8/31/15 5:45 am CDT
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Game Week is finally here, and to help kick it off right I’ve got a great SEC Football Hype Video by SaturdayDownSouth to share with you that’s sure to get you pumped! It’s not an LSU video per se, but it’s a great one worth viewing.
After spending I don’t know how many days talking about the 2015 LSU football team, today we’ll finally begin turning our attention to LSU’s first opponent, the McNeese State Cowboys, but first here are a few “newsy” tidbits to pass along…
With the season opener only five days away, Coach Miles will hold his first weekly “Subway Fresh Take by Les Miles” press luncheon of the season today at 12:15 p.m. CT. The program will be produced each week by the LSU Sports Radio Network and can be heard in the Baton Rouge area on 104.5 FM and 104.9 FM and on affiliates of the network across the state and region. Those fans outside the 104.5 FM/104.9 FM listening area, can catch free audio of the press conference each week in the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net/live or in the LSUsports Mobile App. Members of the Geaux Zone have access to a live video stream of the press conference each week, and from what I understand a free live video stream will also be available on SECN+, which you can access here. I look forward to giving you a report on what was said in my morning report.
During the last couple of days I’ve heard from many of you who are excited about not only the start of LSU’s football season, but also the start of prep football and our Louisiana High School Football Pickem Contest. If you haven’t yet signed up to play, please consider doing so today. This year we’re doing things a little differently. Instead of having you pick winners for all 140+ games, we’ve scaled it down to 50 games each week to make it less overwhelming but still very challenging. Also, for the first time ever, we’ll be giving small prizes to the winners. The weekly winner(s) will receive snazzy DandyDon koozies and bumper stickers. The overall winner will receive a DandyDon coffee mug and a signed hardcopy of Ces Guerra’s book, Gumbo for the Tiger Soul. Of course, one of the best perks of participating is the bragging rights it can earn you, as each week the top 10 players will be listed on our leaderboard and the winner will receive props in our daily report. The contest is a great way to test your knowledge of Louisiana high school football and it’s completely free. Even if you decide not to participate, please note that you can always refer to our weekly schedule, which will also serve as a statewide scoreboard once the games are played. To sign up or read more about how this all works, please click here.
Now let’s jump back to our normal order of business and begin taking a look at the McNeese State Cowboys through our “team comparisons” that many of you have grown accustomed to seeing on this site. As you longtime readers know, each week we’ll compare LSU and its opponent in all three aspects of the game (offense, defense and special teams) and take a look at “intangibles.” Later in the week we’ll do a statistical comparison and also talk about some things to watch for in the game, and of course I’ll post my prediction for this game and several others. So without further ado, let’s get on with it…
LSU offense vs. McNeese defense
There should be no reason LSU can’t line up in a Power-I formation and pound the rock against the Cowboys’ defense. Look for Les Miles and the Tigers to establish the run early on with Leonard Fournette and Darrel Williams, getting enough separation on the scoreboard to allow Brandon Harris to work on developing chemistry with his talented wide receiver corps. While McNeese’s football program is not on the same level as LSU’s, the Cowboys should not be taken lightly, as they almost knocked off Nebraska last season. To go along with that, the Cowboys have a big-time playmaker in defensive back Brent Spikes, who led the team in tackles (83) and interceptions (4) last season and is a preseason All-American. Other Cowboys to watch on defense are free safety Wallace Scott and linebacker Bo Brown. If McNeese State has success loading the box and limiting LSU’s explosive running backs, the game may very well rest on the shoulders of Harris, which could be interesting. Though McNeese has several returning starters on defense, including the three aforementioned playmakers, it shouldn’t have the personnel to match LSU athlete for athlete, and getting Harris on the same page as Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural, D.J. Chark, Trey Quinn and John Diarse would be hugely beneficial when SEC play begins the following week. The Tigers have too many ways to score, so barring any mental lapses, expect LSU to score often Saturday night.
LSU defense vs. McNeese offense
The Cowboys have no shortage of running backs, and they’ll likely have to use all of them against a physical LSU front. With four returning starters on the offensive line, the Cowboys will test the Tigers upfront and look to open up running lanes for Derrick Milton (a Mississippi State transfer) and Ryan Ross (rushed for 326 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014). Add shifty quarterback Daniel Sams, who gained experience last season and can beat teams with his legs as well as his arm, and the Cowboys will have a potent offense. But this game is all about LSU’s ability to use its speed advantage. The Tigers’ athleticism at linebacker and in the secondary should allow LSU to close on the ball quickly and stall drives. Linebacker Kendell Beckwith is made for games like this, and I look for him and the entire Tiger defense to have success slowing down the Cowboys’ attack.
This might be the most intriguing aspect of the game. A couple of LSU freshmen, Derrius Guice and Donté Jackson, could be on the fielding end of kicks or punts, and that could be very interesting. (No amount of practicing can prepare you for such a moment in front of 100,000 screaming fans.) Another intriguing aspect of special teams play is the stability of kicker Colby Delahoussaye. As we’ve already discussed, Delahoussaye had trouble at the end of last season, so it’ll be interesting to see if the junior placekicker can get things back on track. As for McNeese State, the Cowboys will debut a new field goal kicker this season since Alex Kjellsten graduated. Handling the punting duties again for the Cowboys will be Jean Breaux, who has been a consistent punter for McNeese State since starting as a freshman in 2012.
On one hand, the fact that this is the season opener and a night game in Tiger Stadium makes it tempting to give LSU a big advantage in intangibles. But on the other hand, with two big conference games looming in the next two weeks, LSU could very well be looking ahead and underestimating this in-state foe. For McNeese, this is the biggest game on their schedule, and a large percentage of their players grew up dreaming of playing in Tiger Stadium. You can bet your bottom dollar they will be sky-high for this game, and if LSU doesn’t match their intensity this could be a very interesting contest.
Now let’s jump to our Countdown to Game Day, which is at the 5-day mark, by remembering a huge come-from-behind victory by the top-ranked Tigers over the 9th ranked Florida Gators in 2007. LSU entered the contest 5-0 (with big wins over No. 9 Virginia Tech and No. 12 South Carolina) and had just vaulted to the No. 1 spot in the AP poll for the first time since 1959. By this point in the season, it was plain to see that this was a very special LSU team, and the Florida Gators (led by quarterback Tim Tebow) were a powerful bunch as well. ESPN’s Game Day crew setup on the Parade Grounds and Mike VI made his Death Valley debut for what would be a truly epic contest. Although LSU trailed by double digits entering the fourth quarter, the Tigers would prevail thanks to the gritty play of fullback Jacob Hester and the gutsy play-calling of Coach Les Miles who went for it on fourth down on five different occasions and was successful on all five attempts. What a game! If you’ve got time to spare on this Monday morning, check out these video highlights of the game. Warning: The video, by YouTube user Kevin Parnella, is very roughly edited, but it should be good enough to rekindle a special memory for any of you who witnessed that incredible game.
In closing, I want to call your attention to something that’s not related to LSU sports but might be of interest to some of you - a question and answer series that Kinny Haddox of LakeDarbonnelife.com conducted with me on the topic of my love of fishing. He’s posted the first of three installments today, which is titled “Long Way to fishing Fun.” I hope many of you will give it and read and share your thoughts.
Oh, and I’ve updated our Ticket Exchange and View-in Parties pages.