Game day for LSU: What to watch for
HOUSTON, Tx. - The long wait is over for Tiger fans across the country, as the Bayou Bengals will take the field for the first time in 241 days. For the Tigers and Badgers, it will be their first game of the College Football playoff era. The Tigers come in ranked No. 13 in both the Coach's and AP polls. Wisconsin is ranked No. 14 in both of those polls. Both are considered contenders to make the first ever college football playoff. The two teams will square off tonight at 8 p.m. in Houston at NRG Stadium for the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff.
Corner Rashard Robinson did not make the trip because of a suspension. The exact reason is unkonwn. Wide Receiver Malachi Dupre also stayed home to take care of an injury.
Questions about LSU's experience will be the forefront of the conversation when the Tigers take on the Wisconsin Badgers in Houston tonight. Most notably, is how will LSU's two inexperienced quarter backs will hold up. Sophomore Anthony Jennings will get the nod tonight. He led the Tigers to an Outback Bowl victory over Iowa on New Years Day, but his performance was shaky at best. He was 7-of-19 for 82 yards with 1 interception with no TDs. Jennings did spark some excitement with his 49 yard TD pass to Travin Dural to beat Arkansas in the final game of the regular season.
Brandon Harris is a true freshman who, Les Miles says, will also see playing time. Miles has said neither quarterback really pulled away and established himself as the starting QB during spring football and fall camp.
Wisconsin will also be breaking in a new QB with Tanner McEvoy getting his first start. McEvoy played safety for the Badgers last year. He was chosen over Joel Stave who started 19 games over the past two season for the Badgers.
Protecting the QBs, 4 of 5 starting offensive lineman from 2013 will return. They are led by Senior left tackle La'el Collins. A strong offensive line will be a key factor to a successful season for the Tigers. They are the most experienced unit on the team and arguably the best O-lines in the SEC.
Of course all eyes will be on No. 7 for the Tigers, freshman Leonard Fournette. He comes in as one of the most highly touted recruits in the school's history and the number one recruit in the country of the 2014 class. Expect him to see limited playing time to start, but don't be surprised if Fournette takes over the starting job during the season. Fournette is listed 3rd on the Tigers depth chart behind Senior Terrence Magee who rushed for 626 yards and 8 TDs last year and Senior Kenny Hilliard who had 310 yards and 7 TDs.
Another big question mark for the Tigers is the wide receivers. LSU returns a grand total of 8 catches for 156 yards. They'll have to replace two 1,000 yard receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. The Tigers are hoping Freshman Malachi Dupree, who did not make the trip to Houston because of an injury, Senior Quantavius Leslie and Sophomore Travin Dural will be able to pick up the slack this season.
The biggest area of concern on defense is at the tackle position. With Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson gone, the Tigers will rely on Christian Lacouture to make plays. Quentin Thomas, who was expected to be a key player, is now a question mark because he's battling a muscle tear in his arm. Wisconsin will counter with Melvin Gordon, the Big Ten's second leading rusher in 2013 with 1,609 yards.
So whether you're in Houston to see the Tigers play, or at home on your couch having a tailgate of your own, waiting for the long TD passes or the next Les Miles gem of a quote, football season is back.
We'll be covering the Tigers all season on WBRZ News 2 and WBRZ.com, your home for LSU sports.