The LSU Tigers will benefit from an uptempo offense and aggressive defense against the TCU Horned Frogs this Saturday.
Merely days away from the season opener, fans are anxious to see how effective new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will be in implementing changes to the offense. Prediction? Growing pains will be exhibited, but the offense should spread the ball around quite nicely.
Fans are also curious to see how the defense looks without Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Eric Reid, Kevin Minter and Bennie Logan. Prediction? Pain in another sense. No seriously, a lot of helmet-jarring hits from a zealous defense.
Let's get down to brass tax though. What type of numbers are we talking here? It's prediction time, but more importantly it's go big or go home time, as I like to say.
Zach Mettenberger—17-of-24, 236 passing yards, one touchdown, no interceptions
Should we label him Mettenberger 2.0?
The talk and constant analysis on Mettenberger is nearing an end. Thank God, right? Alas the dark period of no football is almost over. Instead, it's time to actually witness what Cameron's clout brings to the table.
Good news—signs point to pretty good. With sharpened mechanics and the game slowing down for him, Mettenberger will pass for more than 200 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.
He'll open the door wide open for his running backs to kick through.
Alfred Blue—16 rushes, 121 yards, one touchdown
Kenny Hilliard—11 rushes, 74 yards, two touchdowns
Here's a prediction for you—stiff arm after stiff arm after stiff arm.
Yes, the Tigers will spread the ball around and attack the perimeter instead of pounding away on the interior of TCU's front...at first.
Look, we're all excited about this uptempo talk and the possibility of throwing the ball more in 2013, but you're downright gullible if you believe the Tigers will abandon the running game.
After showcasing some of the new tricks applied by Cameron, expect this offense to get back to doing what it does best—pound the rock.
Blue will rush for more than 100 yards and Hilliard will collect two touchdowns, as the Tigers' offensive line asserts its dominance over a weaker TCU defensive front.
Odell Beckham—five receptions, 62 yards, one touchdown
Jarvis Landry—six receptions, 86 yards
Travin Dural—three receptions, 48 yards
Les Miles said it best at the first "Lunch with Les" news conference last Monday. "More can be asked from Odell Beckham."
Even though the junior wide receiver has had a respectable career at LSU, he could have carried the team a little more offensively one year ago.
With 713 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions, Beckham had a creditable season, but he's capable of so much more.
In the season opener, Beckham will prove that by getting a touchdown and recording some nice stats. Landry will lead the Tigers in receiving and the highly-anticipated debut of Dural will see him record 48 receiving yards.
Lamin Barrow—13 tackles
D.J. Welter—eight tackles
Craig Loston—seven tackles
Jalen Mills—six tackles
Like a revolving door at a fancy hotel, expect the Tigers defense to rotate consistently.
That should allow plenty of one and two tackle performances from several Tigers, but the cornerstones of the defense will get their fair share.
Most notably, Barrow will be a force against the run, and Welter will be a nice complement in the middle.
Because of the talent the Horned Frogs possess at quarterback, it's likely the Tigers secondary will have to make a considerable amount of tackles. Loston and Mills, arguably the Tigers' two best tackling defensive backs, will deliver.
Danielle Hunter—1.5 sacks
Jermauria Rasco—1.0 sack
Anthony Johnson—1.0 sack
Let's step out on a limb with this one.
Rasco is the veteran defensive end, playing in 22 games at the position. He's been the face of the defensive end position since Montgomery and Mingo were drafted.
To many fans' surprise, he will not lead the Tigers in sacks in the opening game. Nope, that will go to Hunter, who resembles Mingo in stature and body build.
Don't worry though, veterans Rasco and Johnson will make their presence known in the backfield as well.
Too high or too low?
You can make arguments for both. Two turnovers is a suggestively high number because of how efficient the Horned Frogs are on offense. Before leaving the team, Casey Pachall was the most efficient passer in 2012.
However, this is Cowboy Stadium, the Tigers have been disrespected throughout the preseason and the last time I checked, John Chavis is still the defensive coordinator for the Tigers. All of which point to a few turnovers for the Tigers. Remember last time LSU played in Dallas and forced four turnovers?
Because of the Tigers' ability to rise to the occasion, I'm taking two turnovers, with Ronald Martin capturing an interception and Tahj Jones falling on a forced fumble.
All in all, the Tigers will look impressive in the season opener.
Because of the youth on defense, the Tigers will allow a few big passing plays, but turnovers and pressure on the quarterback will negate any significant damage in the score column.
As for LSU's offense, I fully anticipate a balanced attack that keeps the Horned Frogs defense unbalanced.
Mettenberger will shine and open up the running game for Blue and Hilliard.