An Early Look at LSU Football's Matchup With Central Michigan

Tigers and Chippewas game could come down to success of running attacks on both sides
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In what is LSU's final non-conference game before the start of SEC play, there is plenty this group must address over the next week. Facing a Central Michigan team that took Missouri wire to wire in week one and coming off an impressive 45-0 win over Robert Morris won't be an easy task.

Central Michigan has a few strengths on its roster LSU will need to scheme for. Through two games, running back Lew Nichols and receiver Dallas Dixon have been the consistent options on the ground and through the air. Nichols rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown in a narrow defeat to Missouri in week one and followed that performance up with 79 yards against Robert Morris. 

Dixon on the other hand has brought in 10 catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the 1-1 start for Central Michigan. JaCorey Sullivan has also hauled in 10 passes for 141 yards and three touchdowns in the first two weeks so the Tigers secondary will need to be on alert against those two receivers. 

Central Michigan's offense is relatively well balanced in the pass and running attacks, which will keep LSU on its toes. Through two games, the Chippewas have rushed the ball 95 times and thrown it 72 times, primarily with starting quarterback Jacob Sirmon. 

Defensively, the Chippewas have been very good in stopping the passing game as Missouri starting quarterback Connor Bazelak wasn't the primary reason the Tigers won that game. If you remember in 2020, Bazelak torched the LSU defense for 406 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-41 win. 

Against Central Michigan, Bazelak threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns, a solid performance but it was allowing Tyler Bodie to rush for 205 yards that ultimately propelled Missouri to the win. 

The defense is coming off pitching a shutout against FCS opponent Robert Morris, something LSU was nearly able to pull off against McNeese on Saturday. Ultimately this game will come down to how much of an impact the LSU running attack can have on the Central Michigan front seven and if the defense can continue its upward trend, particularly along the defensive line.

Coach Ed Orgeron told reporters that the team is hoping to get Austin Deculus, Chasen Hines and Cam Wire back from injury next week, which should help open a few running lanes for the backs. This offensive line still has plenty to prove to just be an average unit but getting the starting lineup back for a game before SEC play is important. 

With a healthy offensive line, maybe this offense can start to string together a little more consistency. The freshman running backs also showed some positive signs though watching Armoni Goodwin immediately come out of the game with an injury after his 21-yard run was disappointing.

Until the offense is able to gain momentum, it's becoming clear this LSU team will go as far as its defense will take them. There were no glaring negatives with the defensive performance against McNeese but there shouldn't have been either. Expectations on this group will only intensify over the next few weeks with the Chippewas, Mississippi State and Auburn up next.

There definitely needs to be some momentum heading into the start of SEC play and this Central Michigan game is one last chance to do it.