LSU Football: What We Learned from the Week 1 Game vs. North Texas

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent ISeptember 3, 2012

LSU Football: What We Learned from the Week 1 Game vs. North Texas

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    College football is back and the LSU Tigers kicked off the 2012 season in classic Les Miles fashion.

    The Tigers used a dominant rushing attack to jump out to a 24-0 first half lead and never looked back in Saturday's 41-14 opening week victory over North Texas.

    LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger made his first career start in an LSU uniform, but how did the young gun-slinger do in his debut?

    The defense looked exceptional as always, but did the Tigers appear to be missing Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu, who was dismissed from the program last month for failed susstance-abuse tests.

    Let's go ahead and break down five things we learned from LSU's Week 1 victory over North Texas.

    Bleacher Report Style! 

1. Hilliard and Blue Answer the Test

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    LSU running backs Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard spent the 2011 season in a backup role to starters Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, but it appears that the script has been flipped.

    Blue and Hilliard combined to rush for 274 yards and two touchdowns in LSU's win Saturday.

    Ware didn't see any action due to a thigh injury, but Ford, last year's leading rusher, received just eight carries, while Blue and Hilliard got 16 and 13 carries, respectively.

    It will be interesting to see what happens when Ware comes back into the lineup, but right now, it looks like this LSU backfield belongs to Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard.

    They certainly answered the test in Week 1. 

2. Jarvis Landry Is Going to Be a Star

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    With Rueben Randle off to the NFL, LSU fans have been pondering which wide receiver will step up and establish themselves as the No. 1 option in this offense.

    It looks like sophomore Jarvis Landry fits the bill, at least with his performance on Saturday.

    Landry hauled in a team-high eight catches for 82 yards in the LSU victory.

    Odell Beckham, who many believed would take over for Randle, had a solid game with three catches and a punt return for a touchdown. Russell Shepard was near-invisible as he was all throughout last season, hauling in just one catch for 11 yards. 

    Don't be surprised to see Landry continue to star in this LSU offense. 

3. Eric Reid Is the Leader of This Secondary

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    No Tyrann Mathieu.

    No Morris Claiborne.

    No Brandon Taylor.

    That leaves Eric Reid as the lone returning starter in this LSU defensive backfield, and he will need to play like an All-American if this team is going to get back to the National Championship game.

    Reid played like a veteran on Saturday, defending the pass, making tackles and intercepting a pass.

    With the lack of experience in this defensive backfield, Reid is the main man in this equation.

4. Tyrann Who?

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    Tyrann Mathieu was an All-American cornerback, but where he made his biggest asset to this LSU football team was his playmaking abilities, specifically in the return game.

    However, it looks like LSU has a new star in the return game, sophomore Odell Beckham Jr.

    This talented wide receiver made a huge impact in the return game, taking two punts for touchdowns, one of which was negated by an illegal-block penalty.

    Beckham took a 70-yard punt for a score in the first quarter, which helped break the game open in LSU's favor early on.

    I'm sure LSU would love to have Tyrann Mathieu's skill out on the field, but Odell Beckham Jr. made fans forget about the former Heisman Trophy finalist on Saturday.

5. Zach Mettenberger Is as Good as Advertised

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    Those who follow this LSU football program closely know very well that Les Miles doesn't need Zach Mettenberger to throw for 300 yards every game if LSU is going to win another SEC Championship and get back to the National Title Game.

    With a dominant rushing attack and a fearless defense, LSU simply needs Mettenberger to manage football games, which is just what he did on Saturday evening.

    Mettenberger completed 19 of 26 passes for 192 yards and touchdown.

    He wasn't exceptional, but he was solid, made smart decisions and completed 73 percent of his passes in a convincing victory. If Mettenberger can do this on a weekly basis, LSU has a chance to be a legitimate National Title contender this season.