What's wrong with the LSU Tigers?
A promising start to the season seems like ages ago, as LSU’s disastrous month of November continues. The Tigers were undefeated heading into their matchup with Alabama in Week 10, but since that game have been outscored 99-47 in three SEC West matchups against Alabama, Arkansas, and Ole Miss. So what exactly has gone so wrong?
It starts with the running game that was carrying LSU early in the season, and perhaps masking all of their deficiencies. We all know that running back Leonard Fournette locked up the Heisman Trophy in October, putting on full display the dangers of letting early perceptions cloud judgment for the season-long award. He’s tapered off in the last three games, grading at only +0.2 in his last three games, while the offensive line has continued their average play. Quarterback Brandon Harris has also had a dramatic drop off, grading at -8.9 in his last three games compared to +14.0 in the first seven. Therein lies the biggest issue for the offense, with Fournette unable to carry the squad as he did early on, and Harris regressing after a promising start.
As for the defense, even in the 7-0 start, there was not a lot to point to as a major reason for optimism. The defensive line is led by defensive tackle Davon Godchaux (+13.0) and true freshman defensive end Arden Key (+8.7), but compared to other strong SEC defensive lines, it’s a pedestrian bunch. The story is similar at linebacker where Kendall Beckwith has posted the only positive grade at +5.4. His running mate, Deion Jones, has graded at -6.0 on the year to go with 16 missed tackles — third-most among SEC linebackers. Finally, the secondary has been okay, but perhaps disappointing given the expectations placed on LSU on a yearly basis. Cornerback Tre’Davious White has given up five touchdowns to tie for the lead among SEC cornerbacks, while safety Jamal Adams leads the group with a +8.6 grade.
One of the best running back performances of recent times from Fournette masked the deficiencies of an average team. He made the offensive line look better than they’ve been all season, and that was on display in the Alabama game in which he had no room to run. When Fournette is not running through and around tacklers, more pressure is put on Harris at quarterback, who’s at his best when working off the running game rather than leading an offense through the air. LSU was living behind the guise of a one-man show for too long, and things have finally caught up to the team in their forgettable November.