By the end of a long week with lots of chatter about an upcoming game, you really feel like you've said pretty much everything that needs to be said. I think that here too. With it still being early in the season, we don't know enough about these teams yet to really be able to talk intelligently about what we expect. That said, the mystery is itself somewhat enticing. Let's take a look at some of the more interesting matchups we will be seeing on Saturday.
Jordan Jefferson vs. Myron Lewis: We talk about Myron Lewis on here almost as if he is Superman. He's not Superman, but he's an All-SEC calibre cornerback on a defense that doesn't have as much SEC-calibre talent as many of our opponents will. I don't know if they move Myron Lewis around to match him up with their opponent's best receiver. If they do, I suppose we will have to challenge him at times, because I can't see us going the entire game avoiding Brandon Lafell. Personally, if I was Jefferson, I wouldn't try to make my living in this game challenging Lewis on the outside. I would go to the other side of the field or to the middle of the field. You have to go to him once or twice to keep Vandy honest and not let them roll coverage away from him. If Terrance Toliver can consistently give us the kind of play he gave us last week, we can exploit their pass defense without ever having to go after Lewis.
LSU Offensive Line vs. Vandy Defensive Line: Well, duh. You could say this about every game. In this case, it is especially important because our OL did not perform up to snuff against Washington's DL. Vandy's defensive line is a pretty solid bunch in their own right. I truly believe that if our offensive line can consistently get a push against Vandy's defensive line, we will probably win this game by multiple touchdowns. If Vandy's defensive line can get a tie here, we could be in trouble. Watch Charles Scott's production. Last week, he started the game with a 21 yard run, then averaged less than three yards per carry the rest of the game. That was due to a lack of push by the offensive line. I will especially be watching the center-left guard, where we are breaking in two new starters.
LSU Defensive Line vs. Vandy Offensive Line: Again, I know I'm not exactly thinking outside the box here. I keep pointing to the offensive line's poor showing against Washington, but Poseur keeps pointing to the defensive line. The defensive line definitely lost contain on Jake Locker much too often last Saturday night, and we face another quarterback with good legs this Saturday. I don't put Larry Smith in the same category as Jake Locker, but he can do some of the same things. Vandy's offensive line is big, and supposedly pretty solid. They definitely ran up tons of yards against Western Carolina, but last year's overall rushing statistics were pretty modest. With Pep Levingston likely out with a hand/knee injury, and with Vandy running a hurry-up offense, it will be very interesting to see how we rotate defensive linemen in the game. I imagine Lavar Edwards and Chancey Aghayere will rotate in Levingston's spot.
Vandy's Receivers vs. LSU's Back 7: Who are Vandy's receivers? Their leading returning receiver is Brandon Barden, who caught 28 passes for 209 yards last year. Last week, he caught 3 for 38 yards. Their leading yard-gainer last week was a tight end who didn't catch a pass in 2008. Without much proven talent on the outside, and with a running quarterback, is Vandy in a position to exploit our pass defense that Washington was able to exploit? It's one of those doubtful propositions that seems to almost always come true anyway. I expect Vandy to run the ball between half and 2/3 the time unless they fall way behind. I just don't see where they have the throwing and receiving talent to make this a big part of their offense except by necessity.
The Return Games: I still find it inexplicable that on a team with as much athleticism as LSU has, it has been years since we have had a good punt/kick return game. Last week, Washington for some reason decided to kick away from our back return men and conceded decent field position after every kickoff. I doubt Vandy will do that, but we shall see. Trindon is definitely a home run hitter, but doesn't get the consistently good returns you'd like to see. Vandy, for their part, struggled in the return game against Western Carolina. They only returned one kickoff, so you can't really get anything from that, but they also failed to generate anything in their four punt returns, netting a total of 9 yards in those return opportunities.
I'm not sure where this game will be won or lost. Frankly, I hope we win and that no one particular area provided the difference.