It is like arguing a case before the United States Supreme Court in one week, and then arguing in municipal court about a traffic ticket the next week. LSU goes from playing the Alabama Crimson Tide on the road to playing Ole Miss, a team unlikely to make a bowl game.
By Matt Zemek
In terms of talent and overall athletic prowess, this game is no contest. The challenge for the Tigers is very clearly between the ears. In many ways, the key to this game involves how LSU prepares for it. That can translate to the field and give the Tigers the kind of performance they need.
1 – Planned rotations of players
This is not an in-game response to any adjustments Ole Miss might make. This is a pregame plan from the LSU coaching staff. It is important to make it clear to players that they won’t carry inordinately large workloads this week. LSU’s roster needs to know that snap counts are going to be managed – not necessarily with a strict number, but to the point that players who might have been overextended against Alabama can be sure of a reduced workload this week. That point is important, because after a game that draining, the reality of LSU being vulnerable to a letdown is real.
Ole Miss will treat this game – at home, at night – as its Super Bowl. The Rebels would love to ruin LSU’s season. Not being mentally sharp is a concern for LSU. The Tigers probably won’t have the same level of energy they displayed against Alabama. One of the key components to getting a sufficiently energized performance this week: manage workloads going into the game, and more precisely making sure players know they won’t have to take on enormous responsibilities. This is a game to call upon depth, but not as an abrupt in-game response; it needs to happen as part of a plan to put players at ease and ensure that WHEN they take the field, they can be appropriately focused.
2 – Assignment defense
Two things can get in the way of LSU in this game: Huge Ole Miss plays on offense and Tiger turnovers. Let’s deal with defense first. Ole Miss has nothing close to Alabama’s skill level. LSU needs to be on guard against gadget plays and exotics, the plays with misdirection or sleight-of-hand disguises which are intended to create mammoth plays. Not biting, not overselling, not taking unnecessary gambles, all form part of a basic approach which, if carried out well, should contain Ole Miss’ offense.
3 – The simple play
Joe Burrow, the clear Heisman Trophy leader, doesn’t need me or any other columnist to tell him this, but as long as Burrow makes the simple play and doesn’t try to fit throws into overly tight windows – and as long as he doesn’t make the kinds of throws which can lead to Ole Miss pick-sixes (out routes, long cross-field throws) – LSU should be fine. Receivers should be able to get more than enough separation on safe pass patterns. One week after the Alabama game, LSU doesn’t need to be tentative, but tentative is not the same thing as prudent. Remaining prudent will prevent LSU from being sloppy.