BYU COUGARS (1-0)
vs LSU TIGERS (0-0)
Superdome - New Orleans, LA
Kickoff: Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET
Line: LSU -16.5, Total: 47.0
LSU looks to climb back into the national title picture as they debut a new offense against BYU in New Orleans.
Head coach Kalani Sitakeís first season at BYU produced nine wins, including a Poinsettia Bowl victory over Wyoming. The Cougars lost four games to quality opponents (Utah, UCLA, West Virginia, Boise State) by a combined eight points. QB Tanner Mangum, a reliable pocket passer who started 12 games as a freshman in 2015, should improve BYUís passing game. On the ground, theyíll need to replace the production of fourth-round NFL draft pick RB Jamaal Williams and dual-threat QB Taysom Hill. The Cougars defense returns three starters in both the linebacking group and the secondary, and should take a step forward in 2017. The unit certainly looked solid in BYUís first game, which was a 20-6 victory over Portland State last week. LSUís Les Miles Era ended with a whimper, though Ed Orgeron righted the ship after taking over a 2-2 team, losing only to Alabama and Florida and ending the year with a dominating 29-9 win over Louisville in the Citrus Bowl. Highly-regarded offensive coordinator Matt Canada will oversee the modernization of the Tigers offense, but the centerpiece will still be stud RB Derrius Guice. QB Danny Etling isnít much of a difference maker under center, but should be able to set up LSUís outstanding skill-position athletes for big plays. As usual, LSUís outstanding defense saw a handful of starters drafted by the NFL, but has plenty of talent waiting in the wings. This is the first meeting between these schools. LSU went 6-2 SU & ATS under Orgeron last season, though the Tigers are 5-2 SU & 1-6 ATS in the past two Septembers. BYU was 1-4 SU & 5-0 ATS as an underdog last season, but is 2-5 SU & ATS in neutral field games since 2013.
QB Tanner Mangum takes the reins back from Taysom Hill under center for BYU, as Mangum had an impressive 2015 season (3,377 passing yards, 23 TD, 10 INT) while Hill was injured, but Hill returned in 2016. Mangum is a runner like Hill was, but Mangum is a superior passer and should improve the Cougarsí awful 6.2 yards per pass attempt rate (116th in FBS) from last year. BYUís top three receivers from last season are gone, leaving WR Jonah Trinnaman (28 receptions, 321 yards) and WR-turned-TE Moroni Laulu-Pututau (27 receptions, 277 yards) as Mangumís top targets. RB Jamaal Williams, the only BYU RB with more than 315 rushing yards last year, is in the NFL. That leaves RBs Squally Canada, KJ Hall and Riley Burt, among others, to split carries and try to replace Williamsí production (1,375 yards, 12 TD) from last season. The offensive line should be strong. BYUís defense is poised for another stellar season after allowing 19.5 points per game (14th in the nation) last season. The Cougars need to replace three starters on the defensive line, but DL Trajan Pili (2.5 sacks, 5 TFL) flashed potential as a freshman backup last season and DL Corbin Kaufusi, whose father is a defensive assistant, should also thrive in a larger role. Three solid starting linebackers return in Fred Warner (86 total tackles, 3 INT, 10.5 TFL), Francis Bernard (80 total tackles, 3 INT, 5.5 TFL) and Butch Pauíu (83 total tackles, 7 TFL). The secondary also returns plenty of experience, including starting CBs Dayan Ghanwoloku (3 INT) and Troy Warner (7 pass breakups), both of whom were thrown into the fire as freshman last season and should take a step forward as sophomores.
New LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada, whose Pitt offense averaged 40.9 points per game last year, will move the Tigers away from their Power-I running game and into a more modern system, emphasizing passing and misdirection. Heisman hopeful RB Derrius Guice (1,493 yards from scrimmage, 16 total TD) will still get plenty of use behind a robust offensive line, and Canada will find creative ways to get him in space. QB Danny Etling (2,123 yards, 11 TD, 5 INT) is a game-manager type whoíll be asked to make short, accurate passes to his playmakers. WR D.J. Chalk (588 yards from scrimmage, 5 total TD, 17.9 yards per reception) is the type of athlete that will thrive in the new system, and previously underused WR Drake Davis, a basketball and soccer star in high school and a tremendous athlete at 6í4Ē, could be a major weapon as a sophomore. LSUís defense held opponents to 15.8 points per game (5th in the nation) last season, but has holes to fill in the throughout the starting lineup. S Jamal Adams and CB TreíDavious White were first-round NFL draft picks, though CB Donte Jackson (10 passes defended) held his own as a starter last season and CB Kevin Toliver had a strong start to the year before injuring his shoulder. Inside LBs Donnie Alexander and Devin White have to fill the void left by Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith (both third-round NFL draft picks), but both looked promising in reserve roles last season. Star edge-rusher Arden Key (12 sacks, 14.5 TFL) likely wonít be ready for the opener after offseason shoulder surgery, but he should be back soon. The Tigers allowed just 94 rushing yards per game (5th in FBS) and have veteran stalwarts up front in beefy NT Greg Gilmore and DE Christian LaCouture, an effective two-year starter who missed last season with a torn ACL.