September 13, 2017 7:06:41 AM
1ST DOWN: HARD TO PIN BEHIND THE CHAINS
The most obvious kryptonite for run-based offenses like LSU's is pinning them behind the chains, meaning getting them in second-and-long or third-and-long situations. Thus far, LSU has avoided those as well as almost anybody in the nation.
SB Nation's Bill Connelly defines his Success Rate as follows: gaining at least 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, at least 70 percent on second down and at least 100 percent on third and fourth down. Think that through: if you convert on this success rate, you'll go from 1st and 10 to 2nd and 5 to 3rd and 1 ½. That's just peachy for offensive coordinators.
Through two games, LSU has a success rate of offensive success rate of 57.7%, which ranks 7th in the nation. The Tigers could stand to get a little better on 3rd down (44th in the nation, 8th in the SEC), but if MSU can't force them into less-than-advantageous situations on 3rd downs, it won't matter.
2ND DOWN: EYE ON COREY THOMPSON
A lot of attention is going to go to all-everything pas rusher Arden Key in his anticipated return to the field for the LSU defense -- if that's the case, it's just more room for Corey Thompson to work.
Thompson's 3.5 sacks this year rank tied for 5th in the nation among individuals and is better than 59 FBS teams -- and even better, all but 12 of those 59 have played more than one game, so their entire teams aren't doing as much sacking in the same amount of time as Thompson is doing by himself. Some of the teams on that list aren't half bad, either: Kentucky, Navy, USC and West Virginia, for instance.
It's been a long time coming for Thompson: I highly advise you go find the reporting of Ross Dellenger on Thompson. The guy's a six-year senior whose had three surgeries in college alone and is finally producing at a high level.
3RD DOWN: CAREFUL WHERE YOU THROW
Let's go back to the well we call Bill Connelly. His Havoc Rate metric is a great way to measure exactly what you think it measures: how much havoc defenses create, by percentage of snaps the defense generates a forced fumble, gets a hand on a pass or forces a fumble. LSU's defensive backs do so on 12.5 percent of snaps, ranking fifth in the nation among defensive backfields. The point here is accuracy, an area where Nick Fitzgerald has been less than perfect so far this year, has been more important against LSU than almost any other defense in the nation so far this year.
4TH DOWN: WHAT TO DO IN SAFETY TERRITORY?
MSU obviously has plenty of experience in playing defense with 80-something yards of field behind it, given the two safeties against Charleston Southern and the hilarious third-and-goal from 93 yards out against Louisiana Tech. If it gets thrown into that situation against LSU, it might be going blind.
LSU has run 139 offensive plays through two games this year: only eight of them have come inside its own 20. That makes sense, given the BYU offense doesn't get enough first down to pin anybody deep and UT Chattanooga got shut down as the game went on, but it doesn't make the scouting job any easier for Todd Grantham and co.
To take it a step further: in those eight plays, four were runs and four were passes. Those four runs averaged 7 yards a carry; of those four passes, three were completed for 40 yards. Not only has LSU not shown much of what they do when deep in their own territory, but they're clearly pretty good at whatever it is they do.