Once again LSU will play a power conference team in week one, but instead of playing a flashy spread team such as Oregon of 2011 they will face a far more SEC-like Wisconsin team. Leading Wisconsin on offense is senior running back Melvin Gordon, who will now be the sole featured back with the departure of last year’s leading ball carrier by carries James White. Gordon will also have an experienced offensive line trying to create holes for him led by redshirt senior Rob Havenstein (6’8, 333 lbs.).
The defensive tackles will have their work cut out for them trying to shutdown Wisconsin’s rushing attack. Wisconsin will start dual threat Tanner McEvoy over the veteran Joel Stave. I don’t expect LSU to have trouble handling McEvoy considering how well John Chavis has handled talented dual threat quarterbacks, such as Nick Marshall and Johnny Manziel last year. Don’t be surprised to see Joel Stave get playing time as well, though. Also don’t expect him to win the game, especially considering he lost his main target Jared Abbrederis, who eclipsed 1,000 yards last year. Wisconsin also lost its second and third leading receivers, neither of which were wide outs, in the tight end Jacob Pederson and running back James White. Much like LSU, Wisconsin will be leaning heavily on young receiving talent.
On the defensive side of the ball Wisconsin’s strength is in its secondary, so expect an extra heavy dose of running from both sides.
If LSU’s defense doesn’t step up to shut down the run, Gordon could end up with a Todd Gurley-like performance from last year’s Georgia game. That game could have been worse if Gurley had not been injured at the end of the first half. I expect LSU’s saving grace from that fate will be the linebacking corps. Yes, I’m expecting that arguably the weakest aspect of last year’s defense will be the most important asset for this game. Chavis has raved about this group’s talent, and I trust the man’s judgment, especially if it means trusting Kwon Alexander’s talent.
The rumor mill has Anthony Jennings starting today for LSU. (*Ed Note: This has been confirmed.) I’m not a big fan of this decision, considering Jennings’ performances in the Iowa and spring games. His arm is weaker than Harris’s and he looks tentative in the pocket. Unless Jennings is playing the game of his life, expect to see Harris towards the end of the first quarter. Whoever plays the majority of the snaps won’t need to carry the team with his arm like Mettenberger did last year; they will just need to not turn the ball over. It will be tight to begin, but expect LSU to emerge as the harder hitter towards the end.
LSU wins 24-13.