LSU vs Central Michigan: Areas of concern for the Tigers

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Despite the doom and gloom that seems to cloud the LSU Tigers at the moment, the team has an opportunity to be 2-1 ahead of SEC play. Not the record many were expecting, present company included, but 2-1 looks a lot better than staring 1-4 in the face with Mississippi State and Auburn looming in the next two weeks.

This marks the first time that the LSU Tigers will face the Central Michigan Chippewas. Earlier this year we saw the first-ever game between LSU and UCLA, let’s hope for a better outcome this time around. Currently, the Tigers are a three-score favorite in this game.

The fans in Death Valley will welcome an old face to Tiger Stadium, former Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain brings CMU down to the Bayou. For the Tigers to come away victorious, we circled six areas of emphasis for LSU.

The Tigers running game

(AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

It feels like this has been a concern the last two weeks, and here we are again focusing on the run game. The Tigers were dealt a blow when Ed Orgeron announced John Emery Jr would be sidelined for the entire season. They do have Ty Davis-Price, Corey Kiner, Armoni Goodwin, and perhaps Tre Bradford. The team has to find a way to run the football consistently. When it comes to explosive rushing plays, LSU is bottom three in the SEC after two games. Their six runs of 10+ yards are only ahead of Vanderbilt (4) and Mississippi State (1). The team has a total of three rushes of 20+ and none beyond 20. The troubling fact here is that all three of those runs came against the McNeese defense. Can they find a way to run the ball against Central Michigan? The Chippewas gave up 5.9 yards per rush against Missouri in week one of the season. Hopefully, Jake Peetz can find a way to improve the team that is getting 2.8 yards per attempt.

Wide receivers limiting their drops

(AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Against McNeese on Saturday, the wide receivers appeared to suffer from a case of the drops. A total of four drops from wide receivers limited the offense. Both Jaray Jenkins and Brian Thomas Jr dropped a pair of passes each. Thomas' drops came on back-to-back throws from freshman quarterback Garrett Nussmeier. Nothing can be more demoralizing for an offense. The OC calls the right play, the quarterback executes the throw only for the receiver to drop it. More often than not, those plays seem to either stall or end drives. The Tigers' wide receivers need to do a better job of remaining focused through the catch. This season the LSU WRs have dropped a total of eight passes in two games, a trend that needs to be addressed. The quarterback also needs to be more accurate with their throws. Here is how the drops break down so far this year.

  • Brian Thomas Jr (2)

  • Jaray Jenkins (2)

  • Kayshon Boutte (2)

  • Trey Palmer (1)

  • Devonta Lee (1)

Offensive line protecting the quarterback

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The positive sign for the LSU offensive line is that they are facing a defense that hasn't shown the ability to get to the quarterback. They have just two sacks in two games this season. Last week against McNeese, the Cowboys got to Max Johnson twice and Garrett Nussmeier once. You could chalk it up to missing Chasen Hines, Cam Wire, and Austin Deculus in the game. Not a positive sign when Ed Ingram and Liam Shanahan were the only returning starters from the opener against UCLA. Hines is likely to return against CMU, Wire and Deculus might come down to a game-time decision. This year LSU is near the bottom in sacks allowed with five in two games. One team struggles with protecting the quarterback and the other struggles with getting to the quarterback. It is a case of the resistible force that meets the moveable object.

LSU needs to convert on third downs

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The third down conversion was kryptonite for the Tigers' offense against McNeese. On the opening touchdown drive, the team failed to convert a single third down, needing two fourth-down conversions to score. They need to set the offense up with third and manageable on the first two downs so they aren't facing third and 7+ very often. This season LSU is 10/31 on third down which equates to 32.3%, bottom three in the SEC. Only Mississippi State and Ole Miss have a worse conversion rate. While LSU does have the best kicker in the nation, settling for three points due to consistently failing on third down isn't how you win football games.

LSU needs to be able to drive the length of the field

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Against the UCLA Bruins, LSU didn't show any signs of not being able to put long drives together. Of their five scoring drives against the Bruins, LSU drove 60+ yards on four. However, that was not the case against McNeese. Six drives against the Cowboys last Saturday and only one went beyond 50 yards. That was the opening drive for the offense in which Max Johnson was asked to convert two fourth-down plays in order to do so. Asking your defense to give you a short field every single time for an offense is a recipe for disaster. The drive chart from the McNeese game shows far too many three and outs, plus a lack of the ability to drive the field.

Field Position

Plays

Yards

Results

LSU38

10

62

TD

LSU20

6

24

Downs

LSU13

3

5

Punt

LSU16

6

27

Punt

MCN28

3

28

TD

LSU44

9

19

FG

LSU37

3

6

Punt

LSU26

3

7

Punt

LSU20

4

28

Punt

MCN49

7

49

TD

Midfield

7

12

FG

LSU34

3

5

Punt

Midfield

3

50

TD

LSU25

6

12

Punt

LSU27

2

-3

End of Game

Limiting big plays when LSU is on defense

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If there is one area of weakness for the LSU defense that stands above the rest, it is in big plays allowed. Through two games the Tigers defense has surrendered a total of 24 plays of 10+ yards. What is the most concerning is five plays from 40-50+ yards. They must limit those explosive plays, otherwise Central Michigan might be able to hang around in this game.

Season

10+

20+

30+

40+

50+

2021

24

10

8

4

1

2021 Projected

144

60

48

24

12

Central Michigan is the most explosive offense from the Mid-American Conference. They have 21 run plays of 10+ yards and 20 pass plays of 10+ yards.

Explosive Plays

10+

20+

30+

40+

50+

CMU

41

15

4

1

0

1

1