TUSCALOOSA, Alabama - It's time.
It was not before now.
But it is now.
It's time to take a long, hard look at true freshman Myles Brennan at quarterback for LSU - if not starting, playing most of the game.
There are only three games left, and this one coming up against Arkansas at 11 a.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium on ESPN is not really a Southeastern Conference game because it's not really against an SEC opponent. This will be like a non-conference game, and not another Troy game. Because Arkansas is bad.
No. 19 LSU (6-3, 3-2 SEC) did not look great in its 24-10 loss to No. 2 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC), but it looked like a decent team that can finish 9-3 and 6-2 against the terrible trio it will play over the next three weeks, starting at the bottom.
The Razorbacks (4-5, 1-4 SEC) could well be 2-7 and 0-5, considering their luck in beating Ole Miss, 38-37, on Oct. 21 last week, and Coastal Carolina, 39-38 on Saturday. The Chanticleers led the Hogs 38-25 in the fourth quarter Saturday before losing 39-38. Coastal Carolina is 1-8 on the season and 0-5 for last in the Sun Belt.
Arkansas is near the bottom in the SEC in scoring defense, pass defense and total defense. Three of its losses were by an average of 26 points. Just what LSU - the school on a never ending search for a quarterback - ordered. Then it's a date at Tennessee the week after that.
The Volunteers (4-5, 0-5 SEC), who were able to snap a four-game losing skid with a 24-10 win over Southern Mississippi Saturday, are last or close to it in scoring offense, total offense, rushing offense, passing offense and rush defense. Two of Tennessee's last four losses were by 38 points or more.
Then it will be the regular season finale against free falling Texas A&M (5-4, 3-3 SEC), which got pummeled 42-27 by the same Auburn team that lost to LSU, 27-23, on Oct. 14. The Aggies and defensive coordinator John Chavis lost the week before by 35-14 to Mississippi State. The Aggies are in the lower portions of the SEC against the pass. It's no longer third-and-Chavis. It's first-and-Chavis, and second-and-Chavis.
Would love to see senior starter Danny Etling enjoy some fun games against these opponents. He deserves it. He was sacked another four times Saturday. He suffered through another handful of drops. But Etling also continues not to play very well. He continues to miss open receivers, particularly deep. On one of his sacks Saturday, he had plenty of time to get rid of the ball. His slow release and delayed trigger does not mesh well with an average at best and young offensive line.
Etling knows he is not playing well. He admitted it in an admirably candid interview in which he was as dejected as he has ever been as a Tiger after the loss to Alabama. You could see it in his face. He was benched late in that game for Brennan. Maybe he knows what is coming.
"I really thought I missed a lot of plays," he said. "We missed a lot of plays as an offense, but from looking at myself I know where I can be better already without watching the film. I really thought the plays were there to make. I just didn't make them. Again, I thought there were plenty of plays for us to make. We just missed them. The game plan was really good, yeah. You saw the guys open. We had plenty of chances to go make something happen. We just didn't."
It is time to get this pass offense ready for next season, because it is not getting any better. Etling has had ample opportunity. He has had nine starts this season. Starting and/or playing Brennan more earlier in the season such as after the Mississippi State or Troy losses suggested by recruiting on the brain fans, who hyperventilate when a true freshman plays, would have been wrong. Etling was and is better than Brennan and deserved the chance to right the ship back then. His teammates deserved a better chance at winning with Etling as well. It was the right thing to do.
Before, many suggested playing Brennan because after two early losses, LSU was not going anywhere anyway. That was wrong. Now, a winning season, a bowl season and the program's 18 straight seasons of winning campaigns have been secured. And the hard games are over now. The next three opponents are bad, especially the first two, who offer up something similar to an NFL preseason.
With the way LSU's defense is playing, the Tigers should be able to win the next three with Justin McMillan at quarterback. Or better yet, give Lowell Narcisse some time, too. I'm not sold on him either.
So, start Brennan Saturday. He is not being thrown to the wolves. He is being thrown to the Hogs, Vols and Aggies. It should be fun for him and will build his confidence for next year. If Brennan really messes up, then put Etling back in. If Brennan does well, treat the bowl practices as a true spring practice. Go all Brennan.
Another reason to start Brennan the next three or four games is to see if he really is any good. Because I've never seen more praise for a quarterback who had only thrown 18 passes before his 3-for-5 for 18 yards Saturday. I have not been impressed with him, which is why he needs to play. I think many are impressed with him only because he is new.
LSU needs to play Brennan to see if he really is the answer for 2018 and beyond. If he does not play well against these next three opponents, then LSU needs to find a quarterback transfer or convince one of the top high school prospects out there that it indeed has an opening.
"Did you see what we had on TV the other day? You need to come here," Coach Ed Orgeron and offensive coordinator Matt Canada could say.
It's time. It's time to see how good Myles Brennan is, or how bad he is.
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