LSU vs. Kent State Preview: Four Burning Questions
LSU will play a cupcake for the second straight week on Saturday night in Death Valley. This time, Kent State will make the journey to Baton Rouge.
While Tigers head coach Les Miles battles bad press off the field over a Sports Illustrated investigation of his possible past infractions at Oklahoma State, he will need to keep his team focused for a final softy tune-up before playing five straight SEC opponents.
Last season, Kent State finished 11-3 and was one win away from possibly playing in a BCS bowl.
Head coach Darrell Hazell left Kent State for the same position at Purdue. The Golden Flashes responded by hiring former Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes as their new head coach
Kent State has started the season sluggish, beating Liberty, 17-10, which finished 6-5 in the Big South Conference last season. The Golden Flashes were then thumped at home by Bowling Green, 41-22, last week.
The Tigers should be able to coast through this game easily, especially after looking so sharp against the University of Alabama-Birmingham last week.
Will Dri Archer Play?
Dri Archer captivated college football diehards last season with his electric play. Archer finished the 2012 season with just under 2,500 all-purpose yards and was a consensus All-American.
But 2013 could not have started worse for Archer. The senior suffered an ankle injury in the first game of the season against Liberty and did not play in Kent State's second game against Bowling Green.
Some have questioned Archer's toughness. He was seen without a boot and a limp last week.
Kent State's chances are certainly better when Archer is in the lineup, but the healing process for Archer will not improve against an elite defense playing at home. LSU's speed feasts on players who like to get outside.
The Golden Flashes desperately could use a spark on Saturday. If Archer does not suit up, he will begin to receive the same criticism that NBA star Derrick Rose received last season in Chicago.
Will Another Receiving Threat Emerge for LSU?
Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. are a dynamic duo with LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. But what about LSU's other wide receivers?
Landry and Beckham Jr. have raked in 23 catches for 434 yards and six touchdowns. The duo accounts for the majority of Mettenberger's stellar production.
Wideouts not named Jarvis or Odell have combined for four catches and 35 yards. Tight ends have not faired much better with two catches and 19 yards.
To be fair, Landry and Beckham Jr. have done a fantastic job of getting open. Mettenberger must deliver his best weapons the ball when they have space.
But defensive coordinators will adjust to make LSU's secondary options beat them.
Travin Dural has two catches, both of which have come on LSU's opening reception in games to convert a first down. Dural still looks as if he needs some seasoning.
LSU has run plenty of Shotgun this season as well, which calls for three, four or five receivers. Kadron Boone and James Wright are seasoned veterans who are great blockers, but can they become reliable chain-movers on offense?
Quantavius Leslie has the most upside. The junior college transfer recorded his first reception last Saturday. His tape shows he can consistently get behind safeties to stretch the field.
Will the tight ends ever become a factor with Mettenberger? Dillon Gordon and true freshman Desean Smith have a catch apiece while Travis Dickson has battled injuries to start the season. The Tigers' offense will be more potent if a tight end can attack the middle of the field.
Kent State has allowed 546 passing yards through two games, which is not good. Expect another Mettenberger air raid on Saturday.
Will We See More of True Freshman Quarterback Anthony Jennings?
In limited action, true freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings had mixed results in his first series against Texas Christian and UAB.
Against the Horned Frogs, Jennings came in for one snap to convert a critical 3rd-and-inches on a quarterback sneak.
UAB was just the opposite. LSU was leading, 42-17, when Jennings was inserted into the game and fumbled an easy snap for a loss of four yards.
Mettenberger was reinserted for the next play.
Jennings did become steady after the miscue. He completed his only pass of the game for 11 yards and had no other fumbles.
LSU is likely to jump out to an early lead against Kent State, especially if Mettenberger keeps his form. Jennings will likely play some snaps in the second half.
LSU has a plethora of quarterbacks behind Jennings on the depth chart.
Stephen Rivers was the backup last season. Rob Bolden has started games for Penn State in the Big Ten and Hayden Rettig was Jennings' fellow 4-star quarterback in the 2013 recruiting class.
While they all could make a claim for playing time, expect Jennings to remain in the lead for quarterback mop-up duties.
Jennings could become more of a factor in the first-team offense when SEC play rolls around. A mobile quarterback adds an extra dimension to an offense that keeps defenses stretched out and honest.
Can LSU Keep the Pace Defensively?
Kent State has allowed 546 yards passing through two games while LSU has allowed 555 yards total.
The Tigers have been dominant, but things can get even better for them.
LSU started off fast against UAB, but allowed the Blazers to get into a groove offensively late in the first half.
Give some credit to UAB head coach Garrick McGee, who was once the offensive coordinator at Arkansas and has had success moving the football against LSU.
LSU rotated some younger players into the game to get them ready for SEC play and UAB started moving the football when some of those younger players were inserted.
Shockingly, cornerback Jalen Mills took a step backwards against the Blazers. Mills missed an open-field tackle to allow UAB their first touchdown. He then allowed Jamarcus Nelson to beat him deep for UAB's only other touchdown.
Mills dominated TCU with an interception and a team-high five solo tackles. Expect more TCU-like performances from the sophomore.
The defensive backs, as a whole, still look solid. Craig Loston and Ronald Martin have worked in harmony together as the new safety duo.
The linebacker core is still in question. Lamin Barrow has not been at his sharpest despite leading the unit in tackles. Barrow's partner DJ Welter is nowhere near the talent of his former bash brother, Kevin Minter.
Welter is a traditional inside linebacker who is best against the run. But when LSU runs its two-linebacker sets, which it does often, there are no middle linebackers.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis loves defenders who can play in space. The tape on Welter shows speed and agility is not his strong suit. Backup linebackers Kwon Alexander, Tahj Jones and Lamar Louis fit the bill better in that department, so expect more playing time from them.
The LSU defensive line has possibly been the biggest surprise. The plethora of defensive ends LSU has at its disposal has looked sharp. The Tigers' defensive tackles have looked great too, with Ego Ferguson playing at an All-SEC level.
The most impressive aspect of their play has been the pass-rushing attack, as LSU has collapsed the pocket consistently.
Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon has had a spectacular start to the season. Reardon has thrown for 358 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He has also rushed for 96 yards over two games.
The Golden Flashes have had success moving the football, but that will stop when they face the suffocating speed of LSU.
LSU vs. Kent St. Prediction: LSU Will Win Comfortably
LSU looks great offensively, but the Tigers though are still far from elite.
The numbers show LSU has run the ball effectively, but in reality, there are still plenty of questions to be answered.
They struggled at times against TCU. Their showing against UAB was fine, but it was tough to tell since the Tigers were so dominant in throwing the football.
Jeremy Hill should, and will, get at least 10 touches against Kent State because the Tigers need him ready for SEC play.
The LSU passing attack has dazzled, but it is unfeasible to think thatLSU will continue to throw the football as well as it has done. If Aaron Rodgers were the quarterback at LSU, he would struggle to play at the level that Zach Mettenberger is currently playing over the span of a season.
The most impressive aspect of LSU's romp over UAB is how quickly the Tigers jumped over them. At times, LSU has been sluggish at home against inferior teams.
While last Saturday was not the case, it could be the case this week. The Tigers could be looking forward to next week at their first SEC game against Auburn. Though LSU beat the Tigers from The Plains last season, it was unimpressive, as LSU squeaked by, 12-10.
Mettenberger was putrid against Auburn and certainly wants to atone for his mistakes last season.
Miles will preach to his team to not look ahead, but do not be surprised if the Tigers are not as sharp on Saturday night.
LSU looked slow against Florida last season in losing, 14-6. The week before, the Tigers played a physical game against Towson. Expect Miles to play more young players against the Golden Flashes to keep his starters fresh for five straight weeks of SEC football.
LSU will still win comfortably to remain unblemished.
Prediction: LSU 52, Kent State 17