Updated: Sep 25, 2021
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
There is no way around it...
Coach O's Tigers are in a must win situation, not only to protect their SEC and CFP hopes, but to also try and repair a psychological stain upon the LSU program that just hasn't been able to quite go away....a nasty streak which started at the hands of this very opposing coach and team almost a year ago to the day.
Now, the situation is different, but three ominous similarities jump out when talking about LSU in this game:
Derek Stingley Jr is out once again, the defense repeated their 2020 errors vs UCLA, and despite rich talent in their backfield, without a cohesive, healthy offensive line, Coach O's Tigers couldn't run the football or protect Max Johnson against sustained pressure vs UCLA, echoing many of the same issues from 2020.
Can LSU be trusted to handle their business on the road by beating a team who just lost to Memphis and couldn't stamp a physical mark on Louisiana Tech or North Carolina State?
The fact I'm even asking the question would be unimaginable a year ago...
In the past year and a half, headlines off the field surfaced, rumors swirled, past allegations against former Head Coach Les Miles came to light, lawsuits were filed against the University and even Coach O, but LSU were still the champions of college football....a status which blocked out the noise for a program who didn't show any indications of going anywhere but up....until the noise became closer than usual...and more defeaning.
Then, over the next 6 months, the trouble off the field, the absences, departures, negative media coverage...plenty deserved, some fiendishly embellished, all of it bled over on to the field during a 10 game schedule branded in a haze of public ruin.
Regardless of everything in the media or going on off the field, Coach O's era has also been defined by a willingness to survive....to fight back....to win...and when discussing the mistakes, mishandled program PR or recent defeats, you'd think I'm talking about a talentless, gutless squad...far from it:
LSU's current crop lead the country in sacks, alongside the #1 sackmaster himself B.J Ojulari (a 2nd string DE until Week 2), led by a quarterback throwing the 2nd most TDs in CFB, and a receiver catching the most, all backed by a deep array of Grade A talent (freshman Deion Smith's rise points to the untapped possibilities across LSU's roster).
2021 LSU have no business losing more than 3 games, let alone to a Pac-12 team or a one dimensional Mississippi State outfit.
But when you really judge this game, there are a few big reasons as to how and why LSU can lose this game:
Think of the personnel LSU have lost to injury, transfer etc in the last year alone, top players they should be able to call upon this Saturday...
The 2021 Tigers lost a starting QB contender days before Fall Camp began; this team watched their starting left tackle show out during the Spring Game before transferring to an SEC opponent; this squad endured games without both starting left or right tackles, two upperclassmen at running back transferred and another, a 5 star, hasn't been eligible for the first three games; over the last few weeks, this team witnessed all three of their veteran defensive leaders go down with serious injuries (Ward, Anthony, Stingley)...
Could the absence of Anthony, Stingley Jr and others hurt the Tigers on Saturday?
Blessed with a deep squad, Coach O's Tigers have used the versatility on roster to find a way through various obstacles...these new coaches must adapt in order to get this unit through Mississippi State and the rest of the SEC gauntlet which awaits in October.
If things aren't working, when the heat is on, can Peetz and Jones really tweak things in order to capture victory?
Will they stay married to their favorite players, formations or philosophies instead of deploying the best players in the best possible system?
As for the LSU defense, will Andre Carter's DL & Blake Baker's linebackers need to rush more than 3 or 4 to keep the pressure on QB Will Rogers?
Will Leach's wide receiving corps be able to exploit those moments of confusion among the LSU secondary or take advantage of numbers when the Tigers get too aggressive?
How big of a deal is it to have Jay Ward back at safety?
Can you see Cordale Flott finding redemption in a big game against a team which rocked his 2020 confidence?
Will Dwight McGlothern be able to hold his own in place of Stingley?
Can Maason Smith adapt to the defensive end spot early? Could LSU utilize the Terrebonne-native freshman in a flurry of stunting action?
Offensively, will Peetz be able to maintain a playcallng rhythm much like what we saw vs CMU, total pedal to the metal, foot to the face urgency and command???
Will LSU be able to grab their first 100+ yard rusher of 2021?
Slapped together from a few random detours on the LSU roster, can this OL impose their will?
Which RB shines brightest below the morning Ray Baker glow in Starkville?
So many questions....
LSU have to win this game...
Head Coach Ed Orgeron needs this game in order to douse water all over the hot seat talk....at least for another week...
QB Max Johnson needs this game to silence any doubts about his ability to lead LSU's offense forward....
Daronte Jones needs this game to prove his "Daronte who?" detractors wrong....
LSU's defense must find redemption and atonement from this Saturday...
The program's SEC reputation is riding on this game...
Are LSU ok with being pushed around by lesser athletes and vanilla play calls?
Will this LSU team be content with collegiate stardom rather than collegiate history-making?
We predict and answer it all:
LSU will struggle in the trenches for stretches, barely avoiding sacks or negative plays thanks to the legs of Max Johnson.
However, Jake Peetz gets it right & LSU are fast and furious on offense, but sloppy on defense.
Miss St make big plays, score points, but they fail inside the red zone at critical points and two turnovers ultimately plague their ability to keep up with LSU's high flying aerial attack.
LSU bring the fire power, our OL give the running game a bit more space, and despite moments of naive play calling, poor personnel choices and dodgy execution, Peetz's arsenal contains far too much explosion for Zach Arnett's pre snap dance moves to have any deciding effect (giving me "Who Let The Dogs Out" flashbacks).
Max Johnson racks up the yards, points and big plays, although his receivers win the day, both Kayshon Boutte and Jack Bech eclipsing 100 yards and a touchdown, while 2 interceptions from Eli Ricks & a pair of sacks for Maason Smith and B.J Ojulari help to finish off the Bulldogs.
LSU WIN 48-31
MAX JOHNSON: 30/41, 414 Yards, 5 TDs
TDP: 64 Yards, 1 TD
COREY KINER: 69 Yards
GOODWIN: 1 rec. TD, 60 total yards
BOUTTE: 111 yards, 7 Catches, 1 TD
BECH: 102 Yards, 8 Catches, 2 TDs
DEION: 65 Yards, 4 Catches
LEE: 51 Yards, 5 Catches
NABERS: 44 Yards, 4 Catches, 1 TD
Special Cameos: Sage Ryan, Saivion Jones, Malik Nabers and Armoni Goodwin all play big supporting roles.
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By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
SHOUTOUTS: Kevin Howell!!!! What a guy! GEAUX TIGERS KEVIN LET'S GEAUX