When McNeese State coach Matt Viator is even admitting on Baton Rouge radio that his team is pretty much just here to pick up a check, it's probably a sign we should all see this game for what it is...
What to watch for on Saturday
Step by Step
This video was kind of Sophie's choice, between a New Kids on the Block song and the theme to this classic Patrick Duffy vehicle. But Patrick Duffy wins. He always wins. Handsome bastard.
The most important thing about this game is preparing for the second half of this season. That means avoiding injuries and continuing to develop the LSU offense.
Most of us think of that development including more series (and consecutive series) for Jarrett Lee, but I have a feeling that won't happen in this game. I'm guessing the 1 series: 1 series rotation will stay in place for at least another week. I'm guessing the coaches will continue to try and develop both players for now, and if they're going to start leaning more on one (and in terms of the most important reps, they're clearly leaning on Lee at this point) for the bulk of the game, that will come against a more significant opponent. I'm usually not one to suspect the coaches of sandbagging, but this is kind of a unique situation for the offense right now.
Otherwise, look for Stevan Ridley to get some reps early, and depending on his success level, sit. That should mean more carries for Richard Murphy, Michael Ford, Spencer Ware and Alfred Blue. In a perfect world, that division would lean more towards Ford and Ware, but Murphy may get some token senior carries.
Rediscovering Russell Shepard's role in this attack is also important. With Rueben Randle's injury and Terrance Toliver's cemented status as the No. 1 target, Shepard should be able to get plenty of reps as a pure receiver this week, even when the No. 1 offense takes a seat. Getting him more involved in the run game, both with the ball and as a decoy, would be a good idea as well.
Do not taunt the Cookie Monster.
McNeese quarterbacks have combined for nine interceptions and been sacked 11 times in five games this season. They'll be starting a redshirt freshman backup, along with a third-string running back. Expect some defensive stat-padding for Drake Nevis, Barkevious Mingo, Ryan Baker, etc... General Zod may even pad his return averages as well.
Given the general playing time patterns thus far (granted, trying to find a pattern to a Les Miles team is kind of like trying to match identical snowflakes), I have a feeling Ware might wind up being the No. 2 running back in terms of touches this week, rather than Michael Ford. Between his blocking as a fullback and the athleticism he's shown as a receiver, he provides a little more versatility to the attack than the other running backs.
And look for freshmen Kadron Boone and James Wright to get the lions' shares of the receiving reps as well. They've been the first guys off the bench for Randle, Toliver and Shepard early on, and can only gain from the increased experience. And if the score gets really out of hand, we might even finally see T.C. McCartney on the field.
On defense, watch for youngsters like Luke Muncie, whom Miles mentioned by name as a player he wants to see more of, Eric Reid, Ronnie Vinson and Lamin Barrow. They've all seen time as backups or part-time players, but this will be the first game that starters should really be able to get a break.
Do NOT Expect
For the most part, LSU's never been one to grind up overmatched teams under Les Miles, and don't expect that to change this week. It will probably frustrate people, as everybody just wants to see the offense go nuclear and wipe another team off the field. But if the first couple of drives result in touchdowns, expect the team to lean on the run more and more, assuming it's successful. Yes, you might not see Jarrett Lee top 10 or 15 pass attempts, especially if those early attempts are successful. They're just not going to give Auburn the extra film to look at.
Not saying I agree with the strategy, just saying it's the strategy we are likely to see.