The LSU Tigers will take the field Saturday night in their final “preseason” game before SEC play when they host the Idaho Vandals, though they do still have fellow cupcake Towson on their schedule before the beef of their competition.
The Vandals will give LSU a chance to fine tune a team that still has questions surrounding key areas on both sides of the ball. This Saturday also give the Tigers a chance to address their depth issues with the news this week that their most experienced returning linebacker, Tahj Jones, will be academically ineligible for the rest of the season, along with fellow backer D.J. Welter, offensive lineman Evan Washington and tight end Tyler Edwards.
Couple the academic losses with likely season ending injuries to junior left tackle Chris Faulk and sophomore defensive end Jordan Allen, and you have a team that has plenty to prepare for before playing the likes of No. 18 Florida, No. 8 South Carolina and No.1 Alabama.
Idaho will be well out of their comfort zone in Death Valley after starting the season 0-2, with losses against the fearsome duo of Eastern Washington and Bowling Green. Please excuse me as I dry my keyboard.
LSU should take this opportunity to do something that they have yet to do up until this point – throw the ball downfield.
The Tigers have yet to unleash the arm of junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger and have likewise yet to show any form of consistency in a passing game that has been praised all offseason for being much improved from last year. During the 2011 season, Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee combined for just over 2,000 passing yards and 20 touchdowns.
Don’t get me wrong, there has been a load of improvement from a season ago with Mettenberger throwing for nearly 400 yards with an impressive 70.5 completion percentage, however the longest pass play through two games was a 34-yard touchdown to junior Kadron Boone against North Texas.
The issue isn’t that the ball needs to be thrown around 30 times a game, but instead that Mettenberger and this relatively thin receiving core gain the confidence needed for a big play in a key situation.
Through two games the Vandals have allowed an average of 270 passing yards a game and have an undersized group of defensive backs that would have a tough time matching up with the likes of Boone, Jarvis Landry, James Wright, and Odell Beckham Jr., assuming they get the opportunity to show their skill set.
Les Miles shouldn’t limit the offense to just a ground and pound attack that features the deepest group of running backs in college football. The bruisers are there and their opportunities will be plentiful this season, but for this game Miles could do a lot on the road to easing the pain from last year’s National Championship game by simply giving the fans what they have been so anxiously wanting.
LSU is due for a close game one of these days, but Idaho is outmatched and pose absolutely zero threat of pulling a UL Monroe this week. They should instead be the stepping-stone the Tigers to ensure the fan base, as well as the whole college football landscape, that this is not your everyday LSU football program, but is instead the most talented overall team in the nation.
Look for LSU to jump on top of Idaho early and often, playing their first 7 p.m. kickoff of the season under the lights in Tiger Stadium. The Vandals have yet to play in front of a crowd larger than 16,591 this season. Good luck playing in front of 92,000 strong.
Things to watch for:
- The distribution of carries between backs. Last season’s workhorse, Spencer Ware, has only eight carries so far and should be in line for an increased work load now that his legs are getting back to form.
- Stephen Rivers should throw his first pass of the season. Mettenberger won’t be asked to play past the third quarter and Rivers needs some game action in the event that he is called upon later in the season.
- The LSU secondary. The young corners have had two games to learn their roles since the dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu. Look for the freshman duo of Jalen Collins and Jalen Mills to take another step in the right direction playing a Vandals team not scared to throw the ball around after passing for 352 yards last week against Bowling Green.
Prediction: LSU 48 Idaho 10
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