5 goals for LSU's offense to hit against Mississippi State
The waiting is over.
The comings and goings have come and gone.
The 2020 LSU offense is set and now the No. 6-ranked Tigers will see what they have when they open the season against Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium.
Offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and new passing game coordinator Scott Linehan will collaborate on a game plan for the first time.
Quarterback Myles Brennan will make his first start, and when he drops back to pass, he won’t be able to look for Justin Jefferson or Ja’Marr Chase.
A rebuilt offensive line will protect Brennan and try to open holes for a running game that no longer features Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Every aspect of the offense is different from last year, when LSU shattered scoring and yardage records on its way to a 15-0 record and the national championship.
The Tigers don’t figure to pick up where they left off last year, but that doesn’t mean that can’t still be good, maybe even very good on offense.
Here are 5 goals for LSU’s offense to hit against Mississippi State.
1. No turnovers
Naturally, every team shoots for 0 turnovers in every game. Turnovers are the most important statistic in football. As prolific as LSU was last season, the Tigers only committed 12 turnovers (0.8 per game).
But an absence of turnovers would be especially important for LSU in this game.
This is a young offense with a lot of inexperienced starters. Individuals need to gain confidence and teammates need to gain confidence in each other.
Turnovers can undermine that, but a turnover-free game would boost the confidence of individual ball handlers and the offense as a whole.
The Tigers are more talented than the Bulldogs, but the gap is small enough that 1 or more turnovers could negate that edge.
Ball security will be an even bigger deal than normal.
2. A 50-50 balance
Coach Ed Orgeron wants the Tigers to run the ball roughly half the time and pass it roughly half the time. Last season they passed it slightly more often than they ran it (37.8 per game to 34.2).
Orgeron isn’t going to fret over a few more runs than passes or a few more passes than runs. But he will fret if LSU isn’t able to be effective running the ball and effective passing it for the majority of the game.
The offense is designed to be able to run or pass effectively out of any formation or personnel group. The goal will be to establish early the ability to do both so the Bulldogs’ defense is uncomfortable.
If most everything in the playbook is having some success, Ensminger will be able to keep the play balance where Orgeron wants it.
3. 30 points
That might be ambitious considering the offensive overhaul, but this is an ambitious team and offense.
The Tigers scored more than 30 points in all but 1 game last season – a 23-20 victory against Auburn. But in 2018, they failed to 30 points 5 times. In 2017, it was 7 times.
LSU will play fast and run a lot plays, but first-year State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett arrives from San Diego State with an impressive track record.
If the Tigers take care of the football and are able to remain balanced, then 30 points is attainable.
4. 150 yards rushing
Edwards-Helaire averaged nearly 100 yards per game by himself last season.
It’s unlikely that any individual will match that production, but the group of running backs – Chris Curry, Tyrion Davis-Price and John Emery – can combine to give LSU sufficient productivity.
Orgeron said Monday that the running backs are the strength of the offense.
The Tigers averaged 166.8 yards per game last season. Something approaching that neighborhood would be a good effort against the Bulldogs.
5. 250 passing yards
Last season, LSU mostly set up the run with its consistently highly-productive passing game.
This season the Tigers might use the same approach, or the running game might be used to set up the pass.
Either way, somewhere along the line, Brennan needs to get in a rhythm and connect with Terrace Marshall Jr., Racey McMath, Trey Palmer, freshman wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, freshman tight end Arik Gilbert and the running backs with regularity.
Keep in mind, Brennan has only passed for 600 yards in his career, never more than 115 in a game.
The numbers don’t have to be off the charts like last season, but they do need to be in this neighborhood.