NASHVILLE – Your SEC West Division standings after the first two weeks of the league’s “It Just Means More Playing More SEC Games” 2020 Covid-19 crapshoot is . . .
Unbeaten Alabama at 2-0 with a six-way tie for second place at 1-1.
The Nicktator and the Six Dwarfs – Coach O, Gussie, the Pirate, the Lanetrain, Sam I Am and Jimbo Limbo.
Perhaps the first two games is what college football should be after almost six months of the coronavirus mombo. Perfection is an option, flashing across the sky and flaming out before you can “ooh” and “ahh.”
No. 20 LSU marched into the Music City on Saturday night and dosey do-ed back to Baton Rouge with a 41-7 win over a Vanderbilt team that was beaming after a week one 17-12 loss at Texas A&M.
The Commodores thought they were on the right track. It’s a good thing they didn’t watch much of the No. 13 Aggies getting destroyed 52-24 by No. 2 Alabama.
Remember Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello in week one against LSU? He was a Joe Burrow re-deaux, five passing touchdowns, insane SEC record yardage 623 yards, made almost every clutch throw in a 44-34 win.
In week two, he threw three interceptions and No. 16 MSU got beat 21-14 at home by Arkansas, a team that had lost 20 straight SEC games, almost impossible to do if your name isn’t Vanderbilt.
The anticipated early season matchup of No. 4 Georgia and No. 7 Auburn was over in the second quarter.
Georgia led Auburn 24-0 and won 27-6, the Bulldogs starting a former walk-on quarterback who transferred to a junior college and transferred back to Georgia. His name is Stetson Bennett IV and sounds like his family has the cash to buy the junior college he played for.
Outside the SEC, Oklahoma, apparently still in shock from Joey B’s seven-TD hailstorm in the Tigers’ 63-28 blowtorching of the Sooners in last December’s College Football Playoff semifinals, suffered its second straight loss. It hasn’t happened since the Clinton administration.
Texas, which believes every other week that its program is “back” among the national powers, lost at home to TCU. ’Horns wonderboy coach Tom Herman is 10-6 overall and 6-5 in the Big 12 since it beat lethargic Georgia in the Sugar Bowl two seasons ago.
All of the above examples enforce what college football, especially 1-1 LSU, is all about this season. A heapin’ helping of ordinary with a scoop of unpredictability on the side depending on COVID-19 testing results.
Maybe the Tigers, like the rest of college football, should be graded on a curve this season. Even without the coronavirus intrusion, it’s doubly tough for LSU’s 2020 team being compared to the once-in-a-lifetime 2019 15-0 national championship juggernaut.
Yes, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron was thrilled that his Ti-gahs were able to handle Vandy, a team with substantially less talent. If you’re scoring at home, 15 of the Tigers’ 21 starters were rated 5 and 4-star recruits.
Vanderbilt had one starter who was a 4-star recruit, and that’s it.
“Tonight, that was LSU football,” Orgeron growled. “We played like LSU Tigers.”
The intent of the definition “played like LSU Tigers” sort of varies from year to year and even game to game. Except for last season. It was 15 straight games of scorched earth for defenses trying to stop the greatest offense in SEC history.
Now, “Play like LSU Tigers” means taking weekly positive steps, even baby ones.
Like second-time starting QB Myles Brennan advancing from his week one faux pas of holding the ball too long and trying to escape the pass rush by scrambling towards the sidelines to Saturday’s game two seeing an open receiver and letting it rip, even if it means stepping up in the pocket with bodies flying around him.
“That’s what I do, that’s who I am,” said Brennan, who threw absolute darts to 11 different receivers for 337 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.
Complete or incomplete, there was no indecision from Brennan, no dancing in the face of a pass rush, See the receiver, feel the rush. Slide up in the pocket and fire that rocket.
“They (LSU) had a good game plan (for Brennan),” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said. “Their plan was to let him climb the pocket and take some shots at inside digs (routes).”
Brennan got help from LSU’s running game, which produced 163 yards on 32 carries. It was done without starter Chris Curry, who dressed and didn’t play because of an unspecified injury.
Even with no Curry, sophomore John Emery Jr. showed surprising power to blend with his well-known speed to produce 103 rushing yards and a TD.
“John has grown up, he’s gotten bigger,” Orgeron said. “I was teasing him today (Saturday). He actually has a big chest on him now. He didn’t have a chest when he got here. I’m pleased with him handling the football and not giving it up.”
Brennan’s week one to week two improvement seemed more palpable than what the LSU defense showed.
After giving up 202 yards in the first half – LSU allowed 107 yards rushing on 26 carries in the opening two quarters thanks to some hard Vandy running and a bit of sloppy tackling – the Commodores gained just 64 yards total offense in the second half.
“We stopped blitzing as much because we felt we could get a good (pass) rush with our four-man front.” Orgeron said.
The LSU cornerbacks, with a healthy Derek Stingley Jr. back in action after missing the season opener, accepted the challenge of playing tight one-on-one coverage.
“Derek makes a big difference,” LSU safety JaCoby Stevens said. “Guys think twice before throwing the ball his way.”
Now, LSU’s goal is to improve this Saturday at home against winless Missouri. Maybe not a huge leap, but enough to keep pushing the boulder up Mount SEC.
“We took it a day at a time (last week), we improved every single day,” Brennan said. “Guys have got to stay level-headed, take it a week at a time. That’s what we’ve done, that’s what we do.”
In this disjointed season with the three-fourths empty socially distanced stadiums, that’s all you can wish for.