Game Preview: Week 1 vs. LSU

Game Preview: Week 1 vs. LSU

Paul Austria
IT’S BACK! College football is finally upon us and right off the bat, we are blessed with a marquee matchup with the 8th-ranked Hurricanes of Miami (FL) taking on the 25th-ranked LSU Tigers at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Coach Mark Richt is entering his third season at head coach for the Hurricanes and is coming off a 10-3 season that saw the team make their first appearance in the ACC Championship game but fell short in the Orange Bowl against Wisconsin. The Tigers finished 9-4 (6-2 SEC) in 2017 with Ed Orgeron’s first full season as head coach that concluded with a loss to Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl.

There’s a good chance that when you think of the Hurricanes, you’ll think of the renowned Turnover Chain that was often the topic of conversation last year, where any defensive player that either forced or recovered a turnover rocked the stylish chain on the sidelines. The defense made sure that chain was flashed early and often as they forced 31 turnovers last season, and to give you a comparison, only UCF and Wyoming forced more.

The secondary is led by 2nd-team All-American safety Jaquan Johnson and All-ACC Second Team cornerback Michael Jackson, who both tied for the team lead in interceptions with four each. The NFL seemed enticing to both players not too long ago but both chose to return for their senior seasons.

When it comes to the trenches, Miami has been trying to supplement for both of their starting defensive tackles in RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton deciding to enter the draft. Junior Pat Bethel is joining former Florida transfer Gerald Willis in making their first career starts and Willis has been waiting for this moment for some time, after serving as a backup in 2016 and missing the entirety of 2017 to deal with private matters. To even add more motivation, Willis changed his number from 91 to 9, which was worn by Chad Thomas last season.

“New year, new me,” Willis told the Palm Beach Post.

Throw in defensive ends Joe Jackson (15 sacks the past two seasons) and rising sophomore Jonathan Garvin into the mix and this line will still look to wreak more havoc than last season, as they led the nation in sacks per game with a 3.4 average.

2nd-team All-ACC linebacker Shaq Quarterman leads a very experienced linebacking corps along with Michael Pickney and Zach McCloud. Quarterman, Pickney, and McCloud have served as the starters for the Canes ever since 2016 when they all came in as true freshmen.

Miami’s offense leaves no shortage of playmakers. Quarterback Malik Rosier won his starting job by a wide margin. Although many are putting the blame on him for the team’s final three losses, he did relatively well, throwing 26 touchdown passes despite losing his top receiver (Ahmmon Richards) and tight end (Chris Herndon) to season-ending injuries. Tailback Travis Homer almost hit 1,000 rushing yards last season despite only starting nine games, but he has since seen his confidence grow tremendously and is, like his last name says, a home run threat any time he touches the ball (Homer ran a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash over the summer).

Speaking of Richards, the Canes are grateful to have the star receiver at full strength after he basically most of last season year banged up with injuries to his hamstring, knee, and ankle. The biggest question mark for the Canes, ultimately, is the tight end position. Expected starter Michael Irvin Jr. injured his MCL in practice in early August and will be out for four months, leaving true freshman Brevin Jordan as the go-to man. According to ESPN, he was the top Class of 2018 tight end in the nation coming out of high school and he has that great combination of size and speed. But it remains to be seen how he will fare with his first taste of college football having this kind of magnitude.

In contrast to the Canes, the Tigers have had a bit of a quarterback controversy this offseason. At one point, four quarterbacks were in the running to earn the starting nod but a little more than two weeks ago, redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse and junior Justin McMillan both announced that they were seeking opportunities at other programs on the same day. That left LSU with only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster: sophomore Myles Brennan and Ohio State-transfer Joe Burrow. Coach Orgeron recently named Burrow the starter for Sunday’s matchup.

The rest of LSU’s offense also has a lot to be desired, as it is basically undergoing a complete makeover. They just hired a new offensive coordinator as they promoted Steve Ensminger, who hopes to incorporate a spread offense. On the down side, they return 0 rushing touchdowns from last season, and overall, the Tigers lost their top 4 running backs and their top 3 wide receivers from last season.

After losing more than 75% of their running production last year in Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams, the Tigers are basically going with a running back by committee approach, as they have listed two starters at running back with senior Nick Brossette (306 career yards) and sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire (31 yards). Even with limited experience, both Brossette and Edwards-Helaire are looking forward to the challenge.

“I know they’re going to be depending on me and I’m depending on myself, so I’m just ready to shock a lot of people this year and I’m very motivated,” Brossette exclaimed to the Tri-City Herald.

Edwards-Helaire used to serve as Guice’s backup back in high school too, so waiting in the wings for his opportunity is nothing new to him.

At receiver, LSU is looking at an influx of new talent despite the lack of experience. One player to keep an eye on is Jonathan Giles, who sat out last season due to transfer rules after a two-year campaign with Texas Tech. His used his last season as a Red Raider to develop himself as one of the best receivers in the nation as he recorded 1,158 receiving yards to go along with 13 touchdowns. Highly touted recruits Terrance Marshall Jr. and Ja’Marr Chase will also look to leave a mark this season along with three other juniors in Drake Davis, Derrick Dillon, and Stephen Sullivan.

LSU finished last season with the 12th best defense in the nation and it just got an enormous lift after it was announced last week that sophomore cornerback Kristian Fulton’s appeal to his suspension has been approved and will be eligible to play this season. Fulton was in the midst of a two-year suspension after he was caught tampering a drug test by using someone else’s urine sample as his own, but only because he initially thought that he was going to be tested for recreational drugs when in actuality, the test was for PED’s.

At the other secondary spot, Greedy Williams has had little to no trouble living up to his name, putting together an unprecedented season last year in which he led the SEC in interceptions and passes defended and will have his hands full dealing with Ahmmon Richards. The Fulton news came at a very opportune time for Fulton and the Tigers and he will be an integral part of the defense this season.

Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has been with the team for the past two seasons and has instilled a very physical mindset into his 3-4 defense. Their defensive line seems to be the biggest strength of the team, as this unit holds a lot of depth, something that they were lacking last season. LSU added defensive tackle Breiden Fohoko as a grad transfer from Texas Tech as part of that new depth to go along with Rashard Lawrence and Glen Logan, who will absolutely make it a battle in the trenches. The linebacker unit isn’t too shabby either, as junior Devin White is a for sure first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft, should he decide to declare.

This will be LSU’s fourth trip to AT&T Stadium, winning each of their games in Arlington by double digits, while this will be Miami’s first. A convincing win may not come easy this time around for the Tigers, as the Canes will also look to add validation to their preseason ranking and prove that the U is indeed back.

Comments (4)

Saban pulls a Qb that had led him to back to back championships in the biggest game of the year and Richt is scared to pull Rosier? Time for Richt to get tough and take on the Saban attitude. You play like crap you get benched end of story ***** feelings getting hurt.