In one afternoon, LSU went from a trendy College Football Playoff pick to a team in crisis. How did we end up here?
This review is based on Bill Connelly's Five Factors of winning, sacks are counted as pass plays, and it doesn't include Wisconsin's "drive" that was just running out the clock at the end of the game.
|Team||Runs 10+||Pct.||Passes 20+||Pct.||Explosive Pct.|
The goat of this game ended up Brandon Harris, who didn't seem to have progressed much over last year. He managed to connect on only one explosive pass play, the terrifying Leonard Fournette wheel route. He didn't get as much help as he could have, though. I can't remember how many times I saw a pass hit Malachi Dupre in the hands and end up on the turf.
The LSU defense did an okay job of preventing big plays from the Badgers. UW's percentages here are a little lower than average, but it's nothing eye-popping.
The main measure here is success rate. Watch this short video if you need to brush up on it.
|Team||Run SR||Pass SR||Overall SR||Red Zone SR|
The Wisconsin defensive front caused a lot of problems for the Tiger offensive line. Several of Fournette's best runs came on him making cutbacks and otherwise using his vision to make something when the called play offered him nothing.
I was expecting the SRs for the Badgers to be a bit higher, but the Tigers did a decent job. They did hold Wisconsin to just 16 points, after all.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR||4Q SR|
It's hard to overstate how bad of a start the Tigers' offense got off to. They rallied afterwards but faded down the stretch.
Wisconsin started by running what it seemed LSU should have been doing too, with power runs up the middle setting up play action bootlegs and rollouts. Instead, the Tigers seemed to be grasping at straws. Their first drive was three runs and a punt. The next was three passes and a punt. It wasn't until their third drive—which was already the second quarter thanks to UW dominating time of possession early—that they found any forward momentum.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
Both quarterbacks had better games than these stats let on. Houston handled pressure in the pocket pretty well, and he would've had a 129 passing efficiency if he didn't throw the ball directly to LSU defenders once every ten passes or so. Harris would've come out smelling better too if not for Dupre dropping so many catchable balls.
For as bad a game as Dupre had, Dural had a better one. He showed off impressive physicality in manhandling defenders to pick up extra yardage on several catches. That said, Harris only having four pass targets is not good. I'm not sure if it's that Cam Cameron is only calling plays for these guys or the Tigers just don't have anyone beyond Dupre and Dural at wideout, but this doesn't bode well.
Fumagali was a load that the Tiger defense couldn't handle. The Badger tight end frequently had far smaller players covering him, and they bounced or slid off of him while trying to tackle him more often than not.
Fournette eventually got his, and he showed amazing determination to get the team down the field on the team's final drive. Guice was a non-factor when he was in, though. The LSU offense was a four-man show between Fournette, Harris, Dupre, and Dural. Only having four guys doing all the work is a bad place to be.
The top two Badger runners had decent YPCs, but their success rates are down. LSU had some problems with Houston scrambling early, but they bottled him up from there.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
Wisconsin enjoyed a small advantage in field position, but they lived on the Tigers' side of the field. LSU did well once in Badger territory, but they had so many busted drives that they seldom ended up there.
|Team||Drives||Trips Inside 40||Points||Red Zone Trips||Points|
LSU did a bend-but-don't-break routine, allowing only one touchdown in six scoring opportunities for Wisconsin.
Right before LSU got its quick 14 points, the Tiger offense finally got cranking with Fournette. The drive died when, in consecutive plays, the offensive line completely blew a blitz pickup and Dupre dropped a pass he had to dive at because Harris led him too much. That was one of the blown scoring opportunities. The other was Harris's game-ending interception.
Both teams turned it over three times, and nearly all of them were important to the score. A Guice fumble gave Wisconsin a gimme field goal, and a ghastly Harris pick ended LSU's last-ditch scoring chance at the end. Houston threw an awful end zone pick early and a pick-six later on, and a fumble recovery gave the Tigers a short field for their only touchdown of the game.
Both teams also turned it over on downs once. Wisconsin did so at the LSU 23, killing a scoring opportunity, while a momentum-less LSU did it at its own 45 late in the second quarter. The latter led to another UW field goal.
Only Harris's pick to end the first half was inconsequential.
The stereotype you'd imagine for this game held exactly true. LSU was the faster team, while Wisconsin was the bigger team.
LSU's defense looked really small. The Tigers missed a lot of tackles when guys were trying to bring down players who were clearly bigger than they were. LSU's back seven appeared to be faster than Wisconsin was prepared for, though, as its speed led to picks and pass breakups aplenty. The Tiger offensive line did not handle the Badger front well, meaning that LSU's speed on offense didn't often get a chance to win out.
Les Miles and Cameron probably thought they were running a low risk offense, but it turned out to be a high risk one. They did not diversify at all, as only three plays (two Guice runs and a Smith catch) got credited to anyone outside Harris, Fournette, Dupre, and Dural. Dupre couldn't hang onto many passes, and Harris made some mistakes. When two of the only four primary guys have iffy games, then you're toast.
LSU's defense will be able to keep the score down below 16 against teams that don't have as many big guys on offense as Wisconsin does. Despite the missed tackles, you shouldn't come away worried about the defense too much. It's probably going to pitch a shutout or two this year.
Here's where the worry should be. Wisconsin turned out to be a worse matchup for LSU than anticipated. That's fine; it happens. However, the Tigers didn't turn up their intensity in response. They never seemed to have any sense of urgency, except for Fournette in the second half. Good on him, but a running back, even one as good as Fournette, cannot win games by himself. Wisconsin got extra yards on a lot of plays, while LSU seemed content to just take what the Badger defense was giving—even when it was giving nothing.
Perhaps the Tigers bought their own hype and thought they could win by showing up. I don't know. What I do know is that Les Miles football is predicated on being the more physical team, but Wisconsin was the more physical outfit on Saturday. Even in this year's SEC, there will be teams more than able to match the Badgers' intensity, and LSU will have to dig deep and come up with more than they had at Lambeau in order to have a respectable record.