Les Miles appears way to comfortable in his weekly press conference, although I’m not completely sure Les knew exactly where he was at that moment. Was this or was this not the afternoon happy hour at the Baton Rouge chapter of Margaritaville? And where the hell’s the waitress he’d grown to appreciate despite her intellectual inefficiencies. He answered questions with a relaxed, quiet confidence while wearing a sports jacket and gelled hair combed liked a gentleman to the side. He must have experienced a brief lapse of paranoia while his early afternoon companions mischievously questioned his profession.
Needless to say, he expressed no worries. LSU is no stranger to lunatic atmospheres, nor is a #16 ranked team scratching the surface of a challenging schedule for the Bayou Bengals. Additionally, none of the “experts” are giving the Mountaineers a shot in the dark at a dime sized target to win this game.
That’s fine, that’s just how we like it. When 84% of the nation votes Oklahoma to win the Fiesta Bowl, we vote the Mountaineers. When Vegas has LSU giving six points, we say keep the points, we don’t need ‘em. And, when ESPN’s (alleged) experts all pick LSU, we’ll scream our support even louder in the stadium. It’s like fuel, that’s just how do.
Now the beef: LSU has the uncanny ability to create chaos forcing opponents into compromising situations flooded with turnovers and Tiger touchdowns. I don’t know how they do it; it must be some form of Bayou voodoo. It makes no sense, like a millionaire head coach eating grass and taking timeouts to the locker room.
As usual the Tigers have a tough as nails running game. Both Spencer Ware and Michael Ford will tote the rock. Both weigh about deuce and a quarter, and both appreciate contact. These guys are going to run the ball hard until the voice in Les Miles head tells him to try something fun and exciting.
That’s when Tiger fans hold their breath as Jarrett Lee prepares to put the ball in the air. If it lands anywhere in the LSU receiver’s area code, they’ll probably make a phenomenal play on the pigskin. Rueben Randall and Odell Beckham Jr. can flat out ball. Plenty of other receivers were brought to LSU to make freaky plays and have the capability to do so.
What hasn’t been said about LSU’s defense that has been said about the Great Wall of China, Constantinople, and over-nuked hot pockets?
The Tigers are ranked 6th in the nation for total defense after having already been challenged by two ranked teams including one of the most explosive offenses in college football. The Tiger defenders are painted with all kinds defensive honors, but no one is more decorated than CB Maurice Claiborne. He will not allow many open windows for the WVU passing game, but all Geno needs is a crack.
The trick will be to soften up the Tiger defense underbelly by establishing some form of a rushing game. The front seven for the Tigers may have as much speed as West Virginia’s backfield, but with a strong push from the Gold and Blue big uglies and some extra coercing from Alston and Clarke, the Mountaineers should muscle enough to keep the Tigers honest.
It’s worth noting that the top five leading tacklers on the LSU defense are all defensive backs. This may just mean the defensive backs are very aggressive. But it may also mean that if the defensive backs are coming up and making plays, LSU is susceptible in the deep passing game. If West Virginia gets Geno some time to throw, we could be sounding the air raid sirens.
LB Kevin Minter and DE Barkevious Mingo are the toughest rocks in the wall. They will require the majority of attention, but the rest of the defensive line has also been wreaking havoc.
The Tiger defense is said to be practically impenetrable. Even the rapid tempo Oregon Ducks hit a brick wall against LSU.
The difference between Oregon and the rest of LSU’s opponents is that they didn’t have the toughness and tenacity of a West Virginia Mountaineer. I’m talkin’ Gauley River white water tough. I’m talkin’ Allegheny Mountain tough. I’m talkin’ finishing a season with a broken foot, or torn shoulder ligament tough.
With the polls showing the nation voting 82% against WVU winning and the recent snubs in conference re-alignment, that chip is back on West Virginia’s shoulders. Here’s to playing with emotion and angst on the football field.