Gameday preview: LSU at Syracuse _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU wide receiver Travin Dural (83) pulls in the long pass to help set up LSU's last touchdown, which he also caught, during the second half of the teams' game Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014 in Gainesville. LSU won 30-27.

THE NEXT LEVEL: Travin Dural is off and running. Perhaps he’ll get back to catching, too

Travin Dural was instrumental last season in LSU’s offense. He led all receivers in catches and served as a long-bomb target for quarterback Anthony Jennings. He was the deep threat who could fly past cornerbacks and outrun safeties, the always-reliable, always-open wideout racing downfield.

Through two games this season, Dural continues to be a key piece in the Tigers offense — but it’s not in the way you’d expect.

He’s the jet on the sweep and the fake sweep — a play that’s becoming a key piece to the team’s offensive game plan, at least two games into the season.

LSU ran the jet sweep and jet sweep fake with Dural at least eight times in the win over Auburn. Dural took the first two jet sweep plays for 5 and 2 yards — oddly enough, they count as passes. LSU then faked it to him on the sweep the next six times they ran the play.

These jet sweep fakes are a big part of the offense. It’s a misdirection design, a creative way to run the football. Harris has a choice to do three things on these plays: keep it himself, hand to the running back or give to Dural on the sweep.

While LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron eases his young quarterback into the season, the Tigers have shifted Dural from a deep passing threat to a perimeter running weapon.

Will we see him return as a deep passing threat? Sure, in time, and maybe even against an overmatched Syracuse team this weekend.

Four downs

1. Time to fly LSU is averaging just 72.5 ypg passing, third-lowest in the FBS. Syracuse is third in the FBS in rushing defense, though against bad teams. Although LSU can impose its will on the ground, there will be a time when it has to throw to win. Syracuse is 116th in pass defense. No better time to take the air game out of the hangar.

2. Managing Fournette Les Miles said he won’t let RB Leonard Fournette’s Heisman candidacy influence strategy, but there is reason to be judicious about how many carries he gets. A blow just above his knee on a third-quarter TD leap against Auburn was a warning. If this game becomes a rout going into the fourth quarter, Fournette should sit.

3. Orange, black & blue Syracuse may be 3-0, but given its dire QB situation, the Carrier Dome doesn’t look daunting. The Orange may start fifth-string walk-on Zack Mahoney because of a series of QB injuries. Pass rushing is about attitude, so if LSU’s defense brings its attitude to upstate New York, Mahoney could get overwhelmed.

4. Fast and furious LSU will be the most vulnerable in the game’s first few minutes. The Orange will be jacked for a chance at an upset, and the Tigers could be sluggish. Getting that first drive stop or score would deflate the home crowd. LSU didn’t put Mississippi State away to its peril two weeks ago. Syracuse isn’t State, but crushing Orange hope is key.

Predictions

Ross Dellenger: LSU 38, Syracuse 13

At QB, Syracuse is starting a walk-on who joined the team just a few months ago.

That’s all that’s needed here.

Oh, you want more? The Tigers have the front-runner for the Heisman in Leonard Fournette going against a defense that’s allowed chunks of yards and a team that struggled to beat Central Michigan a week ago. Could we see LSU’s offense getting off to a sluggish start for an 11 a.m. kick? Yes, but they’ll finish strong.

Sheldon Mickles: LSU 41, Syracuse 12

Syracuse, which is 3-0 for the first time in 24 years, could be playing No. 8 LSU with its third- or fourth-string quarterback — which could make for a long afternoon for the Orange. This is a team that was picked to win no more than three or four games this season, so LSU’s offense and defense will push them in the right direction. Look for the Tigers offense to put on a powerful show on the ground — as usual. So, 4-0? Don’t think so.

Scott Rabalais: LSU 41, Syracuse 9

My August prediction was LSU 34-16, but Syracuse will likely be without QB Eric Dungey, and LSU is better than expected. There is the concern of traveling to an unfamiliar place — most LSU players haven’t been to New York, much less played a game there — and there is bound to be some hangover from the big Auburn win. That said, LSU would have to beat itself in this one. The talent gap is simply too great.