One would think with LSU playing the best and quickest offense in the nation – not just in the SEC – on Saturday, it would want to limit the possessions of No. 8 Tennessee. The Vols are averaging 559.2 yards a game for No. 1 in the nation and averaging 48.5 points for No. 3.
And Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker is first in the Southeastern Conference and No. 6 in the nation in passing efficiency at 183.7, having completed 81 of 113 for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns with zero interceptions.
But LSU coach Brian Kelly wants his quarterback, Jayden Daniels, to cut it loose more.
“We haven’t thrown any interceptions,” Kelly said this week of Daniels. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing in one respect.”
Really? I would think automatically it’s not a bad thing in any respect.
Daniels is one of just 10 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) quarterbacks out of the 122 with enough attempts to be in the national statistics to have zero interceptions this season. Of those 10, he has the third most attempts with 131, completing 89 for 915 yards and six touchdowns for a 141.7 efficiency rating for No. 63 in the nation.
“But if you are looking to be aggressive, you’re going to throw an interception or two because somebody made a great play,” Kelly explained. “Because you trust that you’re going to throw it in there.”
Kelly believes Daniels is not taking enough chances as a passer. He is not attempting to thread the needle enough by hitting a receiver between two defenders.
“We’ve got to get Jayden a little bit more on that edge,” Kelly said. “Look, there’s a difference between being on the edge aggressively and being reckless. We’re way too conservative right now.”
And when Daniels is not being too careful, he tends to decide to tuck it and run too quickly. But that is more of a good thing as his running has been one of LSU’s few strong weapons on offense as he leads the Tigers in rushing with 321 net yards on 60 carries and is No. 1 with 64.2 yards a game.
Daniels may run fewer times Saturday as he is dealing with a bursa sac injury around his knee suffered in the fourth quarter of the 21-17 win at Auburn Saturday. It is painful and made him limp, but Kelly said early in the week he is fine for the game after an MRI.
“It’s not structural at all,” Kelly said. “He is now in pretty good position where he feels like he is 100 percent.”
Daniels has less chance of reinjuring it by staying in the pocket, but he has also had trouble with his accuracy, and he has sometimes not seen an open receiver.
“There were probably five or six – and you can probably all remember them – where there needed to be a little bit better of a throw,” Kelly said of the Auburn game, but added, “and a little bit better of a catch.”
Whatever is happening or not happening, LSU is No. 68 in the nation and eighth in the SEC in passing yards with 247 a game. And those stats are padded by 414 passing yards against Southern and 323 against New Mexico in 65-17 and 38-0 wins, respectively. Against Florida State, Mississippi State and Auburn, LSU averaged 168 yards passing, which would have it 115th in the nation out of 122.
Daniels completed 8 of 20 passes for 80 yards at Auburn. In the entire second half, Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier, who replaced Daniels late in the game, combined to complete 2 of 10 passes for five yards. Daniels was 0 for 4, and Nussmeier was 2 of 6 for five yards.
After watching that, Kelly may have traded two 40-yard completions for an interception, so long as it wasn’t a pick six.
“I don’t want to throw interceptions. That’s not what I want to do,” Kelly said. “I don’t want to turn the ball over.”
But he wants more aerial rewards, nevermind limited risk. And this is precisely the week to throw caution to the wind. Tennessee has a terrible pass defense. The Vols are No. 128 in the nation out of 131 FBS schools in passing yards allowed a game at 309.2.
So, yeah, Jayden – fling it.
“We can’t throw for 85 yards with the talent we have,” Kelly said, “and expect to beat the top 10 teams in the country.”
JIMBO FISHER KNOWS BAMA QB JALEN MILROE
Alabama redshirt freshman quarterback Jalen Milroe is no stranger to Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher. Milroe is expected to start Saturday if regular starter Bryce Young cannot go because of a shoulder sprain suffered last week at Arkansas. That will be a game-day decision.
He was the No. 3 dual threat quarterback in the nation in the 2020-21 recruiting season from Tompkins High in Katy, Texas – 80 miles south of Texas A&M. Milroe went to camps at A&M and was recruited hard by Fisher.
“His arm is extremely strong,” Fisher said. “He made big plays at big times in that game (at Arkansas). You know, you don’t ever think you’re going to replace the Heisman Trophy winner. All of a sudden you come in and lead them down on a couple drives. Game got scary, 28-23, and he makes a big play (77-yard run on 3rd-and-15).”
NIGHT NOT ALWAYS RIGHT TIME AT TIGER STADIUM
The LSU Nation continues to complain about not getting a night time kickoff for its No. 25 Tigers against No. 8 Tennessee on Saturday. Instead, Death Valley gets the breakfast edition at 11 a.m. central time. No. 1 Alabama and Texas A&M got the 7 p.m. central start on CBS, and South Carolina and No. 13 Kentucky are on at 6:30 p.m. central on the SEC Network.
LSU fans should note, however, that it has lost three of its last four Tiger Stadium night games in the SEC – 55-17 to Alabama in 2020 on CBS, 24-19 to Auburn in 2021 on ESPN and 16-13 to Arkansas in overtime last year on the SEC Network. LSU beat Texas A&M, 27-24, last season at night in the regular season finale on ESPN.
LSU also lost to 20-point underdog Troy, at night in Tiger Stadium in 2017 on homecoming.
And Alabama has rarely had any trouble after dark in Tiger Stadium. The Tide’s last loss at LSU – day or night – was in 2010. The last night loss for Alabama at LSU was in 2006. Coach Nick Saban has never lost at LSU at night. The Tide also had success at LSU day or night even when it was not always a national power. Alabama was 14-0-1 at Tiger Stadium from 1971 through 1998. And 10 of those wins were at night. Alabama’s last night game at LSU? A 55-17 win in 2020.
Tennessee also won its last night game at Tiger Stadium – 30-27 in overtime on Monday, Sept. 26, 2005, in a game moved from the previous Saturday because Hurricane Rita hit the west Louisiana coast on Sept. 24.
“Get there early,” Kelly said. “Come out early and get going. Look, it’s Tiger Stadium. It’s LSU football. If you are not excited for that, I don’t know what gets you going in October. There’s time to do other things, but LSU playing Tennessee in Tiger Stadium. Tell me what else is better to do.”
SEC SATURDAY PREDICTIONS (DRAFTKINGS SPREADS)
No. 8 Tennessee (2.5-point favorite) at No. 25 LSU, Noon, ESPN … Tennessee 38, LSU 24.
Arkansas at No. 23 Miss. St. (8-point favorite), Noon, SEC Network … Miss. St. 27, Arkansas 21.
Missouri at Florida (11-point favorite), Noon, ESPNU … Florida 31, Missouri 17.
Auburn at No. 2 Georgia (29.5-point favorite), 3:30 p.m., CBS … Georgia 31, Auburn 10.
No. 9 Ole Miss (18.5-point favorite) at Vanderbilt, 4 p.m., SEC Network ... Ole Miss 37, Vanderiblt 7.
South Carolina at No. 13 Kentucky (10.5-point favorite), 7:30 p.m., SEC Network … Kentucky 20, South Carolina 10.
Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama (24-point favorite), 8 p.m., CBS … Alabama 21, Texas A&M 17.
1. GEORGIA (5-0, 2-0 SEC).
2. ALABAMA (5-0, 2-0).
3. TENNESSEE (4-0, 1-0).
4. OLE MISS (5-0, 1-0).
5. KENTUCKY (4-1, 1-1).
6. LSU (4-1, 2-0).
7. MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-1, 1-1).
8. TEXAS A&M (3-2, 1-1).
9. ARKANSAS (3-2, 1-2).
10. FLORIDA (3-2, 0-2).
11. AUBURN (3-2, 1-1)
12. MISSOURI (2-3, 0-2)
13. SOUTH CAROLINA (3-2, 0-2)
14. VANDERBILT (3-2, 0-1).
SEC STAT OF THE WEEK
Arkansas led the nation in sacks going into the Alabama game last week with 20 in four games for a 5.0 average. It registered one sack against the Tide.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“And I like Kenny Chesney. He’s got ties, doesn’t he?”
-LSU coach Brian Kelly on the country music star from Knoxville after listing former or present Tennessee coaches he knows when asked about his ties to Tennessee.
–Mississippi State coach Mike Leach on planning his wedding 30 years ago during the earliest of stages – deciding on a date. He advises that everyone elope, even though he and his wife Sharon did not and are in their third decade of marriage.