Are LSU's Football Struggles a Les Miles Thing?

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterOctober 2, 2012

LSU head coach Les Miles
LSU head coach Les MilesDerick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Has there been a more heavily-scrutinized 5-0 team in recent memory that the 2012 edition of the LSU Tigers?

After cruising to wins in each of their first three games, Les Miles' Tigers escaped the plains of Auburn with a 12-10 win two weeks ago, and then followed it up with a very sluggish effort in a 38-22 win over Towson in Baton Rouge last weekend.

The back-to-back ugly wins have dropped the Tigers one spot in each of the last two Associated Press (AP) Polls, and are now No. 4 in the latest rankings.

Talk about "first world problems."

Is Les Miles to blame for the perceived struggles of the LSU football program?

To some extent, yes.

The missing piece to the LSU puzzle last season was the quarterback position, which LSU thought they found with junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger.

Instead of becoming a downfield weapon, Mettenberger has been remarkably average throughout the entire season, particularly in the Auburn and Towson games.

Mettenberger currently ranks eighth in the SEC with an average of 203.2 yards per game, and seventh in yards per passing attempt at 8.5.

He has a big arm and the ability to stretch the field, but we haven't seen it yet and Miles is part of the reason why.

If you were to catch the Mad Hatter in an honest moment, he'd probably tell you that he should have let Mettenberger have more of the offense early in the season, particularly in games vs. North Texas and Idaho.

Mettenberger looked lost when Auburn's pass rush got to him two weeks ago, and the Tigers were unable to create the comfort level that is necessary to succeed against a team like Towson. If LSU had been more creative early in the season, maybe, just maybe, Mettenberger would be more prepared for SEC play.

This team also seems to lack a bit of an edge and has appeared to be sleepwalking. That's probably due to the early-season, but the new, more conservative "Mad Hatter" may have something to do with it as well.

LSU has not attempted a fourth-down conversion this year. Keep in mind, this is the same head coach that went for it—and converted—on five straight fourth downs against No. 9 Florida in Death Valley back in 2007.

He will have a chance to turn things around this weekend. A win over the Florida Gators in Gainesville—no matter what LSU looks like—will re-establish the Tigers one of the teams to beat in the chase for the crystal football.