The powerful fifth-ranked LSU Tigers should make it past Western Kentucky with little problem Saturday night.
We are talking about a program outside of the Power Five. And the game is being played at the always-intimidating Death Valley.
But this game isn’t without its challenges for the undefeated Tigers (6-0). They can’t get caught looking ahead to next week’s showdown at SEC West rival Alabama. They also can’t take the Hilltoppers’ sixth year-senior quarterback Brandon Doughty for granted, either.
Doughty may be playing outside of the Power Five, but his arm talent is every bit as good as any quarterback the Tigers will see in the SEC this season. Doughty has been one of the most prolific FBS quarterbacks of the last two seasons for a reason and the Tigers need to be aware of his ability. LSU’s entire game plan on both sides of the football has to be about limiting Doughty and the Hilltoppers’ (6-1) opportunities.
Here is a countdown of the top five players the Tigers who need to step up:
- Leonard Fournette, RB, Sophomore
It’s without question that each week Fournette is the best player on the field when the Tigers play. LSU may not lean on him as much in this non-conference game, but he needs to be productive with the opportunities he receives all the same. Fournette’s production will take the pressure off of quarterback Brandon Harris, who hasn’t performed as well in non-SEC games so far this season. The Heisman Trophy front-runner is coming off a “quiet” 180-yard rushing day against Florida, but could have a much bigger impact against a Western Kentucky defense that is allowing an average of 172 yards per game.
- Travin Dural, Jr. Wide Receiver
Dural has turned in his best receiving performances in the Tigers’ last two games, catching four passes for 109 yards against South Carolina and coming up with five receptions for 65 yards during Saturday’s win over Florida. But dropped balls continue to be an issue for him. Dural must continue to make strides this week in order to be where the Tigers need him when they jump back into SEC play.
- Lewis Neal, DE, Jr.
It’s becoming obvious Neal is in the midst of a breakout season for the Tigers. After playing a backup role since shifting from tackle early last season, Neal is coming into his own as a pass rusher. He is coming off the best game of his career, recording three sacks and 10 tackles against Florida. The Tigers will need him to apply plenty of pressure on Doughty in order to slow the dangerous Hilltoppers offense down.
- Brandon Harris, QB, Sophomore
After a shaky start to the season, Harris is evolving into the quarterback the Tigers need. Harris has been impressive in his last three starts. He is coming off a strong outing Saturday, throwing for 202 yards and two touchdowns against the Gators. So far this season, Harris has completed 64 of 108 passes for 812 yards and six touchdowns. He will need to be productive this week to keep pace with Doughty and his weapons.
- Jalen Mills, FS, Senior
If there has been an apparent weakness in the Tigers this season, it has been the secondary, where blown coverages have happened in nearly every game. That could change this week if Mills is ready to assume his starting role. Mills returned to the field last week, playing a backup role against Florida, after missing the first five games of the season with a fractured ankle. His presence should lessen the blown plays against slot receivers and tight ends, which are usually the result of breakdowns at the two safety spots.