College football season has finally arrived. As LSU begins its title defense Saturday, the Tigers host Mississippi State in the first weekend of the Southeastern Conference's 10-game, league-only schedule. These are staff writer Wilson Alexander's keys to the game for LSU.
1. Land the plane
New Mississippi State coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense relies on throwing the football — Leach’s offenses averaged about 5,000 yards passing at Washington State — so LSU needs its defensive backs to lock down the wide receivers. Though sophomore Derek Stingley Jr. returned as one of the best cornerbacks in college football, LSU will break in two new starters during the season opener: sophomore nickel corner Cordale Flott and freshman corner Elias Ricks.
Rivalries with Alabama, Florida and Texas A&M may loom larger on the LSU schedule, but the Tigers have played more games against Mississip…
2. Pressure and Costello
Offensive linemen take wider splits in the Air Raid, pushing defensive ends further from the quarterback. The spacing makes it harder to create pressure, especially with how quickly quarterbacks release the ball in the scheme. If LSU can pressure grad transfer K.J. Costello, his passer rating dropped from 103.2 to 18.3 when under pressure last year. He also threw an interception in eight of the 10 games he lost at Stanford.
Joe Burrow and Cole Tracy set a standard for the performance of LSU’s graduate transfers. Now two years after they arrived at LSU, two more graduate transfers — linebacker Jabril Cox and center Liam Shanahan — will start against Mississippi State.
3. Myles to go
Fourth-year junior quarterback Myles Brennan will make his first career start for LSU after three years of waiting for his turn. Brennan has a strong arm and natural ability. The only thing LSU doesn’t know, coach Ed Orgeron said, is how Brennan responds to high-pressure situations. LSU has three games to find out before its schedule gets more difficult. Either way, Brennan now controls the offense. The Tigers will go as far as he can take them.
Take a look at the spacing of Mike Leach's offensive linemen, and you'll know part of why the Mississippi State coach's offenses are so successful.
4. Run the world
LSU is 84-0 all-time when it rushes for 100 yards and holds the opposing team to less than 100 yards rushing. The formula would likely hold true this week, as senior running back Kylin Hill is Mississippi State’s most dynamic player. If LSU can stop Hill and make Mississippi State’s offense one-dimensional, the Tigers can drop more players into coverage. Meanwhile, Orgeron thinks the running backs are one of LSU’s strengths. Expect LSU to lean on them.