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  • Is LSU that good or is Miami that bad—or something inbetween? That and more questions about Week 1 are answered in this week's #DearAndy mailbag.
By Andy Staples
September 05, 2018

The first full weekend of games has produced a ton of (over)reactions. So let’s try to apply logic rather than emotion—knowing full well that the small sample size means we’re probably still wrong…

From Chad: #DearAndy is LSU that good, Miami that bad, or some combination of the two?

This is the Internet, so I’m supposed to choose one extreme and hammer it as hard as possible. That will allow my editor to write a headline that says something like “LSU Is Playoff Bound” that will make people click on the story for one of two reasons:

A) The reader is an LSU fan, and this makes him/her happy.

B) The reader is not an LSU fan—or is an understandably skeptical LSU fan—and wants to know how much I drank before I wrote this.

If I did this, it would get clicks. It probably wouldn’t be accurate, though. Much to the chagrin of my bosses who want to see the numbers roll on the metrics monitors in the office, the truth probably is somewhere in the middle.

The reaction to LSU’s 33–17 win against Miami is based on two largely incorrect suppositions that became gospel because they got repeated so many times over our long national football-less nightmare.

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Incorrect supposition No. 1: Ed Orgeron is on the hot seat, and this means LSU will be terrible.

Orgeron is not on the hot seat. Orgeron was not on the hot seat*. Yes, LSU fans are famously unreasonable, but Orgeron won nine games in his first season as the full-time head coach and brought back a team with a deeper defensive line, top-shelf talent on that side of the ball, a (slightly) better offensive line and question marks at tailback and quarterback. A more reasonable assumption is that LSU will be about what it was last year, an eight- or nine-win team in one of the nation’s toughest divisions.

*I remain convinced that this Orgeron hot seat talk emerged from all of those offseason hot seat columns people in my business write that always magically have at least one coach in each Power Five conference listed. The truth of the matter is there were no coaches in the SEC or the Pac-12 who started this season on the hot seat because most of them are relatively new. That doesn’t mean no one will get fired, but it will take an off-field issue or a spectacular failure.

If graduate transfer quarterback Joe Burrow winds up being good—and he had some promising moments Sunday—then revise those numbers up by a game or two. It shouldn’t be surprising that this team beat Miami once we tackle…

Incorrect supposition No. 2: The U is back, baby!

No. The U is in a much better place than it was in the Al Golden era, but it still is nowhere near what it was when the Hurricanes were regularly competing for national titles. Miami finished last year on a three-game losing streak that exposed a lot of the issues you’d expect from a program that hasn’t been relevant in a while and is adjusting to playing games that matter at the end of the season. Fans have been clamoring for a different quarterback to replace Malik Rosier, but Rosier keeps beating out the challengers the coaching staff puts in front of him. That probably says more about the challengers than Rosier. So it stood to reason that Miami might struggle against a team with the kind of talent it saw in the ACC title game and the Orange Bowl.

When you look at it that way, the result doesn’t seem so shocking. And that’s why you shouldn’t immediately place LSU in the playoff or doom Miami to ACC Coastal also-ran status. They aren’t what we thought they were, but they’re what we should have thought they were.

From Jordan: What’s more concerning—Michigan’s offensive struggles or the lackluster performance from Michigan State and Penn State?

This one is really interesting because if we’re looking at it logically, we probably should be more worried about Michigan State and Penn State than we are about Michigan. Michigan went on the road and played a good opponent that features a bunch of four- and five-star recruits and lost by a touchdown. Michigan State and Penn State, meanwhile, got pushed to the limit by Group of Five teams on their home fields.

But we’re rarely logical when discussing college football. That’s why Michigan State has turned the page to its visit to Arizona State and Penn State has flipped to its game at Pitt on Saturday. Meanwhile, the sky is still falling in Ann Arbor.

If you read this space all offseason, you were told repeatedly that it didn’t matter who played quarterback for Michigan if the Wolverines didn’t block better than they did last season. Welp. Michigan struggled to block, and Shea Patterson didn’t look like the second coming of Johnny Football. The problem there—and this probably is the reason for all the angst from those in maize and blue—is the offensive line isn’t something that can usually be fixed in-season. The O-line positions are developmental. Inexperienced players rarely can step in and play well because of their sheer athleticism like they can at cornerback or tailback. Lines tend to get fixed year-over-year through recruiting, through strength/size building and through old-fashioned maturation.

There has been some criticism of the play-calling, but there isn’t much a play-caller can do when defenders are getting into the backfield frequently. New Michigan receivers coach Jim McElwain might be a resource here, because he dealt with a much worse offensive line situation at Florida in 2015 and cobbled together an offense that hid a lot of the line’s weaknesses. (Or perhaps then-redshirt freshman Will Grier helped mask a lot of those deficiencies before he was suspended that October.) The only thing that struck me as odd was the huddling when the Wolverines were down 14 late in the fourth quarter. There seemed to be no sense of urgency. But Michigan scored on that drive and got the ball back with 1:40 remaining, so it’s tough to be too hard on the clock management.

As for Penn State and Michigan State, we tend to give teams passes for sloppy wins against teams we don’t expect them to be excited to play. But we’ll find out this week whether those games raised legitimate issues when the Nittany Lions and Spartans go on the road to play Power 5 opponents.

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From @Philo_Beddeaux: Worse week one loss... Texas, FSU, or UCLA?

I’m throwing out UCLA because Chip Kelly inherited a situation that needs work and I have a suspicion that we’re going to find out Cincinnati is quite a bit better than we thought.

Picking between Texas and Florida State is much tougher. Florida State’s loss to Virginia Tech was more lopsided and happened with everyone watching on Labor Day, but it was Willie Taggart’s first game there. Sometimes, teams discover issues they never knew they had in their first game situation under a new staff. Sometimes those issues get fixed, and sometimes they don’t. For example, Taggart lost to McNeese State in his first game at South Florida and wound up turning that program into one built to win double-digit games. So the Seminoles’ loss gets an incomplete until we see how Taggart and company respond.

The Texas loss to Maryland last year fell into the same category as Florida State’s loss to Virginia Tech. The more recent Texas loss to Maryland felt like something entirely different. Longhorns coach Tom Herman said the situation didn’t feel as dire this year as last year, but from the outside, this loss seems far more disappointing. The Longhorns had an entire offseason to figure out their playcalling situation, and they were still tweaking it during the game. Maybe John Steinbeck fan Herman is correct and Texas just wanted to pet the rabbits a little too much. We’ll find out soon.

From @MattyMok: Favorite place to eat in Auburn? Headed there for the Auburn vs. LSU game. The Hound is my go to.

The Hound is an excellent choice. I wrote about it two years ago. But may I suggest lunch at The Hound and dinner at Acre? That link will also take you to a review of Acre, where I once ate a ribeye cooked in bacon fat and a softshell crab cooked in the style of Nashville hot chicken. If you can pull off a Hound-Acre double, you’ll have my undying admiration.

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