LSU football: Can Tigers win national title with this defense?
The LSU defense is terrible.
The LSU defense is getting its act together.
LSU can’t win a national championship with this defense.
The LSU defense is inconsistent but good enough thanks to the offense.
These are the thoughts that come to mind to anyone who has watched the Tigers this season. In fact these thoughts have come to mind within individual games, in fact most of them.
Good. Terrible. Inconsistent. Good enough. Not good enough.
These are recurring, appropriate descriptions of the defense of the No. 1 team in the country.
Is the LSU defense good enough to win the college football championship? Good question.
It has been good enough for the Tigers to go 11-0, win the SEC West and ascend above every other team in the country.
It has been bad enough for observers to wonder if the Tigers would be undefeated, if they would have won the SEC West, if they would be ranked No. 1 had Joe Burrow not been nearly perfect.
Had Burrow had one fewer touchdown drive in him, LSU might have lost to Texas, or Auburn, or Alabama. Or two of the three. Or all three.
Is Burrow’s remarkable season merely postponing the moment when the Tigers defense will be exposed as an Achilles’ heel? Good question.
Or is an inconsistent defense merely making a dominant team slightly less dominant than it otherwise would be on its way to a national championship? Another good question.
No one is sure of the answers to these questions.
Head coach Ed Orgeron isn’t sure. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda isn’t sure. The Tigers players aren’t sure. The Tigers followers aren’t sure.
How could they be?
LSU held Georgia Southern to fewer than 100 yards in a season-opening win.
It made a couple of first-half goal-line stands against Texas, then seemed defenseless in the second half.
It was adequate against Northwestern State, then gave up way too many points against Vanderbilt, then was outstanding against Utah State.
It was poor in the first half, then exceptional in the second half against Florida, solid throughout against Auburn.
It was really good in the first half and really bad in the second half against Alabama.
It was good in the first half and truly awful in the second half against Ole Miss.
It was shaky early, then dominant, then really shaky against Arkansas on Saturday.
It’s easy to assume the two Razorbacks touchdowns after LSU built a 56-6 lead was a result of the Tigers pulling their starters. But several starters were still on the field for those scores.
Orgeron already had pulled key offensive players such as Burrow and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire while key defensive players stayed in the game and saw Arkansas reach the end zone twice.
Certainly Orgeron and Aranda were hoping their first-team defense could continue to build confidence against a whipped opponent.
Did the defense play better against Arkansas than it did a week earlier against Ole Miss? Sure it did.
The Rebels ran for more than 400 yards, gained more than 600, scored 37 points. Arkansas barely reached 300 yards in a 56-20 loss.
Is the LSU defense headed in the right direction? Who knows?
Mostly when it has begun a game by playing well, it has played not so well later in the game. And vice versa.
After a mostly good game it has generally had a mostly bad game. And vice versa.
The LSU defense plays well, it plays badly. It plays badly, it plays well.
How will it play against Texas A&M next Saturday?
Probably good and bad, bad and good.
There have been injuries on the Tigers defense. The Tigers have played one of the most difficult schedules in the country.
Statistics don’t tell the whole story.
The LSU defense isn’t terrible. Nor is it great.
Is it good enough to win an SEC championship and perhaps a national championship?