What better reason to watch the LSU defensive backs than this: You’re not sure who’s going to be out there. LSU has used seven starting lineups in its secondary this season. The Tigers might make it No. 8 since safety Corey Thompson is out with a knee injury. Jalen Mills may fill Thompson’s shoes by moving over from his cornerback position. That opens the door for true freshman Rashard Robinson to replace Mills. Meanwhile, Ronald Martin and another true freshman, Rickey Jefferson, are battling Mills for Thompson’s spot opposite Craig Loston. No matter who starts, LSU’s secondary shuffle is likely to continue.
This is a key position for LSU in stopping Iowa’s “bread and butter,” as linebacker Lamin Barrow put it last week. The Tigers linebackers are responsible for slowing an Iowa ground attack that averages 188 yards. The Hawkeyes have cracked the 200-yard mark six times and have only once been kept under 100. Barrow said the “game’s really going to be on our shoulders.” He’s not kidding. Iowa’s offense is as straightforward as they come. The Hawkeyes run right at you, forcing linebackers to shed blocks and make plays on inside rushes. The LSU linebackers, an inconsistent unit, have an opportunity to affect the outcome of a game more than ever. Three of Iowa’s worst four rushing outings came in losses. Stop the run and stop Iowa.
IOWA TIGHT ENDS
Quarterback Jake Rudock hasn’t met a tight end he doesn’t like. The TE pass is a staple of an offense that runs, runs, runs and then hits a play-action pass. Two of Iowa’s top five receiving leaders are tight ends. C.J. Fiedorowicz is a 6-foot-7, 265-pound massive target who has been with the program for four years. He’s second on the team in catches (26), fourth in yards (256) and, most important, first in touchdowns (six). Fellow tight end Jake Duzey has 16 catches for 212 yards and two scores. The eight TDs between the two account for nearly half of Iowa’s receiving scores. LSU cornerback Jalen Mills said the key to defending the tight ends is simple: Be physical at the line of scrimmage.
Maybe the most respected group on the field Wednesday (Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry have an argument), the Iowa linebackers are a heralded trio of seniors who are 1, 2 and 3 in tackles on the team. Anthony Hitchens (102 tackles), James Morris (99) and Christian Kirksey (97) are as solid of a group as they come. LSU offensive players rave about their ball-chasing demeanor. They’ll need it against slippery LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings and burly running back Jeremy Hill. Together, they have 32.5 tackles for loss, 13 QB hurries, six interceptions and 9.5 sacks. In their final college hoorah, look for the group to play key roles.