Here we are the midpoint of the college football season already with LSU more or less where we thought they'd be. The difference is how they got here. If you've watched LSU in recent years, you'll wonder who stole that program and replaced it with the current one. The Tigers have put in place their own Plan 17 and gone on the offensive. Whereas the French Army's edition in 1914 didn't end up going the way they wanted it to, the Tigers are still on schedule – so far.
The Tiger's offensive output has been the story of the first half of the season. The right arm of Zach Mettenberger has been lighting up scoreboards for 6 weeks, hiding the deficiencies of a weakened defense.
With Florida kicking off the second stanza of the season (bringing the conference's only stellar defense with them) it will be fascinating to see if the offensive story continues.
More past the jump.
The familiar story at this point is that of Cam Cameron, the NFL offensive coordinator who came to Baton Rouge in the offseason and has installed what could be the best offense in Tiger history. The team has been turned on its head. While the defense falters through youthful mistakes, the offense has gone off to the tune of record breaking paces in a number of offensive metrics.
Visit NCAA.com and take a look at the FBS statistics. Nestled amongst teams like Baylor, Florida State, Louisville, Texas A&M, and Georgia you'll find those clad in purple & gold from Baton Rouge right there at No. 4. Right between former Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M (at 5) and Heisman favorite Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville (at 3) is Zach Mettenberger and LSU.
Pixels can be strewn about for days talking about this offense (and they have) and the output they've achieved. NFL scouts are drooling at the advances the skill players like Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Jeremy Hill have made this season.
Make no mistake, this offense is on track to be the most prolific in school history.
Unfortunately, the LSU defense cannot say the same.
Not that the Tiger defenders are bad per say, but a team ranking in the mid-40s and mid-50s in the major statistical categories is grounds for sincere concern in Baton Rouge. For a team that's had as it's calling card asphyxiating defense and anemic offense that scored just enough to win, this year's unit has to this point not been up to the task.
There are causes for hope. Whereas the 2008 defense (may it rest in peace) had issues not only in personnel but in scheme, this defense is still manned by one of the best minds in defensive football. Many of the issues being experienced by this team are caused by youth. Tre'Davious White has been a starter for a few weeks now but is still a freshman and is learning on the job. Rashard Robinson, who saw extensive work last week to some positive reviews, didn't join the team until days before the first game.
There's cause to believe the unit will improve as the season progresses, even as we reach the midpoint.
Some issues, though, like the flailing arms disguised as attemps at tackling, might prove to be more difficult to remedy. While the Tigers aren't on Texas levels of tackling, they still are missing badly. A lot of this can be chalked up to focus, but it's a problem that we'll probably have to contend with the rest of the season.
So what's the prognosis?
That's harder to tell than usual. Generally, we judge how strong the defense looks and can make a fairly accurate call as to what the season will entail. Since the script has been flipped, that proves a little more difficult. Still, the offense is good enough to beat Ole Miss, Furman, & Arkansas without the defense improving from this point. If we can count on some defensive improvement, games vs. Florida, Alabama & Texas A&M are possible wins. The Tigers-Aggies game will most likely shatter the Tiger Stadium scoreboard.
The good news is we get to see how this team will handle a stout defense this week against Florida. If Mettenberger & his band of merry men can still score points, that should give the defense enough wiggle room to pull out victory in tighter contests.
Everything is still in front of this team. Win out and you're in Atlanta. That's all they have to do and it's within reach.