LSU, outside of Texas A&M and South Carolina, had the toughest test of any SEC team on opening day tangling with Wisconsin in Houston. The Badgers are built just like SEC teams using great defenses and ball control offense very similar to what LSU does.
This was a tough match up for LSU with all of their youth in the skill positions. Wisconsin also lost a lot of players but did return their very talented RB Melvin Gordon. Outside of Todd Gurley, I think Gordon may be the best Running Back in the country. The man is just explosive.
LSU lost a lot of talent and 9 guys to the NFL draft. They lost their QB Zach Mettenberger, their top Running Back Jeremy Hill, plus one of his back ups Alfred Blue.
They also lost outstanding WRs Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. They did return some Offensive Linemen but these guys had a struggle against Wisconsin.
The Tiger defense was also devastated by losses. Biggest losses on defense were top tackler Lamin Barrow at LB and top Defensive Lineman Ego Ferguson.
The great thing for the Tigers is that even with all of these losses, they still have a lot of talent and speed on both sides of the ball. They are just young and inexperienced.
Wisconsin is kind of in the same boat, but mostly on defense. Southerners, don’t sell the Badgers short. They have 11 guys from Florida on their roster and several from Georgia. But, no matter where the players are from they did lose most of their starters on defense.
On offense they are without their only threat at WR Jared Abbrederis from 2013, but their other offensive problem is self inflicted because they decided to ditch their experienced QB, Joel Stave and replace him with Tanner McEvoy.
McEvoy played safety last season and is 6-6, 225. He has a seemingly huge upside, but he’s not there yet or didn’t appear to be on Saturday night against the Bayou Tigers. The advantage of McEvoy over Stave is his mobility. McEvoy is extremely fleet afoot and looks to have a huge arm. But, on Saturday he was very inconsistent. It didn’t help that he was playing against the LSU Tiger defense. The LSU Tigers are the only team in all of college football that almost completely shut down Johnny Manziel so if you are looking for a model on how to play defense, then look no further than Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Both the Tigers and the Badgers have excellent defenses year after year, and that was a tough way for McEvoy or Tiger QB Anthony Jennings to break into the 2014 season.
McEvoy was only 8 out of 24 for 50 yards and 2 interceptions. Jennings wasn’t much better in passing percentage going 9 out of 21, but he did complete a couple of long throws which produced better yardage. He had 239 yards passing and 2 TDs.
The Tigers did find a new talent at WR with sophomore Travin Dural having a big night with 3 catches for 151 yards and a TD.
Super freshman Leonard Fournette had 18 yards rushing on 8 carries, but again that was against a tough defense. Fournette also had 5 Kickoff returns and averaged 23.4 per return.
Freshman WR Trey Quinn also made his debut but only had 1 reception for 11 yards.
Wisconsin star Running Back Melvin Gordon had 140 yards rushing on 16 carries and a TD.
LSU countered with Kenny Hilliard and 110 yards on 18 carries and 1 TD. Both teams will have scary good running games as the season progresses.
This game was mostly a defensive slug fest with Wisconsin building up a 24-7 lead before the Bayou Bengals came back and won it 28-24.
This was a mostly enjoyable game to watch for a fan of defensive football, and an early test for each team. LSU survived to fight another day and Wisconsin is definitely not out of the running.
Analysts are saying this new playoff system should help 1 loss teams, but time will tell on that. Wisconsin definitely needs to win the rest of their games if they are to have any chance at all. Plus, they need a ton of improvement and quickly from Tanner McEvoy at QB. The Badgers have a much, much easier road than the LSU Tigers from here on out. They play only one more ranked team and that is Nebraska and the Huskers come to Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin. The Badgers could easily win the Big 10 West and play in the Big 10 championship game.
But, again, they need some incredible improvement out of McEvoy, and they need it fast.
They have an excellent coaching staff and might can get it done and they showed excellent defense on Saturday against LSU.
LSU has a tough, tough journey even though they won this game. They still have to play Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Florida and Kentucky. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the year’s versions of Florida, Arkansas and Kentucky just might be the most improved teams in the SEC. Arkansas almost always gives LSU fits even if not improved.
All I know for sure is that LSU won’t beat Alabama with their current style of play no matter how talented they are. Alabama is built to play against teams like LSU.
I love the talent that they have on both sides of the ball, but they are still so very young at many positions. We didn’t see much from freshman QB Brandon Harris against Wisconsin and he may be the solution down the road. Maybe Harris will get some more action with Sam Houston coming to Baton Rouge next weekend.
LSU is a good team but the youth and the scary schedule might make for a long year for the Tigers. They will be fun to watch this season and I plan on seeing every game.