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LSU vs. Chattanooga: What to Watch For

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Tigers are back home for the next step forward.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State vs Brigham Young Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Back in the Valley again, as LSU returns to their real home for a chance at a step forward against the one true cakewalk on this schedule, FCS Chattanooga.

What to Watch For On Saturday


Versus

Through all of the talk of a constant theme of competition, the message behind the message from Ed Orgeron has been that the team LSU is always competing against, more than anybody else, is itself.

“It ain’t about them! It’s about us!” Is a consistent, boisterous refrain in LSU meetings.

And so, with all due respect to the Mocs — an FCS-level power that will almost certainly turn in a game, prideful effort — this game is about LSU taking the next step after last weekend’s dominant win over BYU. Cleaning up on the teaching points from week one and getting better, before a big road game against Mississippi State next week.

Not looking ahead. Looking inward.

There are two obvious points of emphasis — red zone efficiency and penalties. I don’t tend to focus too much on the former, but it’s not something the players or coaches need to be ignoring. Especially with an offense that involves a lot of moving parts. Synchronization is important.

For the rest, how the Mocs attempt to defend LSU will almost certainly play a role. BYU tried the bend-but-don’t-break style, with two deep safeties. Not so much surrendering the run, so much as counting on the front seven to do the job. It obviously didn’t work, but don’t be surprised if other teams with more talent in the front seven try something similar.

If the Mocs try and roll a safety down and defend the run with eight, that would likely lead to some other adjustments from Matt Canada...

Set It Off

Shoutout to my 90s high school kids.

That brings us to the other teaching point of the week — explosive plays. Efficiency is great, but it doesn’t take you very far if it doesn’t lead to big plays. LSU had just two gains of 20-plus yards last week, both passes from Danny Etling.

The ethos of Canada’s motion, jet-sweep based attack is to create those big-play opportunities. It’s going to be rare that a defense is able to sit back and defend LSU with just seven in the front, and with the constant misdirection, when that jet sweep finally really hits, it’s going to blow by somebody. It’d be a nice step forward to see that happen in week two before the Tigers go on the road to Mississippi State.

Break some big runs, hit a few more play-action bombs. Hopefully even a few short or intermediate throws that can go long. It’s the next step in this offense’s progression.

New Faces

Another big element of this week’s game plan will almost certainly be to expand player rotations and get more Tigers involved. For one, there will be more available following last week’s rash of suspensions.

Of course, the upside to the play of freshmen like Tyler Taylor and Greedy Williams last week, is that the vets they were replacing have a little bit of an incentive to show out if they can — Donnie Alexander and Kevin Toliver. It remains unseen as to whether either player will be back in the starting lineup on Saturday, but I would expect both to play.

We already know that redshirt freshman Glen Logan will get the start in the place of the injured Rashard Lawrence.

In addition, I’d expect to see more backups rotate in, particularly freshmen in need of experience. Orgeron himself has mentioned Jacoby Stevens at receiver, and I expect Racey McMath and Justin Jefferson will get some looks as well.

Of course, ideally, the offense gets by without too much of a workload for Derrius Guice, which means more carries for Darrel Williams, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Nick Brossette. And a few more relief drives for Myles Brennan, too.

As important as it is to save the wear and tear on LSU’s stars in this game, it’s also crucial to get some of these backups real experience so that they can be ready later in the season, when they will all but certainly be needed at times.