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An Early Look at What No. 20 LSU Football Must Do To Pick Up Win at Vanderbilt

Establishing run game a key to victory over Commodores on Saturday

What will the LSU Tigers be facing when they head to Nashville? It’s a sound Vanderbilt defense. The Commodores have some promising pieces LSU must contend with.

This may not be Alabama, but LSU needs to take the Commodores seriously. They were one drive away from upsetting Texas A&M this past Saturday. LSU should come into the game motivated after the heartbreaking defeat to Mississippi State. Let’s take a look at Vanderbilt’s scheme, as well as situations LSU must come out on top, and players that LSU fans should know about.

Scheme Should be Familiar

LSU employed the 3-4 defense under now Baylor head coach Dave Aranda. That’s the same scheme that Vanderbilt utilizes. It will help the LSU offense as there will be no element of surprise.

Being familiar will allow LSU to adjust on the fly as well as plan accordingly before this coming Saturday. It’s a big advantage for the LSU coaching staff.

The Tigers wide receivers, as well as freshman tight end Arik Gilbert, should be able to find plenty of holes in the underneath coverages, as the Tigers will be more athletic than what most of the Vanderbilt linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties can handle in the middle of the field and out to the flats.

Vanderbilt Defense Can Play Some Football

Assignment sound. That’s what defines Vandy’s defense. While Vanderbilt continually struggles to compete in the SEC overall, the one thing that the Commodores usually trot onto the field would be a solid defense.

Against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt allowed a grand total of 372 yards. More importantly, the Aggies only managed 17 points, at home, against the Commodores. A few things stand out.

First, Vanderbilt goes for the football. Three fumble recoveries by the Commodores killed the Aggies, but one must give credit to Vanderbilt for making those plays. One player going for the ball is not enough.

The Commodores will definitely bring 11 hats to the ball, and if an offensive player struggles to fight forward, a defender will be ripping at the football. It’s a well coached unit. It’s not an incredibly dominant front seven, and that’s where LSU must take advantage.

Vanderbilt cannot just pin its ears back and go for sacks. Vanderbilt allows some underneath passes and runs, but they really do not allow big plays down the field, as a rule. Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller did sprint to a 57-yard gain versus the commodores, but no other play went for more than 26-yards.

With that, LSU will certainly challenge Vanderbilt. More speed, more size and probably more playmaking ability resides on the LSU wide receiver and tight end depth charts right now than A&M. Still, do not discount Vanderbilt making LSU signal caller Myles Brennan earn his way down the field. That leads to the big question, can LSU’s running game get going?

LSU Must Run the Football Better

As noted above, A&M’s Spiller produced a 57-yard gallop that really showed his talent. LSU has similar talent at running back. Now it’s time to prove it.

A&M ran for 187 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries. That’s 6.9 yards per rush. While LSU’s line struggled at times with Mississippi State’s pressure and run blitzes, that does not mean LSU’s offensive line cannot get going against Vanderbilt.

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Down hill, power football will be needed. Brennan will benefit in the passing game, and power football keeps the LSU defense off the field. Look for a heavy dose of Chris Curry and Tyrion Davis-Price to get things going, and do not be surprised if John Emery gets a few more touches than he did versus the Bulldogs.

At least one of the LSU running backs needs to get the hot hand. Which one will it be? Could it be a true three-man rotation this year? The Vanderbilt game may be an indicator one way or another.

Whatever running back(s) that it is for LSU, just about everyone knows that coach Ed Orgeron wants to run the football and take pressure off his passing game.

LSU’s running backs also need to break more tackles and make more defenders miss. This is a big week of practice for the LSU running backs, no question. They need to take their game up another notch.

Last week, the three LSU running backs combined for 27 carries for 117 yards. That’s only a 4.3-yards per carry average. LSU needs to be closer to six-yards per carry versus Vanderbilt, including at least one 30-plus yard run.

LSU’s athletic advantage should overwhelm Vanderbilt at times, especially at linebacker. Need to win those one-on-one battles, linebacker versus running back, as the Tigers possess the talent to make some big plays in the running game as well as the passing game.

It would not be surprising to see LSU try and set up a couple of screens to Curry or one of the other running backs. That will also help slow down the Commodores’ pass rush.

Vanderbilt’s Pass Defense Looks Solid

Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond went 17 for 28 and 189 yards and one touchdown. That’s pedestrian by today’s college football standards, and credit needs to be given to Vanderbilt for making Mond look average.

He did lose some quality talent including wide receiver Jhman Ausbon, who opted out (sound familiar?). That being said, Vanderbilt did a nice job of mitigating big plays and being consistent with their assignments.

The biggest Texas A&M passing play gained a mere 26-yards. LSU should do quite a bit better than that, but Brennan cannot force the ball down the field for the sake of doing so. Further, he needs to be careful in the red zone.

Vanderbilt will be content with giving up yards between the two twenty-yard lines. Their goal is to make you earn the field and at most kick field goals. If Brennan keeps handing off to his talented three-headed running back group, hitting his check downs and making accurate underneath throws, it will lead to a few more opportunities down the field as the game progresses.

During the early portion of the game, if Brennan gets greedy, is where Vanderbilt’s defense will be more dangerous. The Commodores defended three passes versus A&M, and after the disruptive performance they will certainly be looking to add an interception this next Saturday night.

Players to Note

As a player that’s consistently been in the rotation the past two years including 11 starts in 2019, Dayo Odeyingbo will be a defensive end to contend with. The 6-foot-6, 279-pound senior defensive end recorded a sack versus Texas A&M. He also recorded seven tackles for the game, which is impressive for a 3-4 defensive end.

Playing opposite Odeyingbo will be Andre Mintze at the standup outside linebacker position. He’s going to be coming off the edge for much of the evening. He only recorded one tackle against the Aggies, but like Odeyingbo, he’s a senior and possesses the talent to make plays. As a junior, Mintze recorded 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.

In the secondary, sophomore Dashuan Jenkins returns after recording 58 tackles, a fumble recovery, and two passes broken up. Jenkins also broke up a pass against Texas A&M. He’s a bigger cornerback at 6-0, 190-pounds. Jenkins could be involved with some good battles against LSU’s Terrace Marshall, Jr.