Published September 6, 2012 - 12:00pm
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Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and the rest of LSU’s starting defense isn’t exactly licking their chops this week in preparation for Saturday’s game in Baton Rouge.
One of the nation’s nastiest units that is among the SEC’s best at forcing turnovers is sure to be tested against Washington’s wide-open spread, a multifaceted offense led by dual-threat quarterback Keith Price.
“I like their quarterback,” LSU coach Les Miles said Wednesday. “He’s a very good passer.”
Very good is an understatement for the 6-foot-1-inch junior.
He’s tough — raised in Compton, California. He’s accurate — holds a 65.8 percent career completion percentage. And he’s coming off a record-setting sophomore campaign that included school benchmarks in touchdown passes (33) and pass efficiency (161.09).
Price will try and exploit a youth-laden Tigers secondary that returns a single starter off last season’s team — free safety Eric Reid. In the opener against North Texas, LSU’s front seven dominated the line of scrimmage and shouldered the burden of the Mean Green’s passing game.
With the secondary’s help, the Tigers limited the opposition to just 143 yards through the air and forced 13 incompletions in 21 attempts. Price presents a different challenge, a player that can make plays on the run or in the pocket.
His coming out party may have been the performance in last year’s Alamo Bowl against Baylor during which he out-shined Heisman recipient Robert Griffin III with 477 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns — four with his arm and three with his legs.
“He’s a guy who can make plays with his feet,” Mingo said. “He has a strong arm, he keeps his eyes downfield and makes plays.”
In recent years, LSU has been up-and-down against primetime quarterbacks. The Tigers picked off West Virginia’s Geno Smith twice last season, but still gave up 463 yards passing and 28 first downs. In the 2011 opener, LSU bottled up Oregon’s rushing attack and harassed Darron Thomas in Dallas.
Cam Newton torched the sixth-ranked Tigers during Auburn’s national title run with 217 yards rushing and two scores. Can Price equal Smith’s production or manage half of what Newton got on the ground? Not likely since the game’s in Baton Rouge and the Tigers rarely lose — or get embarrassed — at home.
LSU is stronger up front than it has been the last two seasons and has extensive depth at key positions when compared to the Huskies, a program coming off a 7-5 season.
If Washington did shock the Tigers this weekend, a strong performance would create some early-season Heisman buzz for Price and transform the Huskies into a legitimate PAC-12 threat for the Trojans and Ducks. In the first of many games this season against quality offenses, LSU will miss Tyrann Mathieu.
But the question is, how much?