Scott Rabalais: Defensive warnings and other notes

Notes on a golf scorecard from the Presidents Cup while wondering how the United States can keep beating the International team every two years but keeps losing every other year to the Europeans in the Ryder Cup:

Tropical Storm Karen may have been unable to do it for very long, but LSU’s defense is sending up red warning flags from border to border across Louisiana.

The Tigers are seventh in the Southeastern Conference in scoring and total defense, eighth in rushing defense but a surprising fourth in pass defense.

LSU has given up 70 points and 962 total yards the past two games at Georgia and Mississippi State.

And yet there may be a glimmer of hope for improvement. The Tigers did start getting more contributions from its younger players — Christian LaCouture, Rashard Robinson, Tre’Davious White, Kendell Beckwith — and did limit Mississippi State to three second-half points Saturday as the offense ran away with a 59-26 victory.

Les Miles, noted football optimist it must be said, sees improvement.

“Later in the (State) game our defensive line (was) handling 2-on-1, 1-on-1 blocks and still making point of attack tackles,” he said. “To me, the defensive front is continuing to play better. I think our linebackers have to play that ’tween position between the run and the pass and be able to come down the hill and make quality tackles while covering the underneath route.

“I don’t think that we’ve gotten to the high water mark of our defense. I think they took a really nice stride Saturday. I think our guys will see this film and go, ‘Yeah, that’s what we’re capable of. That’s how we need to play.’”

For LSU to remain a top-10 team, Miles needs to be right.

I make a significant chunk of my annual income on predictions, but through five weeks of the NFL season, we’ve seen why you have to play the games.

No one could have come up with this scenario for the New Orleans Saints: 5-0 with a four-game lead over the tough luck-loser Atlanta Falcons, the NFC South preseason favorite. Add 0-4 Tampa Bay’s implosion, and does that make 1-3 Carolina the Saints’ best pursuer? Yikes.

There’s still a long way to go and there’s still a chance the Falcons could be heard from, but it’s unlikely. Only five percent of NFL teams since 1990 have made the playoffs after a 1-4 start. Home Depot owner Arthur Blank can’t repair this condemned property.

Goes to show you just never know, just like everyone figured the Saints’ got the better end of the bargain when their schedule took them to New York on Nov. 3 to face the Jets, not the Giants. Now the Giants are an 0-5 sinkhole in the Meadowlands swamps and the Jets are New England’s prime competition in the AFC East.

Even the most ardent Miles detractors have to say he made a great hire with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. And for the most part, Miles appears to have let Cameron coach the offense his way.

But I agree with folks who say Miles and Cameron have made an tactical error in not letting Anthony Jennings or one of the other backup quarterbacks play more so far this season.

Jennings, the freshman heir apparent to Zach Mettenberger, has thrown all of one pass this season in three relief appearances and has four carries for 8 yards. That’s far too little. Jennings needs work, because Mett ain’t coming back in 2014.

Jennings doesn’t figure to see the field much if at all against Florida, unless LSU is planning to unveil some new wrinkles to confound the Gators’ quick and talented defense. He probably won’t see much playing time next week at Ole Miss, either.

So that leaves the Oct. 26 game with Furman. It would behoove Miles and Cameron to get Mettenberger to the bench after the first drive of the second half and play Jennings the rest of the way.

Like many sports fans, I have a love-hate relationship with ESPN and the way it fixates on certain sports topics (what, no Tim Tebow or LeBron James stories this hour?).

But I have to hand it to their crack research staff: They do come up with some interesting and obscure factoids.

According to ESPN, Baylor is the first team since LSU in 1930 to score 70-plus points in three straight games.

Eighty-three years ago, LSU opened the season with a 76-0 win over South Dakota Wesleyan, a 71-0 romp over Louisiana Tech and an 85-0 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Unfortunately for the 1930 Tigers, they burned up all their scoring in their first three games. LSU finished 6-4 that season, scoring seven or fewer points in five of its last seven games.

Speaking of ESPN, no one does better research than Brad Edwards. The man who can figure out the BCS formula in his head (you’d think) says that if the BCS rankings came out today, LSU would be at No. 9. That also happens to correspond with my AP ranking of the Tigers, so who needs you, Brad?