LSU Tigers vs. Sam Houston St. Bearkats Complete Game Preview
LSU is lucky to be 1-0.
Head coach Les Miles performed one of his patented comebacks Saturday night against Wisconsin. The Tigers were down by 17 in the third quarter to Wisconsin, but a fake punt sparked 21 unanswered points and a 28-24 victory.
The Tigers will open their home season against Sam Houston State on Saturday. The Bearkats notched their first victory in their home opener last weak against Alabama State.
LSU Keys to Victory
Run the Football
The Tigers must run the football better if they want to win the SEC.
LSU rushed for 130 yards against Wisconsin, well below its 198 rushing yards per game against ranked opponents last season. To make matters worse, most of the rushing yards came against a depleted Badgers defense late in the game.
Leonard Fournette's much-anticipated debut was limited to 18 yards on eight carries. Most of LSU's production came from Kenny Hilliard's 110 yards on the ground.
LSU's running backs must do a better job of making defenders miss. The offensive line's lackluster performance also hurt the ground game.
Expect Miles to get his power running game going against an inferior Sam Houston State defense.
Stop the Run
The most rushing yards LSU allowed on defense last season was 216. The Badgers tallied 268 on 39 carries Saturday.
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis understands that allowing just under seven yards per carry normally does not result in victory. Chavis will have his defense ready to stop Keshawn Hill, who has 190 yards rushing through two games for the Bearkats.
Sam Houston State Keys to Victory
Do Not Turn the Football Over
Sam Houston State cannot lose the turnover battle if it wants to keep the game close against LSU.
Two second-half interceptions from Wisconsin quarterback Tanner McEvoy sparked the Tigers last week. LSU's secondary could be the best in the country, so quarterback Jared Johnson must be careful with his throws.
Rush the Passer...Cautiously
LSU's starting quarterback, for now, is Anthony Jennings. But expect Miles to get freshman Brandon Harris snaps against Sam Houston State.
Getting pressure is a must in order to slow down the LSU passing attack. Jennings and Harris are both superb throwers on the run and in the pocket, so the Bearkats must also maintain rush lane discipline.
LSU Players to Watch
LSU receiver Trey Quinn played a majority of LSU's snaps on offense against Wisconsin. Quinn caught LSU's two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to three points.
He had an opportunity earlier on the drive to make a tough catch that would have put LSU in the Badgers' red zone. Fortunately, John Diarse made an amazing run after the catch to score on the next play.
Quinn has amazing hands, and, if given another opportunity, he would likely make the play. Look for him to be targeted down the field at least once against Sam Houston State.
Jennings will be the starter against Sam Houston Sate after his 239 yards and two touchdowns against Wisconsin. But Miles said after the game he wanted to give more snaps to Harris.
Harris has a superb arm and can make plays with his legs. His teammates were impressed by how quickly he picked up on the offense as an early enrollee last spring.
The Tigers will give him multiple series to work with, especially if they blow out the Bearkats early.
LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith's biggest play against Wisconsin did not happen on defense, but rather on special teams.
Beckwith took a direct snap on a fake punt for five yards and a first down in the third quarter. The Tigers then went on to score 21 unanswered points and win the game.
He also contributed on defense, filling in for starting middle linebacker D.J. Welter. Beckwith tallied only one tackle, but he played limited snaps. LSU's defense performed poorly against the run. Welter did not play horribly, but Beckwith could possibly be an upgrade.
Sam Houston State Players to Watch
Hill is the Bearkats' most explosive weapon on offense. He leads the team in rushing yards, receiving yards and touchdowns so far this season. He has a reception for 68 yards and a run for 79 yards.
LSU struggled to contain Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon. Hill is not the caliber of player Gordon is, but the Tigers must be better prepared to stop a big-play back.
Free safety Michael Wade's job is to make sure the Sam Houston State secondary does not get beaten deep by LSU's receivers. That task is easier said than done, especially with the way Travin Dural played last Saturday.
Wade raked in 105 tackles and two interceptions last season. He already has nine tackles and one interception so far in 2014.
What They’re Saying
Miles said after the victory against Wisconsin that he looks forward to getting better.
"This next week will be fun to correct, and we'll improve and we'll go forward. There's some quality teams we have to play, and certainly next week will be no exception," he said.
Miles had four scholarship players who did not dress out, allegedly due to injury and suspension according to The Advocate's Ross Dellenger. The list included center Elliott Porter, cornerback Rashard Robinson, receiver Malachi Dupre and defensive tackle Maquedius Bain.
The coach said he is not certain when those players will come back: "I'm going to handle that as discipline within our program. I can tell you that those suspensions are something that we view very seriously and don't necessarily want to share it with everybody else."
Sam Houston State could have beaten home favorite Eastern Washington in college football's opening game August 23rd. Head coach K.C. Keeler has stressed to his team the importance of not making mistakes against good teams.
"I’ve told the kids, if we play clean, we win. We have enough talent here that if we play clean, we’ll win a lot of football games. That’s going to be the challenge," Keeler said, per GoBearkats.com.
The Tigers' matchup against Sam Houston State is the first of three home nonconference cupcakes they will have this month. LSU's only losable game in September will be against Mississippi State two weeks from Saturday.
Sam Houston State is not a bad football team for its respective talent level. The Bearkats went a respectable 9-5 overall in 2013 and could easily meet that record again this year. But the Southland Conference is not the Southeastern Conference. LSU has too much speed and strength for the Bearkats to handle.
Miles will win big and will continue to play his highly touted 2014 recruiting class. Look for Fournette, safety Jamal Adams, defensive tackle Davon Godchaux and defensive end Deondre Clark to get more snaps Saturday.
Prediction: LSU 48, Sam Houston State 14
Stats, rankings and additional information provided by CFBStats.com, LSU Sports Information and Sam Houston State Sports Information. Recruiting informations provided by 247Sports. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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