With SEC play now right around the corner, LSU knows how important this weekend against non-conference Central Michigan is. The purple and gold have plenty to fix and the Chippewas are sneaky good in a lot of areas where the Tigers have struggled to this point.
This is a game that could very well wind up a lot closer than people think for a number of reasons. Here are few predictions for Saturday's game.
Score Prediction: LSU 34, Central Michigan 24
The SI Sportsbook line has this game as -19 in LSU's favor which is a little on the high end. This is a game that could very well be a one or two score contest because of the strengths and weaknesses of both teams.
Central Michigan enters this game with a very potent running attack, led by Lew Nichols who's rushed for 214 yards in his first two games for the Chippewas. Nichols is just one part of a running attack that has averaged 230 yards per game.
This will really be the first test for this defensive line after allowing UCLA to run all over it in the first game of the season. Coach Ed Orgeron talked this week about how important it will be for the defensive line to remain in its gaps and not allow the Central Michigan offensive line to control the line of scrimmage.
"All camp I saw an outstanding pass rush and that has continued," Orgeron said. "I think Andre Carter has brought a great mentality to our defensive line, great techniques with our pass rush. We have to stop the run, be gap sound, be physical up front, make tackles. That is going to be a big challenge for us this weekend."
If this defensive line is more or less able to contain the run, there shouldn't be too many other glaring issues, other than the fact the Tigers will be without safety Jay Ward and edge rusher Ali Gaye this weekend. Central Michigan quarterback Jacob Sirmon has averaged 202 yards passing per game with four total touchdowns and isn't much of a threat to beat the LSU defense with his legs.
On offense, all attention will be up front and just what this offensive line will show in its third game back. Orgeron did confirm on Thursday that Chasen Hines and Austin Deculus will be available for the game and start at right guard and right tackle. Having the two veterans back in the lineup should help but just how much is the question on most people's minds.
This unit has really struggled with opening holes for the running backs and protecting quarterback Max Johnson. The sophomore quarterback, who has rushed a few throws of his own, faced constant pressure from both UCLA and McNeese. The gameplan is out on this offense for the moment, blitz and you should have success.
It's why starting off by setting the tone with the run game is so important. Tyrion Davis-Price and Corey Kiner must establish the ground game to keep Central Michigan on its toes and the wide receivers must hold onto the football for this offense to play with the increased tempo it's worked on this week in practice.
"I think we've made some improvement in it and you're gonna see it this week," Orgeron said. "You're gonna see it at opportune times, it's going to be part of our package, As we grow in it, we're gonna do it more so you'll see it some. I don't know what part of the game you're gonna see it and then we're gonna expand on it as the season goes on."
This is an important non-conference test for the Tigers, who have shown to be a potentially high scoring offense when everyone is on the same page. It's just the consistency and overall clunkiness of the pace that has slowed this team down.
LSU gets Mississippi State in a week, kicking off a grueling SEC schedule so if the purple and gold hope to make waves in the conference this season, it'll need to start with a mostly clean evening of football.