(8) Miami vs. (25) LSU
DATE: SEPTEMBER 2, 2018
GAME TIME: 7:30 PM
WHERE: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
You can’t talk about LSU without acknowledging their supremely talented defense featuring All-American’s Devin White and Greedy Williams. White is the Tigers rover that erupted for 133 tackles in his first full year as a starter. Williams is a long cornerback with elite instincts and ball skills that had six interceptions in 2017. It shouldn’t surprise anybody to see both of these guys taken in the top 10-15 in the 2019 NFL Draft. They are as good as advertised.
Michael Divinity Jr., K’Lavon Chaisson and Jacob Phillips play alongside White at linebacker. Chaisson has extremely high expectations coming into his sophomore year. He has drawn comparisons to former LSU standouts Barkevious Mingo and Arden Key because of his ability to be disruptive off the edge as a pass rusher. He finished with two sacks in his freshman year while playing in 12 games. Divinity Jr. has just 28 career tackles and one career start coming into his junior year. We can expect LSU defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda, to use that group to attack Miami in a similar way that Miami’s Manny Diaz attacks opposing offenses – with a lot of pressure. Chaisson is the guy that Miami is going to see coming in a lot from the edge, but White will be attacking straight up the gut. He had 4.5 sacks a year ago and many seem to believe he was just scratching the surface of his pass rush potential.
Williams is complimented by an extremely talented defensive backs group that features Kristian Fulton, Grant Delpit, true freshman Kelvin Joseph, John Battle, Terrence Alexander and JaCoby Stevens. Those may just sound like names to you right now, but they won’t be Sunday night. It will be the most talented defensive backfield that the Miami Hurricane offense will deal with at any point of this season. Now, that doesn’t mean they are unbeatable. If any receiving group can challenge that unit, it is one that features the talent that Miami is equipped with.
Their defensive line is headlined by junior defensive end Rashard Lawrence, who finished the 2017 season with 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Sophomore Glen Logan is expected to start at the other end and Texas Tech transfer Breiden Fehoko will be the starter at the nose tackle. The average weight among the three starters is 302 pounds. They are large human beings. It is fair to say that an inexperienced Miami front will be severely challenged by this Tigers defense front seven. Miami’s ability to adjust and attack this unit will absolutely be a determining factor in this matchup.
I am not nearly as confident in their offense as I am their defense. Ohio State graduate transfer quarterback, Joe Burrow, is unproven. Nick Brossette, LSU’s starting running back, has ran for 306 yards in his entire career. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, his backup, has just 31 career rushing yards. The LSU Tigers do not have an established running game for the first time in a very long time. They historically rely on their running game heavily. Just last year they carried the ball 563 times compared to 300 pass attempts. If LSU is going to be successful they need to establish the ground game. Yes, they do have Texas Tech transfer Jonathan Giles who was a thousand-yard receiver with the Red Raiders a couple years ago to help on the outside. They also inherit a couple of blue-chip freshman wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall Jr. who are expected to give a spark to the offense from the get go. But none of those guys have played a single meaningful snap in an LSU uniform.
What I am saying, essentially, is that LSU’s offense is depending on five newcomers – not including offensive lineman. I simply cannot imagine a scenario that LSU is able to get into a consistent rhythm and challenge a veteran-led Miami defense that was ranked first nationally in sacks per game and third in turnovers gained in 2017 that returns nine guys with starting experience.
Malik Rosier is going to be challenged right off the bat by a tenacious defense. If Miami wants to win this game, Rosier needs to be better. It is almost that simple. You can look around the entire country and see teams winning and losing games based purely on the quarterback play. There are no more excuses.
The Hurricanes have a back in Travis Homer with over a 1000 career yards and averages 5.9 yards per carry for his career. Deejay Dallas averaged 5.3 yards per attempt in the time he played running back. Star wide receiver Ahmonn Richards is fully healthy for the first time in over a year and is primed for a break-out season that could potentially be his last in a Canes uniform. Then there is Lawrence Cager, Jeff Thomas, Mike Harley, Mark Pope, Brian Hightower, Evidence Njoku. The list goes on. As talented as LSU’s defensive backfield is, I would take Miami’s receiving corps.
Then you throw in the true freshman tight ends. Brevin Jordan was one of the nation’s top tight ends are a high school senior last year and signing to Miami in December 2017. He was named the day one starter and will consistently play alongside another true freshman out of Jacksonville named Will Mallory.
I believe the Hurricanes offense starts with establishing the running game. In Miami’s loss to Pitt they averaged less than two yards per carry. In a monumental win over Notre Dame they averaged 6.2 yards a carry. If Miami can impose their will in the running game early it’s over. The run game will then open up the passing game and the Hurricanes can keep the LSU defense on their heels. This is, of course, best-case scenario.
The reality is that this is going to be a defensive showdown. Miami has one of the top defenses in the entire country and LSU has a new and unproven offense with their third offensive coordinator is as many years. LSU’s defense is elite and Miami’s offense has proven to be explosive at times, but extremely inconsistent. So many things change over an off-season. There is no film to show any improvements LSU has made offensively. We don’t know if Rosier has improved as much as people around the program have said he has. The issue with these pre-season matchups is that it is all based on speculation until the lights come on.
Let’s talk about coaching really quickly. LSU’s head coach Ed Orgeron has a career coaching record of 31-33. He is, however, 15-6 at LSU. It is a significant turnaround from his first stint in
the SEC at Ole Miss, where he went 10-25 from 2005-2007. Against top 10 opponents, Orgeron is 2-10. Against ranked opponents, he is 7-17.
Mark Richt, on the other hand, has a record of 164-58 and is the reigning ACC Coach of the Year. From a purely coaching standpoint, Miami has the clear upper hand. I think that is one of the quietest factors in this game.
This is a game between unfamiliar opponents that are going to have to feel one another out. It is not like it is the sixth week of the season and they can go watch film on one another schemes and personnel from the past couple of weeks. Both of these teams are establishing new identities that will be displayed openly for the first time on the pitch of grass inside the $1.15 billion-dollar stadium.
Ultimately, I believe the LSU offense against the Miami defense is a much bigger concern than Miami’s offense against the LSU defense. Miami has experience on offense and LSU simply doesn’t. One of their top offensive lineman is suspended for the game and that forces a JuCo transfer in Damien Lewis to have to step in and play right away against a fast and mean Miami front seven.
I don’t believe it is going to be a blow out. I have all the respect in the world for Dave Aranda and his defense, but Miami gets the job done in Jerry World.
Miami Hurricanes: 27
LSU Tigers: 20