BATON ROUGE, La. — After an unscheduled bye week, LSU is back in action for the hurricane-delayed second act of the Ed Orgeron Experience in a non-conference matchup against Southern Miss.
The question on everyone’s mind is whether the Tigers can continue the momentum they showed against Missouri on both sides of the ball after getting thrown a curveball by Hurricane Matthew.
1. Stop living in the past
This is probably more of an issue for fans and the media than it is for players, but it’s essentially that the Tigers don’t get caught up in all the noise surrounding the status of the Florida game. It’s hard to avoid because of the narrative that’s been established — which is why a solution to the problem should have been reached by now — but Southern Miss is dangerous enough to be a problem if everyone’s head remains set on Florida time.
2. OK, live in the past as long as it’s the Mizzou game
Missouri brought what was the SEC’s most explosive offense into Tiger Stadium and was a successful fourth-quarter gadget play away from getting shut out.
Southern Miss is even more potent, though. The Golden Eagles have scored at least 31 points in every game they’ve played, including both of their losses. They are far more balanced than Missouri, ranking 34th in the country in rushing, which sets up their 16th-ranked passing attack.
The defense will have to be prepared for another fast-paced game.
3. Avoid third-and-long
Yes, this is a key to pretty much any football game. But for a team that gave up 55 points to UTSA last week, the Golden Eagles are surprisingly strong in one defensive area — third downs.
Southern Miss is fourth in the country on third-down defense, allowing just 14 conversions on 72 attempts. Any underdog that can make crucial stops — particularly one with an offense this explosive — will start believing in itself. Don’t allow the belief to blossom.
4. Hope the patchwork O-line holds up, again
Continuity has been nonexistent for LSU’s offensive line this season, and once again change will take place this week.
Ethan Pocic, an all-conference center and the group’s leader, most likely will start at right tackle this week while Andy Dodd takes over the snapping duties. Maea Teuhema will move from right tackle to left guard as starter Will Clapp is still out of the lineup.
Pocic has started 21 career games at center and 10 at right guard, but none as a tackle. So while this group has good chemistry, it will be crucial for the pieces to continue working together in different spots.
5. Don’t get beat by special teams
Southern Miss has hit an impressive 43 plays of 20 yards or more this year, 14 of which have resulted in touchdowns. They aren’t all on offense, either.
The Golden Eagles are potent in the return game, with punt returner Allenzae Staggers averaging 13 yards per return, including a 75-yard touchdown against Savannah State.
They haven’t given up big plays on special teams, either. Punter Tyler Sarazin is living up to Ray Guy’s legacy with an average of 43.6 yards per punt while opponents have only returned four of his punts for a total of 11 yards.
Kicker Parker Shaunfield has been among the best in the nation, hitting all 10 of his field goals and all 29 of his extra points.
LSU has been inconsistent on special teams this year — sometimes capable of great plays, sometimes capable of awful ones (blocked PATs, kickoffs out of bounds, bad penalties.) If the awful ones raise their ugly heads against Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles can capitalize.