Last week I previewed the San Diego State Aztecs, and the process somehow seemed important because of how unfamiliar the average Husky fan was with the SDSU team. I felt like I was delivering fresh information to the masses. Those same conditions don’t apply this week, as many avid college fans are probably as up to date on a national contender like LSU as they are on assorted Pac-12 programs. The Tigers just spend so, so much more time in the national eye than the Huskies do. If Washington, the heavy underdog, manages to engineer an upset, that will change in a hurry.
Though the info may not be as fresh and informative as last week, I will go about this article in much the same way as I did last week, going over some important players, what I see as the keys to victory, and spouting off some statistics that I believe will occur in the game.
Tigers to Watch
Barkevious Mingo, Redshirt Junior Defensive End
The player is almost as great as the name. Standing 6’5″ and weighing 250 pounds, Mingo has prototypical 4-3 defensive end size, and with a 4.55 40 yard dash, freakish burst as well. He produced eight sacks and fifteen tackles for loss as a sophomore last year. There isn’t much else to say about him. He will probably be in the NFL this time next year, and alongside fellow defensive end Sam Montgomery, represents the greatest mismatch of this game: the LSU pass rush against the shaky and inexperienced Husky offensive tackles.
Jan 7, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; LSU Tigers tackle Alex Hurst (72) in action during the game against the Texas A
Alex Hurst, Senior Offensive Tackle
A great right tackle in his own right, Hurst’s role in this game has become much greater now that starting left tackle Chris Faulk is out for the season. It is still unclear whether or not Hurst will move to left tackle or remain at his current position. Either way, he will often be the most proven defense (on offense!) against Josh Shirley, the most talented Husky pass rusher, and the rest of the blitzing Washington defense. To the casual fan, the real impact of individual offensive linemen can be difficult to quantify, but remember to keep an eye on Hurst throughout the game.
Elements to Victory
Stymying the LSU Defensive Line
It isn’t just the number of sacks allowed that the Huskies must worry about, it’s run plays being blown up by deceptively quick interior linemen and hits on our slightly built star quarterback resulting in injury. The Washington offensive line is not a talented, or proven, enough unit for anyone to expect Keith Price’s jersey to be clean when the game is over. They also can’t be expected to gouge massive holes for Sankey and Co. to burst through. But if victory is to be had, they must hold their own. Price has to be able to go through his progressions on the majority of plays, and Sankey has to be able to get three or four yards instead of losing that same number. While the Husky line cannot win this game alone, they will have to play exceptionally well to give their team a fighting chance.
Keith Price Picking on LSU Secondary
The Tigers have a dominant defense. Possibly the best in the country. Most of that strength really is in the defensive line. The secondary, particularly the cornerbacks, are not as stacked as they were last year. The Honey Badger is gone. Morris Claiborne is gone. There is talent, but beyond junior safety Eric Reid, an NFL quality player, there are no dominant game changers. Of course, it is in games like these that difference makers come forth, and one very well might. But, if the Huskies are to win this game, Keith Price will have to expose this one flaw, and the word flaw is relative, by throwing efficiently. If he can throw for three or four touchdowns without any turnovers, this will be a close game in the fourth.
Numbers I Expect to Encounter:
6: The number of sacks LSU will pick up against a battered and inexperienced Washington offensive line. Mingo and Montgomery are simply too talented, and Miles will have blitz packages sending defensive backs and linebackers all over the place. It will prove to be too much.
70: The total number of rushing yards I expect out of the Washington backs. I would be surprised to see more than fifty out of Bishop Sankey. The LSU defense is just too good, and with the loss of Callier and Riva, UW isn’t in great shape to run on even an average defense.
September 1, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger (8) under center against the North Texas Mean Green during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated North Texas 41-14. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
2: Interceptions thrown by LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. He may end up a star, but I’m not sold on him yet, as he has not faced a talented defense before. If the Huskies play with the same playmaking intensity they displayed last week, I think there is a good chance Mettenberger makes a few costly mistakes. Look for Desmond Trufant and Sean Parker to make him pay for his errors.
I hope it is clear that I enjoy the Huskies. I want them to win tomorrow. If they win, it will bring me joy. But it is meaningless for me to act like I expect them to. I would not be doing myself, or anyone else, any favors by showing favoritism to the Huskies in my analysis or in my predictions. I may pull for them as a fan, but there is no reason for me to ignore the facts and pick in their favor. So, though I hope they prove me wrong, I am choosing the Washington Huskies to lose.
LSU 31, UW 17