LSU Football: Winners and Losers from Tigers' First Month
After the first month of the college football season, the LSU Tigers find themselves ranked first overall in the national rankings with a 5-0 record (2-0 in the SEC). Not only did the Tigers knock off defending BCS National Champ runner-up Oregon in the first game on the schedule, but they have also continued on to defeat two more ranked opponents in West Virginia and Mississippi State.
To say the least, the Tigers have caused a lot of problems for opponents and teams competing with them for that elusive top spot in the rankings.
Whether it be fellow SEC undefeated schools, teams the Tigers have discarded thus far or players who have surprised, when it comes the first month of the season, there are several winners and losers associated with the play of the Tigers.
Winner: Jordan Jefferson
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson may have been a huge loser to begin the season with all of his off-field issues with the law, which included him getting arrested, charged with battery and suspended indefinitely, but now that he has been re-instated to play for the Tigers, Jefferson may be one of the biggest winners of all.
Jefferson missed four games, but despite missing so much time he returns to a team poised to make a run at the National Championship, and is still undefeated without him. Not only is this a positive for Jefferson, but he will also see time if he is needed due to injury or poor play by current starter Jarrett Lee and can still make a big impact on the end result for the Tigers this season.
Despite missing time, Jefferson should be in good shape and be able to become re-acclimated with the Tigers offensive system quickly and able to take snaps if called upon and perform to the highest of his ability.
Jefferson could possibly be the only preseason loser who will turn into a winner by seasons end in a all of college football.
Loser: Oregon Ducks
The Oregon Ducks faced their first challenge in 2011 right off the bat as they took on the LSU Tigers at Cowboys Stadium in Week 1. This provided the Ducks with the opportunity to win what was easily their toughest game on the schedule for the season, but they couldn't pull off the victory. LSU limited the nation's No. 1 offense to just 27 points and put up 40 points of their own.
The Ducks loss essentially took them out of running for the BCS title game in 2012 unless every other team in the top 10 were to lose at least one game to a ranked opponent at some point throughout the season.
This is the major reason the Ducks are losers from the Tigers first month, not just because they actually lost the game, but also because the loss cost them their season up until this point. The Ducks can win out and currently that wouldn't put them in New Orleans this January to battle out for the BCS National Championship for a second consecutive season.
Winner: LSU Defense
The Tigers defense could potentially be the biggest winner on the year. The Tigers defensive line has been dubbed "the Freaks" and has limited opponents to just 12.8 points a game and just 262.2 yards a game. The only reason their average yards is so big is because of Geno Smith's passing yards upwards of 400 in their game against West Virginia in Week 4 inflating the overall statistic. With exception to that, the Tiger D has allowed an average of just 60 yards on the ground each week and is dominating opponents from scrimmage.
Now the Tigers defense aren't winners purely based on merit, but they have had to work for every tackle and turnover they have forced. In total, the Tigers defense has 12 sacks, 44 tackles for a loss, six interceptions and six fumble recoveries, putting their overall turnover margin at nine, which puts them at third best in the nation.
This may seem like an obvious pick for one of the winners from the LSU Tigers' first month, but analysts had several doubts for the Tigers defense heading into the season after stud players like CB Patrick Peterson, LB Kelvin Sheppard and T Drake Nevis departing. The defense after the first month of the season has most definitely shut its critics up. In addition to the doubts, one of the positions the critics really zeroed in on was the defensive line. If anything the LSU defensive line is among the best in the nation this year.
The Tigers defense are big winners through the first five weeks of the season.
Loser: Alabama Crimson Tide
Despite having one of the hottest starts of any of the top ten schools, the Alabama Crimson Tide are losers following the first month of the college football season. So long as the LSU Tigers continue to win games, the Crimson Tide will always be one step behind them in the SEC. Going into the second month of the campaign, the Tide are second in the nation behind top ranked LSU.
Until the two teams converge for battle on Nov. 5 or until the Tigers lose a game, the Crimson Tide will be losers in comparison to the Tigers and will never surpass the Tigers in the national rankings.
Winner: Morris Claiborne & Tyrann Mathieu
Through the first month of the season, LSU cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne both find themselves in a position no one thought they would be in, on or passed the talent level of 2011 fifth overall pick and former Tiger CB Patrick Peterson. Both players’ performances thus far have them in contention for both the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik Awards for the nation's top defensive player.
For Morris Claiborne, 2011 has been a dream season to go along with a tremendous sophomore campaign in 2010. Claiborne comes in with two interceptions and 22 tackles after just five games. He has also successfully utilized his strength and speed to discourage opposing quarterbacks from throwing in his direction.
Tyrann Mathieu, the other star cornerback is a player who is successful in all facets of the game. Whether it is returning kicks, defending passes, hitting receivers or battling for possession, Mathieu has it down to near perfection. Mathieu's overall stats through five weeks are impressive, boasting 121 all purpose yards, two touchdowns, three fumble recoveries, one interception, 35 tackles, four tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and four pass deflections.
That is an impressive stat line for a first-year starter as a sophomore coming off a big freshman year as a reserve. Mathieu seems to be LSU's biggest opportunity at fielding a Heisman candidate on the year.
After Morris Claiborne and Patrick Peterson were deemed one of the most lethal cornerback combinations in history last season, Mathieu and Claiborne can't be far behind. The overall talent that is split between the two corners is unbelievable and has them as winners on this list.
Loser: Zach Mettenberger
The Tigers accepted a transfer request from stud quarterback Zach Mettenberger in the offseason with hopes he could be the quarterback of the future for the team. After a year at Georgia without any playing time, Mettenberger transferred to junior college where he led his team to an 11-1 season in 2010. After a year in junior college Mettenberger again transferred to play for the Tigers in 2011.
After the off-field problems with Jordan Jefferson in the offseason it was expected that Mettenberger could challenge Jarrett Lee for the starting job before the season. This was not the result. Not only did Mettenberger fail to impress in camp, he has also had just 19 reps all season and, with the return of Jefferson to the lineup, most likely will not see any more time for the duration of the 2011 campaign. For these reasons, Zach Mettenberger is a loser.
Winner: The Tigers as a Team
As a whole, the biggest winner after the first month of the season is the LSU Tigers team as a whole. Being able to leapfrog a fellow undefeated school in Oklahoma to achieve the No. 1 overall ranking is a huge accomplishment, and is very difficult to get done without a team losing.
In addition to achieving first overall, the LSU Tigers have dealt with adversity off the field and have shined through their issues. In addition, the success of their defense to stop the lethal attack of both West Virginia and Oregon is huge.
Although their offense isn't the greatest thing ever, it keeps them in games and helps them achieve the overall goal of winning the game in the end. The Tigers still have holes in their game, but after one month they are gelling and seem unstoppable. The Tigers are winners.