Enough talk! Time for LSU football

With apologies to Rick Bragg, one of the finest Southern authors out there, it is all over but the shouting as far as the LSU football pre-season goes.<br><br>Time has run out for conjecture, prognosticating and any other $10 word you'd like to apply to the time-honored tradition of discussing Tiger football without having a game to talk about.



Come Sunday evening, our mouths will overflow with conversation about whether LSU met the expectations most had for the team heading into the 2002 season.


Virginia Tech certainly said a mouthful with its 63-7 bashing of lowly Arkansas State. The ASU team that came to LSU in 1998 and lost 42-6 was worlds better than the Indians' team that got its tail handed to them in Blacksburg last weekend. When their center regularly encountered difficulty getting the ball to the quarterback, you knew it was going to be a long day for the visitors.


Naturally it begs the question of whether Virginia Tech is as strong as their performance might indicate. Since head coach Frank Beamer pulled most of his first and second teamers at halftime, I reason that it is still hard to gauge how good the Hokies really are.


Much like LSU, Tech hasn't put its best players through the rigors against tough competition. Grant Noel may not be able to handle four quarters of physical football, and backup Bryan Randall probably won't have the run of the field against the Tigers like he did against Arkansas State.


Of course, it may well be that running back Lee Suggs can pick up where he left off after gaining 87 first half yards. LSU fans have to hope LaBrandon Toefield looks as good coming back from his ACL tear as Suggs did against the Indians.


Sunday's game should provide insight on these matters in addition to revealing which team enters the season in better condition. As we've already pointed out, the Hokies' starters were long gone by halftime and walk-ons were on the field during the late stages when the results of summer conditioning are usually uncovered.


One thing that stood out to me during LSU's fall camp was the superb condition of every player on the team – yes, I do mean every player. In every fall camp that I have covered, you could always count on a handful of players succumbing to the heat and missing practice time. This month saw just one player held out of practice due to heat-related problems.


The staff kept defensive end Marquise Hill out of last Thursday's scrimmage after he required an IV to treat dehydration cramps he suffered the night before. He was still a bit sore before the scrimmage but his condition improved in time for him to resume practice on Saturday.


Aside from Hill's brief absence, there were no other players sidelined due to the heat. This August was as hot and nasty as any in recent memory, but head coach Nick Saban's approach to fall camp allows his players to recover between practices.


Perhaps Sunday's game could come down which team is able to throw the last punch. If so, you have to be encouraged by the positive results of the Tigers' summer conditioning program. They'll be able to answer the bell in the late rounds.


Virginia Tech probably didn't unleash its full offensive arsenal against Arkansas State. But based upon how infrequently the Hokies threw the ball last year and last weekend, you have to think the LSU brings a better combination to the fight. In virtually everyone of their games last season, Virginia Tech yardage totals were weighted 3-to-1 in favor of rushing. 


And to thoroughly wear out this boxing analogy, I would look for a couple of surprise punches from both teams – perhaps from the special teams.


Borrowing from Mills Lane, there's nothing left to do now but "get it on" - in the boxing sense, and not as Marvin Gaye meant. 

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