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Three Things to Look For -- LSU versus Vanderbilt Prediction

Jefferson went a pedestrian 20-29 for 138 yards vs Vandy in '08
Photo by: Nola.com
LSU has started the season off with a thrilling-that-shouldn't-have-been-thrilling 30-24 victory over North Carolina. They are now 1-0, heading into their first game versus SEC bottom-feeders Vanderbilt.

Though LSU should win this game with ease, the Tigers always finds to make things interesting at the end. Here are three things to look for on Saturday....


1) Can LSU put together four quarters of high-level football?

An even better question would be, "Can Jordan Jefferson be a consistent quarterback from start to finish?"


The game against North Carolina drew very similar comparisons to their bowl victory in Atlanta versus Georgia Tech on New Year's Day 2009.

The offense started hot in both games, but then eventually cooled down in the second half. Jefferson has never been a second-half quarterback. In his second year as a full starter, I would expect the former Destrehan High standout to take the next step.

I know it's not just Jefferson. The team as a whole must stay focused for 60 minutes. But I am strong believer in quarterback body language and football IQ. Getting the football in the hands of Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle early and often is a good start.

Jefferson showed some improvement versus North Carolina. But until he puts everything together, such as keeping calm in the pocket, he won't become the 250 yards, 2 touchdown signal caller people expect him to be.

2) How will LSU rush the passer versus a mobile quarterback?

LSU's defensive performance had some bright spots, one of those being their ability to get the quarterback with just four rushers. The Bayou Bengals have struggled in that department over the past few years.

Make no mistake about it, Tyson Jackson, Al Woods and Rahim Alem were a solid defensive lineman during their time at LSU. But all three of these guys were below average at getting to the quarterback at the end of their careers.

Defensive tackles Josh Downs and Drake Nevis both showed superb swim moves at a 3-techinque (outside the guard's shoulder) in their 2010 debuts. Once they beat their man, they displayed quick closing speed to take down the quarterback.

Defensive ends Kiki Mingo and Sam Montgomery had fine performances in their first games. Montgomery picked up his first sack in an LSU uniform, but expect both of these guys to even get bigger numbers as the season moves along.

The reason why I stress getting the quarterback so much in SEC play is because the defensive line has always set the tone for the Tigers. In LSU's three losses against SEC teams last year (Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss), LSU tallied one sack total. That sack was a safety made by Nevis versus Alabama.

Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith can be dangerous if defensive ends lose their contain assignments, and Smith is able to get outside of the pocket. Last year, LSU did a great job of making Smith beat them with his arm instead of his legs.

I can't wait to see how LSU defensive line coach Brick Haley approaches this. Does he change his lineman's technique to stay more conservitive in their pass rushing lanes? Or will he rely more heavily on his more athletic line's capabilities to chase down Smith if he gets to the outside? 

3) Will there be a special teams encore?

If it wasn't for Patrick Peterson's record-setting performance returning punts against North Carolina, there is no telling how many third-degree burns Les Miles would have on his rump going into Vanderbilt.

Peterson was sensational. But that kickoff coverage unit for North Carolina equaled to what BRCC would put out there against the Tigers. No matter who they face, it is important that special teamers such as Tyrann Mathieu and Ron Brooks continue to make great blocks down field.

It is also safe to say Josh Jasper didn't start the season off the way he wanted to. He missed a field goal and booted a kick-off out of bounds in the first half.

I don't think Tiger fans should worry too much about Jasper. He stayed positive throughout the game, and did do a great job pinning opponents deep in his punting.

Jasper is still my pick for All-SEC kicker. He does a little bit of everything, including not being afraid to get his hands dirty on coverage.

Prediction

I just spoke to members of the Army who are about to be deployed to Afghanistan came to visit KLSU today. I would like to thank all of them and many others who fight to protect our freedoms here in this beautiful country.

The talkative one out of the group, Lt. Carrol, gave me the prediction of 35-13 LSU.

I said 28-13 LSU earlier today on our radio show. But what the Heck, why not add another touchdown? I say the extra score will provided by Kelvin Sheppard on an interception return.

Why Sheppard? Well it's because I haven't mentioned his name yet in this preview. He's too valuable to not have his name mentioned.

LSU 35-13.

1 comments:

Jordan said...

I don't believe LSU will score that much because once the offense gets a comfortable lead against their opponent they sit on the ball and wait for their opponent to make a comeback.

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