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The Film Room Previews: The LSU Tigers

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The official expansive preview for the Texas Bowl

At one point, the LSU Tigers were the hottest team in the country. They were plowing people with all universe running back Leonard Fournette and an opportunistic defense. Lately, it feels as if Fournette has slowed a little due to the loss of John David Moore to injury and an unchanging gameplan. By the Transitive Property Of College Football, Texas Tech should win this game because Tech beat Arkansas who beat LSU. By every single other metric known to man, the Tigers are favored. This should be an absolute war in the trenches. If Texas Tech can make some explosive plays and limit Fournette on the ground, they'll have a good chance. Unfortunately for us, that's a very big "if".

BOWL GAME PLAYLIST

Louisiana Ca$h - Bitch I'm From Louisiana

Louis Armstrong - What A Wonderful World

Tim McGraw - Live Like You Were Dyin'

Lil Wayne - Madden '08

Lil Boosie - Wipe Me Down Remix

Fats Domino - Ain't That A Shame

Some Dude On The Internet - FOOTBALL BACK (LSU Football Song)

OFFENSE: I-Formation

LSU has a very classical I-Formation attack. They're one of the last teams in college football to utilize a fullback. However, without JD Moore, their offense has severely suffered. This isn't to say that LSU doesn't have a powerful running game, it's saying that it isn't as potent as it was. Make no mistake, the LSU Tigers have the potential to run on nearly every single team they could encounter. This could potentially spell our doom, as we are very vulnerable on the ground. Travin Dural and Malachai Dupree are notable WRs, but without a capable QB to get them the ball, they can't do much. LSU's Achilles heel for many years has been their QB. Zach Mettenberger was very good for them, but he's gone, and Brandon Harris hasn't done much to impress everyone.

DEFENSE: Aggressive 4-3, but we'll probably see a 4-2-5

LSU doesn't necessarily love to bring pressure out of their 4-3 look, as their dominant DL has usually been enough to get pressure. How you beat LSU is very simple: control their front 7. If you can block their DL, you can move the ball on them. Their DBs are very good, but I don't think they're at that Patrick Peterson or Tyrann Mathieu level that LSU normally has. Jalen Mills and Jamal Adams are very good in the secondary, but I don't think anyone can last in a one-on-one scenario against the talent we have at WR. Our keys to this game are to force LSU to bring blitzers every single play. If we can get a couple of quick slant patterns isolated on LSU's DBs, I think we can make some very big plays.

WHY I'M WORRIED:

WHY I'M NOT WORRIED:

LSU is a one dimensional team. If we can force them to throw or play from behind, we have them playing our game. LSU is a team that's built to play from ahead. They struggle mightily when the other team starts faster than they do. We'll have a comparable speed matchup in the skill positions, so we'll need our OL to block well and our DL to play off of blocks. I think our OL can handle the LSU front 4 adequately, but i'm not so sure about our DL. It all hinges on wether we can start fast or not.

HOW WE MATCH UP:

First let's take a look at the LSU rushing attack and a play that has the potential to hurt us in a big way.

This play is called a "quick pitch" and LSU is a huge fan of it. It simulates a strong side sweep, but in reality the running back is trying to hit this in between the tackles. The tight end, wing, and tackle all block down into the middle of the defense, and if they call wall the lane off effectively, the running back has run right off tackle. This play against Ole Miss doesn't go for much, but we don't play the same as Ole Miss. We play more like the next play.

This play also doesn't go for much, but the difference is the penetration of Robert Nkemdiche. He pushes far into the backfield, which against a zone or trap play would be very effective. The difference between those plays and this one is that the offense wants penetration up the field. The pulling guard gets out clean due to Nkemdiche penetrating instead of fighting back into the play, making the hole wider and giving the LSU blockers a better chance at reaching their assignments.

Fortunately for Ole Miss, their safety plays this exceptionally well. Jah'Shawn Johnson and JJ Gaines, while good, have a tendency to over pursue these types of plays, hitting the play where it would have been a second before. Earlier this week I said JJ Gaines and Jah'Shawn Johnson are going to have to be stellar in run support, and this is what I meant. We cannot have over pursuit. As soon as Nkemdiche dives ever so slightly to the inside, the play is going to go for at least 3 yards. Our DBs are going to have to make some adjustments if they are going to be viable in run support.

Our plan against Fournette is most likely going to be to stack the box. That is a risky move, and these next two plays illustrate why.

This was a designed play for Fournette from the beginning. Despite the Tight End being wide open over the middle, the quarterback looks directly to Fournette. The receivers in the bunch formation occupy the linebackers that are inside the tackle box, and Fournette has it pretty much clear in front of him. The safety nearly makes the play, but the speed it takes to get him in the right position carries him too far to the outside.

This play and others like it are only viable when the box is completely stacked. The linebackers are way too far inside to be able to help with this while they're being occupied by the bunch formation. If the goal is to get Fournette in the open field, I expect to see a lot of this bunch formation - pick style of plays.

Fournette isn't the only weapon the Tigers have in the passing game, he's just the most visible. Both Malachi Dupree and Travin Dural are capable of taking it all the way too.

This play once again shows the dangers of what LSU can do with a stacked box. Ole Miss's corner plays it very well, but the threat is still there. The backside receiver in LSU's I-Formation with a TE wing will most likely be single covered. This can end great for us, like the above play, or it can end badly, with the corner missing the tackle and the receiver getting a straight shot to the end zone.

The only weaknesses I see in LSU's offense are FB play at times and QB play nearly all the time. These receivers can't do what they do if the ball doesn't make it to their hands. A lot of what we do on defense to stop LSU will depend heavily on how good of a day QB Brandon Harris is having. Then again, David Gibbs and Kliff Kingsbury have had around a month to scheme up whatever they can and make preparations.

On defense, LSU is exactly what you would expect: fast, with a tendency to be overaggressive. That aggression can really help them out, as seen in the next play.

Against a spread formation like this one, most teams would play with two high safeties. Not LSU though. Jamal Adams, #33, is only two yards away from linebacker depth here. His positioning to the line of scrimmage helps him make this play. If he's too far back, the running back has the opportunity to cut this back inside, where the tackle can wall off the linebacker in pursuit. Adams doesn't give the running back this chance, as both ways the running back can go are easily reached by either the linebacker or Adams.

This play is similar to the stuff we do with DeAndre Washington. If we hope to get him the ball effectively, we need to have LSU respect the deep threat. I'd expect us to come out swinging and try a deep ball very quickly, pulling the safeties back in coverage. That should open up the flats enough so that our slot players and running backs can get the ball with room to run.

On the ground, LSU is vulnerable to the read-option, which we just so happen to run very effectively with Patrick Mahomes and DeAndre Washington.

This play went for no gain, but it wasn't because of LSU's doing. Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly flat out missed the read here. The end plays off the cut block effectively, but the tackle is still in the way. With the nickelback taking the bait on the fake screen, Chad Kelly has a lot of room to run towards the left. He doesn't see the whole picture, and it costs Ole Miss.

If there's a thing that Patrick Mahomes is best at, it's seeing the big picture. How many times has he pulled a crazy stunt out of the air because he knew where every single person on the field was? We specialize in seeing the big picture, on seeing when to score or when to take it out of bounds, or seeing when we should scramble or throw it away. If LSU has one glaring weakness on defense, it's that they often times are so aggressive that things that appear covered are open. They swarm the ball and cover receivers, but often time with a little patience and a solid route adjustment, those receivers are open in the next second or so. Our offensive performance hinges on two things: will we make LSU respect all facets of the game, and will we be patient enough to make the hard plays.

THE VERDICT:

LSU is a very good football team, better than what they've been doing lately. This is a team capable of taking the best teams in the country down to the wire. It's also a team capable of committing 4 penalties in one play and setting themselves up badly. I don't think this game hinges so much on how we prepare, but rather how LSU prepares. Kliff is going to have some tricks and wrinkles up his sleeve. Will LSU respect the fact that up until this point, Texas Tech has mostly been able to score at will? We won't find out until the 29th, but i'm betting on LSU being at least adequately prepared for this game. Based on talent and the ridiculous matchup of Fournette vs. Texas Tech rush defense, I'm giving it to the Tigers, but it definitely won't be as close or as comfortable as most think.

SCORE PREDICTION:

LSU 45, Texas Tech 42