LSU Tigers: Are Les Miles and His Team Contenders or Pretenders?

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LSU Tigers: Are Les Miles and His Team Contenders or Pretenders?
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Despite an acute lack of offense and some poor clock management on the part of Les Miles, the LSU Tigers are 6-0 heading into a matchup with whipping boy McNeese State. 

The Tigers can expect to be 7-0 as they look ahead to SEC West matchups against the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide.  The last time LSU opened with a 6-0 record under Les Miles, the Tigers went on to win the 2007 BCS National Championship, and they haven't won their first seven games of a season since 1973.

Despite a lofty ranking and unblemished record, many critics argue that LSU is not prepared for the national spotlight and a run at the SEC title.  Let's take a look.

Offense

The majority of the LSU's detractors point to the team's offensive ineptitude over the first few games as the Tigers' fatal flaw.  True, LSU does rank 109th nationally in passing offense. But that number obscures the success its had in the past two games. 

Despite rotating quarterbacks, Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee have combined to throw for over 400 yards and two TDs in the past two games.  While those numbers aren't ridiculous, a steady passing game is all the Tigers need. 

Senior Terrence Tolliver can be a playmaking receiver, and is dynamic in the open field (see: his nifty spin move to score against Florida last week).

If the quarterbacks can stay relatively consistent in their production, and Jarrett Lee can avoid the crippling mistakes that plagued him last season, LSU can lean on Ridley Scott and Jordan Jefferson to move the ball on the ground. 

The Tigers don't need to score 35 points a game, they just need to be consistent and capitalize on the errors of their opponents.

This is because of.... 

 

Defense

Despite being known for stingy defense, the SEC is giving up more points than it has since 1992 and more yards since 2001.  LSU, however, has not given in to this trend.  They have the leading rushing defense in the conference, giving up a meager 80 yards and only give up 165 yards through the air. 

This ability to stymie opposing teams, especially in a season of high scoring, is important.  Their two toughest tests are approaching with Alabama and Auburn, but Bama loves to run the ball and LSU has proven its ability to stop rushing attacks.  Cam Newton and Auburn are versatile, but again rely primarily on their rushing attack. 

If LSU's defense continues to play at this level, the unit can make up for offensive deficiencies and win against SEC foes.

 

Special Teams

Josh Jasper is a reliable kicker, making 12-of-14 field goals this season.  The ability to score points in the kicking game is especially important for LSU, who figures to play in relatively low scoring games against SEC competition.  In the return game, Patrick Peterson is a weapon and can give LSU short fields to with which to work.

Say what you want about Les Miles' clock management (that it's horrendous), but he manages to win games and isn't afraid to gamble.  His willingness to put it all on the line has to give his team confidence.

 

Verdict

 At this point in the season, I think LSU is certainly a contender.  The Tigers will roll into Auburn at 7-0.  If they can win on the road there, I like their chances at home against Alabama.  Tiger Stadium is a tough place to play, and they nearly knocked off Alabama at home last year.

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