BATON ROUGE, La. — I’m not the gambling type, because I’m the type of person who bets on a horse to win and the jockey falls off his back as they approach the finish line. (That’s a true story, by the way.)
Therefore, I avoid offering too much advice in the way of a wager — though if anyone asked through the first month of this season I certainly would have told them, “You’ll be safe taking the under in the LSU game.”
The days of that sure thing might be behind us, at least for the time being.
The Tigers managed 42 points and 634 yards against Missouri the last time out, and Southern Miss comes to Baton Rouge with a powerful offense that has scored at least 31 points in every game it has played, including a couple of losses.
So going over that current over-under of 58 points is not as crazy as you might think. If you’re into that kind of thing. And for those of you who aren’t currently in the state of Nevada (wink), this game should still have some high entertainment value.
LSU: Danny Etling has been steady but unspectacular for the Tigers with three touchdowns and an interception in 3¾ games. This could be the game in which we see if he is capable of spectacular after an extra week working with coordinator Steve Ensminger in an offensive revamp.
Southern Miss: Nick Mullens is good, but turnover-prone. He is averaging 312 yards per game and has 16 touchdown passes, but has also been picked off eight times. The question is whether the thumb he injured against UTSA last week will be a detriment against LSU.
Edge: Southern Miss, but this could be the game Etling proves otherwise.
LSU: Leonard Fournette is out, but I don’t think anyone is going to be saddened by getting to watch another game of Derrius Guice highlights. And there will be highlights. The Golden Eagles allowed 339 rushing yards to UTSA.
Southern Miss: 5-foot-9 junior Ito Smith is fun to watch in a Darren Sproles kind of way. He’s a good runner and pass-catching threat, averaging 147.8 total yards per game.
Edge: LSU, especially with the favorable defensive matchup.
LSU: We saw a lot more diversity in the receiving corps against Missouri as guys like Russell Gage and Jazz Ferguson were rotated into the mix more frequently. But we still haven’t seen the Tigers at their full potential.
Southern Miss: The strength of spread teams is always going to be the receiving corps. The Golden Eagles have five guys with more than 10 catches and 100 receiving yards (with Smith thrown in to boot). Look out for Allenzae Staggers, who has 5 touchdowns and averages 93.7 yards per game.
Edge: Southern Miss
LSU: This will be another new look for the Tigers’ beaten-up line as all-conference center Ethan Pocic moves out to right tackle while Andy Dodd takes over at center and Maea Teuhema moves to left guard. Therefore there’s no way of knowing how this group of five will work together until they hit the field.
Southern Miss: A largely consistent group, but they’ve been rotating two different starters at left tackle in Jacob Fleming and Will Freeman. You can bet Arden Key likes the sound of that.
Edge: Push, though odds are the Tigers’ new look will work out just fine.
LSU: It’s a similar story to Missouri — with Southern Miss pushing the pace, LSU’s depth up front will be tested since big men tire quickly. Of course, that’s another benefit of moving to the 3-4 this season — you can go three-deep rather than two.
Southern Miss: Nose tackle Dylan Bradley leads the Golden Eagles with 39 tackles, including 10 for a loss and five sacks. Those are extraordinary numbers for a guy who is undersized for the middle of a 3-4 defense at 265 pounds, though like Davon Godchaux he also plays end.
Edge: LSU as a unit, but Bradley is the most compelling individual lineman to watch in this game.
LSU: Duke Riley is entering the same realm of awesomeness as Key and Kendell Beckwith. He’s now third on the team with 33 tackles.
Southern Miss: UTSA made it pretty clear last week that this is Southern Miss’ primary weakness.
LSU: The Tigers are without safety Rickey Jackson, who broke his leg at practice Wednesday. John Battle is good enough to take over without a dip, but USM’s offense will still pose a challenge.
Southern Miss: After getting somewhat lit up by Kentucky for 313 yards in the opener (a 44-35 USM win), the Golden Eagles have not allowed an opponent to throw for more than 200.
LSU: Midway through the season, this is the most inconsistent area of play for the Tigers.
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles hold opponents to an average of 2.8 yards per punt return, and kicker Parker Shaunfield has made all 10 of his field goals as well as all 29 extra points.
Edge: Southern Miss
LSU: Ed Orgeron has the Tigers rolling, we think. It would’ve helped to have a game last week to give you a better idea.
Southern Miss: First-year coach Jay Hopson was very impressive at FCS Alcorn State and has the Golden Eagles off to a 4-2 start. But like Orgeron, it’s an incomplete body of work.
Edge: Coach O, who currently has the greatest winning percentage in LSU history.
A week after getting drubbed by former LSU assistant Frank Wilson, the Golden Eagles have the misfortune of facing what is likely to be a very salty squad after an impromptu bye week.
Hickey’s pick: LSU 42, Southern Miss 20