Tiger Stadium is a challenging place to play not only because the noise can affect the opposing offense. It also fires up the Tiger defense. LSU has a proud tradition of strong defense and Tiger Stadium, more than any other venue, thrives on good defensive football. LSU's 2010 defense has the early look of an elite unit that will make the home crowd happy more often than not. LSU has been winning thus far with defense and outstanding special teams. The main word to describe LSU's defense is "fast." The front seven is stingy against the run, and they routinely force their opponents into obvious passing situations. Then, they do a good job of utilizing their outstanding speed to get to the quarterback and force turnovers and negative plays. This will undoubtedly be the formula against West Virginia, who will want to run the ball.
West Virginia likes to run a lot of misdirection and zone- read running plays. Having just played Mississippi State, who runs a very similar offensive system, should help the Tigers in their preparation. The Mountaineers obviously bring a higher octane version of the offense but many of the principles on defending it will be the same. The Bulldogs had some success with those plays, but struggled when forced into 3rd and long situations. They threw four interceptions on 3rd down. So a big key to this game is whether West Virginia can avoid those situations or whether they can neutralize them with throws to the backs.
For years, the Mountaineers have killed opponents with big plays. LSU has given up three plays this season of 50 yards or more. The Tigers need to prevent big plays in order to keep the field position to their advantage like they have done thus far this year. With Noel Devine and Jock Sanders getting the football, that's easier said than done for the LSU D.
LSU will undoubtedly try to pound the football with Stevan Ridley. West Virginia's run defense has been outstanding, allowing less than 2.2 yards per carry. But Marshall and Maryland do not bring near the physicality that LSU will bring up front. The Mountaineers have also not faced a back as physical as Ridley. Can they handle it? If the Tigers cannot run the football, they could be in for a very long night.
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson has been the weak point of the LSU offense, which otherwise has all the pieces to be great. He has failed to throw for 100 yards in each of the last two games. But then again, the coaches have not asked Jefferson to do much. LSU was able to win those games by running the football and playing good defense, so why risk putting the ball in the air?
This weekend, LSU will need to open things up a bit more and utilize their outstanding wide receivers such as Reuben Randle and Terrance Toliver. Jefferson looked sharp in his limited pass attempts last weekend, and he will need to build on that in order to keep West Virginia's defenders out of the box.
LSU has their own multi-purpose threat in sophomore Russell Shepard. The Tigers use Shepard primarily as a receiver on short routes but often motion him into the backfield. He is LSU's second leading rusher on the season and has two long touchdown runs to his credit. He is tough to prepare for and could be a difference maker.
Field position. Field position. Field position. LSU has really benefitted from great field position in their games thus far. From turnovers to Patrick Peterson's returns to teams kicking away from Peterson, the Tigers have enjoyed short fields. Opponents have started only one drive in LSU's territory all season out of 39 possibilities. West Virginia has an outstanding return game that could help neutralize this advantage that LSU has enjoyed.
So what's going to happen? I think LSU defense will once again play well but West Virginia will be able to do a few things and possibly break a big play or two. LSU's offense will probably look ugly again, but I think they will come out throwing more than anyone expects to try and balance things out. I see this as a very, very even game but I like the home field advantage and LSU's big time receivers and return game to make one or two more big plays than the Mountaineers. \
LSU - 30
West Virginia - 27
Our thanks to our friend Kris Brauner at SaturdayNightSlant.com for his contribution