Christian LaCouture is hosting a party Saturday afternoon.
He’ll serve chips and dip and have soda available for his invitees, a dozen LSU defensive linemen. There will even be a football game on his television.
Sounds normal, right?
“We’re going to sit there with our notes and pens and watch,” LaCouture said.
This is a watch party of a different kind, in which LSU’s defensive front will scout its season-opening opponent, BYU. The Cougars don’t open their season Sept. 2 against the Tigers in Houston. Their first game is Saturday: a home matchup with Portland State, a Football Championship Subdivision program.
BYU is one of nine Football Bowl Subdivision teams playing in five games Saturday. They have something in common: All of the home teams play at Hawaii this season, with the exception of UMass, which hosts Hawaii.
Teams that play at Hawaii (as well as Hawaii itself) are allowed to play a 13th regular-season game. The NCAA passed this exemption in 2010 as an incentive for teams to schedule games halfway across the Pacific Ocean. The extra home game is meant to combat the steep expense of trekking to play in Honolulu. BYU ends the regular season at Hawaii on Nov. 25.
Teams can add a 13th game, or they can have another open date. The Cougars chose the former — a plus for the Tigers, players said.
“We’ve got an advantage,” LaCouture said. “We have an opportunity to watch these guys and understand what their concepts are.”
Donte Jackson will return punts after all.
BYU and Portland State are scheduled to meet on ESPN at 2 p.m., about an hour after LSU’s mock game Saturday ends. The D-linemen will file into LaCouture’s home for that watch party already knowing a decent amount about their season-opening opponent.
The No. 13 Tigers began focusing on BYU this Monday. Coach Ed Orgeron is treating this week as a normal game week, beginning his themed practices. It started with “Tell The Truth Monday,” when players and coaches analyzed Saturday’s scrimmage, then came “Competition Tuesday,” “Turnover Wednesday” and so on.
The focus, for the first time during preseason practice, is on the Cougars, a historically successful program that is now independent. What have players learned?
“They actually remind me a lot of Wisconsin,” quarterback Danny Etling said of the BYU defense. “They’re just solid. They do their job. They’re well coached. They’re very strong. They get in some (3-4) defenses, too, and give you some tough looks you don’t see much.”
Etling will watch the Cougars play Portland State, but he knows they won’t show everything.
“They may try to hide some stuff from us,” he said. “We have to be ready for anything.”
To get to play football, Danny Etling had to strike a bargain with his mother back in the fo…
Offensively, the Cougars are expected to lean on a downhill passing game, LaCouture said, moving away from the QB run-centric attack they employed last season with quarterback Taysom Hill. Tanner Mangum, a junior pocket passer who emerged from high school in 2015 as the nation’s third-ranked QB prospect, is under center this year.
“Gets it out as quick as he can,” LaCouture said. “We’ve got to try to get up the field.”
BYU’s offense is a mix between a spread and a pro-style look under coordinator Ty Detmer, the 1990 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the Cougars. You’ll see them use a fullback and a tight end, lining up in the I-formation, Orgeron said. They’ll also jump into more of the spread attack they used last season with Hill.
“We don’t know exactly what they’re going to do against us, but we feel like they’re going to show their hand a little bit (against Portland State),” Orgeron said. “I’m glad we’re not playing first, because I don’t think they’re going to know what we’re doing on offense.
"They can look at (new coordinator) Matt Canada’s film from previous schools, but they don’t know exactly what we’re going to do. I think they’re going to practice a lot more stuff than they have to.”
Canada’s offense remains somewhat of a mystery, but one thing's certain: Orgeron doesn’t plan to hold anything back.
“We’re going there to win the game. We’re not holding back. This ain’t spring ball," he said. "Full speed ahead. We’re goin’. Guns a-blazin'. Let’s roll.”
Note: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard, from the booth, and Allison Williams, from the sideline, will call LSU's game against BYU, ESPN announced. The national radio crew on Westwood One will include Ryan Radtke on play-by-play and Derek Rackley as analyst.
Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.