LSU WILL WIN IF …
Protect the football: Hello Captain Obvious. Miami’s return to the national stage in 2017 was fueled by taking the football away, and they’ve got the jewelry to show for it. Thanks to 31 takeaways and a +13 turnover margin — Miami led the nation at +18 during the regular season — the Hurricanes were a perfect 4-0 in one-score games. Both LSU and Miami bring potentially elite defenses into this opener, so one mistake could make the difference in a game that comes down to field position. Ball security will without question be paramount.
On the front lines: Pass rush and takeaways tend to go hand in hand, so the onus for protecting the football belongs to LSU’s offensive line as well. The left side of the line appears rock solid with Saahdiq Charles and Garrett Brumfield, but the right tackle situation hardly seems solved going into week one. LSU would be in worse shape had Damien Lewis not taken a stranglehold on the right guard spot once Ed Ingram was suspended. Only USC, Clemson and Ohio State racked up more sacks than Miami (44) last season.
MIAMI WILL WIN IF …
What was real? Preseason polls indicate most people expect Miami to pick right up where they left off after their first 10-win season since 2003, but it’s by no means a guarantee. After a 10-0 start, the Hurricanes lost their final three games by a combined score of 96-41. They only beat two ranked teams last season, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, and both of those games were played at home. The defense can change games with its ability to generate chaos, but Malik Rosier and this offense need to be more consistent.
Home(r) run hitter: LSU has the secondary to blanket Miami’s unproven group of receivers, which frees Dave Aranda to throw exotic blitzes at Rosier as he deems necessary. Mark Richt needs to find his veteran quarterback some help, which likely means a steady diet of Travis Homer. The speedy tailback will get his touches in the running game, obviously, but he may prove more dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield if Miami can use LSU’s aggressiveness against them. Chunk plays have a way of slowing down even the most aggressive defense.
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