4. The defense
There are a lot of question marks surrounding this LSU team that remain, even three weeks into the season. Suffice it to say, defense is not one of them.
The defensive unit was the most heavily scrutinized heading into the year. Matt House was returning to the college game to become a defensive coordinator for the first time in four years. The Tigers lost a plethora of players due to graduation or the transfer portal. Nearly the entire secondary was comprised of incoming transfers. Maason Smith’s season-ending injury against Florida State just made matters worse and put the Bayou Bengals at a huge disadvantage.
Nevertheless, they didn’t give up. The defense has been phenomenal from the moment it first stepped on the field in the Caesars Superdome. There have been a couple of blunders here and there—such as struggling to get off the field on third down—but they have always come through when they’re needed the most.
The entire defense is named on this list because it’s too hard to narrow it down to one or two stars from the Mississippi State victory. Harold Perkins and BJ Ojulari wreaked havoc on the Bulldogs’ offense all night long. The pass rush from the Bayou Bengals’ defense was phenomenal and those two stood out amongst the rest.
The secondary also deserves a lot of credit; specifically Jay Ward. Whereas safety Major Burns has gotten a lot of the credit up until this point, it’s Ward who was the standout performer on Saturday. Ward showed up all over the stat sheet. The senior finished with a team-high 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one pass deflected and one interception. He was flying around the field making plays left and right.
The performances earned Ward Defensive Player of the Week and Ojulari Defensive Lineman of the Week honors in the SEC.
The Tigers’ defense deserves a lot of credit for the win over the Bulldogs. Leach’s air raid offense is one of the most difficult in the country to defend. LSU held its opponent to 16 points after Mississippi State came into the game averaging 44 points per game. The Bayou Bengals still have to prove their strength against other SEC opposition, it’s not farfetched to claim that they may have one of the best defenses in the country though.