Dig Baton Rouge

Hey, Tigers! It’s GAME DAY!

LSU ready to kick off new era with BYU game

LSU fans have waited long enough—since New Year’s Eve to be exact. Now, it’s time to play some football.

The Tigers will take on BYU on Saturday night in the Mercedes Benz Superdome —a change in location because the game was originally supposed to be in Houston, but was moved because of Hurricane Harvey’s flooding rains. LSU coach Ed Orgeron said the Cougars will present a challenge to the Tigers—one that fans and players should take seriously on Saturday night.

Kick-off for the game is set for 8:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN. As of Friday afternoon, more than 50,000 seats were sold in the Superdome—about 18,000 or so from capacity.

“We’ve had a good week of practice,” Orgeron said on Thursday at a press briefing. “We are excited to open up the 2017 football season in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and we know that we will have a great turnout from our fans.”

LSU will have a skill advantage on the Cougars, but BYU will have the luxury of having all of the first-game jitters out of the window. The Cougars played Portland State last Saturday, struggling to a 20-6 victory.

Coach Kalani Sitake conceded that his team didn’t play its best in the opener (they were a 30-point favorite in Las Vegas). But after watching the film, he told reporters this week that there were some positives that shouldn’t go overlooked.

“We saw a lot of what we expected,” Sitake said. “But also some more positive things. I think we thought doom and gloom after the game, but we saw a lot of good things with just a few mistakes.”

Quarterback Tanner Mangum was sound in the win for BYU, completing 16-of-27 passes for 194 yards and a score. But LSU’s defense ought to be strong in 2017, coached by second-year coordinator Dave Aranda, whom Orgeron said is the best coordinator in college football.

LSU’s defense lost a lot to the NFL after last season, but plenty future pros return, which has Orgeron excited about what’s ahead. One challenge LSU will face is along the middle of the line of scrimmage, as BYU center Tejan Koroma is one of the top offensive linemen in the country.

“Their center is going to be a handful all night,” Orgeron said. “We are going to rotate Greg Gilmore and Ed Alexander in the middle. They are going to have to play well for us.”

On the other side of the football, Saturday’s game marks an anticipated debut for offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Orgeron hired the offensive guru in the offseason and his mission has been clear: modernize LSU’s offense.

The Tigers will start senior Danny Etling at quarterback. In the backfield, the team will rely on 1,000-yard rusher Derrius Guice.

Canada’s offensive scheme is everything that former coach Les Miles’ scheme was not. Miles loved tight formations and power running. Canada will utilize the spread.

Last year as the offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh, Canada’s offense was one of the best in the country in all areas of productivity. Sitake said he knows Canada loves the spread, but said he still expects LSU to be a power running team. He said stopping Guice will be a big challenge for the Cougars.

“We’ll see what happens with our defensive front and our linebackers being able to stop the run. We’ll prepare for it and see what happens.”

DIG SCOUTING REPORT

LSU offense vs. BYU defense
BYU has a proven defense and they’re very stout. But let’s be real here. I’d have to turn in my “LSU graduate card” if I didn’t buy into all of the hype surrounding Canada and the new-look LSU offense. Here’s to hoping those guys have a big debut.
Advantage: LSU

LSU defense vs. BYU offense
BYU struggled offensively against Portland State. Granted, I think that was probably a vanilla gameplan that was geared toward now showing LSU much of anything. But I still expect LSU to be stout defensively, which may make yards tough to come by for the Cougars.
Advantage: LSU

Special teams
LSU is breaking in a new kicker and the punting situation was really bad last year. Coach O has been saying he likes the progression that unit has made. But I’ll believe it when I see it.
Advantage: BYU

Dig’s Pick:

LSU 33, BYU 17

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