Shanna Lockwood-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
The LSU defense is the main reason that the Tigers are at 4-0 right now. The question is whether it can take them to 12-0.
A look at the road ahead for the SEC's loss-less teams
The less-noticed aspect of the schedule uproar from Steve Spurrier and South Carolina fans is that LSU is in much the same position as the Gamecocks: In the middle of a tight division race, the Bayou Bengals have to face some of the most difficult teams on the other side, while Alabama gets a pass. LSU's cross-division games are at Florida and against South Carolina. Alabama goes to Missouri and Tennessee; even with the extra road game, you would have to think that the Tigers would take that trade.
Even so -- for now, LSU is undefeated and has already notched its first conference win, though perhaps by not as convincing a margin as it would have liked. The Tigers are almost certain to end September undefeated. But the challenging part of the schedule starts the next week, and only after that can we judge whether LSU-Alabama is going to be the de facto SEC West Championship Game. Officially, at least.
Victims: North Texas, Washington, Idaho, at Auburn
Remaining schedule: Towson, at Florida, South Carolina, at Texas A&M, Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, at Arkansas
What's gone right: Defense. Here's a list of categories in which the Tigers rank in the Top 10: rushing defense, passing efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense, pass defense (yardage) and tackles for loss. The depth at running back also hasn't hurt; when Alfred Blue got injured while he and Kenny Hilliard were challenging opposing defenses, Spencer Ware stepped up in the Auburn game to gain 90 yards on 16 carries. LSU is averaging 247.5 yards a game on the ground.
Potential pitfalls: Zach Mettenberger has not been quite as good as expected, ranking 38th in the country in passing efficiency and leading an air attack that has gained just 194.5 yards a game despite the relatively weak competition. The passing game is 12th in terms of yardage in the SEC, though some of that might be because of the leads LSU has had. No matter; Mettenberger's efficiency ranks 10th among SEC quarterbacks. The +1.25 per-game turnover margin isn't too high, but it still raises questions about what might happen if the Tigers can't sustain that number against better teams. Also: see the Auburn game.
Prognosis: Despite the less-than-stellar showing in Opelika last weekend, LSU is still one of the best two teams in the SEC West and should be favored at Florida and against South Carolina at home. The lack of competent quarterback play didn't stop the Tigers from going through the regular season undefeated last season, and likely won't be fatal this year. Once again, the entire season is going to come down to the Alabama game. Win that one, and LSU can all but start making hotel reservations in Atlanta and maybe Miami.