Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ragin' on the Cajuns: Will the Real LSU Offense Please Stand Up?!

I'm in the middle of moving West (and I don't mean Lake Charles), so this is gonna be quick. 

I've already said below that I expect LSU to enter this game looking to prove (to themselves, the fans and the nation) that they are a championship caliber team.  What that translates to in the game is a more aggressive offense.  And the defense is going to look to equal or better it's domination of Vandy last week.

LSU Offense vs Ragin' Cajun Defense

UL-L has a couple of good linebackers and a reasonable defensive line, but I don't expect them to be able to stop the LSU offense very much.  The LSU offensive line remains the question - if they gel, and can protect Jefferson, then game over.   Of course, establishing the passing game over the middle (Richard Dickson) and deep (Lafell/Toliver), will greatly aid the offensive line.  It's tough to protect the QB, or open up running lanes, when the defense "stacks the box" and feels comfortable blitzing multiple folks on passing downs.

I look for Jefferson to be tasked to throw deeper down field in this game.  So far, he hasn't shown the touch to hit receivers in good coverage, but he also hasn't attempted very many of those throws.  I think LSU will willingly risk ruining his interception-free season so far by pushing him to go for the tough strikes in order to stretch the field on UL-L and prepare for SEC defenses down the road.  He's got the arm strength.  So the question is can he thread the needle or hit the receivers on the run?  I think he can - he's done it in the past.  It's a question of gaining confidence during the game and not being overly conservative.

Advantage:  LSU

LSU Defense vs. UL-L Offense

Ragin' Cajun QB Chris Masson has a good arm and drew pretty high praise from Les Miles during his Monday press conference.  Couple that with an experienced and hefty offensive line and UL-L should be able to threaten to move the football and score points.  RB Undrea Sails is having a solid season so far, with a 114 yard effort against Southern and around 80 yards last week in the win against Kansas State.   The Ragin' Cajun offense has been balanced so far this year, and Masson is completing close to 60% of his passes with 4 TDs and 1 interception. 

With such a veteran, experienced OL, I expect UL-L to be able to move the football at times.  But LSU clearly has the better athletes in this matchup.  The unit that will determine if/how much LSU dominates this matchup is the linebackers.  Harry Coleman had a great game against Vandy, but the entire LB corps needs to step up in this game.  Assuming the LSU defensive front has their hands full with a good Cajun offensive line, the LBs stand to see a lot of action.  LSU's secondary is good and improving, so Masson will have to earn his completions downfield.  If the LBs step up, UL-L could be frustrated all night.  And I doubt seriously Sails has a 100 yard game against a solid LSU middle and talented LSU DEs.

Advantage:  LSU

Special Teams

Cajun kicker Albrecht is coming off a game-winning FG against Kansas State.  But he's clearly matched by Josh Jasper, who is perfect so far on FGs and extra points.  LSU has yet to scare anyone in the return game (except for maybe frightening Tiger Fans with a bobbled punt return last week), and the long snapper had a screw up against Vandy.  Overall, based on limited knowledge and LSU's mediocre (overall) performance last week, this is a push.

Advantage:  Tie

Result:  I see UL-L driving twice and benefiting from good field position on a third possession.  One TD, two FGs.  I see LSU driving relentlessly against the Cajuns with a wide-open offense. 

Score:  LSU 45, UL-L 13

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