By now, the West Virginia coaches are breaking down the tape of Saturday afternoon's victory over Maryland. LSU is next, and there are 150 odd hours remaining to get ready for the biggest test on the Mountaineer slate.
Of Bill Stewart's 30 games as WVU's head football coach, this is his biggest opportunity by far. He and his staff must beat the Bayou Bengal Tigers. Stewart and his players need that signature road win. A victory over the LSU from the Southeastern Conference in Baton Rouge in front of 92,000 crazed fans will do it.
Here are some issues to consider:
WVU QB Geno Smith Is on Fire, And It's Beginning To Look Like That's Normal for Him
Geno went 19-for-29 for 268 yards against Maryland, finding the end zone four times. He's looking a lot like late 1990s passer Marc Bulger. He's seemingly unstoppable on the gridiron after the two mega-drives to take WVU to overtime at Marshall. He's also emerged as a leader, keeping his offense fired up, especially the offensive line.
Geno has the tools in his belt to play quarterback against any SEC team. He needs blocking and nearly perfect receiver play from Jock Sanders, Tavon Austin, and Steadman Bailey to complement his outstanding skills.
Which leads us to:
Unfortunately, Geno Needs To Remind the Offense about the Importance of Blocking
Saturday against Maryland, the Mountaineer offensive line seemed to respond to the quarterback's attempts to jog their memory. It's a good thing. The WVU blocking built upon the success at Marshall, although in the third quarter the big guys sort of forgot why they were there. Overall they're ready for LSU.
The Offensive Line Has To Be Ready for the Tigers
LSU seems to have patched together its inexperienced defense. They're 3-0, with a nice sticker on its headgear for holding back North Carolina and another one for Saturday night's convincing win over fellow SEC member Mississippi State.
I don't know exactly how many seconds the O-line has been giving Geno, nor have I measured how big the holes Noel Devine and Ryan Clarke have been running through. To beat LSU, though, the O-line is absolutely the key. It's asking a lot, but they have to hold their blocks another half-second. That's a half tick on the clock and it has to be there.
Speaking of LSU's Defense, All-America Cornerback Patrick Peterson Is Absolutely the Best Football Player West Virginia Will Face
On his corner, Peterson will shutdown any receiver facing him. He's 6'1' and 211 lbs on roller blades and can work on an island. Peterson will cover and cover well any wideout WVU lines up on him. Including Alabama's running back Mark Ingram, Peterson is arguably the best player that any of LSU's opponents will see.
Thanks to the remainder of the LSU secondary, Patrick Peterson is nearly impossible to throw away from, or unfortunately punt away from. He got two picks against Mississippi State and cruised 87 yards on a punt return touchdown against North Carolina.
It's imperative that Geno Smith knows where Patrick Peterson is on every play and knows where he's going.
Maryland's Wideout Torrey Smith Answered the Question: "What is the State of West Virginia's Defensive Backs?"
Not good. The fastest receiver in the Atlantic Coast Conference smoked the Mountaineer corners for two TDs in the third quarter, one from 60 yards and a second from 80 yards. Assuming ostracized corner Brandon Hogan will not be back, West Virginia needs to roll the safeties over to defend LSU's two amazing wideouts, 6'5" 206 lb senior Terrance Toliver and the immensely talented 6'1" 188 lb sophomore Russell Shepard.
Fortunately, Junior LSU Quarterback Jordan Jefferson Can Be Rattled
And what Mountaineer is the best at rattling people? Bruce Irvin. Irvin racked up three sacks and a couple of hurries. The best one, Irvin's first sack in a West Virginia uniform, came when he welcomed Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien to Morgantown with an awesome, wicked blindside in-the-back hit.
The Tigers also have a good rushing attack. The Mountaineers have a rather decent run defense. If the WVU linebackers get Jefferson to a passing situation, Jeff Casteel has to have some blitz packages such as the ones West Virginia used against Maryland. The D-backs need that help.
As with Every Game, But Especially with This One Against LSU, the Victory Will Be Charted on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and Won on Saturday Night
The win over Maryland was a sweet win. It was nice to have the return of the rivalry. But sometime, like immediately, after those remaining in the crowd sang "Country Roads," it was time to move on. It's time for the Mountaineers of West Virginia to move on to LSU.