Notes on a football flip card with the LSU season opener fast approaching next Saturday against Wisconsin at legendary (or is it fabled? iconic?) Lambeau Field …
• Everyone’s biggest focus remains on Brandon Harris’ talent and maturity as the issues on which LSU’s national championship hopes hinge.
That’s true, but that’s not the whole title picture for the Tigers. Quarterbacks and coaches get too much credit and too much blame, though it’s hard to picture LSU checking the “W” box for each and every game without Harris having to complete some crucial third-down passes in at least a couple of them.
What if Harris can’t hack it? Is LSU sunk? Not necessarily. Danny Etling, the Purdue transfer and Harris’ prime backup, drew favorable reviews this offseason. If Harris is stuck in neutral from 2015 or gets hurt, LSU can still win with Etling. It’s at least possible. A quarterback change from Jordan Jefferson to Jarrett Lee back to Jordan Jefferson in 2011 wasn’t the reason the Tigers didn’t win the national title (for the record, yes, Lee deserved a chance to play in the CFP title game, but it wouldn’t have changed the outcome). And using three (yes, three) starting quarterbacks in 2014 didn’t derail Ohio State’s run to the first CFP championship. LSU has enough talent and experience to weather a stormy quarterback situation.
• Jeff Palermo raised an interesting Harris-related point on Tiger Rag radio this week. He theorized that Cam Cameron’s prostate cancer health issues last summer hampered Harris’ development. It certainly appeared to help Harris that Cameron was on the field in the Texas Bowl instead of in the press box, though Texas Tech’s defense looked like a bunch of blocking sleds. And Harris’ late-season sports hernia injury seemed to coincide with his downturn in production just as LSU’s schedule ramped in November.
The upshot: There’s reason for optimism as far as Harris is concerned. Not rampant optimism, but optimism.
• LSU equipment manager, Greg Stringfellow, swears this will never happen, but I’d love to see the Tigers in black football jerseys — just once. I grew up in an age when people regarded LSU’s purple jerseys, which the Tigers wear in nonconference home games after the first one, as bad luck. And on those rare occasions when the Tigers wear gold jerseys and white helmets, I think they look like bottles of mustard.
So paint it black, Tigers — one time. Imagine the merchandising possibilities.
• That said, I hate teams that change uniforms every … single … week. I’m thinking of you, Oregon. And you, Baylor. Maybe having green as your school’s base color makes you want to shake up the paint just a bit too much.
When Oregon played Ohio State for the first CFP title, the Ducks’ green and yellow were nowhere to be seen. They wore white and silver and had, like, feathers on the helmets instead of the traditional Oregon “O.”
I know the kids love it, but the old man in me says, “Bah!” If I were the NCAA uniform czar, I would allow three alternate uniforms over a two-year period that must retain one of the school’s base colors.
And names on the back of the jerseys. Please put names on the back of the jerseys.
• I have a sense that as you age you collect more pet peeves, like books and wrinkles and Allen wrenches to chairs and bookcases you’ve had to assemble by trying to thread a bolt through a locking washer and hole in a piece of particle board that you can’t see.
I have a list of pet peeves on my laptop. Seriously. I’m a word guy. I won’t bore you with the whole manifesto, but here are two that are football related:
1. Don’t say the ball is on the 1-foot line. There is no 1-foot line. It can be 1 foot from the goal line, but the line is nonexistent.
2. “New record” is redundant. A record performance is the newest best achievement in something. Leonard Fournette didn’t set a new record for rushing at LSU last season, he set the school rushing record.
• Speaking of Fournette’s LSU rushing record of 1,953 yards, I think he will break the LSU career record — he needs “just” 1,571 yards to pass Kevin Faulk’s record total of 4,557 — but rush for something just south of last year’s total. I will buy the LSU propaganda and say he will do more than catch 19 passes for 253 yards, and will net more in total yards than he did in 2015.
• I read this week that the “horseshoe” has been retired from the Lambeau Field concession menu. The horseshoe was a 22-inch smoked sausage on a house-made bun topped with fried sauerkraut and beer cheese sauce, all shaped like a giant piece of equine footwear.
I don’t know what this would have tasted like, or how many people it takes to eat one, but its demise sounds sad nonetheless. I would have at least made a trip to the concourse to see someone try to give the horseshoe a solo tackle.