Here’s everything you need to know about LSU’s season-opener against Wisconsin tonight at NRG Stadium.

When: Today
Where: Houston, Texas
Game Time: 9 p.m. ET
Current Line: LSU (-3.5)

Game Buzz: Wisconsin is getting talk as a true College Football Playoff contender in what’s perceived as a weak Big Ten West, but their chances evaporate if they lose to LSU in the season opener. But let’s face it: This game is all about the running backs, including the best in the nation now (Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon) and possibly the best freshman in the country (Leonard Fournette).

Saturday Down South previews


Players To Watch:

  • QB Anthony Jennings
  • QB Brandon Harris
  • RB Terrence Magee
  • RB Leonard Fournette
  • DE Danielle Hunter
  • LB Kwon Alexander
  • DT Christian LaCouture

Keys for LSU:

  • Don’t fall behind. Yes, I know that’s the general idea in any competition in which there’s a score. But it’s more significant in this game than most. It’s difficult to imagine the Badgers winning if it’s up to the passing game, where last year’s starting safety supplanted the incumbent at quarterback and the team’s best receiver got drafted into the NFL. And whichever team has a lead will be able to run the ball and wear down the opponent.
  • Find a quarterback. Anthony Jennings is the starter, but Brandon Harris will play. Win or lose against Wisconsin, the Tigers need to evaluate their options and settle on a plan whenever possible.
  • Pound the rock. Yes, the Zach Mettenberger/Jarvis Landry/Odell Beckham Jr. passing game was terrific, and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron brings a different dynamic to this offense. But this offensive line and backfield are tailored to wear out opposing defenses. LSU’s offense needs to look more like a traditional Les Miles-coached unit in this one.

Glaring weakness to watch: Youth — Without going through each position, LSU’s significant losses to the NFL Draft the last few seasons, as well as its strong recruiting classes, are well-publicized themes. LSU’s athletes are better than Wisconsin’s, but the Badgers hope the Tigers will make more mistakes and won’t execute at the same level.

Most interesting part of the game: The Big Ten vs. the SEC. Wisconsin hasn’t fared well against Southeastern Conference teams recently, including a bowl loss to South Carolina on Jan. 1.

Team buzz: Wide receiver Malachi Dupre (hamstring) did not travel to Houston. Cornerback Rashard Robinson, defensive tackle Maquedius Bain and center Elliott Porter also didn’t make the trip, with conflicting reports that they may have been suspended.


Players To Watch:

  • RB Melvin Gordon
  • RB Corey Clement
  • OL Rob Havenstein
  • OL Tyler Marz
  • DL Warren Herring

Keys for Wisconsin:

  • Prove the front seven can survive wholesale losses. LSU’s offense probably will try to smash Wisconsin into submission. The Badgers no longer counter with Chris Borland, Beau Allen and several other standouts. Can Gary Andersen’s defense ensure that Wisconsin is capable of performing at a Top 15 level?
  • Get something out of the passing game. Tanner McEvoy doesn’t need to be Russell Wilson, but no matter how good Melvin Gordon, Corey Clement and that offensive line are, the offense will become way too predictable if it can’t maintain a semblance of balance. Plus, with Robinson out, the team ought to have an easier time against the LSU secondary.
  • Be bigger bullies. If LSU controls the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, Wisconsin’s chances tank.