ANALYSIS: #2 LSU at #16 WVU

Anchored by a nasty defense, confident No. 2-ranked Tigers brace for stern road test against 16th-ranked Mountaineers in Morgantown

Who has the edge?

Holgorsen knows Tigers will be a challenge

TigerSportsDigest.com staff picks: Week 4

TSD Thursday night chat transcript


No. 2 LSU (3-0) at No. 16 West Virginia (3-0)

7 p.m. at Milan Puskar Stadium/Morgantown, WV

WDGL-FM 98.1; XM 85; Sirius 85/ABC-TV

 

Series record: LSU leads 1-0 after edging the Mountaineers 20-14 last season at Tiger Stadium.

 

LSU

 

In the spotlight

CB/Nickel back Tyrann Mathieu (5-9, 175, So.)

 


Tyrann Mathieu: A key in LSU's pass coverage

Season stats: Team-high 24 tackles (16 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 3 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery

 

Why he's a key: While the entire LSU secondary figures to get put to a serious test by the WVU passing attack, Mathieu will be at the eye of the storm of whatever game plan the Tigers utilize against a Mountaineers’ offense that averages 41 pass attempts and 356 yards a game through the air. West Virginia often sends five receivers out on pass routes, making a nickel back a necessity – and for LSU a luxury when it is arguably your best playmaker on a spectacularly talented defense. Mathieu will still roam all over the field and will direct his focus at whichever receiver is looking to settle in open space.

 

Injuries/suspensions

LG Josh Dworaczyk (knee) out for season, QB Jordan Jefferson (suspension) out, P Brad Wing (thigh) doubtful, LT Chris Faulk (ankle) questionable, LB Ryan Baker (ankle) probable, WR Russell Shepard (suspension) probable


Schedule (3-0)

Sept. 3 LSU 40, #3 Oregon 27

Sept. 10 LSU 49, Northwestern State 3

Sept. 15 LSU 19, #25 Mississippi State 6

Sept. 24 at #16 West Virginia, 7 p.m. (ABC)

Oct. 1 Kentucky, 11:21 a.m. (SEC Network)

Oct. 8 Florida, TBA

Oct. 15 at Tennessee, TBA

Oct. 22 Auburn, TBA

Nov. 5 at Alabama

Nov. 12 Western Kentucky

Nov. 19 at Ole Miss

Nov. 25 Arkansas

Dec. 3 SEC Championship Game

 

West Virginia

 

In the spotlight

WR/PR/KOR Tavon Austin (5-9, 176, Jr.)

 


Tavon Austin: Dangerous in many ways

Season stats: The pint-sized and speedy Austin leads West Virginia with 20 receptions and 236 receiving yards with one TD. Averages 22 yards on punt returns and 29.4 on kickoffs with a 100-yard TD to his credit.

 

Why he's a key: Nobody on the WVU roster is more of a home-run threat every time he gets his hands on the ball than Austin, making it vital for the Mountaineers to use him in every way imaginable against LSU. Although there’s never a primary receiver when WVU snaps the ball, there’s no doubt quarterback Geno Smith will keep a close eye on where Austin lines up and what route he runs on every snap. On special teams, the Tigers’ coaches will have to decide whether to kick the ball to Austin and risk what he might be able to do in open space or forfeit field position and direct kicks away from him.


Schedule (3-0)

Sept. 3 WVU 34, Marshall 14

Sept. 10 WVU 55, Norfolk State 12

Sept. 17 WVU 37, Maryland 31

Sept. 24 #2 LSU, 7 p.m. (ABC)

Oct. 1 Bowling Green, 2:30 p.m.

Oct. 8 Connecticut, 11 a.m.

Oct. 21 at Syracuse, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Oct. 29 at Rutgers, TBA

Nov. 5 Louisville, TBA

Nov. 12 at Cincinnati, TBA

Nov. 25 Pittsburgh, TBA (ESPN)

Dec. 1 at South Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

 

Three keys to the game

  1. Dance with what brung ya: Both teams’ offenses must stick to what they’re good at and avoid stepping out of character. That’s especially true of the Tigers, who can’t get in too big of a hurry if they fall behind in a raucous road environment and have to play catch-up. LSU’s bread-and-butter will be a rushing attack built to wear opponents down, especially a team like WVU that doesn’t have the depth to match the Tigers’ physicality up front.

  2. Turn YAC into NAC: As often as the Mountaineers fling the ball around, they’re inevitably going to complete a few passes. A huge key for LSU’s stingy defense will be not allowing any more damage once a receiver gets his hands on the ball. WVU’s passing game is fueled by short throws designed to allow the receivers to find room to run in open space – to carve out yards after the catch (YAC). The Tigers’ defensive foundation is built on one of the most talented defensive backfields in the country and those four, five or six DBs must limit the Mountaineers to nothing after the catch.

  3. Turn the game around in a hurry: Last season’s grind-it-out win for LSU changed when Patrick Peterson returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown and put the Mountaineers in a 17-0 hole. The Tigers haven’t gotten that kind of special-teams jolt yet this season and could use one early on to plant some doubt in WVU’s minds. Likewise, the Mountaineers, who have the more dangerous threat in the kicking game in Austin, could generate the kind of momentum they need with a big play with the tenacious LSU defense on the sideline.

Prediction

Behind a smothering defense and methodical offense, the Tigers have made their first three victories look relatively seamless – taking control early in each and staying there by never allowing an opponent’s offense to get comfortable. That’s going to be a much bigger challenge against the Mountaineers, who seemed to have grasped first-year coach Dana Holgorsen’s spread passing scheme with a lot of gusto. If WVU grabs an early lead and Smith gets in a rhythm, the chance for an upset could be hatched and start to grow. But the Tigers will remain patient and their depth will take over in the second half, manifested in a tough Spencer Ware-led running game and a defense that will persistently come at the Mountaineers in disruptive waves. LSU 28, West Virginia 14


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