Friday, September 23, 2011

West Virginia-LSU Preview

There is no measuring how important this game is for West Virginia. A primetime game on ABC, with the GameDay crew in Morgantown, and the idea that this could be a quasi-audition for the SEC. Who knows if that's the case, but beating the second ranked Tigers on national television couldn't hurt. So, what are the chances WVU can win? Better than most think. An explosive offense, a defense that can make some plays, and a night crowd should help WVU keep this one close.


West Virginia: The offense is improving by the week. However, the Mountaineers are yet to put four quarters together. Geno Smith's numbers are ridiculous so far, with over 1,000 yards passing, seven touchdowns, and just one pick(which wasn't his fault). However, his execution in the redzone must get better. The fade pattern has been his nemesis this season, so will see if Dana Holgorsen switches up the play-calling. The rushing game has gotten better. Shawne Alston was a nice addition last week, bringing experience and toughness in short yardage. The youngsters have also looked better hitting the hole. The offensive line was huge against Maryland, opening holes and allowing Geno plenty of time to throw. However, the second half wasn't as strong. This unit will be in a major battle against the LSU front. The Mountaineers will have little chance if the line can't keep Geno Smith from getting killed. Look for WVU to run some quick hitters and draw plays early to potentially slow LSU down.

LSU: Ground control and an efficient passing game has been the recipe for success. Expect a heavy dose of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford throughout the game. The two have combined for nearly 500 yards so far, with an average just under 5.0. A lot of the praise has to go to the offensive line. This unit is one of the best in the SEC, so WVU will have to try some creative stunts to break them down. If the Mountaineers tire out, the LSU line will blow them over late in the game to allow the Tigers to control possession. The great lines has also allowed Jarrett Lee to be very efficient this season. Lee isn't going to beat you with his arm, but he also hasn't been killing his team. However, the Tigers have done a nice job in making sure Lee hasn't been needed to make a lot of big plays, so it's easy to limit the mistakes. Will WVU stack the box? They could, but that leaves single coverage on talented receivers, Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle.


West Virginia: Mixed results last week for this unit. While the secondary played well, the front six was blown off the line and out of position way too much. The line still isn't getting pressure on the quarterback, and the linebacking play is a bit inconsistent. The unit isn't facing a dynamic offense, so look for Jeff Casteel to dial up blitzes, especially on 3rd and long. The front six will also be facing a very strong offensive line, so look for WVU to try and use speed to their advantage. The secondary will have to deal with some talented wideouts, but could find an opportunity or two against an unproven quarterback. WVU will need to stop the run plain and simple, to give their offense as many opportunities as possible.

LSU: Got younger from last year, but still one of the best groups in the nation. Allowing just 12 points a game, this defense has already slowed down Oregon and Mississippi State. There are playmakers at every position, especially in the secondary. Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathiue and company will map it very hard for the WVU receivers to find any space. The front seven will also look to completely destroy the run. Considering WVU has struggled rushing the ball this season, it might not be that difficult. The Tigers will probably face may quick plays, and the WVU's uptempo style between plays will keep them honest.

Special Teams:

West Virginia: Kicker, Tyler Bitancurt has re-found his mojo from freshman year, going 7-8 to start the season. The coverage continues to improve as well, since looking terrible against Marshall. Tavon Austin is a threat every time he touches the ball, though had a little trouble holding handling the football last week. Austin will be very important in this game. WVU may be in a serious field position battle. If that's the case, then look for Austin to potentially be a difference maker.

LSU: Drew Alleman has only missed one attempt so far, and is a good weapon from deep. The Tigers have used two punters this season, both have been fine. Morris Claiborne is a threat to house it every time he has the ball. Let us not forget that last year the Tigers scored on a punt return touchdown against WVU.


It's should be a great game. West Virginia does have a good chance to win this game. A combination of mistake-free offense and solid defense will keep this game close all night. Look for the Mountaineers to put Lee into a few 3rd and longs that he can't convert. This should open the door for Geno Smith and company. Three touchdowns will probably be enough for the Mountaineers to seal the deal. Throw a field goal on top of that, and WVU will come away 4-0.

Prediction: 24-21 West Virginia