Here we go.
LSU embarks on a season fraught with peril, but also containing the seeds of a sensational story if all the pieces come together.
By Matt Zemek
LSU is not expected to do well. The Tigers have a head coach and an offensive coordinator who both merit considerable skepticism. They have their jobs because Joe Alleva made some highly confusing choices as athletic director. LSU’s athletic program is world-class in baseball and gymnastics, among other sports, and Will Wade shows signs of getting it right in men’s basketball, but football has been mishandled for several years, and the majority view in the SEC is that it will catch up with LSU this year. Ed Orgeron at head coach and Steve Ensminger as offensive coordinator strike absolutely no fear into opposing defensive coordinators. LSU hasn’t had many problems recruiting skill-position talent this decade, but it has had problems coaching that talent, and most observers feel that 2018 will not be an exception. If the majority opinion is affirmed on the field, Orgeron might not be fired due to the size of his buyout, but he will certainly make 2019 a hot-seat season and dramatically raise the internal tensions which have coursed through the athletic department in recent years.
This could go horribly… but if Coach O and Ensminger thrive this year, they will be able to flip the bird at their critics and say, in a full-throated way, “Don’t doubt us.”
The time to silence the doubters is now. No cupcake Week 1 game for LSU. The Bayou Bengals start against Miami. What do they have to do?
1 – NO BAD TURNOVERS
“No turnovers” is an overrated piece of advice in football. The real point of emphasis should be on avoiding BAD turnovers.
Bad turnovers are pick-sixes, or turnovers in either red zone, or interceptions on first down, or non-contact fumbles created by miscommunications, bad handoffs, or other lapses in concentration. Turnovers which are okay include, but are not limited to: interceptions on long passes, interceptions on third and long in a must-score situation, and turnovers which are the primary result of extraordinary defensive plays.
LSU has to ditch the bad turnovers, the ones Miami and its turnover chain feasted on last year. LSU probably won’t win if it commits one bad turnover, and it definitely won’t win with two or more.
2 – HIT THE DEEP BALL
Joe Burrow will try to play a mistake-free game, but he probably won’t. His mistakes need to be incompletions instead of interceptions, erring on the side of caution. His errors, though, must coexist with a few big plays, because it is not likely that LSU will uncork a bunch of 12-play, 80-yard drives against Miami’s defense. The long ball doesn’t just mean points. It means fewer passes Burrow has to throw. That increases LSU’s margin for error in this game. The Tigers need to drop the bomb(s) on Miami.
3 – STUFF THE RUN
Miami would love to establish the run and set up play action to get LSU’s defense off balance. The Hurricanes could dictate the tempo and style of the game. LSU’s front seven simply can’t allow that to happen.
The Tigers have very clear priorities in this Sunday showdown.
Check back for our SEC Power Poll on Monday