Has LSU's Defense Played the Best?

Tyrann Mathieu leads the LSU D - NOLA.com

LSU's defense is considered, without a doubt, to be one of the absolute best defensive units in the nation. Some down in Baton Rouge are even saying this squad could be the best ever. 

Now, the question I propose today isn't whether or not LSU has played the best as a unit - they definitely have. No, the question is has LSU played the best each team on their schedule has to offer - that is a no.

In 4 of their 8 SEC games, the LSU defense played against back-up QB's or first time starters due to suspensions and injuries to the starting QB the week before or the week of their team's game against LSU. Say what you want, but not having your starting QB against a team that thrives on the big play is just a recipe for disaster. Just look at who LSU had to play in some "big time" SEC games:

  • Florida - (41-11 W) - The Gators went with freshman Jacoby Brissett after Jeff Driskel and John Brantley were injured vs. Alabama the previous week.
  • Tennessee - (37-7 W) - The Vols had to use back-up QB Matt Simms at QB because Tyler Bray broke his hand the previous week against Georgia.
  • Auburn - (45-10 W) - Auburn decided to start first-time starter Clint Moseley because the Tiger offense had been terrible the previous weeks.
  • Ole Miss - (52-3 W) - Although Ole Miss never had a chance to start, the Rebels were handicapped because Houston Nutt suspended starting QB Randall Mackey.

So, how did those back-ups and first time starters do? They combined to go 45/88 for 439 yards, 1 TD and 5 INT's. That's completing less than 50% of passes, throwing for a little of 100 yards a game, averaging less than 1 TD per game, and picking off over 1 pass a game. Pretty terrible numbers - but what do you expect against the best defense in the land?

Now, just look at the "non-cupcake" teams that had their starting QB's in the game. Check out how they did:

  • Oregon - Thomas: 31/54 for 240 yards / 1 TD 1 INT
  • Miss St - Relf: 11/17 for 96 yards / 0 TD 1 INT
  • West VA - Smith: 38/65 for 463 yards / 2 TD 2 INT
  • Kentucky - Newton: 6/20 for 57 yards / 1 TD 0 INT
  • Alabama - McCarron: 16/28 for 199 yards / 0 TD 1 INT
  • Arkansas - Wilson: 14/22 for 207 yards / 1 TD 1 INT

That is a combined 116/206 (56%) for 1,262 yards (210 yards/game) with 5 TD's and 6 INT's. Those are much better numbers - obviously - than those against teams with back-ups or first time starters - and those numbers include terrible teams like Miss State and Kentucky. 

Basically, the point of the argument is... yes, LSU has a great defense. More than likely they're the best in the nation. However, to say that they have played every team at their best is false. LSU has been vulnerable with an able bodied QB to lead the opposing team's offense - and Georgia just happens to have a very good QB in Aaron Murray. Now, can the Dawgs avoid the big plays from LSU's defense and keep Murray vertical? We'll see. If so, good things could happen for the Dawgs.

Comments

Great breakdown! I think we'll be able to tell in the 1st qtr if we're gonna be able to play on LSU's level. The demeanor of the players and the aggressiveness of the coaches will tell us all we need to know. Murray has to be calm and precise and not let his nerves get the best of him as he has in some big games. A replay of the Auburn game would be just fine with me!

Ham, I completely agree. It is going to take a 100% mistake free game to be successful at all. Thanks for coming by!