The collective mind of LSU is focused squarely on Wisconsin.
With little more than a week until the season opener, the Tigers are immersed in game prep for the Badgers. LSU started dissecting the Wisconsin film over the summer, spending months breaking down everything the Badgers could conceivably bring to NRG Stadium on Aug. 30.
A lot of that attention has been directed to Wisconsin’s star running back, Melvin Gordon. The junior enters the 2014 season as a potential Heisman candidate after rushing for more than 1,600 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013.
“[He has] speed, quickness, change of direction,” said LSU LB Lamar Louis. “He’s not a [type of] running back we haven’t seen since I’ve been here, but he’s one of the top…But we’re used to playing great backs. In practice, we have Terrence Magee, Leonard Fournette, and last year we had Jeremy Hill. We’re used to facing great backs, so we don’t key in on one. But we know he’s talented, and we’re not overlooking him.”
LSU understands that Gordon has a lot of hype surrounding him. A big performance against the Tigers would go a long way in kick starting his season. That may give him some extra motivation, but LSU sees it as an opportunity as well.
“If I was in his situation, I’m trying to make a statement,” Louis said. “I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s going to try to do. But it’s the same thing for us. We’re trying to make a name for ourselves. He’s supposedly one of the front runners for the Heisman, so we’re trying to make a statement also.”
An added wrinkle for LSU’s preparation is the Badgers’ quarterback battle. Wisconsin likely won’t name a starter before the season opener, so LSU’s had to study both.
Joel Stave enters 2014 as the incumbent after starting all 13 games a year ago. He threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 22 touchdowns, second-most in school history. But he also threw 13 interceptions and missed most of spring ball with a shoulder injury. He’s since returned to full healthy but also has some competition.
Tanner McEvoy transferred to Wisconsin from Arizona Western College in the summer of 2013. He moved to safety last season but has since returned to quarterback where he made a strong push in the spring for Stave’s job.
“We’ve been watching film on both of them,” said LSU CB Tre’Davious White. “We’ve been watching what they did in the spring with their new quarterback. [McEvoy] is a runner and [Stave] is a pocket passer but both of them can throw.”
Wisconsin’s uncertain QB situation combined with Gordon’s elite ability have most expecting the Badgers to run a relatively conservative offense against LSU. But the Tigers’ defensive backs aren’t taking them for granted and know they must stay aware.
“You’ve got to be very disciplined,” White said. “Anytime they can catch you off guard with a play-action pass and beat you deep. When the defensive backfield messes up, then everybody sees. You’ve got to be focused every play.”
As for LSU’s offensive game plan, WR Travin Dural said the Tigers will stick with what they do best, a power run game that capitalizes on the play-action to keep the Badgers honest. Dural compared Wisconsin’s defense to that of Iowa, with a physical secondary that prevents the deep ball.
“Those guys are really physical,” Dural said. “They tackle real well. You might catch a ball on them, but they can really tackle and they’ll break it up even if you think you have a catch…
“They’re not going to let you beat them over the top,” Dural continued. “They have safeties that can really run. They’re big and they’re not going to let you get behind them. They’re not going to let the big play kill them.”
LSU breaks down the Badgers
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