There were plenty of fans last week that expressed their worries about the upcoming game against the Roadrunners. The Golden Eagles, though, were a 16-point favorite, and not many could have predicted that the Eagles would lose in the fashion that they did. But this is a new week, and that brings along a new foe for the Eagles.
Unfortunately, that foe is the LSU Tigers on the road. It will be a tall task for the Eagles to pull off the upset, but if there’s one thing I learned from the comments on my Five Players column against Savannah State, it’s that any team can win any time. If the Golden Eagles are going to pull off the upset, here are five key players that are likely to contribute in a big way.
5. Nick Mullens-
The LSU defense is one that is pretty balanced as far as being good at stopping both the run and pass, so both the running and passing game will be important. That being said, at the end of the day, LSU is going to get points. If Southern Miss is going to pull off the upset, it’s going to be because Mullens came out and played with zero fear and played a great game. It’s been an up and down season for Nicky Gunz so far this year, but coming out and playing tough against LSU could start things going in the right direction, whether the Eagles win or lose.
4. Sherrod Ruff-
Coming into the season, there was a lot of talk about a lot of key players on defense. Frankly, Sherrod Ruff did not come up in many of those conversations. Perhaps those conversations should be reevaluated at this point in the season. To quote the great DJ Khaled, Ruff has been a major key on defense so far this season. Tied for fifth on the team in tackles, tied for third on the team in tackles for loss, as well as a sack and a couple of QB hits, Ruff has quietly put together a solid start to his season for the Eagles. Along with that, Ruff was arguably the best defender on the field last week against UTSA. We all know LSU is going to bring the noise in the run game, so having a guy like Ruff step up and make a major contribution will be important on Saturday.
3. D’Nerius Antoine-
This one will be a bit of a homecoming for Antoine and I would imagine he’ll be using this as a chance to show LSU what they missed out on from their own backyard in New Iberia. Antoine has been one of the team’s best defenders, yet hasn’t quite lived up to the hopes fans had for him this season. There’s still plenty of time for Antoine to put up some of those huge stats we saw from him last season, and this game under the lights at LSU would certainly be a good place for him to start.
2. Draper Riley-
After getting in a week of practice, all indications seem to be that Riley will make his season debut for the Eagles on Saturday. Although the Eagles certainly could have used him in every game this year, they must be happy that he’s back this week. Everyone knows LSU makes their money on the ground, so having the big-body of Riley back this week to help fill in some gaps will be critical for the Eagles in this one. One of the big concerns coming into the season was size along the defensive line, and that became perhaps the most critical concern on the team once Riley went down. There certainly isn’t much debating that it’s been an issue for the Eagles so far this season, so having Riley back for this one should give us an idea of what kind of impact he could have on the defense going forward this season.
1. Allenzae Staggers-
Until further notice, Staggers is number one on my players to watch list. This kid is ELECTRIC, and this is the rare occurrence where all-caps is actually necessary. Staggers was the leading receiver on the team last week against UTSA, and we all know what he did a week before that against Rice. This guy has more wheels than Goodyear, and he’s a big play waiting to happen every time the Eagles snap the ball. Everyone’s worried about the big bodies on the outside with Thompson and Jones, next thing you know someone from the slot has run past your entire defense and you’re standing there trying to figure out what happened. If Southern Miss is going to pull off the upset against the Tigers on Saturday, there’s no doubt in my mind we’ll need to see the LSU defense scratching their heads trying to figure out what hit them as Staggers runs past everyone.