LSU has one more week to fine-tune before opening SEC play next weekend

There wasn’t much LSU could have done in last week’s meeting with McNeese State that could have quelled fans’ concerns.

Win big, and it’s what you’re “supposed” to do; lose, and it’s another embarrassing notch on a resume that’s become increasingly underwhelming since the 2019 season.

So while there were indeed plenty of positives to pull from the Tigers’ 34-7 win, it also left a lot to be desired moving forward.

“Overall, we were pleased with the win,” Ed Orgeron said following Saturday’s contest. “I thought from Game 1 to Game 2 we made a jump in a lot of areas. Now we need to take this next jump next week in a lot of areas.”

They’ll have another opportunity Saturday when they welcome 1-1 Central Michigan to town for a matchup that could wind up being a lot tougher than it seems than on paper.

The Chippewas play in the MAC conference, but they opened their season against a fellow SEC foe in Missouri. Central Michigan wound up losing the game by 10, but the Chippewas gave the Tigers a hard-fought game and was even within 3 points early in the fourth quarter.

Central Michigan, led by former Florida head coach Jim McElwain, followed that up with a 45-0 stomping of Robert Morris in Week 2.

The Chippewas are powered by a running game that averages more than 230 yards per contest led by true freshman Lew Nichols III, who has already racked up 214 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season.

“They run the ball very hard,” Orgeron said in his weekly press conference. “They make yards after contact—they’re hard to go down on first contact from the games I saw. Their offensive line is very good; they have great schemes. They run all plays that normal people are running nowadays, but they attack you. They play fast. Offensive line comes off the ball well. Good zone scheme and the running back runs the ball very low and hard.”

It’ll be a new challenge for the LSU defensive line that left last week’s game against the Cowboys as one of the brightest spots of the night. As a unit, the Tigers gave up just 51 rushing yards in the game, most of which came from a pair of 30+ yard runs by McNeese tailbacks.

True freshman Maason Smith had the first breakout performance of his young Tiger career—accounting for 6 total tackles, 3.5 for tackles for loss and a team-high 3 sacks—while Andre Anthony, Jaquelin Roy and Jacobian Guillory also had big days.

But their offensive line counterparts didn’t have quite the same success.

Not only did the unit allow quarterback Max Johnson to be sacked 3 times in the game, LSU also only managed to run for 124 yards in the game, most of which came in the second half when the Tigers held a comfortable lead.

On top of that, several LSU receivers dropped open passes, the running backs mostly lacked the big, explosive plays and Johnson, at times, looked a bit more rattled and uncomfortable than expected. It was a multi-faceted issue that resulted in an overall mediocre performance offensively.

So what can we expect to see out of them this week?

“Consistency, different tempos of the offense—sometimes fast, sometimes slow—not as many lookovers (looking to the sideline to change the play), be more decisive,” Orgeron said on the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday. “We need to put out players in better positions to give the ball to our playmakers in space and let them make plays. We need to block better upfront. We need to have better schemes. We need to run the ball better and we need to protect. There’s a lot of things on offense that need to be fixed right now.”

The Tigers will need to find some answers quickly. After Saturday’s contest with the Chippewas, LSU starts its run of SEC opponents that begins with Mississippi State—who won in Tiger Stadium last year—followed by No. 22 Auburn and a Kentucky squad that has started the season 2-0 so far.

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