Generally in this space we take the opportunity to talk about matchups and game plans. We weigh strengths and weaknesses while awarding advantages to either team. What we’ve got here is the No. 3 team in America facing an FCS opponent. In all seriousness, I doubt the players and coaches have spent a bunch of time on Towson. They have probably spent the week correcting internal problems on the practice field, and the coaches have likely taken a glance at Florida. After all, the Gators are off this week and have certainly been looking at LSU. We won’t talk Florida this week, but we will break LSU down position by position without taking a look at Towson. You don’t want to read that, and I don’t want to write it. LSU’s offense certainly has some strides to make. Let’s dive in.
LSU Offensive Line
Unless you‘ve been asleep for a month, you know LSU has some issues on the offensive line. P.J. Lonergan and Alex Hurst have had some injuries, and Josh Dworaczyk has struggled at his new spot on the outside. We’ll start there. Look, LSU does not have a great left tackle on the roster. Dworaczyk isn’t. La’El Collins isn’t. Alex Hurst isn’t. There is a reason that left tackles make a fortune in the NFL. They’re vital to offensive success. This will be a weakness all season long. Dworaczyk is who the staff has pegged as the guy out there. He’s just going to need some help. As the season goes on, LSU will have to keep backs and tight ends out there to help Dworaczyk. I actually do think he’ll improve as the season goes on. So will his competition., though. He’s never going to be great, but with help the offense doesn’t have to stall because of it. Collins has played very well on the inside. He’s learned that spot, and the staff wants him there. He’s athletic enough to pull and big enough to run block defensive tackles with little to no help. Lonergan is healthy enough. I think you may see some Elliot Porter Saturday because there is no need for Lonergan to push it. I think Lonergan will be fine next week. Porter has been ok at center. He’s not Lonergan, and we know about the snap last week, but he’s going to be fine. Josh Williford continues to be great at right guard. What a fine job the staff has done with what was a project three years ago. Hurst is not playing as well as he did last year. I can’t give you a reason. I can just see it. He’s much better in run blocking than pass protection. Dee Ford got in the backfield at times last week. At least Mettenberger can see that direction. We are told Hurst is healthy, he just needs to regain form.
I’ve been impressed by Trai Turner so far. He’s got a bright future at guard on this team. Give him a look Saturday night. The same goes for Vadal Alexander who is auditioning for more playing time. For now, don’t expect Alexander to factor in too much, but if Dworaczyk does not improve, the staff may try Hurst over there. That would be Alexander’s cue.
LSU Running Backs
We learned Wednesday that Alfred Blue may not return this year. Without Blue last week, the offense leaned on Spencer Ware once more to be the workhorse. He was a monster. I’m not sure if I’ve seen a guy recently who takes contact as well as Ware does. He’s so strong. He also made a slippery little cut on a big run in the first quarter. That set up LSU’s only touchdown. Talent-wise he may be the best LSU has left, and that figures to point to more carries. He’s great catching the ball out of the backfield and he blocks well to. That’s becoming more important by the week. Kenny Hilliard never quite got on track last week, but he’s still the best goalline back on the squad. Don’t count him out. He’ll continue to impress. Michael Ford beat a bruised defense to the edge for that touchdown last week. That’s just what he does. That speed is awesome, and it figures to produce more big plays now that Blue, the other speed guy, is out.
Jeremy Hill was called upon to help in pass protection last week, and it looked like he missed an assignment on one play. I think Hill’s role will increase as the season goes on. He’s got to have the playbook down for that to happen. Look for him to carry the ball late on Saturday. He’s never had a problem with that.
LSU Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers
Zach Mettenberger was not bad in Auburn. He missed a couple of reads and dropped the ball twice. There is plenty to clean up. He also made some really good plays. On a third down and long with less than 10 minutes to play, he stood in there and hit Kadron Boone for 12 yards. How much pressure? Three Auburn defenders got a hurry on the play. His deep ball to Odell Beckham was pretty well-thrown but dropped, and he led Boone away from the safety on the sluggo that set up the game-winning field goal. For the year, he’s completing 67.7 percent of his passes, and that number could be above 70 if not for drops. He still has to get better in the red zone and getting rid of the ball. It’s only been four games.
The wide receivers have not been good. There is little separation. There have been drops. There hasn’t been much after the catch. The lack of a true speedster hurts a little bit, and none of the guys have really taken charge. Beckham has not been the same player since he fumbled the kickoff against Washington. He needs to step up. James Wright is hit or miss. He’s had a few drops. Jarvis Landry really hasn’t done much other than slants and bubbles. Boone seems to be the only model of consistency. This is a chance for those guys to have a good night. Maybe one with no drops? Score a touchdown or two. Gain some confidence for next week.
Finally, Stephen Rivers. The guy can’t get into a 63-14 game until late in the fourth quarter. He’ll struggle to get in anytime it appears. I’d bet a hefty sum that he’ll complete a pass this Saturday. At least I hope he does. How can you enter league play with a back up who has never completed a pass? That would be poor planning in my opinion.
The offense wasn’t good last week. They need to be this week. Having a good feeling heading to Florida is really important. Another bad showing would have to hurt confidence. You don’t want to play that Florida defense with some doubt in your head. Look for a steady diet of the run and a couple of deep shots. Mettenberger hasn’t hit that big touchdown yet. This may be the week. Look for Ware to run hard and effectively. Finally, look at the line. You won’t learn anything on the positive end if Dworaczyk is able to block the Towson ends. You can glean some negative if he can’t. Also, make sure Mettenberger gets the ball out on time. Sacks in this game would be disheartening. I expect LSU to play well in this game. That’s the type of attitude they displayed this week. Guess we’ll have to see.
Prediction: LSU 56, Towson 0