By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
The LSU Fighting Tigers are coming off of their greatest season in the history of the
football program. 15-0, National Champions, multiple NCFAA award winners, and the Heisman Trophy winner. Numerous team and national offensive records were broken by arguably the greatest college football team in history. A magical season to be remembered.
From their greatest season ever, to dealing with the strangest and most difficult offseason
that anyone could imagine. The 2020 college football season being played was left in doubt. As usual, the SEC took the lead and held its ground against the doubters who were and are against these young men competing this fall. Greg Sankey and SEC athletic directors met and decided on the ten game conference schedule that has saved the season.
LSU lost several big time players from last season's 15-0 national championship team. But this
team is still loaded with a lot of talent. Like Coach O preaches, "Next Man Up!"
I believe this offense will continue to be explosive, electric, and exciting to watch. Offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger will have a new passing game coordinator to work with as Scott Linehan has been brought in to replace Joe Brady. Myles Brennan will prove to be the real deal. He may not put up Joe Burrow 2019 type of stats, but he will perform at a Heisman Trophy candidate level, leading this young LSU team to many victories. At the receiver position, the Tigers are loaded. Terrace Marshall Jr. and Racey McMath will lead a very talented group that will give Brennan several targets to work with. The running back position is oozing with talent. Chris Curry is listed as the starter, but John Emery Jr. and Tyrion Davis-Price will both get solid playing time. It's a three-headed monster that could very well be the best stable of backs LSU has ever had. The offensive line lead by senior tackle Austin Deculus is huge, strong, and will be an outstanding unit.
Bo Pelini has returned to Baton Rouge to run the defense after Dave Aranda decided to take the head coaching position at Baylor. With Pelini's return, the Tigers will switch to a 4-3 nickel based defensive attack. Up front LSU is very strong and deep, even with junior Tyler Shelvin opting out of the season to prepare for the NFL draft. The new starters at defensive ends, Ali Gaye and Andre Anthony have been very impressive in fall camp. Many may be surprised that the linebackers this season, may be just as good, if not better then last. Micah Baskerville, Damone Clark, and Jabril Cox will be an exciting unit to watch. The secondary is young, but with some game experience should live up to the DBU standard with ease, as Derek Stingley Jr. and Cordale Flott will be the corners. Jay Ward, Maurice Hampton Jr., and Elias Ricks provide talent and depth at corner and at the nickel position. Senior team leader, JaCoby Stevens will be the free safety with Todd Harris Jr. earning the start at strong safety. Overall, I expect to see a better overall defensive unit in 2020, which will be needed while the offense may take a game or two to really find its groove and start to click at a high level.
Special teams should continue to be a strength. Coach Greg McMahon has returned for his third season as the Tigers special teams coach. Both kicker Cade York and punter Zach Von Rosenburg return after having an outstanding 2019 campaign.
The Tiger defensive should have their hands full against Mike Leach's Air Raid attack Saturday in Death Valley. Mississippi State will try to keep LSU's defense spread out and on their heels with a up-tempo attack. However, expect the Bulldogs, who haven't fully committed to a starting quarterback yet, to try and run the football a little more then normal Saturday. Returning 1,000 yard rusher, Kylin Hill could pose a problem for the Tigers. He is State's biggest weapon and with the LSU defense spread out, and the Bulldog offensive line setting up in large splits, Hill could possibly have a big day. But no doubt it will be Leach's passing attack that will try to put the most pressure on the Tigers.
“In this business we want to attack as much space as possible,” Leach said at his first MSU press conference. “We should be able to install it pretty fast and it is not going to be perfect right away. The more people the defense has to keep up with over a wide area, the bigger our chances are.”
At quarterback for the Bulldogs, expect to see K.J. Costello, a graduate transfer from Stanford to draw the start Saturday. The quarterback race has been a tight close one during fall camp, but Costello has performed well in recent scrimmages. Will Rogers looks like he will be the backup. Kylin Hill, a 2019 All-SEC first team selection, had 242 carries for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Leach has said he hopes Hill leads the SEC in all-purpose yards, and that the running back position gets most of the touches and yards. Mississippi State seems to be weak at the wide receiver position. Their top returning receiver will be Osirus Mitchell. Mitchell led the team in 2019 with 430 receiving yards and was second with 29 catches. The 6'5", 210-pounder will be stable target for K.J. Costello. He should be the first option in the new Leach 4-wide receiver formation. Tyrell Shavers, who transferred from Alabama is expected to start and be a top target. The Bulldogs should field a solid offensive front. They did lose a pair of starters up front from what was a solid group last year. However, there is quality depth and several options to replace those losses.
Mississippi State returns a defense that is full of talent that new defensive coordinator, Zach Arnett has to work with. Arnett will run a 3-3-5 in 2020. The defense is lead by senior linebacker Erroll Thompson who was the team's leading tackler last season. He is the heart and soul of the Mississippi State defense. The defensive line for the Bulldogs seems to be in pretty good shape. The Bulldogs were young and inexperienced last season here. Defensive tackle Nathan Pickering emerged as an All-SEC Freshman. He will team up with Jaden Crumedy and defensive ends Kobe Jones and Marquiss Spencer to give the Bulldogs a solid front. A huge question mark for the Bulldogs is the youth and inexperience in their secondary which is lead by junior safety Marcus Murphy. This unit will need to grow up in a hurry as defending LSU's dangerous wide receivers will be a huge challenge.
The Bulldogs return their punter and kicker from last season, both whom had a productive 2019.
The Bulldogs Air Raid offense is a challenge to defend, but the talented LSU secondary will be able to hold its own against an unproven group of State receivers. A fast and physical Tiger defense will give the Bulldogs fits. The big story in this one, will be can the Bulldog defense stop a LSU offense that should pick up where it left off at last season, and is just as potent as the Air Raid. I see the Bulldogs playing the Tigers tough for the first quarter or so, but the Tigers are bigger and stronger then Miss. State in the trenches on both sides of the ball and will wear the Bulldogs down. LSU will dominate this game and win easily. Big day for the entire LSU team, as they make a statement that they are still a team to be reckoned with and plan on defending their National Championship in 2020.
LSU - 45, Mississippi State - 17
3 Days Until Kickoff!