Coming into this season, it was obvious that LSU Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger had some big shoes to fill. He was following Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, is not the athlete that Jefferson is and not quite the passer that Lee is. Mettenberger’s off-and-on performance through the first eight games of the season seemed to vindicate that he wasn’t the guy who could live up to the standard that his predecessors at the position set. And then Mettenberger seemed to wake up.
It’s ironic that Mettenberger’s best game of this season came against the Alabama Crimson Tide because of how dominant the Crimson Tide’s defense has been over the last few seasons, not to mention their dominance over Jefferson & Lee last season.
Maybe it was the pressure, maybe it was because it was a primetime game on national television, maybe it was because a win would’ve put the Tigers right back into the national championship race, whatever the reason, this was the game where Mettenberger finally had the game that could make Tigers’ fans really believe in him.
Mettenberger threw for just under 300 yards against the Crimson Tide, something unfathomable coming into this season, without throwing an interception or turning the ball over himself. The Tigers made plenty of mistakes in this game, but none of them could be directly attributed to Mettenberger. And probably the best attribute to Mettenberger’s fabulous outing against the Crimson Tide was the fact that the Tigers controlled the ball for just under 40 minutes when it’s usually the Crimson Tide that have the ball for 2/3 of a football game.
And the very best part about that performance? Mettenberger went out the next week and proved it wasn’t a fluke. Granted it was against the Mississippi St. Bulldogs, who have a much, much weaker defense than the Crimson Tide. However, that’s irrelevant because the Bulldogs went into that game with something to prove and the Tigers were just coming off a painful last-minute loss and could have laid an egg or still been distraught by the loss. Instead, Mettenberger put together another great outing, throwing for around 275 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions yet again. The real highlights of Mettenberger’s performance in this game came in the first half, but he was able to put drives together in the second half and that was able to keep the Bulldogs from making any kind of comeback in a game that was relatively close at the half.
So with two games to go, and easy looking games at that, it would seem inevitable that this streak of great games is going to continue for Mettenberger. Neither the Ole Miss Rebels or Arkansas Razorbacks (the Tigers’ final two opponents) have anything resembling a defense that can stop the Tigers for a whole game. This benefits the Tigers because they can gain two impressive wins, albeit against unimpressive opponents, to end the season and strengthen their case for a BCS at-large spot by finishing hot. This is a realistic view because a Florida Gators‘ loss to the Florida St. Seminoles, and the fact that either the Crimson Tide or Georgia Bulldogs have to lose in the SEC title game would help the Tigers’ case as long as they don’t slip up.
The way Mettenberger has been leading this offense lately tells me that slipping up probably won’t be in the Tigers’ future. I say probably because you have to remember that it is November in college football.