OK, so everybody’s screaming for Larry Smith to be benched. And they have a point:
Larry is the nation’s 98th most efficient passer, and the leader of the 111th – or ninth worst – yardage-generating passing offense in the nation. No way any SEC team could overcome that kind of miserable quarterback play, right?
Statistically speaking, Larry is not even the worst quarterback in the SEC.
LSU’s Jordan Jefferson has a passing efficiency rating of 111 – an 88.0 compared to Larry’s 109.0 – and is the leader of the 112th – or eighth worst – yardage-generating passing attack in the nation.
But maybe you’ve noticed that the Bayou Bengals are 5-0 and ranked in the Top 10. So what’s the difference?
While Jordan and the LSU passing attack are even worse than Smith and Vandy, LSU has this going for it:
• A ground game that generates 196 yards/game and ranks fourth in the SEC and 33rd in the nation (compared to Vandy’s 163 yards, which ranks eighth in the SEC and 58th in the nation.
• The SEC’s best and nation’s sixth-best run defense at 79 yards/game (compared to Vandy’s 203.5 yards, which is No. 105 in the nation and by far the SEC’s worst).
• The SEC’s best and nation’s sixth-best total defense at 247 yards/game (compared to Vandy’s 379 yards/game, which is dead last in the SEC).
Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Jordan Jefferson has been truly awful while operating behind a mammoth, 5-star offensive line and throwing to three potential first-round draft picks in receivers Reuben Randle, Terrence Tolliver and Russell Shepard.
But LSU can grind it out with a prototypical NFL tailback, something other teams can’t do against them because of their killer run defense.
Meanwhile, Larry Smith operates behind an undersized, inexperienced offensive line with one or two guys who got 3 stars in high school, throwing to a receiving corps whose veterans couldn’t play for any other SEC teams and whose best players are brand-new freshmen.
Oh, and Vandy can’t grind it out with its offensive line and small, shifty backs. But other teams can grind it out against them because Vandy has the nation’s 105th best run defense.
Sure, we have the SEC’s fourth best passing defense, good for No. 30 in the nation, but how much of that is because teams don’t throw much against us because they know they can pound it down our throats?
Did Larry beat us on Saturday?
No. Husky running back Jordan Todman and the UConn offensive line beat us.
If you’re looking for a scapegoat, you can start with our defensive front, which started two sophomores because both of the preseason starters – Adam Smotherman and T.J. Greenstone – were out with injuries.
I don't recommend it, because it's not a matter of effort on the part of our D-line, which has never boasted a 300+ pound talent like every other team in the SEC does.
(Speaking of which, fans have been screaming for the true freshmen wide receivers but it’s interesting that nobody seems to be asking about our true freshmen defensive linemen, one of the true strengths of the 2010 signing class. Bobby Johnson said it was the best, most game-ready group of D-linemen he’d ever signed. Remember that?)
The strength of recent Vandy teams, including the Music City Bowl champs, has been a talented back seven. Those guys — which include Jonathan Goff and Patrick Benoist and Chris Marve and D.J. Moore and Casey Hayward and Eddie Foster — are easier to find and develop than, say, mammoth defensive linemen.
LSU, with a cup running over at every position but quarterback, has no excuse.
Vanderbilt, on the other hand, does.
I know you're tired of excuses, but today — with a 1-3 record and the SEC's worst total offense and worst total defense — that's kind of what we've got.