Know a Foe — Battle in the Bayou
This week Stephen Baker from SBNation’s ‘And the Valley Shook’ blog joins us to answer a few questions about this scary-looking LSU Tigers team.
Vandal Nation: Les Miles is talking a lot about how Arkansas losing to La. Monroe is reason for his team to be on edge while facing Idaho. He’s also talking a lot about how he respects who we’ve played our first two games. Is this just typical posturing from a head coach trying to not give the other team locker room material or is he really worried about a letdown after dismantling the Huskies last week?
Stephen Baker: I don’t think he’s worried about losing, but he is worried about a letdown. As great as LSU looked against UW, that’s how sloppy the team looked against North Texas. It’s not like the UW game was perfect either, as the receivers dropped a lot of balls. This game is LSU’s last chance to clean stuff up before SEC play, so I do think something is at stake from Miles’ perspective. No more mistakes.
VN: The perception out west is that the SEC schedules an incredible amount of cupcake games like this for its out of conference (OOC). Is it hard as a fan to get up for these types of games when OOC games like USC – Auburn or UW – LSU are pretty few and far between?
Baker: Well, I think every conference schedules their fair share of cupcakes. Check out the Big 12 schedule or pretty much every Pac-12 team that isn’t USC. That said, I think LSU’s out of conference schedule this season is a travesty. Last year was so great precisely because LSU played so many great teams OOC, and while I don’t begrudge a team one or two cupcakes, LSU is playing (no offense to Idaho fans) three of them, including FCS Towson. Now, I know the reason LSU is playing Towson is because TCU backed out of the game due to adding a conference game in their schedule change and Towson was the only team LSU could find on such short notice to fill that specific weekend. But three cupcakes and the toughest OOC game a home date with Washington? That’s pitiful.
Baker cont.: LSU at least has the “late replacement” excuse and a tough-ish SEC
schedule by getting Florida and South Carolina as its east opponents. LSU will still have a tough overall schedule, but it is sorely missing that marquee out of conference game that should have been TCU. I’m ticked about it, but part of the reason LSU couldn’t find a major conference dance partner is because no one wanted to step up to the plate and schedule a tough OOC game. It sucks. Fans pay a lot of money for season tickets and they are paying primarily for games no one wants to watch.
VN: Introduce us to Zach Mettenberger. We’ve already faced two pretty decent quarterbacks, is it just going to get worse for us this week?
Baker: “The Mettensavior” has a big arm and gives LSU a legitimate threat at quarterback. He’s completing about 70 percent of his passes and he has the confidence to put the ball in tight spaces. It leads to the occasional poor decision as he trusts his arm a little too much, but he is just bursting with talent. The most discouraging thing is that his primary role is still to hand the ball off to the stable of future NFL running backs. He threw only four second half passes against Washington, and LSU still scored 41 points. The passing game just keeps you honest so LSU can beat you with the rubber hose that is the running game.
VN: The Honey Badger was noticeably in attendance at Tiger Stadium for the win against Washington. Has his absence been noticeable on the field yet, or would you have to wait for conference play to really assess that impact on the defense?
Baker: I thought it would be a big deal, but the two Jalens, Mills and Collins, have been pretty spectacular so far in coverage. LSU is shutting down opposing quarterbacks almost completely, as there’s just no one open. LSU is missing those big plays on defense and momentum shifting turnovers, which Mathieu provided, but the pass defense is still remarkable.
VN: What was your reaction to Washington coach Steve Sarkisian bringing a live tiger to practice to simulate the environment of Mike VI? Robb Akey did say he would bring two of them this week ….
Baker: I thought it was kind of cool, but Sarkisian probably needed to spend more time preparing for LSU’s defensive front four. LSU’s ends especially are just a nightmare to game plan for, and Washington had no answers for a team that could generate intense pressure without blitzing.
Sean Kramer can be reached at