undefeated and whoever wins, will be one step closer to playing for an SEC Title. The Gators will be out for revenge, as they lost 41-11 in Baton Rouge in 2011.
Follow Freddie on Twitter: @fredvic9