Miami gets to open up their highly-anticipated 2018 season in a spot that has been unfamiliar for the last few seasons. At a neutral site, in primetime, against a big-name school. The Canes head down to Arlington, Texas to play in the Jerry World football palace against the LSU Tigers. LSU is no longer the juggernaut of old, but getting past a hard-nosed, defensively-oriented SEC squad will go a long way to proving Miami is ready for the bigger expectations of this upcoming season.
LSU on Offense
The most talented QB on the roster might be the one who played for a certain Urban Meyer-led team last year. Graduate transfer Joe Burrow has some buzz around him and is expected to compete with sophomore Myles Brennan for the job. Burrow is a big-armed pro-style QB who might be the best option here even if he still needs to learn the LSU system. Brennan is a pro-style guy as well, has a howitzer for a right arm but is still figuring out how to be comfortable in the pocket and make consistently accurate throws. Junior Justin McMillan is another option floating around, considering his experience in the Tigers’ scheme.
LSU will really need their skill players to help their quarterback, starting with their running backs. However, for the first time since 1974, LSU doesn’t return a back who rushed for a touchdown the previous year. Senior Nick Brossette and sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire are expected to tag-team the rushing workload. Brossette has 306 total yards while at LSU and Edwards-Helaire has only touched the ball on returns. Edwards-Helaire is atypical of recent LSU backs, a smaller guy who could be an explosive, in-space weapon. He could be the breakout player in the backfield.
At wide receiver, LSU lost their top target, D.J. Chark, to the NFL. They will turn to Texas Tech transfer Jonathan Giles as their top target, who had 1,158 yards and 13 TDs in 2016. Giles is a smaller receiver but possesses plenty of speed, agility and great hands. There is talent elsewhere at receiver but not a ton of experience. This should allow 6’3”, 190 pound five-star frosh Terrace Marshall to see some significant playing time.
At offensive line, LSU has some returning starters but still a lot of questions (sound familiar?). After losing two lineman to the draft, the Tigers reloaded with a solid recruiting class and three returning starters. They should be solid in the interior but with their left tackle coming back from injury and some question marks at right tackle, could struggle to stop edge pressure.
LSU on Defense
This is where LSU is going to be tough to beat. Consistently known as a defensive team, the Tigers will be tough to throw and run on this year, even with pass-rush specialist Arden Key and corners Donte Jackson and Kevin Tolliver leaving for the pros.
Rashard Lawrence, Breiden Fehoko and Ed Alexander are strong interior presences along the D-line and should be expected to be tough to run on. Stand-up rusher K’Lavon Chaisson is the real x-factor up front, a four-star in 2017 who has the mix of speed and power to be a dynamic edge player in his first year as a full-time starter. He impressed greatly at the LSU spring game and the three games he started last season.
At Linebacker, Junior Devin White leads the way after an impressive 2017. White led the team in tackles last season and has the athleticism to be an asset in pass coverage. He still needs to improve though and could stand to be more patient against the run. The spot next to him is open, where sophomores Jacob Phillips and Tyler Taylor are expected to compete for it.
The best player on this LSU defense is, without question, Cornerback Andraez “Greedy” Williams. Living up to his name, Williams is a long, lithe corner with a nose for the ball. He was an All-American last year, grabbed six interceptions and should be expected to lock down the offense’s primary receiver.
The spot next to him is not so solid, and a four-man battle for it could mean there isn’t a clear starter Week 1. John Battle and Grant Delpit return at safety for the Tigers and each fill important roles. Battle is inconsistent but a team leader as a fifth-year player and Delpit was a freshman All-American.
LSU will have an entirely-new offense, from their coordinator down through QB, RB and WR. Suffice it to say, cohesion and comfort playing alongside each other may be a struggle in Week 1 against a stout and speedy Canes’ defense. Miami’s offense, meanwhile, has a lot of old faces although QB could be the biggest difference. But against a D-1, non-cupcake, I expect CMR to keep the proven Rosier at the helm. Moving the ball against LSU certainly won’t be easy and the Canes will need a steady diet of run plays to keep the Tigers honest.
This is going to be a coach-speak cliché sort of game. Both teams will have to establish the run, will play great defense and, likely, it will ultimately come down to whoever makes the fewest mistakes. This is a game Miami has to, and should, win. They need to break the “streak of four” curse that has thus far plagued Richt. Starting the new season off with a big win over an LSU team that is in-flux is a must and should go a long way to propelling the Canes to a great season.