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Three Things to Look For -- LSU Versus WVU Prediction

Can LSU get Toliver involved?
Photo via BleacherReport
The LSU Tigers will welcome in the No. 22 West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. Les Miles has a great record at night games in Death Valley, and should be confident playing with a team thats 3-0.

The Tigers have won this season thanks John Chavis' to stingy defense. But the offenses they've played this season doesn't equal the firepower the Mountaineers possess.

Here are three things to look for when SEC meets Big East on Saturday...

1) How will the Tigers' defend Noel Devine and Geno Smith?

A hobby of many football fans is to watch their favorite college and professional stars' high school football highlight reels.

There might not be any player in college football who has better footage than Noel Devine.

"It's important for us to wrap up," LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. Sheppard raved about Devine's explosiveness when he has the football in his hands.

Geno Smith is beginning to come into his own as a starting quarterback for the Mountaineers. It started when he lead a comeback against Marshall which resulted in a 24-21 victory on the road in overtime.

I've been hearing a lot about LSU not having faced an offense like West Virginia this year. But the bigger issue is for the Mountaineers, as they have not faced a defense like LSU this year either.

It will be important for LSU to stay disciplined. I watched the second half of the WVU vs Marshall game. The Mountaineers tried a lot of misdirection and zone-read plays versus the defensive line of the Thundering Herd. Every time the men in green did a great job of not getting fooled and "staying at home."

Expect more of the "Mustang" defense from the Tigers in this game. Chavis knows all the pre-snap movements the defense can throw at quarterbacks makes it tough to make pre-snap reads and audibles.

2) Can the receiving core have a break out game?

The most talented skill position group on the offensive side of the football for LSU is the wide receivers.

Tiger fans are concerned about Terrence Toliver. He has only nine catches and no touchdowns on the season so far. But fellow receiver Rueben Randle told me nobody should be worried.

"Teams are double-teaming him (Toliver)," said Randle. "He will get it going."

Russell Shepard dropped a few passes versus Mississippi State. Shepard said he has been working on the little things to get better as a receiver.

No. 10 has always had trouble locating the football when in traffic, especially on go-routes. He dropped a touchdown versus Mississippi State and one in the spring game, both should have been caught.

It's easy to see now that Jordan Jefferson is not a "special" player. He can be a good, but not great quarterback in this conference. He is not Peyton Manning nor Casey Dick by any stretch of the imagination.

Miles believes the passing will take off. In order for this to happen against an 3-3-5 defense West Virginia likes to run, everybody needs to be on the same page.

3) Will the offensive line continue to improve?

When I asked Jefferson about LSU's pass protection this season, he said, "I've hardly been touched."

Tackles Joseph Barksdale and Alex Hurst have been spectacular and the middle of the line has performed better than I thought they would.

The LSU running back core is the only unit, outside of quarterback, I would put in the bottom half of the conference. Alfred Blue hasn't shown me anything out of the ordinary and Stevan Ridley might be peaking too soon.

When I have watched game replays, LSU's initial punch at the line of scrimmage has been better. Opposing defensive lines are gradually moving backward as the season progresses.

The group will face their first three man front in West Virginia's "okie" front in a 3-3-5 formation. In that set, a nose tackle will lineup straight head-up over center P.J. Lonergan. This will be a challenge, but Lonergan should be able to win that battle. Alabama runs a three man front as well, so this will be great preparation for him later in the season.


This matchup could be titled "The Two Successful Football Programs With the Not So Highly Respected Head Coaches" bowl.

Miles vs Bill Stewart should be an interesting matchup. I've been thinking all week that Steward might have a few special plays up his sleeve against the Tigers.

But the game will be played on a Saturday night at 8 pm in Death Valley.

Unless Tim Tebow is suiting up for the Mountaineers, there is no reason why I should pick against the Bayou Bengals.

LSU 34 - West Virginia 24


Carter "The Power" Bryant said...

This is a brilliant analysis of the game today. The Tiger running game must get untracked. It's mandatory. Not only is the running game "in the bottom half of the conference," but it's not just the players themselves contributing to the mediocrity of the running game, but it's the coaching staff as well. For 4 long years, I complained about the underuse/misuse of Keilan Williams. Now my assessment is verified by his starring role for the Washington Redskins, just one year removed from the Tiger program as an undrafted rookie. Even if we had better RBs than Ridley or Blue, I don't know if we have the OC or head coach, to employ them effectively, as WV has the special sets to spring Devine for the long gainers. Heck, even if we had "SHOELACE," the LSU OC would hold him to less than 50 yards per game.
Tolliver has yet to get untracked, but I don't blame the OC for that, as much as I do his seeming inability to get SEPARATION. If he can't get untracked, I just love Randle. He has the game-changing, game-breaking ability that Devine has for WV. All he needs is the QB to get him the pigskin.
Shep has gotta hold onto the pigskin. There is no other choice. Not only this game, but for the upcoming SEC battles as well. He can change the game, much as Peterson does for us in the return game. But he needs to let the other team beat us, and not his un-stickem hands. If he doesn't Jefferson is mediocre enough, so when he gets the rock to Shep, Russ has to help him (and us Tiger fans) out. Even when we have great O-line play, a pass drop even negates perfect protection schemes, and I would concur that Barksdale and Hurst are doing a superior job thus far this season. But dang it, T-Bob has gotta learn to stop costing us with key penalties -- it's inexcusable.
Finally, Shep has gotta realize that dropping a key pass is equivalent to fumbling the ball, and as we saw in the Saints MNF football game this week, putting the ball on the turf cost the 49ers the game. Shep is one of my favorite LSU players, and I was sitting on ROW 8 LSU sideline50 yard line last year, when he ran right in front of me in scoring that brilliant long run vs. Auburn.
Keep up the great work on the website. We super-Tiger fans will keep following your commentary/special features that you give us. MJ

Carter "The Power" Bryant said...

Comments above are from my father, whom always has his strong opinions.

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