Washington and LSU are both coming off victories in the opening weekend of college football, but the Huskies are going to find their next test to be significantly more difficult.
The Tigers justified their No. 3 ranking against North Texas, cruising to a 41-14 victory. Washington—who just missed out on the top-25—stayed on the west coast and beat San Diego State 21-12.
Now, Les Miles' ferocious defense will be the toughest test of the year for offensive guru Steve Sarkisian.
Here is everything you need to know about this game.
When: Saturday, September 8, 7 p.m. ET
Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Listen: KJR 950 AM (Washington), 98.1 FM (LSU)
Betting Line: LSU -23.5 according to Sports Book
Washington Injury Report (via USA Today)
Hau’oli Jamora—sophomore defensive end will have arthroscopic knee surgery and is out indefinitely.
James Johnson—senior wide receiver is out four to six weeks with a dislocated wrist.
Cooper Pelluer—junior linebacker is out for the season after shoulder surgery.
Deontae Cooper—sophomore running back is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Nate Feliner—senior linebacker is out indefinitely with a broken foot.
Jamaal Kearse—sophomore linebacker is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his shin.
LSU Injury Report (via USA Today)
The Tigers have no significant injuries to report.
BCS/Top 25 Poll Implications
Both these teams are likely unhappy with their places in the rankings. Washington must prove that it should have been included the AP Top 25 preseason poll, while LSU hopes to show they should be the No. 1 team in the country.
If Washington miraculously wins this game, they undoubtedly would leap into the Top 25. Even if they keep the contest competitive, a few wins in the following weeks will also improve their standing with the voters. For the Tigers, they must continue to win every time they take the field to accomplish their goal.
What They’re Saying
The Seattle Times’ Steve Kelly noted that there are reasons to be worried about how the Huskies will perform against LSU.
After scoring on their first two possessions of the season, Washington's offense was shut out the rest of the night. It wasn't a stellar beginning to what is supposed to be another season that ends with a bowl game.
However, Brett Martel of the Associated Press reminds football fans that national championship teams don’t hit their stride in the first week of the season, and LSU still has some flaws that can be exploited, per Yahoo Sports:
LSU learned that its passing game has not yet improved as much as the Tigers thought it would with highly hyped quarterback Zach Mettenberger behind center. It also discovered that some of its young defenders remain susceptible to missed assignments and the type of over-pursuit that can result in big plays.
Washington Player to Watch: Keith Price, QB
After throwing for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns last season, Price is entering 2012 with high expectations. For the Huskies to have any chance against LSU, he must have one of the best days of his career.
Price will be under an immense amount of pressure from both the national media and the LSU pass-rushers. But he is a talented passer, and if he remains aggressive, he can put the Tigers’ defense on its heels.
LSU Player to Watch: Kenny Hilliard, RB
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s performance against North Texas did not inspire much confidence, but Hilliard made sure the passing game was not needed. The 5’11”, 240-pound running back could not be stopped, and the Huskies will have an immensely difficult task in containing him.
Hilliard carried the ball 13 times for 141 carries and two touchdowns. It is safe to say that the Tigers will cruise to another victory if he averaged over 10 yards per carry against Washington.
Key Matchup: Keith Price vs. the LSU Secondary
Without Tyrann Mathieu for the season, LSU will go through some adjustments early in the year to replace their star defensive back. There is still an incredible amount of talent among the cornerbacks and safeties, but they are still vulnerable.
If Price is able to establish a rhythm early, Sarkisian will be able to dial up the necessary calls to take advantage of the weaknesses in the Tigers’ secondary.
Key Storyline: Zach Mettenberger’s Progress
Mettenberger’s big arm was supposed to give LSU’s offense a different dimension this season. That did not happen against North Texas.
The Tigers’ new quarterback will be scrutinized this week, and spectators will be watching to see if he can drive the ball down the field accurately. He certainly needs to improve against Washington and endear himself to the home crowd.
Prediction: LSU 45, Washington 17
This will be another game in which the Tigers look imperfect, but still record a lopsided victory.