LSU Football: 7 Keys to Winning the North Texas Game
LSU will begin its quest for a third national championship in the past 10 years as the Tigers open the 2012 season with a matchup against North Texas on Saturday.
Obviously, this is just about as one-sided as a football game can get when looking at the matchup on paper.
LSU is a favorite to return to the national championship this season after a undefeated regular season last year. On the other end, North Texas struggled to a 5-7 mark last season while playing in the Sun Belt Conference. This game shouldn't be close, but still, LSU should not overlook the Mean Green.
Let's go ahead and break down seven keys to LSU beating North Texas in Baton Rouge this weekend.
1. Don't Turn the Ball over
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
LSU will be breaking in a new quarterback, as Zach Mettenberger gets his first start in a Tigers uniform.
But with inexperience comes turnovers, which Mettenberger and his teammates must make sure to avoid in this contest. If LSU can go through this game turnover free, then there is no reason why they shouldn't blow out North Texas in the opener.
Look for Mettenberger to air it out early on and test the North Texas secondary.
If he makes smart decisions and remains cool and collected, the Tigers should be just fine in this game.
2. Establish the Run Game Early and Often
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
LSU's strength on offense is its dominant run game, and if the Tigers can utilize that strength early, then this game should be in the books early, as well.
The Tigers feature a four-headed monster in the backfield in Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard.
All four should see plenty of playing time in the game, and all four should put up big numbers against a North Texas defense that gave up 30 or more points in nine of its 12 games last season.
If LSU is able to get the run going early and make sure that each of these backs gets between seven and 10 carries in the game, the Tigers should be in great shape.
3. Jump out Early, Don't Look Back
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Too many times last season, LSU started off slow and had to wait for a big return from Tyrann Mathieu or a big interception from Morris Claiborne to spark a run.
Well, this is a new year, and those guys are gone now.
Zach Mettenberger and this LSU offense need to learn how to get points on the board early and extend the lead from there on out.
As we mentioned earlier, North Texas is not a team that should hang around with LSU.
If the Tigers can come out and set the tone early while putting some points on the board, that should set the stage for what type of season this offense could have in 2012.
4. Contain the Running Game
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
LSU will be working in two new starting linebackers and a new defensive tackle this season.
Those two positions are extremely important in stopping the run game.
North Texas is a team that loves to run the ball. However, their all-confernece running back, Lance Dunbar, is now off to the NFL. But that won't stop North Texas from trying to establish the run in this opening game.
If the new linebackers and defensive tackles can stop North Texas from running, then LSU should run away with this one.
5. Special Teams
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Brad Wing and Drew Alleman are arguably the top punter-kicker combination in college football this season.
But with Tyrann Mathieu kicked off the team and Morris Claiborne off to the NFL, who will spark the LSU return game?
The leading candidate right now is the Tigers' top receiver, Odell Beckham Jr.
The speedy sophomore will likely take over both the kick- and punt-return duties and will be looked at to create a spark for this team, just like Mathieu and Claiborne did so many times last season.
If Beckham Jr. gets off to a good start in the return game, that is a great sign for this LSU football team going forward.
6. Contain Derek Thompson
Butch Dill/Getty Images
Derek Thompson enters his second season as North Texas' starting quarterback.
While Thompson didn't put up monster numbers last season, he also didn't make many mistakes for the Mean Green.
Thompson passed for more than 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns, compared to just six interceptions last season.
If the LSU can force Thompson into making some tough throws and create some turnovers, that will give the Tigers momentum and should help them roll to an easy victory.
7. Stay Composed
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
This is a game that LSU should win—and win big.
But remember, this is a team that is breaking in a new quarterback, new linebackers and a new secondary.
There is likely going to be an adjustment period for this LSU team, so if they don't jump out to a commanding lead in the first quarter of the game, it is important that this group remains calm and dosen't start pressing.
This is a talented offense and a dominant defense. They are going to be successful, but it may take time.
Fans, coaches and players shouldn't get down if things don't go perfect early on.
If this team is able to stay calm and keep its composure, this should be a nice opening week victory for Les Miles' LSU Tigers.