LSU Football Countdown to Kickoff Day 2: Two Key Badger Matchups

Nov 14, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) carries the ball against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 14, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) carries the ball against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports /

There are only two days left until the start of the 2016 LSU football season, and Death Valley Voice is counting you down to the season opener versus the Wisconsin Badgers.

No. 2 – Two key matchups at QB and defensive coordinator.


Bart Houston vs. Brandon Harris

Saturday’s showdown at Lambeau Field will pit two quarterbacks trying to prove themselves against one another.

One, Wisconsin’s Bart Houston, brings to the table an unusual football history. According to ESPN, only two seasons ago, he sat so far down on the depth chart at quarterback that he served as an emergency “rugby-style” punter for the Badgers. A fifth-year senior who saw most of his field experience as a member of the scout team during his first four years on team, Houston only cemented his spot as the team’s starting quarterback in the past week.

The brunt of Houston’s in-game experience came in a single outing last season vs. Illinois when he took over for the injured starter and led the Badgers to a 24-13 victory. In fact, last year’s win against Illinois was Houston’s only career game in which he has played meaningful minutes.

His performance was a mixed bag of sorts. In that game, Houston showcased his ability to thread the needle and deliver sharp, precise passes. He also exhibited an ability to get off tough throws in pressure, delivering one TD while receiving a hard hit from a blitzing linebacker and a second after avoiding a defender and stepping up in the pocket.

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However, he also at times struggled with timing and connecting on short throws with his wide receivers. After a summer’s worth of camp with the first team, that may be less of a problem for him.

As far as Brandon Harris, Tiger fans are collectively holding their breaths to see exactly what they will get from him this year. He enters the year as LSU’s unchallenged starting quarterback, and has an intimidating array of weapons on the ground and through the air that he will be able to work with this year. In a recent quarterback positional preview, I predicted that Harris has the potential to be an All-SEC caliber player this year, and Saturday he might be able to get off to a strong start down that path.

Advantage: Brandon Harris.

Though he has definitely received his fair share of criticism (much of it warranted), Harris has spent part of one season and the entirety of last year as the starting QB for a great time in the toughest conference in the NCAA. Two fantastic receivers in Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural and the unquantifiable talent of Leonard Fournette round out a solid offense for Harris. Houston, on the other hand, is a huge question mark and jarringly inexperienced for a fifth-year senior.

Defensive Coordinator

Dave Aranda vs. Justin Wilcox

Though both LSU DC Dave Aranda and Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst have been trying to publicly “downplay” the importance of their matchup in the media, it will certainly be an intriguing and significant one.

Aranda (as you likely know already), served three years as the defensive coordinator of the Badgers before moving to LSU this past offseason. In the above article, Chryst said of the coaches’ role that

"“In the end, it is LSU and Wisconsin. Coaches will have a part in it, but the game will be played by the players between the lines.”"

However, with context, Aranda’s move clearly holds great meaning. He led the Badgers’ defense to the fewest points per game allowed in the nation and the second-fewest yards, and he has some serious NFL-caliber talent to work with on LSU’s defense. Aranda will aim to bring similar levels of success to Death Valley this season, and considering his experience and through knowledge of Wisconsin’s gameplans and staff, this game will be as good as any to start off with.

Wilcox comes to the defensive coordinator position from USC, and launched his coaching career as the DC at Boise State, where the team went an unheard of 49-4 in his four years there and were consistently a top defensive unit.

Advantage: Dave Aranda.

Wisconsin’s defense should not see a significant statistical dropoff this season under respected coach Justin Wilcox, but the Mad Hatter and Dave Aranda are as dynamic a duo of coaches as one could assemble.

The rest of the countdown…

No. 3 – Tough Game Trio

No. 4 – Championship History

No. 5 – Crimson Five

No. 6 – Brandon Harris Must Break Out

No. 7 – The Legend of Leonard

No. 8 – Lewis Neal is a sack machine

No. 9  – Rickey Jefferson & DBU

No. 10  – Ten Win Season

No. 11 – Bowling Destinations

No. 12 – Games of 2016

No. 13  – Brandon Harris TDs

No. 14 – Championship Bound

No. 16 – Danny Etling

Will Dave Aranda and Les Miles bring the Tigers to new heights this year? Sound off in the comments below!