LSU plays its first game after winning the 2019 national championship back in January against Clemson. Everything seemed perfect in the world when Ed Orgeron won a national title and permanently silenced his critics.
By Matt Zemek
Then the pandemic hit shortly after. LSU lost not only a huge NFL draft class (one of the greatest ever from a single school), but the Tigers have since had a few key players – receiver Ja’Marr Chase and defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin among them – who opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for next year’s NFL draft. LSU faces a ton of questions before this Saturday’s opener against Mississippi State, but the Tigers still have talent, and are expected by many to finish second in the SEC West ahead of Auburn and Texas A&M. Given all the circumstances facing the program, that wouldn’t be too bad. Let’s see what the Tigers need to do against Mike Leach and Mississippi State.
1 – Power, power, power
The Tigers won’t have the high-flying aerial circus they displayed last year under Joe Burrow. LSU had a gifted quarterback and rode Burrow’s arm to history. That 15-0 season will long remain one of the greatest single seasons in college football, powered by one of the great individual years in the sport’s history from Burrow, who dominated his surroundings nearly every week. LSU can’t expect to replicate the successes of 2019. This year’s team needs to be nasty and punishing in the trenches. That is what the Tigers should aspire to accomplish on offense. Using a bruising running game to take pressure off new quarterback Myles Brennan is the best thing LSU can hope to do – not only against Mississippi State in Week 1, but against the rest of the SEC.
2 – Take time away from K.J. Costello
Mississippi State has a veteran quarterback, not someone who (like Myles Brennan) is going to need an adjustment period this season. K.J. Costello is an experienced signal caller who has spent the past few seasons with the Stanford Cardinal. Costello is good at reading defenses and getting the ball where it needs to go. He has been injury-prone, however, and is not likely to beat LSU with his legs. Therefore, if LSU can flush Costello out of the pocket and get him off his throwing platform, the Tigers have a good chance of disrupting him on Saturday.
3 – Find a connection
No Joe Burrow, no Ja’Marr Chase, no Clyde Edwards-Helaire. LSU needs to leave this first game against Mississippi State with a proven combination which gives the offense a foundation to build on. Myles Brennan has to have explicit confidence and trust – not just as the product of a relationship off the field, but as the result of in-game achievements on the field. LSU can win this game with its defense, but it needs a building block on offense in order to set the stage for the rest of this season.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 2:30 PM CT (3:30 PM ET). Watch on the CBS Network.