Welcome to 'Buzzing Brooks,' our weekly mailbag to answer your questions about LSU's upcoming football game.
This week, Kubena answers your questions for No. 2 LSU's road game against Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
(Questions edited for clarity)
@LSUTigersWin: Why were the two leading receivers left out of the AP All-America Midseason Team but two Alabama ones were that were behind them statistically?
There were at least a dozen AP voters who voted on that AP Midseason Team, and I was quite surprised that both Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson didn't make either a first-team or a second-team appearance. My nomination included two wide receivers, and Chase was one of them. Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb was the other. The debate between Chase and Jefferson is a good one, but to not have either of them represented was strange. I will say that this year seems to be loaded with great wide receivers, and with just four spots in the All-America Team, there's bound to be someone left off. I think Wake Forest's Sage Surratt is one of the nation's best, and he's a guy that's been left off too. Also, Arkansas State's Omar Bayless is leading the nation in both yards (843) and touchdowns (10). When I covered the Red Wolves in 2017 for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Bayless was one of the team's top players; but his ascent to All-America status is quite remarkable for that program. But to the heart of your question, I believe DeVonta Smith and Jerry Jeudy's reputations precedes them, and they're both playing up to their expectations. Smith's 47-yard touchdown against Texas A&M showed his ability to make secondaries look silly. Jefferson quietly had a good year last year, and both he and Chase are just now starting to make national names for themselves. I'd expect they become more household names by the year's end.
@TheNickDias: Can the defense improve enough to win the SEC and National Championship?
Returning depth certainly aided LSU's defense, which showed Saturday that it can play good defense in key moments. It's a good question to ask whether that will be enough against Alabama or, say, Ohio State. I think the jury's still out on the potential of LSU's defense now that it has key starters back. I wrote about how depth is the way LSU's defense must succeed on Monday, how LSU used seven different combinations of players in its 10 drives against Florida. With a heavy rotation, LSU was able to stop Florida after the Tigers offense went three-and-out; but it also gave up three straight 75-yard touchdown drives. Starting defensive ends Rashard Lawrence and Glen Logan can get better as they get healthier. Florida was getting the best of the LSU secondary at times on Saturday, especially with a mismatch maker like 6-foot-6, 239-pound tight end Kyle Pitts. It's enough to make you wonder whether the third-down package with Kristian Fulton in the slot, true freshmen like Cordale Flott and Jay Ward at corner, is a warning sign waiting to be exposed against an Alabama receiving corps that includes both Jeudy and Smith. But the biggest jump for the defense has to come in the turnover margin. That's one the things that made the Tigers defense so lethal last year. This year, LSU ranks 68th nationally with eight turnovers, and six of them have been interceptions. Through six games last year, LSU had eight interceptions. A few got left on the field against Florida. Grant Delpit nearly had one on a jump ball in the middle of the field. Cameron Lewis probably should have had another on a tipped pass on the goal line. Patrick Queen tipped a ball in the end zone that ended up being caught by Florida for a touchdown. That we can sit here and rattle off those missed opportunities shows LSU's at least in position to make those plays. The more they can give more possessions to the nation's top offense in the nation, the better off they'll be.
@PaulLanusse: Can we finally beat BAMA???
Yes, LSU can beat Alabama. This is likely the best chance the Tigers have at winning in this series since 2014, when Alabama won 20-13 in overtime at Tiger Stadium. That was also the last time LSU led Alabama in a football game. LSU has been shutout twice by Alabama in the last three meetings, and the whole college football world would be shocked if that were to happen again. There's certainly a shot to win with the new offense LSU's installed this season. Ed Orgeron said Wednesday, "We needed to score more points to bring a championship to Baton Rouge and that’s the reason we did it." LSU's offense edges Alabama in key statistical metrics: scoring (52.5 to 51), yards per game (561 to 536.8), passing yards per game (395.5 to 366), team penalties (32 to 45) and red zone conversion rate (100% to 88%). But Alabama has the edge in rushing offense (170.83 to 165.50), yards per play (9.56 to 8.01) and the turnover margin (+8 to +2). The Heisman debate between Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa (who have strikingly similar stats) will likely come down to this game. With Alabama ranked No. 1 and LSU ranked No. 2, this certainly appears like it will actually be the Game of the Century Part II. Will LSU win? That goes back to the previous question about LSU's defense. Right now, according to ESPN's SP+ Rankings, Alabama has the edge over LSU because of defense. The efficiency ratings give Alabama the nation's 14th-rated defense, and LSU's defense is ranked 37th. It's more than fair to point out that LSU has faced then-No. 9 Texas and then-No. 7 Florida — far more difficult competition than the six opponents Alabama has faced this season. With Alabama's preseason All-America linebacker Dylan Moses out for the season, it's not wrong to question how open the middle of the field will be in that game.
@joecapraro: Provided LSU gets past Auburn and Alabama, which one of those last three games will they lose, and will it keep them out of the playoffs?
Man, we're getting way ahead of ourselves. But to follow your hypothetical, if LSU were to beat Auburn and Alabama, the Tigers would almost certainly be the No. 1 team in the nation during those last three games. LSU would start with a road game at Ole Miss (3-4), which has not improved very much from the defensive issues that gave up 45 points to LSU last season. Then, the Tigers would host Arkansas (2-4), which would be the focus of an argument between Vanderbilt over who is the worst team in the Southeastern Conference. But the Razorbacks have started to show signs of competitiveness in close games against Texas A&M and Kentucky, and they made late trouble against LSU in Fayetteville last year in a 24-17 Tigers win... Nope. Still Texas A&M. The Aggies (3-3) have lost three games top 10 teams — Clemson, Auburn and Alabama — and there will be plenty of energy from Jimbo Fisher's team for the final game of the season against the No. 1 team in the nation. That being said, LSU will be plenty motivated to correct a seven overtime loss in College Station last season.
It's difficult enough to do College Football Playoff scenarios at the end of a season, much less in the middle of one! But here goes, and I'm just going to create my own scenario.
Ohio State is undefeated. Clemson is undefeated. Oklahoma is undefeated.
That leaves a one-loss Oregon that's the Pac-12 champion. A one-loss Notre Dame with a win over Michigan and a loss to Georgia. A two-loss Wisconsin (once in the regular season to Ohio State, once again in the Big Ten title).
I think the SEC champion gets the nod over any of those teams for the No. 4 spot. If LSU were to lose one of their last three, they'd still be in the SEC title because it'd have beaten Alabama. A win would give them the best resume out of all one-loss teams. Same goes if a one-loss Georgia or Florida wins the SEC title.
Clearly, (clearly!), that all changes if Oklahoma or Clemson or Ohio State flubs in a game, too. But we'll cross that bridge when we get there.
@DSports24: Was Cordale Flott still being nicked up the reason we saw Jay Ward late in the game part of the "Cheetah" package?
Yes, Flott didn't play at all against Florida. In the week leading up to the game, Flott went from "out" on Monday, "ready" on Wednesday to "if needed" on Thursday. His injury doesn't look like it'll keep him out against Mississippi State, since Flott participated in all practices this week.