Rapid Reaction: LSU style points come in the form of SEC West title
Anyone looking for style points was probably disappointed.
But when you’re No. 1 and four teams make the College Football Playoff and the regular season is almost over you don’t need a whole bunch style points.
You just need to keep winning and No. 1 LSU did that, 56-20, against Arkansas on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
The early part of the game wasn’t all that impressive for a team that entered the game 10-0 and 6-0 in the SEC, facing a team that was 2-8 and 0-6.
The offense started slowly. The defense didn’t allay season-long concerns, at least not early.
The Tigers didn’t always look like the best team in the country, but they did clinch the SEC West championship.
They’re going to Atlanta to play Georgia for the SEC Championship on Dec. 7.
First the Tigers have to host Texas A&M next Saturday and if they perform against the Aggies the same way they started against the lowly Razorbacks then things could get a little dicey.
But that’s next week.
Against Arkansas, LSU was plenty good enough. A 21-0 blitz during the second half of the second quarter negated a slow start and put LSU in command with a 28-3 halftime lead.
That led to more second-half touchdowns even after Joe Burrow went to the bench in the third quarter.
There were a few style points along the way, courtesy of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who rushed for 188 yards and three touchdowns on six carries.
It figured that Arkansas would start well. It had fired head coach Chad Morris after its latest loss and installed tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. as interim head coach. The Razorbacks had two weeks to prepare, to take stock of the team and the individual players and summon the pride necessary to regain some respectability.
So it shouldn’t have been surprising that the Razorbacks played better than they had been playing, playing perhaps their best game of the season, perhaps as well as they’re capable of playing.
But even at their absolute best, they don’t have the size, strength, speed, skill or confidence to hang with LSU as long as LSU plays reasonably close to the way it played in ascending to the No. 1 position.
Eventually it did.
A Tigers defense that played truly awful in the second half against Ole Miss a week earlier was playing without one of its leaders in safety Grant Delpit.
The defense was certainly better Saturday, eventually dominant in the first three quarters, but there were a couple of first-half hiccups against a very limited offense.
Marcel Brooks was called for roughing the passer, turning what would have been a punting situation into a first down. Then a 31-yard pass completion led to a field goal.
On Arkansas’ next possession a 29-yard pass completion led to another field goal, nearly negating Burrow’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Marr Chase and leaving the Tigers with a mere 7-6 lead well into the second quarter.
But there was hardly time to start lamenting the back-to-back field goal drives or the back-to-back LSU punts a week after the Tigers did not punt at all. That’s because Burrow led touchdown drives of 75, 62 and 90 yards and consecutive possessions while the defense forced consecutive punts.
All of a sudden the Tigers had a 28-6 halftime lead and they were well on their way to the division title and one step closer to the CFP. They added touchdowns on their first four possessions of the second half.
Maybe there could have been a few more style points.
But LSU won and it won easily.
The Tigers are champions of the SEC West and they’re one step closer to the CFP.
And that’s pretty stylish.