Utah State takes on LSU in this fall’s money game
LSU returns same crazy good defense, adds NFL passing game coordinator to make offense more fun
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Utah State vs LSU might get ugly
Date: Saturday, Oct. 5
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
2018 Record: 10-3, 2nd in SEC-West
Head Coach: Ed Orgeron
Series Snapshot: LSU won both previous meetings with the Aggies, first in 1993 (38-17) and again in 2001 (31-14).
LSU 2018 Review
Lukewarm preseason predictions and a brutal schedule to kick off its 2018 campaign had LSU seemingly headed for a 6-6 “Maybe Ed Orgeron is in the hot seat”-type season. Then the Tigers dunked on Miami over opening weekend and stole a 22-21 road win at Auburn two weeks later, and everyone quickly remembered LSU for the powerhouse it often is. QB Joe Burrow and the stingy Tigers defense had an excellent season marred by three increasingly hilarious losses:
1 – 27-19 at Florida. Trailing by one with the ball and two minutes to play, Burrow throws his first INT of the year and Florida returns it 25 yards for a pick-six. Burrow throws his second INT of the year on LSU’s next drive to end the game.
2 – 29-0 vs Alabama. The Tigers’ last-ditch attempt to put points on the board resulted in an end zone INT with 3:35 remaining. LSU did manage to block two point-after kicks.
3 – 74-72 at Texas A&M (7OT), the most awesome must-see-it-to-believe-it college football game of the 2018 season. LSU failed to convert on its last 2-pt. conversion.
While Tiger fans insist they were robbed in that last one, LSU still managed to cap its season off with a bowl win over UCF and promptly took proud victory laps around Twitter for barely slipping by a team missing its starting QB. Last year’s Tigers had their share of hiccups, but finished as a scary good 10-win team way ahead of schedule — this fall, they’re contenders.
2019 Overview – Offense
LSU’s biggest offseason acquisition signals a commitment to cranking up the tempo. Coach Orgeron enlisted former New Orleans Saints offensive assistant Joe Brady as the Tigers’ new passing game coordinator, tasked with speeding up LSU’s offense by introducing no-huddle and RPO concepts. With two years on the Saints sideline under his belt, the 29-year-old will manage veteran QB Joe Burrow’s senior season in what could be a breakout year for an underrated man under center.
Burrow, a transfer from Ohio State, threw for 2,894 yards and 16 TDs last year while tallying 399 yards and seven TDs on the ground. The senior is as steady as they come, and even against a Utah State team that lead the nation in picks last year (22), interceptions might be hard to come by — Burrow has thrown just five INTs in 418 career passes. For even crazier context, the senior has only been picked off by teams ranked in the Top 25, and still boasts a 2-2 record in games in which he suffers an interception.
The Tigers have the personnel around Burrow to fuel an uptempo offense if they can implement it quickly, as seven total offensive starters return to provide veteran stability. Junior RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (658 yards, seven TDs) also returns to fill Nick Brossette’s starting role, with top prospect John Emery Jr. not far behind as a potential weapon in the new-look Tiger attack.
The receiving corps brings back basically everyone. The Aggies will likely gameplan specifically for Justin Jefferson (54 catches, 875 yards, six TDs) but remain wary of the following seasoned members of 2018’s 20-catches-or-more club: Stephen Sullivan, Ja’Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall Jr. and Derrick Dillon. The OL will also return four players who started at least ten games last year, including C Lloyd Cushenberry III and RG Damien Lewis who started all 13.
In short, LSU retained nearly everything Utah State lost this offseason while adding a new explosive approach to an offense that lost just three games last year.
2019 Overview – Defense
The good news is first-round draft pick Devin White is in Tampa now. The bad news is NFL prospects Kristian Fulton, Michael Divinity, Rashard Lawrence and Breiden Fehoko all decided to run it back for another season, giving the Tigers senior studs all over their defensive depth chart.
Oh, also strong safety Grant Delpit is back after a monster year leading the Tigers with five sacks, an SEC-best five INTs and nine pass breakups on his way to a unanimous All-American bid as a sophomore.
DC Dave Aranda has a host of potential national award-winners at his disposal this fall, and the depth to handle the strain an uptempo offense can sometimes inflict on its defensive brethren. The front seven is massive, and LB K’Lavon Chaisson returns as a frightening edge rusher after suffering a season-ending ACL injury in last year’s opener against Miami.
The secondary is similarly deep, with several speedy options surrounding Delpit, including 6’1 CB Derek Stingley and junior safety JaCoby Stevens.
No team is perfect, but Aranda is a defensive wizard and wields one of the country’s most potent collections of defensive talent. There are few weaknesses to be found in a team hunting for a national title.
Final Thoughts and way-too-early game prediction
LSU is legit. The Tigers return 15 total starters and added one of the five best recruiting classes in the nation. Aranda’s defense boasts your typical super-sized freak athletes up front and an All-American patrolling the backend, with the potential infusion of NFL-caliber offensive concepts poised to push senior QB Joe Burrow and the Tiger offense fully into the national spotlight.
There are seasons Utah State threatens to catch its big money matchup off-guard or on a down year, but this isn’t likely to be one of those seasons. Taking on this iteration of the Tigers on the road is tough enough — add in a BYE for LSU the week prior and you’ve got a potential disaster brewing. Aggie fans looking for cracks in the armor might note that LSU will face Florida the week after, setting this meeting up to be a potential trap game if the Tigers get caught looking too far ahead.
Way-too-early prediction: LSU 52, USU 14