For a school you probably know little about, Central Michigan boasts some famous former students.
Actor Tim Allen attended Central Michigan. So did late sportscaster Dick “Oh my!” Enberg and actor Jeff Daniels (“Dumb and Dumber,” “The Newsroom”). Oft-troubled NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown was also a Chippewa.
Wrapping them all up in one tight spiral, it would be dumb and dumber for the LSU Tigers to compound the pain of their season-opening loss to UCLA with an “Oh my!” upset loss to nearly three-touchdown underdog Central Michigan.
The Tigers need to get the win, first of all. They don’t need to go any further to mimic Brown, who is the very definition of talented but troubled.
In its final game before the Southeastern Conference schedule begins, LSU hosts Central Michigan at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night.
Allen, the voice of Buzz Lightyear, would not be saying this LSU team is going “to infinity and beyond” after that loss to UCLA in the Rose Bowl. But the non-conference slate can be a proving ground for what is really important: the Southeastern Conference part of the schedule.
“Tool Time” is rapidly coming to an end, though. Any home improvements the Tigers make have to be rushed to completion before next week’s SEC opener at Mississippi State. That’s where the fate of this 2021 season, and possibly that of coach Ed Orgeron, will truly begin to unfold.
The simple fact is, there is a lot of room for “Home Improvement” at the LSU football complex. The areas of this team that aren’t in need of shoring up are short.
Place-kicker is rock solid. All-American Cade York is stretching the limits of what anyone imagined an LSU kicker could do. Baton Rouge native Hayley Arceneaux and the rest of the Inspiration 4 crew orbited the Earth this week 357 miles up, which is pretty close to how high his field goal tries are traveling these days.
Central Michigan and LSU never have met on a football field, so the Chippewas, naturally, have never had the opportunity to visit Death Valley…
Cornerbacks couldn’t be better with All-Americans Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks, though Stingley did give that notably half-hearted effort on UCLA’s last touchdown two weeks ago. And LSU’s No. 1 receiver, Kayshon Boutte, could be the No. 1 receiver for anyone in the country.
As for the rest of the team, there are plenty of concerns. How much can the Tigers possibly improve with the season about to reach a critical stage?
The most glaring problem has been LSU’s offensive line. Yes, it was hampered by three starters sitting out in last Saturday’s 34-7 win over McNeese State, but even when healthy it was hardly a road-grading machine against the Bruins. The Tigers are expected to get right guard Chasen Hines and right tackle Austin Deculus back against Central Michigan, but left tackle Cameron Wire is still out. It wouldn’t be such a problem if LSU had strong depth on the line, but the backups hardly distinguished themselves against FCS-level McNeese.
Speaking of missions, it’s “mission critical” for LSU’s hopes this season that the line both pass block better and open up more holes for the running game. Orgeron preaches a goal of offensive balance, but so far the Tigers are operating at nearly a 3-to-1 pass-to-run ratio (255.0 yards per game passing to 87.0 rushing).
The recovery effort following Hurricane Ida and the workers needed to make it happen will prevent the Central Michigan football team from stay…
Being one dimensional offensively won’t cut it in the SEC, and somehow that improvement must begin to show against Central Michigan. In its 34-24 win two weeks ago over CMU, Missouri rushed for over 200 yards and nearly 6 yards per carry. It’s hard to envision LSU doing that against the Chippewas or anyone else left on their slate, but they must make the attempt.
The tight end corps has emerged as a strength, with returning starter Kole Taylor and freshman Jack Bech becoming LSU’s third and fourth receivers. Trey Palmer is No. 2 behind Boutte with 10 catches to Boutte’s 14, but what about the rest of the receivers? Combined, Jaray Jenkins, Koy Moore, Deion Smith, Brian Thomas and Alex Adams have 10 catches for 114 yards and no touchdowns. That’s less than Boutte (14 for 179, five TDs) has by himself. The catches have to rise and the drops have to, well, drop.
The defensive front seven has done a great job getting pressure on the quarterback and not just against McNeese. The Tigers had eight sacks against the Cowboys but six against UCLA, with defensive end Andre Anthony recording 3.5 sacks and freshman Maason Smith, without a doubt one of LSU’s rising stars, with three sacks. They looked overpowering against McNeese, but need to prove it against a progression of more talented opponents. The difficulty level goes up week by increasingly important week from McNeese to CMU to Mississippi State to Auburn.
The ripples on the pond of LSU’s bowl projections resulting from that big rock of a 38-27 loss to UCLA in the season opener keep spreading far…
But this week is singular in its importance. One last chance before SEC play begins to make important improvements in key position groups that have been wanting in the first two games — as well as ratcheting up the offensive tempo overall, another key element.
The goal is not just beating Central Michigan but being more dominant in the process. One last episode of "Home Improvement" before the games really get to another level.