The LSU defense is going to be at half strength against UCF.
A unit that is already missing its two starting corners, Greedy Williams and Kristian Fulton, just found out it will be without Kelvin Joseph as well. That’s the team’s top three corners. This is on top of losing the top two nose tackles, Breiden Fehoko and Ed Alexander, forcing Aranda to start a freshman (Tyler Shelvin) backed up by another freshman (Dominic Livingston).
Oh, and the linebackers will be without K’Lavon Chiasson, as they have all year. Additionally, Jacob Phillips will serve his suspension for an illegal hit in the Texas A&M game in the first half. We also don’t know what sort of punishment John Battle will face for his role in the postgame shenanigans.
The strength of this team is its defense. And it will need to be at its best to stop a UCF offense which ranks 8th in the country in yards/play. LSU comes into this Fiesta Bowl with a built in, ready-made excuse to lose. Here’s who will care:
UCF is short their star quarterback, McKenzie Milton, and I doubt they have too many violins at the ready for LSU’s attrition woes. Nor will anyone else. Personnel losses, even extreme ones like the ones LSU faces, are part of the game. Overcome it and shut the hell up.
While I won’t sit here and tell you it’s a good thing LSU will be scraping the bottom of the bowl to find anyone who can play cornerback, what is exciting is that this is essentially the first game of 2019. LSU’s defense is going to be playing on one leg (but come on, we’ll still have Devin White and Grant Delpit, so let’s not pretend we won’t have our two best defensive players), but the offense will finally be ready to go.
Ensminger has had the excuse all year that this was a complete rebuild of the offense. LSU had to replace its starting quarterback, its top two runners, its top two receivers, and four offensive linemen. All while installing a new offense. Some growing pains were bound to happen, and that’s before the line showed about as much stability as a plutonium isotope.
However, the line is now healthy and Ensminger has had a full year to install his offense. Joe Burrow is no longer the outsider, a transfer from out of conference, he is now the undisputed team leader. The receiving corps is no longer going to be judged on its potential, but its actual production.
The offense is out of excuses. It’s time to take down those “pardon our progress” signs and debut the finished product. It’s a new year, and the year of construction is over. Now, part of this timetable is due to the defense needing the support. There’s nowhere for the offense to hide in this game. It has to produce.
No one wants to hear any more excuses. Especially from an offensive unit that has had a bevy of them all season. It’s a new year, and a fresh slate. Go out and produce. Beat UCF. No one wants to hear why you can’t.