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Game Day: LSU vs. Wisconsin

AX061_70A3_9

Leonard Fournette makes his debut Saturday night.

UPDATES

  • 5:10 p.m.: Not surprising but there are a ton of LSU fans here. Purple everywhere. The Tigers sold their allotment of 35,000 tickets and are expected to bring another 10,000 or more to the game. Wisconsin red is prevalent, too. The Badgers sold their allotment of about 13,000.
  • 4:30 p.m.: LSU’s depth chart shows no changes, despite our reports of four players who did not make the trip to Houston. Center Elliott Porter remains listed as the starter at center, Rashard Robinson at CB and Maquedius Bain as No. 2 defensive tackle. We know those three – and Malachi Dupre – did not travel with the team to Houston.

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The Info

  • Match: No. 14 LSU (0-0) vs. No. 13 Wisconsin (0-0)
  • TDP: 8:10 p.m., Saturday, NRG Stadium, Houston
  • TV: ESPN (Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman, Todd McShay)
  • Series Record: LSU leads 2-0

Players To Watch (LSU)

  • RB Leonard Fournette: The No. 1 recruit in the nation makes his collegiate debut on the grand stage. Rumblings from practice and scrimmages are that Fournette has wowed folks. “He’ll do some significant things,” Les Miles said Saturday on College Game Day.

    Trey Quinn is expected to be used all over the field. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

    Trey Quinn is expected to be used all over the field. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

  • WR Trey Quinn: Malachi Dupre was left home with an injury, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Quinn has been the guy running with the starters and making stellar plays in practice. He’s a strong, quick freshman from Lake Charles who has versatility.
  • DE Danielle Hunter: Hunter has led fall camp in the “He Looks Like An Alien” category. His chiseled frame has LSU fans expecting the world from a guy who won a starting job as a sophomore early last season.

Players To Watch (Wisconsin)

  • QB Tanner McEvoy: LSU doesn’t know a ton about the safety-turned-quarterback. He hasn’t played QB since the junior college level two years ago. McEvoy is known to be a speedy guy who can use his feet to make plays, and he’ll likely run some option.
  • RB Melvin Gordon: A downhill back who can also outrun you, Gordon is expected to be the stiffest test for LSU’s defense. He’s a preseason All-American and a Heisman Trophy favorite. He ran for 100 yards or more in seven games last season.
  • LB Derek Landisch: The 230-pound senior is the primary returner from a Wisconsin front seven that lost every starter from 2013. He had 19 tackles and a sack in a reserve role last year, but the Badgers are expecting him to lead the young D.
Melvin Gordon, he's pretty good.

Melvin Gordon, he’s pretty good.

Key Matchups

  • UW RB Melvin Gordon vs. LSU defensive front seven: LSU’s front is a solid, deep and experienced bunch but Gordon likes to run between the tackles, and the Tigers have nothing but youth at the defensive tackle spots. LSU must slow Gordon to win.
  • LSU running backs vs. UW front seven: The Tigers have a stable of guys – Fournette, Terrence Magee, Kenny Hilliard – to use against a Badgers’ front that lost every starter. That’s not to mention an LSU O-line that many believe is the best around.
  • UW QB Joel Stave vs. LSU DBs: The Badgers are expected to use both QBs, and Stave is the passer of the two. He threw for 22 TDs in 2013. Meanwhile, LSU is down starting CB Rashard Robinson and will likely play freshmen Ed Paris and Jamal Adams.

By The Numbers

  • 35,000: Tickets LSU sold to the game. UW sold 13,000.
  • 4:  Prominent LSU players left behind on the trip.
  • 4: The number of quarterbacks who could play in this game.

How They Win

  • LSU: The Tigers pound the ball, running for more than 200 yards in the game, and DC John Chavis’ front seven squashes the early Heisman hopes of running back Melvin Gordon.
  • Wisconsin: Melvin Gordon has a banner day, running for more than 125 yards and scoring three touchdowns, while LSU’s offense sputters behind an inexperienced leader at QB.

The Opponent

  • Best win: N/A (season opener)
  • Worst loss: N/A (season opener)
  • Sagarin strength of schedule: N/A (season opener)
  • Record vs. Sagarin Top 30: N/A (season opener)

The Series

Last 10 (only played twice)

  • 1972: LSU 27-7 (Baton Rouge)
  • 1971: LSU 38-28 (Madison, Wisc.)

Longest Win Streaks

  • LSU: 2 (1971-72)

Biggest Wins

  • LSU: 27-7 (1972, Baton Rouge)

The Spread

LSU -4.5

Pick 6: Q and A with a Wisconsin beat reporter

Our inaugural Pick 6 is a good one. Why? Because we’ve got Jeff Potrykus here on the blog, and he’s no slouch.

You can find Jeff’s work here and follow his active Twitter account here.

No, not this kind of Pick 6.

No, not this kind of Pick 6.

1. What different qualities does each quarterback, Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave, bring to the Wisconsin offense?

McEvoy, who didn’t play quarterback until his senior year in high school at Bergen Catholic in New Jersey, is an outstanding running threat but only a decent passer. McEvoy can make plays on designed runs or by scramble if the called play breaks down. However, he hasn’t played QB in a game since 2012, at Arizona Western College.

Stave is the classic pocket passer who can throw the ball at times on designed rollouts. He isn’t a dangerous runner and got hurt in the Capital One Bowl when he didn’t slide at the end of a short run.

2. I know both QBs are expected to play, but what does McEvoy getting the starting nod mean for the program in the long and short term?

Gary Andersen has said from the day he was introduced as UW’s head coach he wants a quarterback who can beat teams with his mind, arm and feet. The selection of McEvoy as the starter reaffirms that and the staff has followed that plan on the recruiting trail also.

3. It seems that many believe Wisconsin’s front seven is the biggest weakness on the team. Why’s that?

Because they lost all seven starters. The projected starters in the front seven enter Saturday with a combined 12 starts. That is 1.7 starts per man in the front seven. Ouch.

4. For LSU fans who haven’t seen him play, why is RB Melvin Gordon so good?

Gordon has more physical ability than former UW tailback Montee Ball, who is projected to start for Denver this season. He is quick through the hole, has breakaway speed and is exceptionally strong in the lower and upper body.

However, UW opponents will find that reserve tailback Corey Clement, a sophomore, is just as good.

5. LSU is expected to play two quarterbacks as well. What do Wisconsin defenders say about Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris and how do you think they’ll defend each QB?

The players haven’t talked about either player specifically. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda noted he expects some designed runs for both QBs, but the focus has been on the Tigers’ veteran line and stable of talented runners.

6. What is the one thing Wisconsin must do to win the football game?

I think both teams will enjoy success running the ball so I think points will be scored. UW struggled against quality passing games last season.

Not sure if LSU will have that in Game 1. I’m guessing UW needs to generate a couple turnovers and turn them into touchdowns.

Times Of Interest: LSU-Wisconsin

LSU's band will play at halftime and before Saturday's game. (Bill Feig)

LSU’s band will play at halftime and before Saturday’s game. (Bill Feig)

Friday
12:30 p.m.                            Team departs from campus
1:30 p.m.                              Charter flight departs Baton Rouge Airport
2:30 p.m.                              Team arrives in Houston
3:35 p.m.                              Team arrives at NRG Stadium (walk-thru)
4:45 p.m.                              Team arrives at Omni Hotel
 
Saturday
11 a.m.                                  CST LSU Live Pre-Game Show (NRG Stadium)
3 p.m.                                    LSU Sports Radio Network Crew departs hotel for stadium
5:35 p.m.                              Team departs hotel for stadium 
6 p.m.                                   Team arrives at stadium
6 p.m.                                   LSU Sports Radio Network pre-game show starts 
7:50 p.m.                              LSU Band on field for pre-game
8:04 p.m.                              LSU intro video
8:05 p.m.                              LSU takes field
8:08 p.m.                              Coin Toss at midfield
8:10 p.m.                              Kickoff: LSU vs. Wisconsin on ESPN 
2:30 a.m.                               Team arrives back in Baton Rouge
 
Halftime:
·         LSU Band performs

The Advocate On The Road

You'll find Advocate's in Houston.

You’ll find Advocates in Houston.

Traveling to Houston and need a newspaper? The Advocate hits the road Saturday distributing newspapers around the Houston area. Here’s a list of 15 hotels in which you can buy a Saturday Advocate:

  • Hyatt Regency (Houston)
  • Royal Sonesta (Houston)
  • Marriott West Loop Galleria (Houston)
  • Courtyard Marriott (Houston)
  • Residence Inn Medical Center/Reliant Park (Houston)
  • Hampton Inn and Suites (Houston)
  • Holiday Inn Reliant (Houston)
  • Quality/Reliant Inn and Suites (Houston)
  • Omni Hotel (Houston)
  • Westin Galleria (Houston)
  • Westin Oaks (Houston)
  • JW Marriott (Houston)
  • Hampton Inn Galleria (Houston)
  • Hilton Houston Post Oak (Houston)
  • Hotel Indigo at The Galleria (Houston).

LSU vs. the Big Ten: Five memorable games

LSU vs. the Big Ten: Five memorable games

Since LSU and Wisconsin have played just twice in football, we thought we’d highlight five memorable games between the Tigers and current members of the Big Ten:

Jan. 7, 2007 – LSU 38, Ohio State 24: Given a second chance at the national title despite two losses, the Tigers spot the Buckeyes a 10-0 lead at the Superdome and come storming back for their second BCS crown in four years. Matt Flynn throws for four touchdowns, two to tight end Richard Dickson, to lead the charge.

Jan. 1, 2005 – Iowa 30, LSU 25: The Capital One Bowl is guaranteed an emotional farewell after Nick Saban accepts the Miami Dolphins job on Christmas Day. The ending tops even that. JaMarcus Russell rallies LSU from a 24-12 deficit to take a 25-24 lead before Drew Tate’s 56-yard touchdown pass to Warren Holloway on the final play.

Jan. 1, 2002 – LSU 47, Illinois 34: After upsetting No. 2 Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game, the Tigers train their explosive offense on the Big Ten champion Illini. With Rohan Davey throwing bombs to Biletnikoff Award winner Josh Reed, LSU sprints to a 34-7 halftime lead and coasts to its first Sugar Bowl win in 34 years.

Sept. 25, 1971 – LSU 38, Wisconsin 28: A capacity crowd of 78,535 at Camp Randall Stadium watches the Tigers invade Madison and leave with a wild victory in the first meeting between LSU and the Badgers. Paul Lyons directs the LSU offense with a then school record 304 yards total yards.

Jan. 1, 1971 – Nebraska 17, LSU 12: The SEC champion Tigers meet the No. 3-ranked Cornhuskers in an Orange Bowl spiked with national title implications. LSU leads 12-10 in the fourth quarter before Nebraska drives 76 yards for the winning score on a 1-yard keeper by Jerry Tagge. The ‘Huskers secure the title with an interception of Bert Jones.

 

Wednesdays With Les: Mum on QB plan, entire D-line healthy

AX226_2F62_9LSU coach Les Miles, on Wednesdays during game weeks, speaks publicly three different times. Follow his comments here throughout the day.

SEC Teleconference

Les Miles re-affirmed that both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris will play in LSU’s game against Wisconsin, and that there’s a game plan for playing each, but he’s not revealing it. He also said, again, that if and when one QB separates himself then LSU will play him and him alone.

More nuggets from Miles’ 10-minute Q&A on the SEC teleconference:

  • On a QB plan: “There’s a plan. We’re going to do those things that we feel like will benefit both quarterbacks and play them appropriately. It’s not something I’m going to reveal. I don’t think there’s any tremendous magic to it. We like both guys. Both will play.”
  • On why he’s playing two QBs: “I think there’s not a great separation in the two. We’re confident with both. We’re looking at those things that each guy does extremely well. We like the duality at this point. If a guy handles and seaparates himself from the other over time, I think it’d be obvious for all and we’d certainly give him the nod. He’ll be our starter. At this point, we’re going to play two and we’re confident in both.”
  • Miles said his defensive line is healthy and fresh and mentioned that defensive tackle Quentin Thomas has played “the entire time.” We know that’s not true. Thomas tore his biceps the first week of fall camp and missed multiple practices.
  • Miles mentioned freshman Davon Godchaux as a guy when asked about the defensive line. It appears Godchaux could see some playing time. The coach hasn’t mentioned him much this fall camp. “Him, Frank Herron and a number of guys will have an opportunity to step in there and play,” Miles said.
  • Wisconsin plans to play two quarterbacks, pocket passer Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy, a converted safety. LSU is preparing for both and knows about each: “We certainly recognize that Stave is their starter from a year ago. You certainly see him on field you realize he can really throw it. You kind of prepare that piece. You recognize McEvoy is the athlete. You recognize … you watch his spring game and he has real athleticism. We’re prepared for really both styles and looking forward to adjusting to whichever guy they play.”
  • Miles on Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon: “He’s one of those guys that if you … kind of a concern because he’s a big, strong, physical back. He can make you miss. You’re going to have to tackle well. What you do on defense, first thing you do and is tremendously important in this game is you need to tackle well.”

Post-practice

Miles spoke to the media again after Wednesday’s practice, offering little news.

  •  “The hard work is behind us,” Miles said. “We had a good practice and are looking forward to taking the field.” The coach added he’s had team managers pump crowd noise into LSU’s practices this week to simulate the atmosphere inside NRG Stadium.
  • Miles was asked if the way LSU plays Jennings and Harris against Wisconsin will be by feel or will it be more scripted. “Obviously both,” he said. “But that will all depend on the success of the guy in there (at the time).”
  • Miles was asked if he tries to emphasize “bulletin board” material to his team. “We don’t avoid it, but we don’t really search for it. I don’t really point at it as much as it’s reviewed by our team.”

Radio show

Lastly, Miles answered questions during his call-in show from T.J. Ribs.

  • LSU’s best pocket passer is Jake Clise, Miles said to a questioner.  ”A guy named Clise,” Miles said when asked about the best pocket passer. Clise is a walk-on and is not in the hunt for the starting job between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris.
  • The coach was asked specifically if cornerback Rashard Robinson would start Saturday against Wisconsin. His response: “Rashard Robinson practiced today. Everything’s good.”
  • Freshman linebacker Clifton Garrett had “a reaction to the heat” and missed much of the early portion of fall camp, Miles said. Garrett isn’t prepared to play at the linebacker position, but could see time at special teams, the coach said.
  • Sounds more and more like cornerback Tre’Davious White will return punts and/or kicks this season. Miles on him: “This year we’re going to give him some return duties. He has some unbelievable capable hands.”
  • Kendell Beckwith is “competing tooth and nail” with D.J. Welter at middle linebacker, Miles said. “I think you look forward to those guys playing a lot of football,” he said of them both.

Twitter Mailbag: Breakout player, impact freshmen and LSU’s defensive line

Brandon Harris could make the most impact against Wisconsin of any freshman. (Bill Feig)

Brandon Harris could make the most impact against Wisconsin of any freshman. (Bill Feig)

Twitter Mailbag is a blog series running each Tuesday answering readers’ questions about the LSU football team. Readers submit their questions through Twitter each Tuesday, and the best are posted here with answers. Follow us on Twitter at @DellengerAdv to submit a question.

It’s finally game week. LSU and Wisconsin meet Saturday in Houston to open the 2014 season. This marks our final preseason Twitter Mailbag.

Answer: My breakout guy this season is defensive end Danielle Hunter. The rumblings out of practice and scrimmages are that Hunter has been a beast. He’s an intimidating figure and a guy who showed sparks last season.

I really enjoy speaking with offensive linemen Evan Washington and Jerald Hawkins. Those big guys are bubbly and outgoing. Reporters love talkative players, and they fit into that category. Not only that, they appear to be genuinely nice guys.

Answer: Coach Les Miles said six to 12 true freshmen could play against Wisconsin in the season opener and six rookies could play key roles.

I believe one of these five will make an impact in the game against the Badgers: RB Leonard Fournettes, WRs Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupre, QB Brandon Harris and S Jamal Adams.

To answer your question more specifically, I’ll say Harris.

Answer: Good point. Wisconsin ran for 293 yards against the Gamecocks, including 143 by RB Melvin Gordon.

Comparing the two defensive lines is tough. Also, we shouldn’t read too much into bowl game outcomes and stats. They’re bowl games.

That said, I’ll tell you that LSU feels great about its defensive line, but there are weak spots. Jermauria Rasco, at defensive end, still has a tone to prove. He wasn’t the star player last season many thought he’d be, but he was battling a shoulder injury. He’s healthy now. As mentioned above, Hunter is expected to be the breakout guy. He’s a fierce pass-rusher on the edge.

At defensive tackle, the Tigers are inexperienced. Opposite sophomore Christian LaCouture is redshirt freshman Frank Herron. He’s never played college football. Two of the rotating guys at that spot – Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain – are redshirt freshmen as well. Still, some around the program feel that defensive tackle will be deeper and strong than last season. Anthony Johnson had a disappointing season last year.

Answer: I think Wisconsin QB Joel Stave plays a good amount. Here’s a guy who passed for the second-most touchdowns in program history last season. UW isn’t just gonna ditch him for the more run-centric Tanner McEvoy (reportedly the starter) for the entire game.

LSU is preparing for both quarterback, players and Miles said. I’d expect to see both.

Answer: It certainly has a very good shot to be. Many compare it to the 2011 class. That group included La’el Collins, Anthony Johnson, Jarvis Landry,  Odell Beckham Jr., Jeremy Hill (but sat out), Kenny Hilliard, Trai Turner and Terrence Magee.

Still, many recruiting experts believe LSU’s 2001 signing class is the best in program history (the 2014 one not withstanding). That group included Michael Clayton, Andrew Whitworth, Rudy Niswanger, Brady James, Joseph Addai, Marcus Spears and Marquise Hill. That class was also ranked No. 2 nationally, as is the 2014 class.