LSU Football: Les Miles Can Use McNeese State as Tuneup for Auburn and Alabama
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With an 6-0 start, including three wins over Top 25 teams, and a No. 9 ranking in the polls, LSU figures to have no problems Saturday night in Death Valley versus the McNeese St. Cowboys.
Just because LSU is playing an FCS team doesn't mean the Tigers can take it easy against the Southland Conference school in their first ever meeting.
While LSU's defense has played stellar in the first half of the season, the offense has been shakier than a drug addict going through withdrawal.
Tigers coach Les Miles can use this game against the Cowboys to prepare for LSU's next two games against SEC West rivals Auburn (Oct. 23) and Alabama (Nov. 6). Those games are more vital in determining who plays in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4.
Here are some things I'd like to see LSU do versus McNeese St:
1. Start Jarrett Lee
I'm not one of those knee-jerk reactionaries who thinks Lee has done enough versus Tennessee and Florida to permanently replace Jordan Jefferson. There's way less pressure on him as the back-up QB than being the starter.
While Lee has been superb on the Tigers' two game-winning drives in as many weeks, I want to see him play that well over the course of an entire game. Miles needs to make sure Lee's pick-six days are behind him.
Miles has made it clear he likes the two-quarterback system and will continue to use it unless one guy significantly outplays the other. This would be Lee's chance to do that, even if it is against McNeese St.
Even if Miles want to use both quarterbacks, starting with Lee and having Jefferson come off the bench adds a new wrinkle to the offensive scheme. Predictable substitution patterns make an opposing defensive coordinator's job easier than it should be.
2. More aggressive offensive line
Whenever I watch an LSU game, eventually the commentators say something along the lines of, "This Tigers offensive line is physical and nasty. They're dominating the line of scrimmage."
To which I think to myself," What the hell are they talking about?"
I know LSU averages just under 190 rushing yards per game; Stevan Ridley is the SEC's second-leading rusher with 106 yards a game, and the line has allowed only eight sacks so far.
Still, I rarely see the line pushing defenders back on their heels. Maybe twice a game they blast open a hole off guard or a cutback lane. Mostly it's Ridley running over tacklers and leaning forward for yardage.
Miles and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa should have the unit watch film of how Alabama (pre-South Carolina) and Oregon blocks. It's a thing of beauty.
The Tigers need its offensive line to get mean before facing Auburn and Alabama.
If Cal Poly can run for 310 yards against the Cowboys, LSU should get at least 350. No excuses.
3. Where is Russell Shepard?
Against North Carolina and Vanderbilt, Shepard was by far the best LSU player on the field. He scored three touchdowns on 16 touches for 145 yards.
But in the last four games, he has combined for 114 yards on 20 touches and no touchdowns.
I'm glad to see Rueben Randle and Terrence Toliver getting more involved in the offense the past two games, but I didn't expect Shepard to disappear.
LSU will need Shepard's big-play capabilities to beat Auburn and Alabama. McNeese St. is the perfect opponent for the sophomore wide receiver to break out of his midseason slump.
4. Les(s) is More
Sorry, Mad Hatter. But against McNeese St. the only plays you should be calling are the most basic in the playbook.
No gimmicks. No trick plays. No razzle-dazzle.
The fundamentals that have or haven't been working during this 6-0 start need to be executed on Saturday. Those are the plays you'll need most to beat Auburn and Alabama.
I remember how in 2008 LSU trailed Troy 31-3 late in the third quarter and needed the greatest comeback in school history to prevail 40-31.
If Miles has to pull out some craziness to beat the Cowboys, then he can't be defended as a coach anymore.
So please Les, save the drama for an opponent more worthy of your shenanigans.
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