1 The Replacements
Not the football movie, though LSU might be willing to plug Keanu Reeves into a nickel back slot out of desperation. We’re talking about the replacements filling key roles for both teams. For LSU it’s Kary Vincent and Terrence Alexander at cornerback and Tyler Shelvin at nose tackle. For UCF it’s Derriel Mack’s play at quarterback. The team that gets the better play from its replacements filling key roles will likely be the team that wins.
2 Run for the sun
UCF may be 12-0, but if it had to depend solely on its rushing defense the Knights would be far from unbeaten. UCF is simply bad against the run, ranking 117th nationally allowing 227.4 yards per game. LSU needs its 1-2-3 combination of running backs Nick Brossette (922 yards) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (626) along with quarterback Joe Burrow (375) to be on point. Keeping the ball away from UCF’s explosive offense with the run is key.
3 Bring the house
Mack carved up Memphis in the AAC championship game (348 yards, two touchdowns passing and four TDs rushing), but even without key pieces like Greedy Williams, Kelvin Joseph and Ed Alexander the Tigers surely have the most talented defense UCF has faced. LSU must pair skill with treachery, coming at Mack with blitz packages and stunts and disguised coverages. Of course, such strategy must be matched with communication and newly promoted key players knowing their assignments.
3 What’s my motivation?
Auburn’s excuse for losing the Peach Bowl to UCF is that it didn’t take the Knights seriously. Devin White vows LSU will not repeat that mistake. “My team is going to be motivated,” he said, “and my team is going to be ready to get a win. That all starts with the leadership. We've got great leadership on this team.” That must be true, because after 25 straight wins UCF is worthy of the Tigers’ respect.