I’ve been holding off on writing about the bowl game because I’m still not certain there will be a bowl game. We are a little more than a day away from the theoretical kick, and my confidence in this game happening is at an all time low. I don’t have any insider information, but instead will gesture broadly at the world of sports (and world in general) at the moment as my source. If the game does happen, I have no idea what LSU will look like, and LSU also has no idea what they will look like.
If the game does happen, The Bayou Bengals will feature a scraped together roster of mostly spare parts. Don’t get excited though, those spare parts are more talented (on paper) than 80% (an estimate) of college football teams. Hell, they’re probably on par talent wise with 10% of the remaining 20%. This has been a wild and wildly disappointing season in Baton Rouge, but a team that recruits the way LSU recruits is going to have dudes capable of winning football games. This LSU team is no different.
Kansas State will have the more coherent, cohesive roster on Tuesday. LSU will still have the most “talent” across the board, and it’s not particularly close. Furthermore, I get the feeling that the remaining talent on the LSU roster is coming into this game motivated. Brad Davis (although he’s only been in Baton Rouge for one season) seems like a coach the players want to perform for, and with Brian Kelly watching, you’ve got to figure some guys are going to want to show the new guy what they can do. A motivated LSU team is a dangerous LSU team, despite their cobbled together roster.
As of yesterday, this is who LSU plans on playing.
LSU’s depth chart for Tuesday’s game has Garrett Nussmeier as QB1 and walk-on Tavion Faulk as QB2. Dwight McGlothern not listed. Expect to see a lot of Darren Evans @FBallGameplan pic.twitter.com/SkNogsjaDq— Patrick Conn (@PatrickConnCFB) January 2, 2022
For those of you squinting at your phone/computer/etc...let me help (I’ll give you the starters, you can squint for the backups).
QB : Garrett Nussmeier - 6’1”, 190 - Fr - 4*(96)
*UPDATE: According to “sources” Nussmeier is sitting this one out to keep his redshirt year. LSU filed a “look, we’re out of quarterbacks, can we just play him in 5 games and still keep his redshirt?” waiver, but that was denied. This is one of the reasons I’ve held off on the preview.
QB: ? (probably a mélange of walk-on guys and position players taking snaps)
RB: Corey Kiner - 5’10”, 213 - Fr - 4*(93)
WR: Jaray Jenkins - 6’3”, 198 - Jr - 3*(88)
WR: Brian Thomas Jr. - 6’5”, 198 - Fr - 4*(96)
WR: Malike Nabers - 6’1”, 188 - Fr - 4*(90)
TE: Jack Bech - 6’2”, 207 - Fr - 4*(89)
LT: Cameron Wire - 6’6”, 307 - Jr - 3*(88)
LG: Ed Ingram - 6’4”, 320 - Sr - 4*(92)
C: Liam Shanahan - 6’5”, 300 - Sr - (unranked - transfer from...Harvard)
RG: Chasen Hines - 6’3”, 350 - Sr - 4*(91)
RT: Austin Deculus - 6’7”, 325 - Sr - 4*(97)
DE: Soni Fonua - 6’4”, 258 - Sr - 3*(88)
DT: Mason Smith - 6’6”, 292 - Fr - 5*(98)
DT: Jaquelin Roy - 6’4”, 297 - So - 4*(98)
DE: BJ Ojulari - 6’3”, 244 - So - 4*(96)
LB: Mike Jones Jr - 6’2”, 234 - So - 4*(91)
LB: Greg Penn III - 6’2”, 221 - Fr - 4*(91)
Nick: Pic Cage - 5’11”, 198 - Fr - 3*(83)
CB: Darren Evans - 6’3”, 174 - Sr - NR (transfer from Nicholls State)
CB: Damarius McGhee - 6’1”, 163 - Fr - 4*(92)
FS: Jay Ward - 6’1”, 180 - Jr - 3*(88)
SS: Todd Harris - 5’11, 195 - Sr - 4*(95)
Styles Make Fights
Now that the Nussmeier news has apparently broken, I think we have a better idea on the sort of fight to expect on Tuesday night. With Nussmeier playing, I expected a run heavy, but closer to balanced LSU offense. That won’t be the case now. I wouldn’t be surprised if LSU attempts less than 10 passes. They’re going to lean on K-State, try and beat up the Wildcat front 7 with their run game, and limit the number of possessions.
That’s not terrible for the Wildcats. If this game turned into a referendum on who has the better athletes in space, it was going to favor LSU (with K-State holding the top ranked player, and LSU holding the next 10 guys). Before the Nussmeier news, I was getting big “Purdue vs Auburn in the Music City Bowl” vibes from this game. To give a brief summary of that game. Auburn was the underachieving, but talent laden SEC school looking to make a statement. Purdue was the mid tier, under manned Big 10 team looking build on a decent statement. Auburn came out, punched Purdue in the mouth, jumped on top of them, and continued to punch them in the mouth until Purdue could only be identified by the the contents of their wallet. That could still happen. LSU has top 10 talent, and K-State does not, but without a quarterback it’s far less likely.
K-State wants to play this game inside the tackle box, and that’s where they’re going to get to play it. The Wildcat passing game, oddly enough, could tell the story in this one. Skylar Thompson has to be efficient on 3rd down. He doesn’t have to throw for a ton of yards, but he needs to pick up first downs and keep the Wildcat offense on the field. LSU’s defense is talented, but thin in the front 7. The first half should be based around landing body blows to the Tiger defense, in order to soften them up for the knock out in the 2nd half. LSU only has 39 scholarship players, many of whom haven’t played a ton of snaps. K-State needs to grind those players down. It’s hard to be athletic when you’re struggling to get lined up after Cooper Bebee squishes you for the 50th time.
For the K-State defense, it’s all about winning first and second down. They need to force LSU into passing situations. If LSU is continually in 3rd and short, this will be a loooong game of getting mashed by their monster offensive line and whoever they decide to line up in the backfield. We witnessed Texas do that to K-State recently.
The game plan for the defense is simple.
Play man on the outside, put as many players in the box as possible, and beg LSU to throw the ball. The game plan should look familiar, it’s the same game plan teams deploy against the Wildcats when Skylar isn’t available.
Special teams could be the deciding factor in this game. LSU does not want to chase points. They want this thing low scoring. Any quick strike touchdown by K-State makes LSU winning significantly more difficult. At the same time, LSU’s special teams will be stretched thin and some guys will be asked to play unfamiliar roles. This is the prefect time for the best kick return team in the multiverse to flex its muscle. A kick return from Malik Knowles or a punt return by Phillip Brooks would be tough for a quarterbackless* (word patent pending) offense to overcome.
Let’s Talk Gambling
If you’re into gambling, this one is a bit of a head scratcher. It all boils down to how you feel about Kansas State, because no one knows what you’re going to get out of this LSU team. The line moved while I was writing this from K-State -4.5 to K-State -7 and the total line moved from 48 to 47.5.
I obviously don’t know the answer, otherwise I would be a significantly richer man. If you give me free money I’ll take LSU to cover and the under, but as I mentioned above, you probably shouldn’t take gambling advice from an adult currently wearing hand-me-down sweatpants.
If you chose to partake...good luck.
K-State is favored by 7 points per DraftKings, with the total line at 47.5.
Odds/lines subject to change. Terms and conditions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.