How Great is LSU?s Defense?

LSU'S STINGY DEFENSE TO BE TESTED BY WEST VIRGINIA'S WIDE OPEN ATTACK

There are many showcase games on the Saturday college football TV schedule. Perhaps the most interesting "matchup" on the whole card may be that of the LSU defense vs. the West Virginia offense in the prime time game on ABC. Don't forget that West Virginia hired Dana Holgorsen away from Oklahoma State...which means that West Virginia now runs a high octane proven offense that gives headaches to great defenses.

That leaves us with...

*One of the best defenses in the country...visiting
*One of the most dangerous offensive styles in the country

It's easy to lose track of how great LSU's defense has been playing. They've had a few games where they've allowed in the 20's...and "great" defenses are those that typically hold opponents in the teens or below. Let's add some context to the numbers.

*Last Thursday, LSU held Mississippi State to just 6 points. That was a fantastic defense effort by anyone's measure. Just remember that it came against MISSISSIPPI STATE! In past years, that wouldn't have meant anything. This isn't Sylvester Croom's Mississippi State. This is Dan Mullen. The guy who deserved credit for everything Urban Meyer was getting credit for the last decade. The guy who made a great quarterback out of Tim Tebow...who looks like he can barely tie his shoes at the next level. Mississippi State is coached by an offensive defense...and is likely to play some shootouts this year. They could manage just two field goals against LSU.

*Opening week, LSU allowed 27 points to Oregon. That doesn't sound like a great defensive performance. Think for a second. THIS IS OREGON! They had one of the most potent offenses anyone had ever seen last year...and they went right back to scoring at will this year as soon after the LSU game. Oregon can get to 50 points in its sleep. Oregon can get to 400 yards by halftime...and they're just getting started. LSU held them to 335 yards for the whole game!

Also note that Oregon only had 13 points entering the fourth quarter...meaning they scored two touchdowns in garbage time once they had fallen behind. Oregon plays fast break football, and has a lot of weaponry. LSU's defensive performance "in context" was fantastic. Don't let the final score fool you. Allowing 27 points to Oregon is a stellar effort.

*In their bowl game last year, LSU allowed 24 points to Texas A&M. The Aggies aren't exactly Oregon. But, they're not that far off in the big picture of college football. Texas A&M had a high scoring attack last year that racked up a ton of yardage...and, they also enjoyed fast break football. Teams you're used to seeing coast past 40 and 50 points only end up in the 20's against LSU. That's just as impressive as holding a normal team to 14 or 17, or shutting down a lesser team to just a few points.

*Oh, remember last year's national champion Auburn? With Cam Newton? Same type of high octane opposing offense. LSU held them to 24 points too. Auburn was seemingly scoring at will through the 2011 campaign. They had to score late to beat LSU 24-17.

Last year's LSU defense ended the season ranked 12th in total defense. They may be better this year.

And, they don't just shut people down...they also take the ball away. LSU had four takeaways from Texas A&M in the bowl game last year...four takeaways from Oregon in the season opener this year...and snared two interceptions from a Mississippi State team that was afraid to throw downfield against them to begin with.

We're talking about a very special unit here...one that hasn't received as much credit as it should because the media is seeing the 24's or 27's on the board without adjusting for context.

This week...another big test for LSU. West Virginia is still having some growing pains trying to get the hang of Holgorsen's offense. But, there are signs that the players are getting the hang of it. Look at the progression through three games:

*Versus Marshall...not very impressive in rain-shortened game
*Versus Norfolk State...humiliating first half followed by second half explosion
*At Maryland...37 points and 480 yards against the team that beat Miami-Florida

Last week, we started seeing much of what Holgorsen is aiming for. Maybe West Virginia has "become" Oklahoma State...and LSU is basically dealing with a road trip to Oklahoma State tonight with even rowdier fans. Or, maybe West Virginia isn't quite there yet...and this is just going to be a replay of the LSU/Mississippi State game that many of you slept through last Thursday.

Quite volatile possibilities obviously. We're definitely going to learn more tonight about how good LSU's defense is. We're definitely going to learn how West Virginia stacks up heading into Big East play. Should you bet on another vintage Holgorsen shootout where the home dog and the Over makes sense? Should you bet on another LSU and Under squash?

This is a big prime TV game, so you're trying to find a winner. JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK has studied all the TV games very closely to find you the best options. Those will certainly appear in our weekly TV Triple Crown that has been such a popular internet feature over the years. But, information in this game, or one of the other marquee matchups might yield our advertised COLLEGE GAME OF THE MONTH.

The only way to find out for sure is to sign up for today's selections. You can purchase those MONSTERS right here at the website with your credit card. We have a special weekend package online that includes all the major features through Monday Night. If you have questions about longer term service, call our office at 1-800-323-4453.

Other big TV games getting consideration from us today:

*Notre Dame at Pittsburgh at noon ET on ABC: Remember that Pittsburgh's now playing "Tulsa" style football thanks to a head coaching change. Does that just mean they've traded boring losses in big games for exciting losses in big games? The Panthers fell apart in a shootout vs. Iowa last week. We had a big play winner on the Irish last week over Michigan State by the way.

*Arkansas at Alabama at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS: Have the Hogs lost a step with the departure of Ryan Mallett? The pollsters don't seem to think so. CBS and ESPN would love to have Arkansas stay a major power. We'll find out today if the Razorbacks are for real, or just another team who can only compete in the SEC when they have a great quarterback.

*Oklahoma State at Texas A&M at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC: This could end up being one of the most exciting games of the year. Last year's meeting was a thriller. Both teams are loaded on offense...and vulnerable enough on defense to make this a 4-hour game that makes a run at 80 or 90 points. But, we've seen in recent years that projected fireworks shows don't always play out as expected. Auburn-Oregon from the BCS title tilt last year is a great example. Could a Big 12 team be in the big game this year? These guys and Oklahoma surely think so.

*Florida State at Clemson at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: This is when it pays to have a mancave with multiple TV games. How are you going to choose between this game, Arkansas/Alabama, and Oklahoma State/Texas A&M? JIM HURLEY has made some handicapping choices. It's very likely one of these mid-afternoon battles will show up in the TV Triple Crown.

*Oregon at Arizona at 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN. It's wall to wall football Saturday, with marquee matchups starting early and running very late. It's great to have a late starter you can use for re-investing your Saturday winnings. That's certainly weighing on the minds of our staff as we try to make you the most money on this blockbuster day.

The first few weeks were really just a tune-up. The 2011 college football season EXPLODES today! Be sure you make the most of it with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

21
Nov

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