LSU's offensive struggles continue
Defense wins championships, but it helps to have some production from your offense. LSU has continued to lack that production as they were held out of the end zone in a 14-6 road loss to Florida on Saturday.
The defeat snapped the Tigers' 18-game regular season winning streak and dropped them to No. 9 in the polls--the lowest LSU has been ranked since the 2010 season's final rankings.
It's hard not to have seen the loss coming the way the Tigers had performed the previous two weeks. They barely squeaked out a 12-10 road win over 1-4 Auburn and looked uninspired in a 38-22 win over FCS opponent Towson.
The problem surely hasn't been the Tiger defense. They're still only giving up 13 points a game.
And against the Gators, they were downright dominant at times. They held Florida to just the 14 points and 237 total yards. And in the process, they sacked Jeff Driskel five times and forced two turnovers.
However, late in the third quarter, the Tiger defensive unit showed the effects of being out on the field for so long. Prior to that point, they had shut out the Gators and held Mike Gillislee to 16 carries for just 50 yards.
From the five-minute mark of the third quarter until the end of the game, Florida scored all 14 of their points, and Gillislee carried the ball 18 times for 96 yards and two scores.
The defense was gassed. They were on the field for 75 plays that ate up 37 minutes. Conversely, LSU's offense was only on the field for 22 minutes and 45 plays. The low play-count points to the ineffectiveness of the Tiger offense.
Against Florida, LSU had just eight first downs and 200 total yards. And the most disturbing stat was that the Tigers only had a miniscule 42 yards rushing.
LSU has always prided themselves on a strong running game. Even with injuries, they have one of the best offensive lines in the country. And even with Alfred Blue being gone, they still have one of the best backfields in the nation, yet the Tigers have had troubles on the ground the past three weeks.
Through those three games, they're only averaging 127 yards rushing per contest. Last year, LSU averaged 203 yards rushing per game.
Much of Tiger nation's disappointments have been directed toward LSU's passing game or lack there of.
Zach Mettenberger was supposed to finally give a boost to a Tiger passing attack that has been suspect ever since 2007 when Matt Flynn led LSU to a second BCS title.
It hasn't happened. Through six games, he's only averaging 196 yards a contest--which ranks the Tigers No. 100, just six spots better than last year. He also only has six touchdown passes.
However, it hasn't all been Mettenberger's fault.
He's been under heavy direst all season. The offensive line has consistently struggled protecting him as he has been sacked 15 times--nearly three times per game.
The receiving core has had their troubles as well. They've struggled mightily just to get open on a consistent basis. This includes Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham was supposed to step up as the Tigers' No. 1 receiver after Reuben Randle left for the NFL. Though, he only has 20 catches and two touchdowns through six games.
Beckham along with the rest of the LSU receivers have had trouble holding on to the ball. There were five dropped passes against the Gators. That matches the five drops against Washington as a season-high.
All of these struggles have translated into the Tigers averaging a measly eight points in two SEC games.
This will have to change if LSU wants to pull the upset over No. 3 South Carolina this Saturday night. The Gamecocks are fresh off of a 35-7 drubbing of previously undefeated Georgia.
They have one of the best running backs in the nation in Marcus Lattimore, a hot duel-threat quarterback in Conner Shaw and a nasty defense that only gives up 10 points a game.
If the Tigers expect to win, they'll have to run the ball well, keep Jadeveon Clowney out of the backfield and limit penalties and turnovers. Either way, they should get a big boost from nearly 93,000 friends in Death Valley.