LSU continues to find its footing vs Troy
UPDATE: LSU falls to to Troy 24-21
BATON ROUGE — This could be a telling weekend for 25th-ranked LSU.
The Tigers are favored to beat Troy (3-1) by three touchdowns, yet LSU (3-1) has looked vulnerable recently, beaten badly two weeks ago and narrowly avoiding an upset last week.
Tigers coach Ed Orgeron suggested that youth and inexperience have a lot to do with that.
"When you play 20 freshmen, it's going to be like that," Orgeron said, adding that on offense, veterans, too, have had an adjustment to make with the arrival of new coordinator Matt Canada.
Orgeron went on to note that five members of LSU's 2016 defense — Jamal Adams, Kendell Beckwith, Tre'Davious White, Duke Riley and Davon Godchaux — are now NFL regulars.
"We've got to replace them," Orgeron said. "We've got to get some experience on defense, and I think we will."
The Tigers are running short on time to figure it out. They're already 0-1 in the Southeastern Conference by virtue of a 37-7 loss at Mississippi State on Sept. 16. Soon LSU will run a gauntlet of seven straight SEC foes, starting at Florida on Oct. 7.
But first comes Troy, which Tigers H-back J.D. Moore called, "a dangerous team."
"We can't take our eyes off of them and look down the road," he said.
That might sound like lip service. Then again, the Tigers were favored by a similar margin last week against Syracuse, only to find themselves clinging to a late two-point lead before finally sealing with victory with a touchdown with 1:52 left.
Troy is among favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference this season. Last season, the Trojans not only won 10 games, but played competitively against eventual national champion Clemson, losing 30-24 in the other Death Valley. So don't expect the Trojans to be at a psychological disadvantage when they trot into Tiger Stadium.
"It's nothing to be intimidated about," said linebacker Sam Lebbie. "We're ready."
Here are some central factors in the Troy-LSU matchup:
LINE ITEMS: LSU's offensive line has been under heavy scrutiny in recent weeks. Quarterback Danny Etling was sacked twice and pounded repeatedly as he threw against Syracuse. An undisclosed ailment has caused starting right tackle Toby Weathersby to miss practice time this week, leaving his status uncertain. Meanwhile, Adrian Magee, who replaced Ed Ingram at right guard against Syracuse, appears set to start this week. "There is stuff we need to correct. It is nothing about who's playing where," center Will Clapp said. "We need to make sure everybody is on the same page."
POINTS OF INTEREST: Troy's high-octane offense has gained nearly 450 yards per game, but haven't always cashed in on scoring chances, averaging a 24 points per game. "One of these games, we're going to have 50 points," Troy QB Brandon Silvers said. "Hopefully, it's this week."
GOING DEEP: LSU has averaged 200.5 yards rushing and also has demonstrated it can throw deep. LSU has completed seven passes longer than 40 yards this season, including an 87-yarder to Drake Davis, a 52-yarder to D.J. Chark and a 46-yarder to Stephen Sullivan. "We have to stop their running game and we have to at least limit their big plays," Troy coach Neal Brown said. "The speed of the game is going to be so much different than what we've experienced through our first four games."
LITMUS TEST: Statistically, Troy is fielding one of the stingier defenses in college football. The unit is allowing 14.5 points per game and has held three straight foes under 100 yards rushing. But those last three opponents were Alabama State, New Mexico State and Akron, which are not power conference programs. Lebbie said Troy's defense will need to address mistakes it got away with in recent games if the Trojans want to stay with LSU. Otherwise, "it won't even be that close," he said.
GROWING UP: Silvers, a Mobile, Alabama, said he was at Tiger Stadium when Troy last played there in November 2008. The Trojans led 31-3 in that game before LSU pulled off a school-record comeback in a 40-31 victory. Meanwhile, Troy offensive lineman Kirk Kelley is a Louisiana native who followed LSU football in his youth, but entered this week's game having never stepped foot inside Tiger Stadium.