5 things I need to see from LSU against Alabama
Now Terrace Marshall Jr. is gone too.
The junior wide receiver was the most productive player on the LSU team this season before opting out last Sunday to focus on the NFL Draft.
The 3-4 Tigers are getting more depleted by the week and next up is No. 1 Alabama.
It’ll be Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, but about 75,000 other key players will be absent as well.
LSU is a 4-touchdown underdog.
The Tigers probably aren’t going to win.
They might not even cover the very large spread.
This could get ugly.
But the Tigers will show up – and there is still plenty they can show.
Here are 5 things I need to see from LSU against Alabama:
1. That the defense’s play last week wasn’t a fluke
Head coach Ed Orgeron said the defense played its best game of the season in the 20-7 loss at No. 5 Texas A&M last week.
The defense was responsible for just 13 of the Aggies’ points and yielded a mere 267 yards.
It played well enough against the run, really well against the pass and all three levels were effective.
Of course, Mac Jones and the Crimson Tide offense present a stiffer challenge.
But the number and points allowed can be higher this week and the performance can still represent continued improvement that began 2 weeks ago in a win at Arkansas.
The keys are keeping the mental mistakes to a minimum, holding down the big plays and tackling well.
Alabama is hard enough to slow down; LSU can’t help it out with self-inflicted problems.
2. Derek Stingley Jr. justifying the hype
Stingley was a consensus All-American as a freshman last season.
He was one of the most highly touted players in America going into this season, but this season has been different than expected for him.
There are reasons beyond Stingley’s control that have contributed to him having less of an impact – his hospitalization on the eve of the opener, playing beat up for much of the season, less experience around him.
But teams haven’t been hesitant to throw at him and Alabama certainly won’t be.
DeVonta Smith is the best wide receiver and Jones is the best quarterback LSU has faced. Jones will throw at Stingley and Stingley will be matched against Smith, perhaps quite often.
Stingley the sophomore needs to play like Stingley the freshman.
3. A strong effort in the trenches
LSU’s offensive line is probably not going to get the best of Alabama’s defensive line, and LSU’s defensive line is probably not going to get the best of Alabama’s offensive line.
But both lines have to fight and scratch and claw for every snap if this game isn’t going to turn ugly.
The offensive line was poor last week. It has to be much better this week.
The defensive line was good last week. It too has to be better this week.
4. Improved quarterback play
It doesn’t matter if it’s TJ Finley or Max Johnson or both.
Whoever mans the quarterback position has to play a lot better than last week.
Marshall’s absence will hurt – a lot. There’s only so much the quarterbacks can do if the line and backs and the receivers aren’t doing their part.
But regardless of the circumstances, the quarterbacks have to avoid turnovers, be decisive, make good decisions, be accurate and play with confidence that permeates the offense and the team.
5. An effective running game
This starts with the offensive line and the play-calling, but it includes the running backs.
Various wide receivers will be counted on to take Marshall’s place in the lineup, but the running backs can also help mitigate his absence.
Orgeron said before the season that running back was the strongest position on the offense, but it hasn’t looked that way much of the season.
Marshall is gone, Myles Brennan is sidelined and Ja’Marr Chase is long gone.
Right now, running back might be the strongest position on the offense.
It has to play like it Saturday night.