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What To Watch For: UCLA

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Please don’t start your rebound from 2020 by losing to UCLA

Kelvin Kuo/AP

Before I get into anything football related, it feels important to extend my sympathies and care to those impacted by Hurricane Ida. Some things are bigger than football, but the distraction of an incoming season can do a lot to help a community heal.

LSU resumes play after what could only be described as a multiple-month car wreck of a 2020 season. With new coordinators, a new approach to human management/player relation, and a new full-time starting quarterback, it feels like an opportunity for a rebirth from the charred remains of 2020. The season starts in the Rose Bowl against an interesting, but volatile UCLA team, let’s get into it.

For LSU

What the defense looks like on the whole

The addition of Daronte Jones at DC was difficult for me to analyze. He had jumped around various places as a position coach, so it’s difficult to say that he was grown in a certain system the way say, Brandon Staley was with Vic Fangio. He also hasn’t called a defense in a long time, and that was at a lower level, so I can’t extrapolate anything from that.

I suspect, given Ed Orgeron’s preferences, that LSU will be a 4-down team. I also suspect, given their talent at corner, that LSU will play a tight man and man-match heavy system. That’s about all I can say, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do specifically and what their general philosophies are.

What the OFFENSE will look like on the whole

We’ve heard a lot about a return to the offense of 2019, but there’s reason to think that isn’t totally workable. The offensive line appears to be far, far too suspect to hold up in a constant world of 5-man protections. Max Johnson is (possibly) neither talented nor advanced enough technically to handle the degree of both raw processing and pressure that the 2019 system foisted on Joe Burrow. I’m interested to see how much they help those weaknesses with scheme through robust RPO concepts, play action, and heavy 6 and 7-man protections on early downs.

WR2

We all know that Kayshon Boutte is going to be THE guy on the outside, but I’m very interested to see who emerges as their secondary option in the pass game. It could be any of like, five people, so there is a wide range of possibilities here

LSU Stat Leader Predictions

Passing: Max Johnson, 28/44, 367, 2TD, 0 INT

Rushing: John Emery, 13 carries, 68 yards, 1 TD.

Receiving: Kayshon Boutte, 11 catches, 178 yards, 2 TD.


For UCLA

One dimensionality

We all saw UCLA run roughshod over Hawaii, but that isn’t going to fly against normal teams. Hawaii was out of their gaps, BRUTALLY missing tackle after tackle, and getting nuked off the ball. The Rainbow Warriors looked like an FCS team and it’ll be far more difficult for UCLA to run the ball efficiently and explosively over an entire game against LSU.

That’s where the quarterback comes in. Dorian Thompson-Robinson has had a sketchy career as a passer and did not do anything to alleviate that perception on Saturday. His accuracy, the baseline of the position, was absolutely untenable and prohibitive, among other issues. The windows should be tight against Stingley and Ricks, so if they’re forced into passing situations, this could be a struggle for UCLA.

Can they stop teams?

Throwing out Hawaii’s general offensive ineptitude last week, UCLA over the past couple years has been absolutely atrocious on defense. They’ve retained their DC, so it’ll be interesting to see them try to stop a team with some actual talent, it hasn’t gone well in the recent past.

UCLA Stat Leader Predictions (if these guys play)

Passing; DTR, 19/40, 192 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: Zach Charbonnet, 17 carries, 86 yards, 1 TD

Receiving: Greg Dulcich, 6 catches, 48 yards, 1 TD