2. The defense earns its stripes
LSU fans would be significantly more worried about their team’s defense heading into the season if Kelly had not calmed their nerves in his pre-Florida State press conference earlier in the week. Positionally, the defensive backs seemed to be the weakest group on that side of the ball. However, if the head coach’s words are anything to go by, that may not be the case any longer.
As I said on the last slide, I believe the Tigers will excel against a seldom explosive passing attack like the Seminoles’. There is a lot of confidence around Tallahassee about the running game after an incredible performance in the opener against Duquesne, but the passing game didn’t look like anything special against a fairly bad team. As long as the defensive backs can hold their own, they can leave the rest up to a vastly more established and experienced front seven.
LSU has enough firepower on its defensive line to wreak havoc on just about any team in the country. Big names like Ali Gaye, BJ Ojulari*, Jaquelin Roy and Maason Smith are all returning to terrorize offensive lines this season. Florida State has a couple of injuries in the trenches, so expect the Tigers’ defensive lineman to take full advantage. Factor in the run-stopping ability of former Clemson transfer linebacker Mike Jones Jr. (who?) and LSU has all of the tools it needs to put together a complete defensive performance.
The Tigers have struggled in years past giving up big plays on the defensive side of the ball. They began to put the pieces together toward the end of last season though. Despite having a plethora of new starters under new defensive coordinator Matt House, that confidence and growth will have likely carried over into this year.
As long as LSU is able to do something that Duquesne couldn’t—stop the run—it should be able to limit the big plays it gives up against the Seminoles. This will be a major key to victory.
As far as a bold prediction, I see the Tigers keeping Florida State contained on the night. LSU’s defense won’t quite look like it did in the Dave Aranda days, but it’ll be a helluva lot better than in years past. The Tigers’ defense will earn its stripes against the Seminoles.
*- Ojulari will play as a JACK under House. The JACK position is a hybrid defensive line/linebacker position that gives the Tigers formational flexibility. Think a Jadeveon Clowney type.