LSU football: 5 keys to beating UCLA
UCLA has a head start on LSU.
The Bruins opened their season with an impressive 44-10 home victory against Hawaii last Saturday.
So the No. 16 Tigers have a sense of what this UCLA team has to offer.
Apparently it’s a lot.
The Bruins dominated from the start, scoring 24 points after their first 21 plays and handing 4th-year head coach Chip Kelly his first nonconference victory in 7 tries.
A victory over LSU would give Kelly’s Bruins their first nonconference win against a Power 5 opponent.
UCLA dominated an outmanned group of Rainbow Warriors on offense, defense and special teams.
They surely got the Tigers’ attention, but they also are clearly stepping up in class this week.
Here are 5 keys to LSU beating UCLA:
1. Block out the distractions
The Tigers evacuated Baton Rouge on Saturday to avoid the wrath of Hurricane Ida and moved their game-week preparations to the Houston Texans’ practice facility.
So LSU had some really important non-football stuff on its mind in addition to the football concerns presented by the Bruins’ impressive performance.
The first key for the Tigers is to focus on the task at hand.
Louisiana online sports betting is officially live in much of the state. Louisiana joined the handful of other SEC football states with legalized sports betting in January 2022.
For a few hours this Saturday, they have to zero in on the work they have done all preseason camp as well as the UCLA-specific plan and execute.
2. Force the Bruins’ passing game to try and beat them
The Bruins’ running game rolled for 244 yards against Hawaii. Zach Charbonnet had 106 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 6 carries. Brittain Brown had 78 rushing yards and a touchdown.
LSU needs to slow down that running game and force UCLA to rely more on the passing game.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Kazmeir Allen, but finished with just 10 completions in 20 attempts for 130 yards.
If the Tigers force Thompson-Robinson to have to make more plays in the passing game, the better their chances of forcing punts, creating turnovers and presenting opportunities to their offense.
3. Keep the Bruins’ defense off balance
Hawaii rushed for just 26 yards on 21 carries against UCLA.
LSU needs to run the ball much more effectively than that in order to make things easier for Max Johnson. Or Johnson needs to get the passing game clicking early and make things easier for the running game.
It doesn’t matter which aspect of the offense sets up the other, but the Tigers need to be able to do both effectively.
The preseason running-game preparations have been disrupted by injuries.
Head coach Ed Orgeron is counting on juniors Tyrion Davis-Price and John Emery Jr., his most experienced running backs, to lead the running game, but both have been limited in preseason camp.
He hopes both will be ready to go Saturday, but if either or both is limited, LSU will have to lean more on sophomore Josh Williams and highly-touted freshmen Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin.
Orgeron also hopes that starting guard Chasen Hines and top reserve offensive lineman Anthony Bradford will be ready to go after also missing time due to injury.
4. Win the special teams
UCLA blocked a punt for a touchdown against the Rainbow Warriors.
Another big play in the special teams could be an equalizer for the underdog Bruins in this game.
LSU should have more overall talent than UCLA and it has one of the best kickers in the country in Cade York.
It should have an edge on special teams.
5. Be patient
It’s a 60-minute game. The early moments might not go as well as the Tigers would like, but they must remember that it’s the finish and not the start that matters most.
UCLA has the advantage of having played a game, so it could be sharper out of the gate.
LSU is playing its first game under new coordinators with new systems and an early hiccup or two is possible.
The Tigers can’t allow any early problems to bother them.
Pollsters have ranked them and oddsmakers have favored them.
They should be the better team.
They just need to take care of business for 60 minutes.