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LSU Progress Report
We are (already!) nearing the halfway point of the 2015 college football season. And what a crazy season it has been. Many of the preseason top teams like Auburn, USC and Oregon have taken huge hits to knock them down, and even the unbeaten teams like Ohio State, TCU and Michigan State have looked far from invincible.
The LSU Tigers have come out of their first four games unscathed despite not playing up to their perceived full potential. While Leonard Fournette has dazzled the country and stormed into Heismann Trophy contention, the rest of the Tigers team is still trying to find itself. Their schedule has fortunately allowed them time to do so, but time is starting to run out. LSU faces a 2-3 South Carolina team Saturday before hosting undefeated Florida the following week. There are several issues LSU must correct before hitting the teeth of their schedule.
1. Passing Game: This is something LSU fans have become all too familiar with over the last several years. Quarterback play has been something of a mystery through the Tigers first four games. Brandon Harris has passed for only 95.5 yards per game. His throws were limited to mostly short routes and bubble screens in the first two games against Mississippi State and Auburn before switching to a more downfield game against Syracuse and Eastern Michigan. Harris looked to be on the verge of breaking out after passing for 156 yards on only sixteen attempts, but sputtered the next week against Eastern Michigan. The receivers also need to do their part. While Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre have flashed big play ability on several occasions, they have also had problems with drops, particularly in the Eastern Michigan game when Dural dropped a pass on third down at the end of the first half and Dupre let a potential touchdown throw go through his hands while he was wide open. Still, it's a problem that could be easily fixed, as it might just be a matter of getting Harris on the same page with the receivers.
2. Penalties: The Tigers have committed 35 penalties on the season - averaging more than eight per game. Their nine penalties in the season opener against Mississippi State negated over 200 yards worth of plays and two touchdowns. LSU cannot continue to be so undisciplined going forward. It puts them at risk for drawing penalties at inopportune times, and that could cost them in a big game against an opponent like Alabama or Florida.
3. Second Half Defense: New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele deserves an overall passing grade so far. LSU has allowed only one first half touchdown through the first four games and have done a good job generating turnovers. However, the defense needs to tighten up in the second half. LSU gave up 16 second half points against Mississippi State and 21 each to Auburn and Syracuse. Auburn's second half surge was not a surprise, as LSU had a nearly insurmountable lead and could afford to play a more conservative defense. They were sloppy in the Syracuse game, allowing the Orange to remain in contention most of the way with their fifth string-quarterback.
Save for the close call in Starkville, these issues have not hindered LSU much at all during the season. If they can resolve these problems, it will set them up for success in December and January.