Happy LSU Gameday, Tigers fans! Tonight’s matchup is juicy enough to satiate even the most ravenous of college football fan. Two of the most dominant teams of the recent era will square off in a battle for geographical, conference, and schoolwide pride. The matchups remind me of an ancient battle where two dominant groups of people run into each other and decide to fight it out.
Wisconsin plays the role of invaders in this story as they appear on the horizon deep in southern territory - LSU quickly recognizes that these strangers are an impressive lot. They have the martial bearing of ones who are used to winning. Physically they resemble giants, but there is one group in particular that stands larger than the rest. These “offensive linemen” are said to be the key behind the Badgers' attack. The tension hangs thick in the air as the two sides stare one another down, each trying to asses the size of their enemy’s army.
LSU had enjoyed the most recent peacetime and found themselves with a healthy mixture of veterans from past campaigns and fresh-faced yet eager rookies. Wisconsin’s towering linemen prowled the front lines, yet there was one warrior who outshone even these hulking goliaths… his name was Melvin Gordon of the Doak Walker tribe. Even this far south, the soldiers from Baton Rouge know of Gordon’s exploits. He moved with a grace that was unexpected of one his size. His gait seemed to invoke a predator searching for its next victim. The Tiger Nation can take heart, however, for they too have a champion to bring to the field.
Leonard Fournette is the one the prophecies spoke of. All the Scriers agree that he is the one that shall lead LSU back to the Promised Land. To underestimate Fournette because of his youth would seem to be a grave mistake. The more cynical among us, however, may hold back from crowning the young RB before he has accomplished deeds in the field. The Sun slipped out of view as the two sides advanced towards on another. It is unclear as to who has the advantage yet there is one certain truth… Before the sun rises one team will stand victorious with blood on their jerseys and songs filling their hearts while the losing side limps home shamed and beaten!
Keys to LSU Victory
The Tigers offensive line MUST take advantage of the Badgers' inexperience in the front seven. Out of 11 starters from last season, only 3 three have returned and they are all part of the defensive backfield. LSU is 40-4 when they have at least one 'back break the century mark. LT La’el Collins is the most experienced and the anchor of the line with 25 starts (13 LG, 12 LT)
LSU's defense, the interior defensive linemen in particular, must stand up against the Wisconsin rushing attack. Over the past 3 seasons, Wisconsin is 3rd in the country for yards-per-carry with an average of 5.7, 4th in the country in rushing TDs with 121, and 7th in the country in overall rushing, averaging 251.1 yards per game. If you filter to only include teams from the power five conferences, only GA Tech and Oregon have higher yards per carry and more rushing TDs. Christian Lacatoure, Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore, Devon Godchaux, Quinten Thomas, and Mickey Johnson must step up
Keys to Wisconsin Victory
Run the ball, run the ball, and oh yeah… run the ball! Wisconsin is lucky to return 4 of 5 starters from an offensive line that helped set school records for total offense (480 yards per game), rushing yards (3,689) and yards per carry (6.62.) The four returning starters have combined for 75 total starts.
Wisconsin had six games last season in which the Badgers had multiple one hundred yard rushers - 3 games in which they had 3 different ones - and last year became the first team to have a pair of 1400 yard rushers. Additionally, the Badgers have featured 1,000 yard rushers in 19 out of the last 21 seasons, including 9 in a row - this is the longest active streak in the nation.
The secondary must make plays against the inexperienced QB/WRs from LSU. Both starting cornerbacks return along with their strong safety. Junior Darius Hillary started all 13 games last season, but sophomore Sojourn Shelton is the guy to watch out for. He had 12 starts as a true freshman and led the team with 4 interceptions, good enough for 3rd in the country among freshman. Junior safety Michael Caputo started 12 games and was 2nd on the team with 63 tackles.
The Streak is Once Again on the Line!
LSU has won 45 regular season games against non-conference opponents dating back to 2002. This is 1st in the country for active streaks and also an FBS record. Kansas State used to hold the record with 39 games in a row. Les Miles alone is 35-0 in these games.
Of course, Wisconsin has also been dominant in these games, and has won 35 in a row. This ranks 4th all time and 2nd to LSU as far as active streaks go. During LSU’s streak of 45, Wisconsin is 43-3.
Either way, one team’s streak is coming to an end. Who will it be?