The LSU Tigers were humbled with Saturday’s 40-13 loss to the No. 8 ranked Tennessee Volunteers. It was the defeat inside Tiger Stadium to an non-Alabama opponent since 2001.
1) WHERE IS THE RUNNING GAME?
LSU struggled to run the football against Tennessee as the Tigers were held to a mere 55 yards, averaging 2.0 yards per carry.
Through six games, the Tigers have rushed for 1,035 yards, averaging 172.5 yards per game, and 4.7 yards per rushing attempt. That ranks seventh in the SEC in three different categories: total rushing yards, rushing yards per game and rushing yards per attempt.
That is not the standard for a program that has had a long history of dynamic running backs in the backfield. Even in off years, LSU has still found a way to feature a 1,000-yard running back like Nick Brossette in 2018 and Ty Davis-Price in 2021.
It doesn’t appear that will happen in 2022.
LSU’s leading rusher in attempts and yards is quarterback Jayden Daniels. Running backs Armoni Goodwin, Noah Cain, John Emery Jr. and Josh Williams have combined for 135 carries for 637 yards which is a healthy average of 4.7 yards per carry but only 106.1 yards per game.
The issue is that the offensive line struggles to block, which has forced LSU to abandon the traditional game earlier in games due to being behind or simply choosing to depend on Daniels’ to get yards with his legs.
In turn, this makes the Tigers a one-dimensional offense and easier to scheme against.
2) SPECIAL TEAMS ON THE STRUGGLE BUS
The miscues on special teams were critical on Saturday.
Jack Bech fumbling the opening kickoff brought back memories of the season opening loss to Florida State. Malik Nabers had two fumbles on returns in that game. The difference is that unlike with Nabers fumbles, Bech’s miscue did lead to an easy Tennessee touchdown drive.
Four different players have returned kickoffs but none of them have returned a kick longer than 23 yards. If you combine punt and kickoff returns, LSU is averaging only 11.85 yards per return while opponents are averaging 19.04.
Giving the opponent short fields isn’t the only issue with LSU’s special teams this season.
Damian Ramos has been hit and miss as he has made 3-of-5 field goals, all from 30 to 39 yards, with a long of 36 yards. Ramos is 23-of-24 with extra points and has one field goal blocked.
Special teams need to be cleaned up and cleaned up quickly.
3) TALENT DEPTH
The biggest takeaway from Saturday’s game is that LSU — as of right now — lacks the talent to compete with the SEC’s best teams.
It is not that they don’t have talented players but they don’t have enough of them. The depth is the biggest issue with Brian Kelly’s team right now. The LSU coach simply doesn’t have enough talented players at all positions.
When you are forced to just not play but start players from Florida International and McNeese in key spots, that won’t get the job done against the best teams in the SEC.
It will take time for Kelly to improve the roster but it will take a few seasons.