Showcasing a Balanced Attack
The SEC Riviera Roundup – Week 8
By Chris Warner
October 22, 2015
Heading into its sixth game of the season against the University of Florida, the LSU Tigers were tabbed by many national media talking heads as “One dimensional” and a “One Trick Pony,” due to their supposed over-reliance on Leonard Fournette and a perceived inability to adequately pass the football. However, since the LSU Tiger offense’s balanced attack against Florida, where they both rushed and passed for over 200 yards, many of those same former detractors are now calling LSU “the most complete team in college football.” It is certainly interesting how much of a difference a week makes during a season shaping up to provide another exciting SEC Western Division and conference race.
In this exclusive, weekly column regarding all things SEC Western Division Football, we’ll take our regular armchair quarterback tour across the nation’s toughest sub-conference, tagging perceived winners and losers while redefining the inside track for the coveted division crown and representation in early December for the playoff ticket-punching conference championship.
Around the SEC Western Division
Alabama – The Crimson Tide again throttled the Aggies in a college football game. Kevin Sumlin’s unit was exposed as a unit incapable of playing big boy football. Astute SEC football fans must wonder if he will maintain his position after the season, as it is now painfully apparent that he will never beat Alabama or LSU running a touch football, gimmick offense. Ole Miss needs to also take note: If you cannot run the football, you cannot win the SEC Championship, as Alabama and LSU dictate the play.
Arkansas – Bret Bielema’s 2-4 troops had a bye week to prepare for an improving 4-2 Auburn squad that will visit Fayetteville this Saturday. This is a must-win for both teams trying to salvage otherwise disappointing seasons. Interestingly, Arkansas is a slight favorite in this contest, which begs the question of just how bad Auburn really is. The Hogs did defeat Tennessee, who faces Alabama this weekend in Tuscaloosa. Win this one and Gus and the Tigers are 5-2 and 2-2 in the SEC, which is not too shabby.
Auburn – Gus Malzahn says he has seen improvement in his offense since he benched senior Jeremy Johnson for freshman Sean White, stating it “was a move we had to make.” Auburn’s defense, led by former Florida Head Coach Will Muschamp, has been equally disappointing, calling into question both his ability and heart for the job. In Muschamp’s defense, injuries have been a factor, but at some point his on-the-field results must pay dividends commensurate with his exorbitant compensation.
LSU – Les Miles turned in film of late hits and uncalled facemask penalties on his star running back Leonard Fournette to the Red Elephant Club in Birmingham, Alabama running the Southeastern Conference. Alabama graduate Steve Shaw, head of SEC officials, has promised to review the film by the end of the fall, in order to ensure integrity, fairness and legitimacy of SEC gridiron competition. Meanwhile, LSU prepares this week for a respectable Western Kentucky team that excels at passing but struggles stopping the run. Could this be the game that Fournette breaks the LSU single-game rushing record?
Mississippi State – The 5-2 Bulldogs (LSU & A&M) face 4-2 Kentucky this weekend in an intriguing matchup of two of the league’s better quarterbacks. Dak Prescott continues to break MSU and SEC records at a torrid pace, solidifying his future NFL draft status as one of the country’s premier, mobile signal callers. Merlins has matured into a heck of a coach, and he has an opportunity with a win over the Cats to become bowl eligible before November, a fact that has to make avid State fans smile.
Ole Miss – Chaz, Swag, Machine-Gun Kelly and his Nintendo Ace, head coach Hugh Freeze, continue to ply their one-dimensional passing attack en route to the biggest crash and burn in modern SEC Western Division history. In a four-alarm dumpster fire the Black Bears lost to Memphis this past weekend—that’s Memphis—a team down the road that will no doubt use the upset win against them in recruiting for many years to come. Perhaps Coach Freeze should schedule some other non-conference opponent—and more importantly—recruit an SEC-caliber running back. The Rebels host A&M Saturday.
Texas A&M – Kyle Allen was asked by his statistics professor this week to pick a number between one and ten. Predictably, he replied, “Six.” Allen set a record this past weekend in College Station by throwing three pick sixes against the Alabama Crimson Tide, who also rushed for over 200 yards against the seemingly hapless Aggies. New defensive coordinator John Chavis has improved their pass defense, but has done little to improve their ability to stop the run by playing physical on the line of scrimmage. Coach Sumlin’s offense and defense resemble the Big 12 more than they do championship SEC play, a salient fact that must alarm the most fervent Aggie boosters.
LSU and Bama Loom Large in T-Town
LSU is the league’s only undefeated team. Alabama’s one loss to Ole Miss early in the season looks more like a fluke than ever. These two juggernauts clash in Tuscaloosa November 7th, after a bye week next Saturday. Other than its beleaguered special teams, LSU has played exceptionally well. The Tigers look much like the 2011 team that went into Tuscaloosa and emerged victorious in a hard-fought 9 to 6 ballgame that showcased the kickers. Speaking of kickers—LSU’s placekicker, Trent Domingue is a perfect 7-7 on the year in field goals, while his counterpart with the Crimson Tide, Adam Griffith, is 4-4. Alabama’s running game has been exceptional with Derrick Henry, but their passing game has struggled somewhat with fifth year senior Jake Coker. LSU has the more balanced approach, the Heisman Trophy favorite, and a road venue that for whatever reason has traditionally favored the Tigers.
Until next time…
*Chris Warner is double graduate of LSU and holds a doctorate from the University of New Orleans. He has blogged about SEC Football for 17 years running and is the author of over 20 books, including the popular “Tailgater’s Guide to SEC Football Volume IV” and “SEC Sports Quotes Compendium,” along with “The Wagon to Disaster,” “Bushwhacked at the Flora-Bama, Volume II” and “Saved at the Alabama-Florida Line,” a novel set at the iconic watering hole in 2010. He is currently writing, “Captured by the Brit Who Fooled Baton Rouge,” the life and times and hideous crimes of one Richard Scott Rogers, an insidious pedophile who masqueraded as a TV talk Show host for 12 years in Baton Rouge before his deserved demise at the hands of his gay lover and son-in-law in August 2014.