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LSU vs. Wisconsin - August 30, 2014 - 8:00 P.M. Kickoff (ESPN)
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8/29/14 5:45 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

With only one day remaining until Game Day, excitement for LSU football is reaching a fever pitch. I’m sure you don’t need much help getting pumped for tomorrow’s contest, but, just in case, here’s a new hype video by LesMiles.net that will do the trick: LSU - Wisconsin Game Trailer.

The LSU football team will depart from Baton Rouge at 1:30 today and will arrive in Houston in time for a walk-though at NRG Stadium at 3:35. Yesterday LSU released a list of Times of Interest and I was happy to see that the Golden Band from Tigerland will be performing for pre-game and at halftime. Click here for the complete list of Times of Interest for tomorrow’s game.

Earlier in the week I gave you our comparisons of the LSU and Wisconsin offenses, and today we’ll do the same with the defenses and special teams. Tomorrow I’ll give you our keys to an LSU victory, and then after that it’ll be time to see how this thing plays out on the field. As a refresher, I’ve included below what we surmised about the offensive units:

QB: Toss-up (QB play could be a big difference-maker in the game)
OL: Slight Advantage LSU

TE: Advantage LSU
RB: Slight Advantage Wisconsin

WR: Advantage LSU 

DL: For teams that posses such great potential on the offensive line, the Tigers’ and the Badgers’ defensive lines are relatively unknown commodities. LSU’s is in better shape than Wisconsin’s, though. Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter are two athletic defensive ends who totaled 14.5 tackles for loss last season, and they should give LSU a great pass rush. On the inside, the Tigers will have Christian LaCouture as one starter and either Quintin Thomas or Frank Herron as the other, plus several very talented, though inexperienced backups. As for the Badgers, they lost their entire starting line from last year’s team (two defensive ends and a nose tackle in their standard 3-4-4 formation), and they too will be relying on a lot of relatively inexperienced talent. Their best and most experienced D-lineman appears to be nose tackle Warren Herring who is a redshirt senior. He had four sacks last year as a backup. Slight Advantage LSU

LB: The Tigers have a very deep and fast group of linebackers, headlined by DJ Welter and Kendell Beckwith at middle linebacker, Lamar Louis at strong side linebacker and Kwon Alexander on the weak side. With players like Deion Jones, Ronnie Feist, Duke Riley and others also in the mix, the Tigers should be able to rotate several linebackers who can move well laterally, apply pressure in blitzing situations and be fairly decent in coverage. The unit’s biggest challenge is in replacing Lamin Barrow, who accounted for more than 100 tackles last season. As for Wisconsin, the Badgers will have to replace Chris Borland, who was the best player on the Badgers’ defense a year ago. Add in the fact that Brandon Kelly and Ethan Armstrong graduated at outside linebacker, and a fairly new crop of linebackers will have major responsibilities this season. Tigers’ experience and depth gives LSU the edge. Advantage LSU

DB: Traditionally, the Badgers are tough on the line and at linebacker, but this season, Wisconsin’s strength will be in the secondary. Michael Caputo returns at safety. Caputo was the leading tackler a year ago, and he will be playing with some experience surrounding him at cornerback. Though Wisconsin’s secondary is considered to be a strength in 2014, it still isn’t as strong as LSU’s. With Tre’Davious White and Rashard Robinson at the corners, Jalen Mills and a revolving door of athletic safeties behind them, few secondaries in the nation can compare to LSU’s. Advantage LSU

Special Teams: The third phase of the game is a tossup at this point. LSU has the legs with Colby Delahoussaye returning as the field goal specialist (he was 12-of-13 last year) and Jamie Kheen returning as the punter. With the departure of James Hairston, LSU will have a new kickoff specialist in either freshman Cameron Gamble or sophomore Trent Domingue. Wisconsin returns its field goal kicker and punter, and while both were solid last year neither was quite as impressive statistically as LSU’s Delahoussaye and Kheen. Like LSU, Wisconsin will turn to a new kickoff specialist this year, freshman Rafael Gaglianone, but he appears to be a special one. In the return game, Kenzel Doe is back to return kickoffs and punts for the Badgers, and he led the Big Ten Conference with a 26.5-yard average on kickoffs last year. In the Capitol One Bowl, Doe showcased his electric athleticism with a 91-yard kickoff return. It appears that LSU will feature speedster Travin Dural in the return game, but they have several other options including sophomore TréDavious White and many talented but unproven freshmen. Even

Intangibles: With the game being played in Houston, LSU will definitely have a huge crowd advantage, and this could be significant for both teams’ inexperienced quarterbacks. Both teams have outstanding records in season openers and in non-conference play. The Badgers have won 16 consecutive season-openers, dating back to 1998, while LSU has won 11 dating back to 2003. LSU currently has the nation’s longest regular-season non-conference winning streak at 45 straight games, but during that same period Wisconsin has won the second most with 43. This one’s close, but the edge goes to Tigers. Advantage LSU

In recruiting news, at least a half-dozen LSU targets will be attending tomorrow night’s game in Houston. According to this article by Jimmy Smith of nola.com, the list of visitors includes several players already committed to LSU for the class of 2015 like in-state running backs Derrius Guice, Nick Brosette and David Ducre, as well as several class of 2016 targets like quarterback Shea Patterson of Calvary Baptist and defensive tackle Ed Alexander of St Thomas Aquinas. Although this game won’t give LSU a chance to show of its facilities and the magic of Tiger Stadium, seeing 60,000+ LSU fans show up to see the Tigers play in a top-class NFL stadium should make quite an impression on the group, especially if the Tigers take care of business as I expect they will.

Well, it’s hard to believe that it’s already time to close out our 100-day countdown to Game Day with the number 1. There are several great Tigers who wore the number 1 (a couple who come to mind are Jimmy Ledoux and Brandon LaFell), but the one who we’ll feature today is the last Tiger starter to wear the number - Eric Reid. Hailing from Dutchtown High School in Geismar, Louisiana, Reid came to LSU in 2010 as one of the nation’s most highly recruited safeties, and he sure did live up to the hype. As a freshman, Reid played in 13 games with three starts and finished the season with 32 tackles and two interceptions. As a sophomore, Reid started in all 13 games, recorded 76 tackles, picked off two interceptions, forced two fumbles and was a second team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press, and he did all this relatively quietly while being often overshadowed by fellow defensive backs Tyran Mathieu and Morris Claiborne. In his third and final year at LSU, Reid was the undisputed leader of a Tiger secondary that was considered among the best in the nation. He finished the year with 91 tackles (42 unassisted), two interceptions, and seven pass breakups, and was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American. 

After his days as a Tiger, Reid was chosen in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers where he remains today. Despite suffering a couple of mild concussions, Reid had a terrific rookie season – 77 tackles and four interceptions – and was elected to the 2014 Pro Bowl.

One more tidbit about Reid: His father, Eric, Sr., was a three-time All-American hurdler for LSU from 1984-87 and is a member of the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame.

Oh, and since this is the last day of our countdown, here’s a little lagniappe for the number 1: LSU was named the No. 1 Favorite Game Day Location by Chris Fowler, the No. 1 Top Tailgate Spot by the Associated Press, and the No. 1 Scariest Place to Play by ESPN.com.

I hope you've enjoyed this year’s countdown and found it to be an interesting way to pass the time until the real action begins. If you have suggestions for next year's countdown, please don’t hesitate to send them my way.

8/28/14 5:50 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

After eight months without football, the SEC will return to action tonight with three games, and then in just two days our Fighting Tigers will take the field. Tonight’s three games will be Texas A&M vs. South Carolina (5 p.m. CT, SECN), Boise State vs. Ole Miss (7 p.m. CT, ESPN) and Temple vs. Vanderbilt (8:15 CT, SECN). Of course, the contest we’re all waiting on will occur Saturday night when the Fighting Tigers of LSU face off against the Badgers of Wisconsin in Houston’s NRG Stadium at 8 p.m. CT (ESPN).

It was great hearing from many of you yesterday about my position-by-position comparison of LSU and Wisconsin’s offenses. We’ll continue along those lines tomorrow by comparing the defenses, special teams and intangibles, but today we’ve got a lot to cover from Coach Miles’ comments during his SEC teleconference and his weekly radio show, which we’ll get to right after I give you my first weekly predictions of the season. Here we go…

LSU 27 - Wisconsin 23
South Carolina 30 - Texas A&M 24
Ole Miss 28 - Boise State 23
Vanderbilt 33 - Temple 10
Kentucky 42 - Tennessee-Martin 6
Alabama 41 - West Virginia 17
Auburn 45 - Arkansas 27
Georgia 30, Clemson 27
Florida 42 Idaho 6
Mississippi State 33 - Southern Miss 6
UL-Lafayette 38 - Southern 19
Wake Forest 27 - UL-Monroe 24
Tulane 28 - Tulsa 17
La Tech 13 - Oklahoma 42 

Moving on… during yesterday’s SEC Teleconference, Miles was asked how he would utilize quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris Saturday night. Miles responded by saying, “There is a plan. We’re going to do those things that we feel like will benefit both quarterbacks and play them appropriately…. We like both guys, both will play.” He later went on to say that there hasn’t been a lot of separation between the two.

Another thing that caught my attention during the teleconference was Miles’ comments about the defensive line. Miles said that Quintin Thomas is healthy now (after injuring his biceps a few weeks ago) and that Thomas has played the entire time (I assume he was referring to the whole week of practice.) He also complimented the play of freshman DT Davon Godchaux and said that he and redshirt freshman Frank Herron, along with a number of guys, will have an opportunity to play.

Later in the evening Miles held his weekly radio show, and here’s my traditional summary of what transpired:

The first caller of the night was Tom from Baton Rouge who asked if LSU was ready for Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. Miles answered by saying that Wisconsin has a lot more than just a very talented tailback, but that they understand the challenge of containing Gordon and look forward to it.

Steve from Covington called to ask two questions: Will Rashard Robinson start at cornerback, and how has Leonard Fournette looked in scrimmages and practice? Miles answered by saying that Fournette is a physical back with great speed and he’s looked really, really good in scrimmages. As for Robinson, Miles said he practiced yesterday and that everything’s good. (He didn’t answer definitely as to whether Robinson would start.)

As expected, Gary from Baton Rouge (who is usually the first caller of the show) asked about Kendell Beckwith, DJ Welter and all the linebackers. Miles said Welter has looked very good at the middle linebacker position and that Beckwith is competing very well. He went on to say that we can look forward to seeing both play a lot of football this Saturday. As for the other LBs, Miles called them a very quality group and added that the linebackers have an average speed of 4.55 in the 40-yard dash, which is really outstanding.

Rickey from Birmingham called to ask which SEC team Wisconsin reminds Coach Miles of the most. The two teams Miles named were Florida and Alabama, but he said there are a number of teams in the conference that, in part, remind him of the Badgers.

Holden from St. John Parish asked about Ronnie Feist. Miles said that Feist is a good young player who will see a lot of playing time as we move forward, but for now he’s competing behind Beckwith and Welter. He added that Feist will see the field in a number of spots, but maybe not in the first game.

David from Franklinton asked if Terrence Magee has improved since last year. Miles said that Magee is faster than he's ever been and is doing great. He also reminded the caller that Magee is wearing No. 18, which tells you that he is a leader and has the respect of the team. Miles added that we can look forward to seeing Magee as a team captain when the Tigers take the field in Houston.

Chris from Baton Rouge called to say that LSU fans are concerned about the two quarterback system and then asked Coach Miles to name the best pocket passer on the team. Miles quickly named walk-on quarterback Jake Clise, which silenced the caller and gave me a chuckle.

Michael from Morgan City called to ask Coach Miles if he was a big New Orleans Saints fan. Miles’ answer was “Absolutely!”

A little later on, Gary from the live audience asked how the defense is looking and how they’re preparing for Wisconsin. Miles pointed out that Wisconsin has announced that they will start a quarterback that has never taken a snap in a game for the Badgers, so they don’t know a lot about him, but that they’re preparing for both a traditional Wisconsin attack and a quarterback with mobility.

The next person to speak from the live audience was “The Evil Twin”, a longtime regular on the show. As usual, he gave a long, entertaining, comedic intro (the gist of which was that Houston will represent a big home-field advantage for LSU and that the Tigers will shove the ball down Wisconsin’s throat), and then he asked about active duty Marine Luke Boyd, who is a member of the LSU football team. Miles said that Boyd is a fine young man who is very easy to coach, and that he hopes one day to be able to get him on the field.

Back to the phone lines, Terry from Slidell asked Coach Miles if they have decided how they will rotate the four running backs. Miles said they really haven’t decided yet.

Steve from Houma called to asked about Clifton Garrett and Devin Voorhies, and I found Miles’ response quite interesting. Miles said that when Garrett came in from Illinois he had a bad reaction to the heat which really slowed his progress. He added that right now Garrett is healthy and progressing, but that he’s not yet in position to see the field as a linebacker, although he eventually will be. As for Voorhies, Miles said he will probably cut his teeth on special teams, but will eventually be a great safety.

A little later on, Don from Springhill called to ask about Tre’Davious White. Miles heaped a lot of praise on White and said that this year he will be given some return duties.

In the last segment of the show, Miles mentioned that 29 LSU freshmen have played in the last two years, which is the most in college football. He added that LSU has had more juniors leave early for the NFL in those two years than any other team in college football, and that those two facts go hand in hand.

Now let’s continue our Countdown to Game Day, which, incredibly, is already at the 2-day mark, by briefly recognizing two significant facts related to the No. 2: • First, LSU and Wisconsin have faced each other two times, and the Tigers are 2-0 in those contest. However, the teams haven’t played in 42 years. LSU and Wisconsin last played when I was two years old (in 1972) and the Tigers won 27-7 in Tiger Stadium. LSU won the first meeting 38-28 in Madison, Wisconsin in 1971. • Secondly, it’s worth noting that only two LSU players have had their jersey numbers retired - Billy Cannon (20) and Tommy Casanova (37). Who will be the next Tiger great to have his jersey retired? Send me a quick email to let me know your thoughts.

In closing, here are two quick reads for those of you familiarizing yourselves with Wisconsin: An LSU-Wisconsin Primer, by ESPN’s David Chang, and Five Wisconsin players LSU fans need to know, by SaturdayDownSouth’s Christopher Smith.

Oh, and later today I’ll update our Ticket Exchange and View-In Parties pages.

8/27/14 5:40 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

It was great to hear from many of you yesterday about my Q&As with Mike Detiller (Part I & Part II). Mike doesn’t mince his words, and I respect that. Several of you were surprised that Mike predicted the LSU-Wisconsin game to be as close as he did, but I don’t find that surprising at all. The Badgers will be quite a challenge, as their strength (power running game) plays right into what could be LSU’s biggest weaknesses (defensive middle). What’s interesting, though, is that the same could be said of LSU’s strength playing into Wisconsin’s weakness as the two teams are remarkably similar. Today we’ll begin our weekly position-by-position comparisons, starting with the offense. I have to say, I had a harder time with these comparisons than with any I’ve done before, simply because there are so many unknowns on LSU’s offense.

QB: Like LSU, Wisconsin will have a new face under center in 2014, and that man, at least for the season opener, is expected to be Tanner McEvoy. Little is known about the junior college transfer at this point, except that he is considered to have great mobility and he posed a 68% completion rate in his last year at Arizona Western College. Like LSU, Wisconsin could choose to play two quarterbacks in the game, with last year’s starter, pro-style junior quarterback Joel Stave, prepared to see action in the game. It’s still unclear as to whether LSU will start sophomore Anthony Jennings or freshman Brandon Harris, but I suspect that it won’t matter much as both will be used. At this point, there are just too many unknowns about both teams’ quarterbacks to call this one anything other than a toss-up. Even.

OL: The offensive line is another position difficult to call, but for different reasons. The Tigers’ strongest unit on offense is undoubtedly its offensive line which features tons of athleticism, size and experience. But Wisconsin’s O-line, with first-team All-Big Ten Preseason selection Rob Havenstein leading the way at tackle, is quite a formidable bunch. In the land of giants (the Big Ten is usually known for its bigger offensive linemen), the Badgers’ O-line stands out as a very impressive unit and is one of the few in the country as large as LSU’s. Get this: Wisconsin’s starting O-line averages 6-5 ½, 321 pounds. As impressive as that is, LSU returns four starters on an O-line that averages 6-6, 320 pounds, and has outstanding depth with backups like Jerald Hawkins and Elliot Porter (assuming Pocic gets the start at center) who could start at just about any other school. Slight advantage LSU.

TE: Wisconsin lost two very good senior tight ends to the 2014 NFL draft – Jacob Pedersen and Brian Wozniak. Pedersen’s loss is especially significant as he was the the 2013 Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year and was a key blocker in the Badgers’ running game. Pedersen also was an integral part of the Badgers’ passing game as he racked up 17 touchdown receptions in his career - the most ever by a Wisconsin tight end. Without Pedersen and Wozniak, the Badgers will turn to a less experienced group led by senior Sam Arneson and junior Austin Traylor, who are somewhat unproven. In contrast, LSU returns its leading tight end in junior Dillon Gordon who started 12 games last season, and sophomore DeSean Smith who was a high school All-American, is extremely athletic, and could be a valuable part of LSU’s passing game. (Not to mention seniors Logan Stokes and Travis Dickson, JUCO transfer Collin Jeters, and freshman Jacory Washington.) Advantage LSU.

RB: Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon is one of the best running backs in the country and his name is frequently mentioned as a potential Heisman candidate. Gordon rushed for over 10 yards per carry his freshman season, and then followed that by tallying 1,607 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns and an average of 7.8 yards per carry in 2013. Alongside Gordon will be sophomore Corey Clement, who rushed for 547 yards last year despite being third on the depth chart. LSU, on the other hand, has veterans Terrance Magee and Kenny Hilliard who are very good backs in their own right, plus freshmen Leonard Fournette and Darrell Williams who give LSU incredible depth and potential at the position. This one’s a tough call. I truly believe that Fournette has what it takes to be as good as any running back to ever wear an LSU uniform, but at this point he’s still an unproven commodity at the college level. For that reason, I have to give Wisconsin and Melvin Gordon a very slight edge. Slight advantage Wisconsin.

WR: Wisconsin and LSU are in similar predicaments at the wide receiver position. The Badgers lost their top four receiving threats from a year ago. As pointed out in this article by Bucky’s Fifth Quarter (a Badgers Blog), their returning receiver with the most career production is redshirt junior Jordan Fredrick, who has caught 27 passes for 302 yards and a single touchdown in his two years with the program. Of course, LSU is dealing with big losses at the position since the departure of its best receiving duo in school history - Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. The Tigers return a talented redshirt sophomore in Travin Dural to go along with unproven but highly-touted redshirt freshmen Avery Peterson and John Diarse and JUCO transfer Quantavious Leslie. And then, last but not least, there are the hotshot true freshmen – Trey Quinn, Malachi Dupre and Tony Upchurch – who could make an immediate impact. Both LSU and Wisconsin are young at the position, but the elite talent in LSU’s recent recruiting classes gives LSU a solid edge on the perimeter. Advantage LSU.

Stay tuned, Tiger Fans, as a little later in the week we’ll do the same for defense, special teams and intangibles.

With only three days remaining until Game Day, let’s continue our countdown by remembering a Tiger All-American who will be missed this year - No. 3 Odell Beckham, Jr. As stated in his official LSU bio, Beckham was one of the most dynamic players in LSU history. As a junior last season, Beckham earned All-American honors and was named college football’s most versatile player. He also set the LSU record and finished No. 2 in SEC single-season history with 2,315 all-purpose yards. Teamed with Jarvis Landry, the two became the first receiver tandem in school history to each surpass 1,000 yards in a single season. I could go on and list a full page of accomplishments by OBJ, but I suspect none of you reading this need any convincing that he was a truly exceptional player. To relive some of his greatest moments as a Tiger, take a moment to check out Beckham’s LSU Career Highlights Video. As most of you know, Beckham was selected by the New York Giants with the 12th overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, he has been hampered by a hamstring injury and has yet to participate in a Giants’ preseason game.

Speaking of former Tiger greats, each week LSUSports.net publishes stats on all former Tigers in the NFL. Click here to view their Preseason Week 3 Stats.

In baseball news, congratulations are in order for LSU senior infielder Conner Hale and junior outfielder Andrew Stevenson, who were each named to the Perfect Game Summer League All-America teams. Hale was a first-team selection, and Stevenson was voted to the third team. Hale, a product of New Port Richey, Fla., helped lead the Falmouth Commodores to the Cape Cod League championship series, batting .327 (56-for-171) with 12 doubles, one triple, four homers and 38 RBI. Stevenson, a native of Youngsville, La., helped lead the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox to the Cape Cod League title, batting .327 (55-for-168) with nine doubles, one triple, one homer, 16 RBI, 30 runs, and 21 stolen bases.

In closing, I’d like to point out that I updated our Ticket Exchange last night with tons of new listings.

 

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