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LSU football schedule for 2015 announced by SEC

After playing Texas A&M in College Station on Thanksgiving night this year, the LSU football team will meet the Aggies on a Friday or Saturday in Tiger Stadium to wrap up the 2015 regular season.

The Southeastern Conference released dates and sites for 2015 for all 14 league schools Tuesday night, a slate that has LSU facing Texas A&M on Saturday, Nov. 28.

LSU associate athletic director Verge Ausberry, however, said that date could change to Nov. 27 if CBS decides to pick up the game for its Friday-after-Thanksgiving afternoon slot.

The Tigers will also play Auburn (Sept. 19), Florida (Oct. 17) and Arkansas Nov. 14) at home and travel to Mississippi State (Sept. 12), South Carolina (Oct. 10), Alabama (Nov. 7) and Ole Miss (Nov. 21) to complete the eight-game SEC schedule.

The home portion of the Tigers’ non-conference schedule includes games against McNeeseState on Sept. 5 (the season opener), Eastern Michigan on Oct. 3 and Western Kentucky on Oct. 24.

LSU will travel to Syracuse on Sept. 26.

The SEC released schedules for the next 11 seasons in May, but the league had not announced dates for those games.

SEC teams are mandated to play at least one opponent from a power conference each season. LSU meets Syracuse next season and hosts the Orange in 2017. The Tigers travel to play Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in Green Bay in 2016.

LSU continues to search for a power five conference team for 2018-2020. The program is discussing neutral-site games as well as home-and-home matchups with other power conference teams, said Ausberry, who, with athletic director Joe Alleva, handles football scheduling.

2015 LSU football schedule

(Times and TV networks to be announced)

Date Opponent  Stadium    City

Sept. 5        McNeese State    Tiger Stadium     Baton Rouge

Sept. 12      Mississippi St.*        Davis Wade Stadium    Starkville, Miss.

Sept. 19      Auburn*     Tiger Stadium     Baton Rouge

Sept. 26      Syracuse     Carrier Dome      Syracuse, N.Y.

Oct. 3         Eastern Michigan         Tiger Stadium     Baton Rouge

Oct. 10       S. Carolina*  Williams-Brice Stadium        Columbia, S.C.

Oct. 17       Florida*     Tiger Stadium     Baton Rouge

Oct. 24       Western Kentucky        Tiger Stadium     Baton Rouge

Oct. 31       Open date

Nov. 7        Alabama*   Bryant-Denny Stadium Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Nov. 14      Arkansas*  Tiger Stadium     Baton Rouge

Nov. 21      Ole Miss*  Vaught-Hemingway Stadium         Oxford, Miss.

Nov. 28      Texas A&M*       Tiger Stadium     Baton   Rouge

* indicates Southeastern Conference game

Bowers’ return changes dynamic for Mizzou vs. LSU

Click here for audio: Missouri coah Frank Haith talks LSU

Laurence Bowers could only slam his palms together after plopping down in a folding chair on theMissouribench late in a victory againstAlabama.

With roughly four minutes left on Jan.8, the forward’s right knee crumpled after point guard Phil Pressey landed on it beneath the Missouri basket, leaving the Tigers’ senior forward and leading scorer with a right MCL sprain.

Expected to miss only two games, Bowers, who averages roughly 17 points and 7 rebounds per game, has sat out the past five for No. 17 MU (15-4, 4-2 SEC), which visits LSU (10-7, 1-5) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the PMAC.

Bowers’ absence was also clearly felt, depriving the Tigers of their best low-post scoring option, shifting the onus in the process to senior Connecticut transfer Alex Oriahki. Without Bowers, MU’s offense sputtered four days later in a 15-point loss at Ole Miss, and a week later when then-No. 10Floridatrounced the Tigers in an 83-52 victory inGainesville.

On Monday, coach Frank Haith told the MU press corps his team is poised to potentially get Bowers back in some form on Wednesday. Yet Haith, in his second season at the helm in Columbia, put a caveat in place: Any decision is based on how Bowers handles going full tilt in practice.

“It’s going to come down to my confidence and seeing him take a hit,” Haith said. “He’ll practice the next two days and see how his reaction is getting back out there to see if he’ll be able to play Wednesday.”

If Bowers is able to go, it will add a key match-up in the lane, presumably, against LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant, who has seemingly regained form after being slowed this season by a left calf strain and a high right ankle sprain. O’Bryant has averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds his past three games after a slow start in SEC play.

And it will present a tweaked challenge to LSU, coach Johnny Jones said Monday.

“He’s inside-outside, can play both so he gives them a different dimension that they don’t have right now on a consistent basis and something that they look to,” Jones said of Bowers. “He’s a very important piece to their team.”

Of course, grappling a knee injury is not new for Bowers, who missed last season with a torn ACL in his left knee. It left Missouri relying on a four-guard line-up, with now-graduated big man Ricardo Ratliffe working inside.

Yet, the set-up worked, with MU rolling to a 30-5 season and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament before being bounced by No.15-seeded Norfolk(Va.) State in the first round.

But what made the experiment work for Missouri last season was four of its guards each carried at least two years of experience, paced by seniors Marcus Denmon and Kim English and junior Michael Dixon.

Those three upperclassmen rated between No. 15 and No. 68 nationally in offensive efficiency, while Ratliffe led the nation in true shooting percentage — which accounts for the extra value of a 3-pointer — at 69.3 percent, according to kenpom.com.

Oh, and there was the orchestration efforts of then-sophomore point guard Phil Pressey.

In other words, MU, which ranked No. 1 in offensive efficiency, compensated ably without Bowers with its chemistry and experience in the backcourt.

But this season, Haith has imported four transfers — former Auburn guard Earnest Ross, former Pepperdine scorer Keion Bell,Oregon guard Jabari Brown and Oriahki — toColumbiato fill the void. A talented core? Yes. However, it’s been an exercise in trying to formulate chemistry — a challenge that was suppose to be eased by having a veteran in Pressey running the show and Bowers inside.

Now,Missouristill ranks No. 25 in offensive efficiency, and its defense has improved markedly, rising from No. 117 to No. 71, according to KenPom.com. A closer look, though, shows the Tigers benefit from pounding the offensive boards, snaring 40.1 percent of their own misses for second possessions.

Here’s a key stat: Last season,Missourishot a 58.0 effective field goal percentage, tops in the country. This season? It’s at 50 percent, or No. 109 nationally. And Bowers, a 6-8, 227-pound power forward, is the key cog with MU pumping 28.7 percent of its shots through him when he’s on the floor.

Without him, the offense can become an exercise in Pressey turning a corner to get dribble penetration before kicking out to Ross,Belland Brown on the perimeter.

As Florida showed, though, and experienced team sound its rotation can contest those looks, holdingMissourito galling 6 of 24 (or half of its shots) from behind the 3-point arc. Meanwhile, the Tigers front line gimped to a 4 of 16 (25 percent) day from the floor.

“You take a great player out of your lineup, the focal point of what you do and you’ve got to get adjusted,” Haith said. “It took us a couple games for us to get adjusted, and, obviously, I thought we got better without him being there.”

In Bowers’ stead, Oriahki was, obviously, expected to provide a portion of the scoring inside — a struggle in his first three games against Ole Miss, Georgia and Florida by averaging just 7 points. Granted Oriahki has scored 18 points the past two games, victories against South Carolin aand Vanderbilt.

“Without Laurence in the lineup, he’s been our focal point in the low post,” Haith said. “I only think that makes us a better team when Laurence does come back to form. We’ve asked him to be a guy that can score in the paint for us, and be a presence inside-out, and I think he’s just gotten better and better as the year (has) gone on with that with that roll.”

Yet it’s a stark change from Oriahki’s role at UConn, where he was supplanted last season by freshman and NBA Draft pick Andre Drummond: Rebounding and screening. Frustrated at being relegated to the bench after being a key player in the Huskies run to a 2011 national title, Oriahki, who had already graduated, transferred to MU to play immediately alongside former AAU teammate Pressey.

Oriahki appears happier his minutes have returned by Haith said it’s still a dogged effort to convince him he can be an offensive threat.

“He’s a Looney Toon,” Haith said. “He says, ‘My best offense is when I rebound.’ We want him to score, too.”

But there’s the clear hope, too, that Oriahki has grown comfortable with an expanded scoring role as a traditional front-line player, allowing Bowers to work away from the rim in face-up situations while still providing a steady rebounding presence. Collapsing defenses on post-entry plays also presents the Tigers front-line with the ability to feed the ball to shooters, and take some pressure off Pressey.

“He’s a force to be dealt with inside,” Jones said of Oriahki. “He gives them definitely a strong option down there on the block. He’s one of those guys that you have to really be concerned about because if he’s down there one-on-one he’s shown that he’s a very capable scorer.”

Les Miles sees improved Florida team

LSU coach Les Miles said former Tigers assistant Will Muschamp has No. 10 Florida back in the thick of the Southeastern Conference race in his second season.

No. 4 LSU (5-0, 1-0 in the SEC) plays the Gators (4-0, 3-0) on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, Fla. Muschamp, a former Tigers defensive coordinator, is in his second season as Florida’s head coach.

“They’re physical, they’ve demonstrated that,” Miles said Wednesday morning during the weekly SEC coaches teleconference. “I think he’s well down the road and has improved that team.

“This looks like a very, very quality Florida team. I think it’s representative of some of the best teams Florida has had.”

Miles said sophomore Jeff Driskil has brought stability to the Gators’ quarterback position. He was injured last season when LSU beat Florida 41-11 in Tiger Stadium.

“It’s night and day,” Miles said. “When you’ve got a quality quarterback who understands his role and what he’s supposed to do it makes your offense more productive.”

Miles indicated that LSU might start Alex Hurst at left tackle and Josh Dworaczyk at right tackle Saturday. Dworaczyk moved into the starting ineup at left tackle after starter Chris Faulk was lost for the season due to a knee injury. Dworaczyk has a calf strain, struggled against Auburn two weeks ago and was held out of the game against Towson last week as Hurst started at left tackle and freshman Vadal Alexander started at right tackle.

Florida coach Will Muschamp said the Tigers have physicality and experience on the line regardless of which combination they use.

“It all starts with their physicality, which is impressive on film,” Muschamp said. “They’ve taken on (Miles’) personality. He’s an old offensive lineman and coach. They play with a physical mindset and our guys understand the mindset they have to have for a full 60 minutes. They run the ball well and they run it on everyone because of the physicality of their line. The guys up front have played a lot of guys and they’re pretty much interchangeable.”

Muschamp said LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who has five turnovers in as many games, has “big-time arm talent.”

“This is just his sixth game playing in the SEC and that’s difficult,” Muschmp said. “He’s 5-0 and that’s what he wants to be at this time. He’s accomplished what’s really important at the end of the day and that’s winning games.”

 

LSU-South Carolina set for 7 p.m. on ESPN

ESPN has selected the Oct. 13 LSU-South Carolina game in Tiger Stadium for telecast. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Although the game shapes up to be the biggest matchup in the SEC next week, ESPN game had first pick over CBS for Oct. 13 games.

LSU’s game at Florida this Saturday is set for a 2:30 p.m. CDT kickoff on CBS.

Here is the rest of the SEC TV schedule for Oct. 13:

  • Auburn at Ole Miss, 11:21 a.m., SEC Network
  • Alabama at Missouri, 2:30 p.m., CBS
  • Florida at Vanderbilt, 5 p.m., ESPNU
  • Kentucky at Arkansas, 6 p.m., Fox Sports Net
  • Tennessee at Mississippi State, 8 p.m., ESPN2
  • Texas A&M vs. Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, 8:15 p.m., ESPNU