After witnessing the LSU-Washington game late Saturday night and the ensuing fan talk, no one is short on opinions and outlooks for the rest of 2009 for the Tigers.
Well, whether you're deciding that LSU will be fine this year or determining exactly what ledge you'd like to stand on for the next week, allow me to help you make an informed decision.
Although it's not just me helping you out with this—it's also two little voices (of the many) inside my head. I call them "Half-Full Fred" and "Half-Empty Ernie."
Ernie: Where do I start, Fred? This is too good. I'll give you the honors.
Fred: Well, you could start with the fact that LSU is 1-0. They faced an obviously improved Washington team who brought their A game, and despite the fact that LSU brought its C game, they managed a win.
Ernie: Booooooooring. Jeez, really?!! Are you trying to tell me a game like that doesn't worry you as a fan in the least?
Fred: There are some things LSU has to work on, but it's the first game of the season, and teams make vast improvements from week one to week two.
Ernie: "Week one to week two?" Are you looking at a coach-speak manual right now? Let's get into the nuts and bolts of this. The two big questions marks coming into the season were the quarterback play and the defense, and neither impressed me Saturday night.
Fred: You mean a 19-year-old starting his third game who didn't turn over the ball, made good decisions, and was able to use his legs to escape trouble and make positive yards was a bad thing? Jordan Jefferson should not be one of the first things out of your mouth when criticizing this performance.
Ernie: It's not that he had a bad game; it's just not that I'm sold on him yet. Plus the offensive playcalling was so terrible, you could hardly see what the kid could do. I thought Gary Crowton was some kind of offensive genius. The playcalling in the first half wasn't just vanilla—it was sugar-free vanilla.
Fred: You can't fault Les Miles and Crowton for the playcalling. It's obvious they came in wanting to be very conservative in the first half with the mindset of, "If we're up big at the half, stay conservative; if not, add a few wrinkles." The wrinkles were added, and the Tigers looked much better in the second half on offense, especially on the deciding drive late in the game to put it away and go up by 15.
Ernie: Vanilla is one thing, but not being able to execute is another. Charles Scott had just 52 yards and kept getting brickwalled all night. The offensive line flew under the radar last year because of the pitiful defense and QB play, but they underachieved at times last year, and they did again against the Huskies.
And even Bob Davie could see that LSU wasn't taking advantage of its speed on the perimeter except for just a few plays. When they did, good things happened. Screens and underneath passing could've killed this team, and Crowton and Miles never pulled the trigger on getting his speedy guys the ball out in space.
Fred: The final frontier???
Ernie: I'm being serious. Miles and Crowton had a chance to prove a point and take out frustrations from last year with a big win, and they didn't put their players in a position to do it, at least on offense.
Fred: There's still a lot to be said for this being the first game of the season and LSU starting out a young QB like Jefferson. Keep it simple, get the guys' confidence up. That's what they did. We need to move on because you'll see the LSU offense improve as the year goes on.
Ernie: Says you, but you're right. Let's move to special teams, because LSU's return game is still in the pooper and the punting is atrocious. Here's a switch—I'll be positive for once about something: The Tigers will never outkick their coverage when punting.
Fred: Once again, things that can be worked on. We made the only FG we attempted and didn't turn over the ball on special teams.
Ernie: You think the team can put up one of those signs like the Notre Dame's "Play like a champion today" that says "Let's not turn the ball over on special teams today"???
Fred: You're not helping.
Ernie: By the way, this just in: Washington went 0-12 last year.
Fred: It's tough for a team to face a first-time head coach like Steve Sarkisian not knowing what to expect. You couldn't scout tendencies; he changed the offense from last year at Washington. It was an advantage for the Huskies.
And who cares about last year? Last year, this same Washington team had BYU beat before the refs took it away with their no-fun policy. The same BYU team that beat Oklahoma on Saturday.
Ernie: You can't be serious. Compare apples to apples much?
Fred: What, you can talk about what U-Dub did last year under a different coach when talking about how this game should've gone, and I can't use examples from last year?
Ernie: It's of no consequence because now I want to move on to the crown jewel of my argument. There's really no changing my mind on this.
Everyone thought with the hiring of John Chavis that this defense would shape up. It didn't. It was awful. An eyelash under 500 yards given up to a team that really shot itself in the foot with missed opportunities, penalties, and turnovers most of the night. I'm waiting in anticipation to see how you're gonna spin this.
Fred: First off, this is a new system and the first game in the new system. Jake Locker is the real deal. Besides Jevan Snead and Tim Tebow, Locker is the third best QB the Tigers will face. The guy has better mobility and speed than Snead and a better arm than Tebow. That dude impressed me.
Ernie: Uhhh, yeah, he impressed all of us because he and Chris Polk made the Tigers look slow and unprepared. You can't use the "new system" copout. The system didn't make players miss tackles or take bad angles. The system didn't erase our ability to rush the passer.
Fred: I'll even admit the defensive play was a little uninspiring at times...
Fred: BUT these are things that can be corrected.
Ernie: The Tennessee fans warned us about "Third and Chavis." Washington went 8-for-10 on third down conversions in the first half. If I have to sit through a whole season of this, I'm going to drive a nail through my eyeball.
Fred: Don't be so dramatic. The defense improved from the first half to the second half, allowing just three points save for that last second meaningless TD. And by that time the defense was worn out.
Ernie: That'll happen when your opposing offense runs 82 plays on you as compared to your 47 offensive plays. The LSU defense couldn't get off the field. Is this what Chavis is being paid a half-mil for? If so, sign me up; I can let opposing defenses wear us down and rack up 500 yards on us, and I'll do it for a quarter-million. It's a good deal really.
Fred: Can't you ever take a wait and see approach? Do you only think in knee-jerk reactions? Give the Chief some time, and give the Tigers a couple of games. He'll turn it around.
Ernie: Oh, how wonderful it must be to be in your world full of bubble gum and candy canes and fairies that poop Skittles.
Fred: Ernie, there's no reason to get down on the team this early. This isn't the first LSU team to not look impressive in an opener. There were teams all over the country ironing out the kinks.
Ernie: Like San Jose State? Charleston Southern?
Fred: You know what I mean.
Ernie: I'm gonna say it.
Fred: You're not gonna say it.
Ernie: I'm so gonna say it.
Fred: Here we go again.
Ernie: I miss Nick Saban.
Fred: You say that whenever something goes wrong.
Ernie: I miss him. I can't help it.
Fred: How short is your memory?!
When he was here, do you remember what you said after Arkansas and Matt Jones drove down the field in three plays to beat us for the West? Do you remember what you were saying about Saban when Dennis Franchione beat him 31-0 at home? After he lost to Ole Miss, you put a "For Sale" sign in his yard.
Or how you said Saban left Ben Wilkerson in too long against Vandy after the game was won? You said he ruined his career. Getting destroyed at Auburn? Ernie, did you forget UAB?
Fred: Just admit it, your way of thinking will never allow you to be happy. The grass will always be greener. You criticized Saban as much as you criticize Miles.
Remember when you said that Saban's teams always played down to their competition? How Nick was too conservative and played not to lose instead of to win?The Bluegrass Miracle was like a 94-foot buzzer-beater. I'm quoting you. You called that win an embarrassment. A win, just like Saturday night in Seattle.
Ernie: How do you remember all this?
Fred: I remember all your negativity. It inspires me to keep positive.
Ernie: I miss Gerry DiNardo.
Fred: Okay, I think we're done here.