What to watch for when LSU hosts McNeese State on Saturday

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The LSU Tigers didn’t have a great showing in the season opener last Saturday, but it is a new week as they host McNeese State of the Southland Conference. The home opener of the season is ahead of Central Michigan next week.

The in-state competition comes in with an 0-1 record under former LSU assistant coach Frank Wilson. He spent 2005-07 under Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss in his first gig at the collegiate level. Wilson was with LSU from 2010-15 before leaving to take the head coaching position at UT-San Antonio. This is his second season with McNeese.

There is also the storyline of Ed Orgeron facing his son Cody, who is the starting quarterback for the Cowboys. Will his defense take it easy on the coaches’ son? Probably not, but Cody would also love to get the win over his dad’s team.

With so many issues arising last week against UCLA, we highlight 10 areas of the team to watch on Saturday.

Stream this Saturday’s LSU-McNeese State game, plus college football games from the SEC, Big 12, The American, and more on ESPN+

Offensive line play

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So much of offensive line play comes down to continuity. They failed to protect the quarterback and failed to get any push up front against UCLA, the Tigers need to come out against McNeese and blow defenders off the line. The unit needs to build confidence that they can make the right protection calls, pick up blitzes, and maintain their blocks.

The run game needs to get rolling

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It was nonexistent against the UCLA Bruins on Saturday night. Josh Williams carried the ball once for two yards and Tyrion Davis-Price averaged 2.4 yards per attempt on 13 carries. With no John Emery Jr, they didn't have much rotation at the position. Davis-Price needs to be able to execute in the run game. Last year there were five games where the leading rusher had less than 60 yards. The team needs to show they can help Max Johnson.

Max Johnson needs to be more accurate

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Overall the stat line looked good for Max Johnson, however, it was quite inaccurate for much of the game. He completed just north of 50% of his passes while overthrowing Kole Taylor for one interception. He missed a walk-in touchdown pass to Trey Palmer. Four drops didn't help the situation but Johnson also looked out of rhythm and overall uncomfortable in the pocket. When facing the Cowboys' defense, look for Johnson to get on a roll and build some confidence ahead of the Central Michigan game next week.

Can WR2 please come forward

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There is no doubt who the star wide receiver is for the Tigers. Kayshon Boutte picked up right where he left off in 2020. He recorded his fourth-consecutive 100-yard performance with three touchdown receptions. LSU needs a secondary target to step up as the second-best receiver on the team. Palmer caught seven of his 10 targets for 47 yards. That is just 4.7 yards per target, the team needs more. Brian Thomas Jr caught just one pass but it went for 18 yards, the team needs more of that. Jaray Jenkins and Koy Moore added another 78 yards combined. When facing a higher level of competition than what they will see Saturday, it can't just be the Boutte show.

Stopping the run game

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On Saturday against the Bruins, the Tigers' run defense was poor. They allowed 4.5 yards per attempt. A misleading stat since that figures in sacks, against the top two runners the LSU defense gave up 10.6 yards per attempt to Zach Charbonnet and 5.6 yards per attempt to Brittain Brown. They need to show out in stopping Sephon Huderson who ran for 73 yards against West Florida and contain Cody Orgeron, who added 35 yards and one rushing touchdown.

Play contain on the edges

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The UCLA offense showed no issues with getting out on the edges against Daronte Jones' defense. When facing McNeese State, there needs to be more discipline in containing the edges. The quarterback isn't afraid to run and Dorian Thompson-Robinson showed you can run on this defense, much like we saw all of 2020.

Better communication on the second and third levels

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The lack of communication came back to bite the defense once again, on Saturday they need to improve in this area. The unit looked confused and out of place in this game. Even cost them a touchdown when Chase Cota took advantage. Use this game as an opportunity to clean some of those deficiencies up.

Get to the quarterback consistently

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The team will be without both Ali Gaye and Soni Fonua, but they still have Andre Anthony and BJ Ojulari on the outside. With Cody Orgeron's ability to move in the pocket, they need to put pressure. Freshman Maason Smith can make a difference in the middle as well. This is a unit that will need to be disruptive as they move into conference play.

This is the time for Jake Peetz to shine

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This will mark the second game to call plays for first-year offensive coordinator Jake Peetz. While the passing game didn't pose an issue, this is his opportunity to showcase the run game. McNeese gave up 4.8 yards per rush last week, how will Ty Davis-Price and company fair at Tiger Stadium? LSU head coach Ed Orgeron spoke about the run game specifically. "We felt like we had to come out and run the football. We found a couple of cracks in their defense. I felt our guys made a couple of adjustments at halftime that worked. Still, it was nowhere near the variety of runs, nowhere near the style of runs in which we need to run at LSU." Looks like it is time to mix it up, Peetz will get his opportunity on Saturday.

Finish Drives on offense, get off the field on defense

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The offense needs to start faster in this game and finish out drives. On the first two drives of the game, they ended with an Avery Atkins punt. The offense needs to punch it in early and set the tone for this game. The Tigers held the ball for 12 drives last week, eight ended with a kick (field goal or punt) and one ended with an interception. A 25% touchdown rate isn't going to cut it when SEC play rolls around. The defense found themselves on the field for 13 drives against the Bruins. After forcing three straight punts, the defense gave up back-to-back touchdown drives. The problem arose in the second half against UCLA, the defense gave up four scoring drives in a row with three touchdowns to just one field goal. Daronte Jones' unit needs to force kicks and get off the field and allow the offense to build some momentum.

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