LSU-WVU: Position-by-Position Breakdown

Tom PerryCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2011

LSU-WVU: Position-by-Position Breakdown

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    With ESPN's Gameday crew coming to Morgantown for the LSU-West Virginia game, this is the biggest thing to hit the state since Powerball in 1987.

    Dana Holgorsen's first season at WVU is quickly turning into a memorable season, but the Mountaineers are about to face one of the top teams in the nation.

    Night games at Mountaineer Field may not be as intimidating as playing in Death Valley when the sun goes down. However, WVU has played in a few memorable games under the lights at home, including a 28-7 victory over third-ranked Virginia Tech in 2003.

    Do the Mountaineers have a little magic left before the Big East implodes? It will likely take a near perfect game as kick off is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday.

    Since there's still a few days before the showdown, let's take a look at the match up by breaking down each position.


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    Once again, WVU's Geno Smith had a huge game throwing the ball.

    Smith lit up Maryland for 388 yards on 36-of-49 passing. He also had a TD pass.

    The junior ranks 23rd in the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown for 1,008 yards and seven touchdowns.

    Jarrett Lee is LSU's back-up plan when Jordan Jefferson was nailed with an indefinite suspension.

    Lee hasn't lit up the stat sheet, but he's been a great leader and isn't throwing interceptions like he did in the past.

    Edge: West Virginia

Running Backs

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    LSU likes to spread the ball between Michael Ford (218 yards, four TDs) and Spencer Ware (226 yards, three TDs) and is tough to contend with.

    The running game has potential, but isn't as explosive as it could be.

    West Virginia's running game continues to be behind the passing attack under Dana Holgorsen, who wishes he could find a back like Kendall Hunter.

    Right now he's trying to develop a consistent runner out of Andrew Buie (88 yards) and Vernard Roberts (118 yards).

    Edge: LSU


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    Both squads have some serious talent at receiver.

    Russell Sheppard is back for LSU after serving a three-game suspension, and the timing is perfect for Jarrett Lee.

    Freshman Odell Beckham has a team-high 15 catches, while junior Rueben Randle leads with 229 yards receiving.

    WVU had three receivers eclipse 100 yards last week at Maryland and Dana Holgorsen is utilizing six receivers consistently.

    Tavon Austin is leading the way with 20 catches for 236 yards, followed by Ivan McCartney (17 catches, 211 yards) and Stedman Bailey (15 catches, 229 yards).

    Other serious contributors are Devon Brown (10 catches, 164 yards) and Tyler Urban (four catches, 31 yards).

    Edge: West Virginia

Offensive Line

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    LSU is stocked with talent on the offensive line, led by junior center P.J. Lonergan, senior T-Bob Hebert, junior Alex Hurst and sophomore Chris Faulk.

    The Tigers controlled the line of scrimmage against Oregon, and actually wore down Mississippi State last week.

    West Virginia's line looked better against Maryland last week, but there are still concerns, especially going against a defensive line like LSU's.

    WVU left tackle Don Barclay (6'4", 310) and center Joe Madsen (6'4", 301) are mainstays on the line, while Jeff Braun (6'4", 322) is holding his own as a replacement for Josh Jenkins at left guard.

    Tyler Rader (6'3", 296) and Pat Eger (6'6", 301) are also getting better with each start.

    Edge: LSU

Defensive Line

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    Seriously, did you watch these guys from LSU against Mississippi State last week?

    I don't care how much talent they lost from last year, the Tigers' defensive line is one of the top five in the nation.

    West Virginia's isn't too bad either and is led by sack-machine Bruce Irvin. Only problem is he has just one sack through three games.

    Edge: LSU


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    You thought the defensive line was good, how about these linebackers at LSU?

    A senior-laden group with Ryan Baker (seven tackles), Stefoin Francois (two tackles) and Karnell Hatcher (two tackles) and sophomore Kevin Minter (10 tackles).

    WVU's Najee Goode will start his 17th straight game Saturday, but the rest of the linebacking corps is inexperienced.

    The linebackers also had a rough go of it in the second half at Maryland.

    Edge: LSU

Defensive Backs

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    Corner Tyrann Mathieu is enjoying a great start to 2011 and leads the team with 24 tackles, including three for a loss. Safety Brandon Taylor has 17 tackles and corner Morris Claiborne (13 tackles) is arguably the best of the group.

    Are they as good as last year? Probably not, but it's hard to tell much of a difference.

    WVU allowed Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien to complete 34-of-52 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown. However, they also picked off three of his passes, including a key late-game interception by Eain Smith to preserve the win.

    Senior Keith Tandy is WVU's best corner, but Pat Miller is getting better. The safeties are equally important to West Virginia's 3-3-5 defensive alignment. Terence Garvin had an interception return for a TD last week.

    Edge: LSU

Special Teams

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    LSU's next great returners are Morris Claiborne (kickoffs) and Tyrann Mathieu (punts). Claiborne is averaging 23 yards a return, while Mathieu is only averaging 3.5 a return.

    The kicking game has two new faces with Drew Alleman as the placekicker and Brad Wing at punter.

    West Virginia kicker Tyler Bitancurt appears to have bounced back after a subpar 2010. He's hit 7-of-8 field goals and all 15 PATs.

    Tavon Austin has been a serious threat returning punts and kickoffs. He's averaging 22 yards a punt and 29.4 on kickoffs, including a touchdown.

    Edge: West Virginia


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    You get the Mad Hatter and the guy who downs Red Bulls on the sidelines.

    Les Miles has a track record of winning and recruiting great talent.

    Dana Holgorsen is one of the game's great offensive minds.

    Right now, experience is more important than potential.

    Edge: LSU


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    West Virginia was holding out hope that it would be the 14th team added to the SEC.

    Well, that dream fell through. Now the Mountaineers can use the dis as motivation to prove they belong with the likes of LSU.

    It also helps that it's a night game in Morgantown.

    Edge: West Virginia

Make the Pick

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    This game is going to be close, and WVU will have a chance to pull the upset.

    But Les Miles wins these games, and when it comes down to it the Tigers have more talent.

    Winner: LSU, 24-20