Date: October 13, 2018
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
Time: TBA (but I’m hoping 3:30... for the sake of the livers of all involved.)
2017 Record: 9-4 (6-2 SEC)
Head Coach: Ed Orgeron (15-6 LSU, 31-33 Overall)
2017 was an odd season for Coach Ed Orgeron and the LSU Tigers. On the one hand, going 9-4 overall and 6-2 in conference as an SEC West team is nothing to sneeze at. On the other, when 2 of those 4 losses are to Troy and then to Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl, one can be forgiven for not being sure just what the Bayou Bengals had week to week. While 2017 may have been a bit of a mixed bag, 2018 may be something altogether different as the Tiger coaching staff has been reshuffled. Head man Ed Orgeron and DC Dave Aranda remain in place, but the offense will now be called by the promoted Steve Ensminger (taking over after the Matt Canada experiment). In all, the Tigers will have 6 coaches in new positions going into 2018.
The changes continue in the Tiger offense following the graduation of two-year starting QB Danny Etling and the early NFL departure of running back Derrius Guice. For as long as I can remember (which isn’t all that far what with the copious unexpected celebrating I did last season), we’ve been hearing about how LSU is just a quarterback away from dominance. Two potential QBs that could have filled that slot announced this week that they intend to transfer. Both Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse will not be suiting up for the Tigers. This leaves LSU with two talented options: Joe Burrow and Myles Brennan. What these players lack is experience... particularly SEC experience (although the same would have been true with McMillan and Narcisse in the fold). At this time, Orgeron has not named a starter. That said, by the time Georgia walks in Tiger Stadium in mid-October, I have to imagine the battle will be settled and that experience will no longer be a going concern. While we aren’t any more certain who will replace Guice, I don’t recall the backfield being an issue for LSU in recent history. A rock solid O-line and a quality receiving corps ensure that, barring some unforeseen drop off in run-game recruiting, the Tigers should have a formidable offense clicking by the time the Dawgs visit Baton Rouge.
Supporting the new faces on the offense will be a LSU defensive unit that is always reliable and is often spectacular. Looking to stop Georgia’s running and short passing game will be a front 7 anchored by linebacker (and SEC leader in tackles) Devin White and defensive end Rashard Lawrence. When Georgia attempts to stretch the field, the Dawg receivers will have to contend with a stacked Tiger secondary. CB Greedy Williams and Safeties John Battle and Grant Delpit will likely be one of the best units Georgia faces all season. The LSU defense was ranked 12th in the country in 2017 in yards allowed and I don’t see much changing in 2018 in that regard.
One of the biggest hurdles to LSU’s success in 2018 is the schedule (which is as daunting as any in the country). Just looking at the situation from a Georgia perspective, LSU will be facing the Dawgs sandwiched between games against Ole Miss and Florida before and Mississippi State and Alabama after. I don’t know how you mentally run that gauntlet successfully and I suspect the Tigers will drop at least the Georgia and Alabama games (despite holding a substantial home field advantage for both). And, by the way, the Tigers will have already played both Miami and Auburn by the time they hit that 5 game stretch.
If LSU is going to weather Georgia and the rest of their schedule successfully, they are going to have to cut it out with the off-field obstacles they’ve been creating for themselves over the summer. In the last few weeks LSU has dealt with the following: denying an appeal on a drug test tampering accusation for CB Kristian Fulton, the burglary arrest and suspension of LB Tyler Taylor, the suspension of OG Ed Ingram, and then this week the battery arrest and indefinite suspension of WR Drake Davis. Yesterday, the accuser in the Davis arrest retracted her complaint so that matter seems likely to draw out still longer as the investigation is continuing. While all of these events will likely be resolved by the time the Tigers face the Dawgs, this certainly doesn’t represent the level of focus and discipline I’m sure Coach Orgeron wants going into the start of the season in only 2 weeks. For now, LSU just needs to stop digging themselves into a hole they may eventually struggle to emerge from.
The Bottom Line
Based on what we know right now, you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that Georgia isn’t the superior team. From talent to coaching, the Dawgs are just better than the Bayou Bengals on paper. That said, this game is far enough into the season that perspectives could shift by then. It’s college football. Things we thought we knew at the end of August will seem absurd by October. And with the game taking place in Tiger Stadium, I’ve got a feeling Georgia won’t show their superiority in the dominant fashion some might expect.
Georgia 27, LSU 24