7:30 PM EST, ABC – Line: Miami -3.5, Over/Under: 46.5
After a wild opening Saturday, College Football’s Opening Weekend continues with yet another Top-25 Matchup featuring the Eighth-Ranked Miami Hurricanes facing off against the Twenty-Fifth-Ranked LSU Tigers at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in a matchup that will carry heavy Playoff implications at least for one of them. For Miami (10-3, 13th in AP Poll in 2017), this new season will be all about meeting expectations after enjoying a surprising season in which they earned their first 10-Win Campaign since 2003, finally returning to the national spotlight in the process. Mark Richt’s charges proved to be well ahead of the curve in just his second season at his Alma Matta, ripping off ten consecutive victories to begin their schedule before succumbing to a slew of injuries down the stretch. It was a rather disappointing end to what was a joyous season for the Program, who would love tog et things back on track after dropping their Regular Season Finale at Pittsburgh (14-24), the ACC Championship against Clemson (3-38), and the Orange Bowl versus Wisconsin (24-34). The key to their success was on the defensive side of the football, where Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz’s unit wrecked havoc on the opposition, creating a wealth of big plays, with none more so noteworthy than a staggering Thirty-One Turnovers. Needless to say, the Hurricanes were nothing short of opportunistic on Defense, ranking Third Overall in the country in Takeaways, including Seventeen Interceptions and Fourteen Fumble Recoveries. Driven by their player’s desire to adorn themselves with the gaudy Turnover Chain, the Turnovers came in bunches for the ‘Canes, who forced at least a pair in six contests, with sixteen different defenders sporting the diamond-encrusted piece. All-American Cornerback Jaquan Johnson (96 TKL, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 SK, 4 INT, 4 PD, 1 TD, 3 FF, 2 FR in 2017) returns for his Senior Campaign as their most notable Defender, totaling Six Takeaways. With that said, it will Miami’s Offense that will ultimately dictate just how far they can go, which means the pressure will be on fifth-year Senior Quarterback Malik Rosier (54.0%, 3,120 YDS, 7.5 Y/A, 26 TD, 14 INT in 2017) to lead them. Richt’s Offense wasn’t the most consistent unit that he’s coordinated, oftentimes relying upon the Turnovers forced by their comrades on the opposite side of the football to grant them quality Field Position. On the season, the Hurricanes averaged just 29.1 Points (59th Overall) on 4023.4 Total Yards, including 242.5 Yards through the air and another 160.8 Yards on the ground. However, when they fell into a tailspin late in the year, this group was a large reason why; during their Three-Game Losing Streak to end the term, Miami could muster just 13.7 Points on 274.3 Total Yards, including 166.7 Passing Yards. And this is where Rosier was culpable, folks. The veteran Quarterback was beset by a nagging injury to his throwing shoulder that really effected his performance, completing a mere 44.9% of his Passing Attempts while tossing Five Interceptions opposed to just One Touchdown in the final three outings. The Senior must exhibit better decision-making for he only way that the Hurricanes will take that next step back to true national championship contention will be if their Quarterback can start winning them football games. And what better opponent to do so against than the Tigers? When they last met back in 2005, Miami was embarrassed on a neutral field in a 40-3 drubbing at the Peach Bowl, a bitter defeat that signaled the beginning of a decade-plus marred by underwhelming play and scandal.
Meanwhile, though 2018 will mark his second full season leading the Program, this year will mark the beginning of a new era for Ed Orgeron and LSU (9-4, 18th in AP Poll in 2017), who figure to be starting over with a new Starting Quarterback and a new Offensive Coordinator implementing a new system. In all honesty, there were few Offenses that were in more need of an overhaul, for the Tigers have been rather dreadful on this side of the football for years now. After all, this was arguably the primary reason as to why Orgeron got the job in the first place; while his pedigree is deeply routed on the defensive side of the game, it was the team’s dismal performance in possession that ultimately got Les Miles fired, with Orgeron salvaging a 6-2 record down the stretch, effectively earning him the full-time gig in the end. However, in getting back to the changes coming to this Offense which simply needed to be done. Louisiana State averaged 27.2 Points (76th Overall) on 411.1 Total Yards last year, including 203.5 Yards through the air and another 207.6 Yards on the ground. A Quarterback Competition took centerstage throughout the Summer between Joe Burrow and Myles Brennan, with Orgeron finally making his long-delayed decision this past week, settling on the former to make his first collegiate start in tonight’s meeting with Miami. Burrow, a Graduate Transfer from Ohio State, arrived in Baton Rouge late in the process, formally joining the Program after Spring Practices, though evidently made quite an impression on Orgeron and Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger. How he gels with the latter of the two coaches will go a long way towards defining the Tigers’ success this season; Ensminger is an LSU lifer, having played at the school in the late 70’s, and serving on their Coaching Staff in various capacities since 2010, most recently coaching Tight Ends before getting elevated in the Offseason. He figures to break away from boring, predictable, Pro-Style Attack that has reigned lethargically in Baton Rouge over the past decade, instituting a more modernized Spread Offense that will aim to take advantage of Burrow’s athleticism and the freakish speed and athleticism surrounding the Signal-Caller. Fortunately, while the Offense undergoes such a renovation, the Defense once again figures to be stellar. The Tigers allowed just 18.9 Points per Game (14th Overall) on 316.6 Total Yards, including a scant 187.6 Yards against the Pass and another 129.0 Yards versus the Run. Junior Cornerback Andreaz Williams (38 TKL, 1.5 TFL, 6 INT, 10 PD in 2017) was a bonafide playmaker in 2017, ensnaring Six interceptions and deflecting Ten Passes. As if they needed it, LSU should also receive a boost in Secondary after the NCAA ruled fellow Defensive Back Kristian Fulton eligible to play again after the Junior was suspended for the entirety of the previous term for tampering with a sample used in a drug test. Though they’re rebuilding on the opposite side of the football, don’t expect these guys to be in awe of the resurgent Hurricanes, for the Tigers have enjoyed great success against ACC competition, winning all but two of their past twenty-five meetings with denizens of that conference.
Predicted Outcome: Miami 24, LSU 16