So Idaho is in town this week. The Vandals pose no threat to LSU, having lost games to Eastern Washington and Bowling Green. That being said, there is plenty to be gained by playing the game. LSU’s defense has been rock solid, save two plays this year. The team came out focused last week and put the clamps on a solid Washington offense. Watch the Huskies this year. They’ll score some points. I think Idaho’s offense will look similar to Washington’s in scheme, but the talent is a big time drop off. Young Tigers will get another chance to play. The older ones just need to stay healthy.
LSU Defensive Line vs. Idaho Offensive Line
Sam Montgomery came to play last week. The four tackles weren’t an obscene number, but he was in the backfield with great regularity. Most of that came on the bullrush. He does look a half a step slower, but the added strength has also helped. Montgomery will be fine, but I also expect him to cut some weight as the season rolls along. Barkevious Mingo spent some time in a walking boot this week. He can play, but I don’t see the reason behind playing him. There are what seems like an endless supply of defensive ends on the roster. They can fill in for a week. Lavar Edwards is the first man up, and he’s been great thus far. He’s got a couple of tackles for loss and a sack, but that number would be two if he had slung Keith Price to the ground instead of forward last week. Chancey Aghayere has played some end and tackle this season. He made a stop in the backfield and registered a sack late last week. Jermauria Rasco is a super talent who just can’t dig out from under the abyss that is this depth chart. He’s played some snaps in the early going, but expect more this week. Danielle Hunter is in that same boat. Rinse repeat. At tackle, LSU has gotten some really solid play. Obviously Bennie Logan is a staple. Josh Downs had a minor injury last week, but he’s practiced and should play. Anthony Johnson is quietly coming of age. He’s got six tackles, one for a loss, in the two games. If LSU were playing more high profile games, you’d notice him more. He’ll be a force by November. Ego Ferguson has been in on some stops in both games, too.
Idaho only returns a pair of starters up front, and the line wasn’t good a season ago. That’s trouble. Sophomore center Mike Marboe (6’2”, 303) and senior left guard A.J. Jones (6’1”, 282) are those starters. Marboe started all 12 games last year as a freshman. He’s a good one. Jones is obviously undersized, but the rest of the line has some meat. Jordan Johnson stands 6-feet-6-inches and checks in at 302 lbs. He’s the right guard. The tackles are big kids. Senior Brady Lisoski (6’4”, 330) and sophomore Spencer Beale (6’5”, 315) are the bookends. They replace a tandem of 3-year starters from last season.
This is a gross mismatch. Idaho is undersized at spots and inexperienced at just about all of them. The Vandals averaged 3.5 yards per carry last season, and have only netted 47 yards per game on the ground this year. They’ve already yielded six sacks, too. The Tigers will rotate in a ton of bodies, and the dam will break on an almost play-by-play basis. Don’t look for Downs or Mingo to play a ton. There is no need. That means Johnson, Ferguson, Rasco and Hunter should get in there for some really serious playing time in the second half. I can see Hunter playing his way into some snaps a lot like Rasco did last year. This may be time for him to earn that. I expect Idaho to try to get the ball out like Washington tried, but the sacks will still come. This mismatch is too great.
LSU Linebackers vs. Idaho Running Backs
A linebacker has led LSU in tackles for two straight games. That only happened three times in 14 games last season. The level of play and production has certainly risen early in the season. It starts with Kevin Minter who Les Miles called “a beast in there” after the Washington game. He’s got 15 tackles to lead the team, and expect that to continue. Lamin Barrow is second on the team with 13. He’s playing in the Nickel situations when Luke Muncie heads to the sideline. Still, Muncie has six tackles, one for a loss, thus far. Those three have really been a pleasant surprise. The young pups are cutting their teeth, though. The three juniors played well into the second half last week before Ronnie Feist, Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones jumped in. That shows that the older guys are standing their ground. I think the younger guys have ignited a fire under their elders. That’s the beauty of recruiting.
Senior and former Arizona State transfer Ryan Bass is the starter at tailback for the Vandals. Junior James Baker also carries some of the workload. Bass is the most complete back. He’s 5-feet-10-inches and 205 lbs. He’s carried the ball 23 times for 76 yards. Still, his longest carry in those 23 attempts is 10 yards. He’s also caught three passes. Baker is a load. He’s 6-feet-2-inches and 220 lbs. He’s caught a pair of passes and carried the ball 11 times for 3.4 yards per carry. Neither of these guys is a home run threat in the running or receiving game. They’re really just a change of pace for an offense heavily geared toward the pass.
LSU’s linebackers aren’t great right now, but they’re plenty good. Minter, as we suspected, has broken out. He’s making big hits in the backfield and taking control of the unit. He’s also more confident in interviews. Stuff like that shows on the field. Barrow and Muncie can’t afford to have a bad week, especially not in one like this when the young kids get plenty of playing time. I don’t expect them to. I do expect the freshmen to play a great deal in the second half. Watch Feist, Alexander and Jones. Lorenzo Phillips, too. It’s always impressive. As far as the matchup goes, forget it. Idaho can’t run the ball, and they sure won’t against a unit like this.
LSU Defensive Backs vs. Idaho Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers
If Washington was the first real test, consider it passed. Kasen Williams was a non-factor, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins was bottled up every time he caught the ball. Tharold Simon made two great plays back to back early in the game. He showcased those long arms and physical nature. Scouts will notice that. Jalen Mills was everywhere. He made seven tackles and had a gift of an interception as Price got rid of the ball on a 4th down. He’s got all the makings of the next great one. He’s got long arms and a fiery demeanor. He doesn’t back down at all. I also liked Jalen Collins last week. He’s not deflated by having Mills “beat him out”. He’s just playing his role. Eric Reid is playing around the line of scrimmage a great deal. He came on a blitz last week and batted a ball down. He’s got nine tackles and a pick through two weeks. Craig Loston has played a great deal of single high safety early on. I think he’s done a pretty good job. He’s not Brandon Taylor, but he’s staying healthy and playing serviceably. Micah Eugene has been solid as a Dime back. He came off the edge and clocked Price on a third down. It looked rather familiar if you know what I mean. Ronald Martin figures to be a guy who plays more and more as the season progresses. He’ll be out there in the second half. I think Corey Thompson gets some 4th quarter reps this week. Man does that kid look the part. He’s clearly fourth on the depth chart, which means he won’t play much. Probably just a series, but it all helps.
I’m actually fairly excited to see Vandal quarterback Dominique Blackman. The lefty completed 30 of 37 last week for 352 and a score versus Bowling Green. Jeff Driskel from Florida didn’t do that. Les miles called him a “throwin’ Jesse” on Wednesday. He’s 6-feet-5-inches and 270 lbs. That’s no typo. He’ll throw it around Saturday night, and that will be how Idaho’s offense moves if in fact it does. Junior Najee Levett is the leading receiver on the team. He’s a little 5-feet-9-inch speedster not unlike Brelan Chancellor who scored twice for North Texas. He’s got 10 catches for 128 yards including a 66 yarder. Jahrie Level also has 10 catches. He averages 12 yards per catch. Mike Scott is a senior who led the team in catches last season. He’s got eight catches this year including a 28 yard grab. None of these guys are big physical types. They are small, yards after the catch type guys.
Again. Mismatch. LSU is coming along in the secondary thanks to the rapid progression of Mills and Loston’s health. This isn’t the 2011 secondary, but it’s pretty good. If Washington can’t crack them, neither can this group. LSU will play a little bit off these receivers and make sure they secure tackles immediately following the catch. Expect a ton of screens and hitches. Idaho won’t have a chance to sit in the pocket. The offensive line won’t hold up. I think the secondary records at least one if not two interceptions in this one. There is way too much talent on this side of the ball. Still, these games are still so important for guys like Mills and Eugene. Every rep they get in front of thousands of people is a huge plus. Keep an eye on those guys as they continue to improve.
LSU played with a chip on its shoulder last week. The North Texas game didn’t go the way they wanted it to go. No sacks. Two touchdowns. That didn’t fly. They played a hundred times better last week in a route of Washington. I think the intensity takes a hit this week, but the opponent is much, much worse. I don’t think Idaho scores, but the emotion won’t be there for the defense in the early going, likely because it won’t be in the stands either. Look for a couple of turnovers by a rattled, pass happy Idaho offense. Expect their rushing yards under 50. Expect domination, just more subtle this week.
Prediction: LSU 45, Idaho 0