No. 1 LSU takes a balanced approach to dominance
Jarrett Lee's long completions, Spencer Ware's pounding runs and the slew of turnovers caused by Tyrann Mathieu are only a few examples of why it looks as if No.1 LSU is developing to the type of team opponents fear most.
The Tigers' offense can strike quickly over the top or grind it out on the ground.
The defense stifles opponents with speed to the ball and causes turnovers. Special teams units routinely give the Tigers field position advantages and have even made a few big plays of their own.
LSU has the balance and depth to win in a variety of ways and weaknesses are hard to find.
''We just go in and play great football,'' said wide receiver Rueben Randle, who had four catches for 127 yards and a score in No. 1 LSU's 41-11 rout of Florida on Saturday.
''Our coaches have a great plan and we just go out and execute it. We have a great team and great talent around here.''
The frequency with which LSU players say the word ''great'' is one indication of how confident the 2011 Tigers (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) have become, and they're backing it up by making program history.
The LSU team is the first to open a season with six double-digit victories. Four of those victories have come over teams that were ranked in the Top 25 at the time the games were played, the latest being the Gators, who came in ranked 17th.
The victory over Florida demonstrated LSU's balance.
Lee hit Randle for a 46-yard score on the offense's second play. After the Tigers' defense forced a quick punt, LSU took over on its own 43 and methodically marched for another score on an eight-play drive consisting of seven runs.
Ware capped it with his first of two touchdowns on a day when he wore out the Gators with 109 yards.
''Man is he physical,'' LSU coach Les Miles said. ''He just pounded it in there and kept pounding it in there. I love the way he gets extra yards. He basically works on the defense's resolve to take him.''
On Florida's third series, LSU's defense snuffed out a fake punt. Then when the Tigers faced fourth down, their own punter, Brad Wing, had the presence of mind to take off running when he saw the Gators dropping back prematurely to set up blockers for the return.
Wing galloped 52 yards down the left sideline to the end zone, but a momentary lapse of judgment cost the Australian native his first career touchdown.
He started to celebrate shortly before he reached the goal line and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, which took the TD off the board.
Still, the play resulted in a first down and led to a field goal that gave the Tigers an early 17-0 lead, and Miles wasn't about to be too hard on Wing, whose precise punting has given LSU a significant edge in field position.
One of his punts against Florida marked the seventh time this season he has pinned an opponent inside its own 10-yard line.
That has allowed LSU's opportunistic defense to ratchet up the pressure.
The Tigers have 14 takeaways and 13 sacks through their first six games, including two interceptions against Florida, one each by Mathieu and safety Brandon Taylor, who each have two interceptions this season.
Meanwhile, Lee has thrown only one interception all season.
One reason could be that he doesn't have to throw much at all, and when he does, he is often exploiting the single coverage that occurs when opponents push up to stop LSU's deep and powerful running game.
Against Florida, LSU piled up 238 yards on the ground. But when Florida loaded up defenders inside in the second half, Lee struck for a 57-yard completion to Randle, after which Miles sent in quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who executed a jump pass to tight end Mitch Joseph for a score.
Lee attempted only 10 passes, but completed seven for 154 yards and a score. Jefferson hit 3 of 4 passes for 61 yards and his score.
LSU had its most lopsided victory over Florida since a 48-7 triumph in 1971.
''I like the idea that we've played quality opponents and had the killer instinct to really gain the advantage and then withhold the opportunity of victory from them,'' Miles said. ''That's finishing the game and we did that.''