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USU looks to defy the odds against an elite opponent
Week 6: Utah State (3-1) at Louisiana State (4-0)
When: Saturday, October 5th, 2019 – 10:00 am MST
WHERE: Tiger Stadium; Baton Rouge, Louisiana (102, 321)
TV: SEC Network (ESPN)
STREAMING: FuboTV – Get a 7-day free trial
RADIO: Utah State radio broadcast on 1280 the zone (1280 AM), 1280thezone.com / Tunein.com
GAME NOTES: Utah State | Louisiana State
ODDS (via ESPN): LSU -27.5
Three keys to a Utah State victory
1. Slow down QB Joe Burrow
It’s not a matter of if you can stop LSU’s top QB Joe Burrow: it’s a matter of how much you can slow him down (if at all). The top-flight signal caller for the Tigers is has thrown for a gaudy 1,520 yards and 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions through just four games.
No matter how you slice it, those are absolutely fantastic numbers. His extremely quick release coupled with LSU’s tall wideouts has made for an offense that has defied everybody’s expectations. Even with pressure in his face, Joe Burrow recently graded out as the best passer in the SEC.
Needless to say, USU’s secondary has its work cut out for them. If they aren’t careful, Burrow could cause PTSD for the Aggie defensive backs, who got bullied at Wake Forest. The LSU receivers have at least as much talent as the receivers the Aggies saw in Winston-Salem, if not more.
The Aggies must limit the damage through the air and tackle better than they did in the season opener. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long day and an impossible task to try and pull the upset.
2. Don’t settle for field goals in the red zone
Though USU has had a solid scoring offense this season, they’ve plainly failed to score as much as they should in the red zone. Ranking in at a very disappointing 119th in the FBS, USU has only scored 12 times in 18 attempts inside the 20-yard line. Only half of those scores were touchdowns. Measured against the Tigers’ top ranked scoring offense, with a perfect 100% scoring percentage in the redzone, it’s downright pitiful.
This is a contest where Jordan Love and the Aggie receivers need to be on point. There can’t be critical drops and drives can’t stall out. To compete with an offense like this, USU has to figure out a way to complete drives for touchdowns and keep pace with LSU.
Even one lapse on offense could doom the Aggies’ chances at winning in a shootout. The Tigers’ passing defense hasn’t been great, allowing 223.5 yards per game to opposing teams. There are holes a QB like Love can take clear advantage of. Now he just needs to play up to his potential and put together a strong effort with no turnovers, something he has struggled with this season.
3. Don’t get one-dimensional and don’t over-focus
With starting RB Jaylen Warren likely out for this contest, Gerold Bright and possibly Riley Burt will need to carry the load for the ground attack. We may even see touches for freshman RB Enoch Nawahine. USU’s rushing attack has been strong with Warren and Bright, but it remains to be seen how much of a hit it will take with Warren on the sideline. Burt has barely run in any contest this season and Nawahine was supposed to redshirt.
If the Tigers decide to load up the box and dare Jordan Love to beat them with his arm, it could be very problematic for USU’s game plan. Love has struggled as a passer when he’s pressured. His pass efficiency rating has been significantly hindered by the interceptions he has thrown on the year, including an ugly pick six against Colorado State.
If Jordan Love can’t count on help on the ground, an already tall task becomes virtually impossible. Dave Aranda defenses are typically quite strong, and he brings the blitzes from all angles. Another botched snap from USU’s center could easily result in six points for the Tigers.
There are only a few ways this game can go, and only one of them gives USU a chance of winning. USU has to make this matchup a shootout with Joe Burrow.
Love is plenty talented and his receivers can do great things when they get into space, which is doable against this LSU secondary. On the other hand, USU’s passing defense has been extremely suspect this season, so it’s almost self-evident that Joe Burrow is going to light it up to some degree. The Aggie defense can make a meaningful dent in the upset opportunity if Tipa Galeai or David Woodward can force a turnover (or two).
When it comes down to it, USU will fight and scrap hard for at least three quarters. LSU’s superior athletes and length will eventually wear the Aggies down, though. I expect a fair amount of points in a good game for USU, but the Tigers on their home turf will simply be too much.
LSU 59, USU 42