Who has the edge?
Northwestern State’s Brad Henderson was spectacular in his Division I debut last week, but that was against a D-II foe. LSU’s Jarrett Lee has proven himself enough over time – including last week’s steady, if not spectacular, performance – to give the Tigers an edge. It may not be necessary for a huge day from Lee this week, but he needs to be consistent.
Running back: LSU
The Demons fell behind and weren’t able to rely a bunch on the running game last week so it’s hard to gauge whether they have a leg to lean on. The Tigers, by contrast, slashed through Oregon with two runners challenging 100 yards. If they run like they did last week against Oregon, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford will be an advantage for LSU against a lot of foes this season.
Receivers/tight ends: Northwestern State
Dropped passes stuck out like a sore thumb for the LSU offense last week and there were plenty of them to go around. Those drops were damaging last week and could be a huge problem if they persist. The Demons got solid performances from both starting receivers and the tight end as Phillip Harvey, T.C. Henry and Justin Aldredge teamed up for 12 catches for 224 yards – including a pair of 40-yard plays.
Offensive line: LSU
LSU’s o-line was the star of the second half against Oregon with a dominant, game-changing effort that helped Ware and Ford grind out yard after yard. Northwestern State had some success up front, but also allowed four sacks and didn’t create a ton of room for the running backs to operate.
Defensive line: LSU
A suffocating performance on the defensive line by the Tigers took Oregon’s Heisman Trophy candidate, LaMichael James, right out of the game plan and had a ripple effect all night on the rest of the LSU defense. The Demons simply don’t figure to have much more success than the Ducks.
Linebackers: Northwestern State
Northwestern State got big nights from both Lamont Simmons (8 tackles, 2 TFL, int.) and Derek Rose (8 tackles, 3 TFL) to key a second-half rally. This is the area of the Demons’ defense that LSU will have to most effectively scheme for to get the offense on track. A key element to watch is how the Northwestern State LBs react to play-action looks, especially on first down.
Henderson completed his first 13 passes in his debut against the Delta State secondary for 210 yards. It’s a pretty safe bet that he’ll find a few less open windows to throw into against the Tigers, and if he tries, the LSU defensive backs could have a field day with turnovers.
Special teams: LSU
One name gives the Tigers the advantage here: Tyrann Mathieu. While Northwestern State got a strong day on kickoff returns from Phillip Harvey (26.2-yard average), LSU simply has too many athletes to put on the field in the kicking games for the Demons to keep pace on special teams. Look for another big-time play from Mathieu to be the center piece.