Dave Aranda has been dumped into a lake of fire in October.
LSU’s defensive coordinator went from golden boy to scapegoat in a matter of weeks to start the 2019 season, because, let’s face it, fans need something to complain about. For the first time in years that complaint wasn’t about LSU’s offense, and it couldn’t be.
That doesn’t mean the fans didn’t have a point. LSU’s defense underwhelmed and underperformed the first four weeks of the season, raising concern about LSU’s national championship aspirations.
Enter October and a matchup against Aranda’s former team, Utah State. The Aggies marched into Death Valley averaging 39 points per contest and 533 yards per contest. Quarterback Jordan Love is a potential first-round talent, and Utah State’s “warp speed,” as head coach Ed Orgeron called it, had many believing this offense could score on an LSU defense that was allowing nearly 24 points per contest before the Saturday morning matchup.
Then Aranda sent his statement… to Utah State, to the college football world and to LSU fans. The Tigers limited the Aggies to 159 yards and just six points. The defense forced seven points and recorded three interceptions. Derek Stingley, Kary Vincent and Grant Delpit each had a pick and allowed four receptions on 12 targets. LSU also had four missed tackles against Utah State, which was a major jump from the 18 missed tackles against Vanderbilt. And last but not least, the Tigers held Utah State to just 53 plays of offense, which was 27 plays fewer than Utah State’s season average.
Now the Tigers get a Top 10 matchup at home in primetime against the Florida Gators, and let’s not forget Aranda and Dan Mullen’s recent history.
Two years ago the Mississippi State Bulldogs thumped LSU like a drum, 37-7. Mullen’s offense rushed for 285 yards and Nick Fitzgerald, yes the run-centric quarterback, shredded the Tigers through the air.
And then last season, Mullen had the upper hand in the chess battle between Aranda and Mullen with some key third down calls that extended scoring drives. Mullen is 2-0 in his last two head-to-head matchups with Aranda, so the question entering this contest is whether or not the Tigers can build off of their success against Utah State in a heavily anticipated matchup with the Gators.
And this is a great question to have at this point in the season. Because as great as LSU’s offense has been — first nationally in scoring (54.6 points per contest), second nationally in passing (416 yards per game), first nationally in red zone efficiency (31-of-31) — it’s simply not sustainable for a full season. Or should I say, it’s highly unlikely for the month of October with matchups against Florida and Auburn coming up.
Florida is averaging more than four sacks per contest and has an SEC-high 17 turnovers forced this season. So expect a little turbulence on LSU’s flight path this weekend.
If Aranda gets LSU’s defense to play like it did last Saturday, quarterback Joe Burrow won’t have to be Superman to beat Florida Saturday night. He might better bring his cape just in case, though.