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How comfortable is Drew Lock in the pocket? The answer could decide LSU-Missouri.

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LSU’s great at pressuring the QB. Mizzou is great at keeping pressure off of Drew Lock. Something will give.

NCAA Football: Jacksonville State at Louisiana State Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Defense has not been the issue for LSU this year. Under first-year coordinator Dave Aranda, the Tigers have yet to allow more than 20 points in a game or more than 5.3 yards per play. Two SEC opponents (Mississippi State, Auburn) are averaging 19 points per game and 4.7 yards per play. That should win more often than not, but LSU has already lost games while allowing only 16 and 18 points.

The keys so far: efficient-as-hell run defense, an awesome pass rush, and great red zone defense.

Defensive line

DE

  • Lewis Neal (6’2, 272, Sr.) — 12.0 tackles, 3.5 TFL (2.5 sacks), 1 PBU
  • Deondre Clark (6’4, 272, Jr.)

NT

  • Greg Gilmore (6’4, 308, Jr.) — 7.5 tackles, 1 PBU
  • Travonte Valentine (6’4, 356, So.) — 6.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL
  • Ed Alexander (6’2, 333, Fr.) — 2.5 tackles

DE

  • Davon Godchaux (6’4, 299, Jr.) — 13.5 tackles, 2 TFL (2 sacks)
  • Frank Herron (6’4, 305, Jr.) — 5.5 tackles
  • Rashard Lawrence (6’3, 301, Fr.)

Davon Godchaux was suspended briefly this week until it emerged that he was not going to face charges for an alleged domestic incident this weekend. He is eligible and expected to play.

This is a really strong run front. Wisconsin’s Corey Clement rushed 21 times for only 86 yards (4.1 per carry), MSU’s Ashton Shumpert, Brandon Holloway, and Aeris Williams combined for 13 rushes and 53 yards (4.1), and Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway managed 154 yards in 39 carries (3.9). The only backs to find any success were Jacksonville State’s Eli Jenkins and Roc Thomas, who rushed 25 times for 126 yards (5.0).

LSU ranks ninth in rushing success rate allowed (28%), and Mizzou ranks 99th in rushing success rate (38.3%). That’s a pretty bad combination for MU. LSU is prone to giving up some big plays when you do get to the second level of the defense, but Mizzou backs have barely ever gotten to the second level this year.

The goal for Mizzou’s running game has to be generating just enough yardage to keep LSU’s pass rushers at bay and keep Drew Lock out of second- or third-and-long situations. This might be achievable — Mizzou ranks 19th in stuff rate (percentage of carries stopped at or behind the line) allowed at 14.4%, and LSU’s stuff rate is a meager 16.8% (95th). So basically, Mizzou can get a couple/few yards at a time. If that creates second-and-7s and third-and-4s, that’s at least a partial victory. Whatever keeps Arden Key off of Lock.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Auburn
Lewis Neal rushes Auburn’s Sean White
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacking Corps

OLB

  • Arden Key (6’6, 238, So.) — 14.0 tackles, 7 TFL (6.5 sacks), 2 FF
  • Sci Martin (6’4, 240, Fr.)

MLB

  • Kendell Beckwith (6’3, 247, Sr.) — 25.5 tackles, 3.5 TFL (1 sack), 1 PBU
  • Donnie Alexander (6’1, 212, Jr.) — 9.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL

ILB

  • Duke Riley (6’0, 230, Sr.) — 20.5 tackles, 2.5 TFL (0.5 sacks)
  • Devin White (6’1, 255, Fr.) — 1.5 tackles

OLB

  • Tashawn Bower (6’6, 253, Sr.) — 4.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL
  • Michael Divinity Jr. (6’3, 234, Fr.) — 10.0 tackles, 1 TFL

Aranda has been really effective at dialing up pressure. LSU ranks 23rd in standard downs sack rate (8.2%) and 20th in passing downs sack rate (13.0%). Again, the Tigers 117th in rushing IsoPPP allowed (which measure the magnitude of successful plays) and 63rd in passing — the linebackers aren’t used cautiously.

This could be what decides the game. Drew Lock has been under very little pressure this year.

If LSU gets to Lock a lot, Mizzou has no chance. If he’s got time to make his reads, and he’s finding some receivers open, Mizzou has a very good chance. Again, the run game just needs to keep him out of second- and third-and-long. And I would not be surprised if we began to see some more organized screens than we’ve seen to date, especially if Key or one of his friends actually takes Lock down a couple of times.

Texas A&M v LSU
Arden Key closes in on Kyle Allen
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Secondary

CB

  • Tre’Davious White (6’0, 197, Sr.) — 7.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL (0.5 sacks), 1 INT, 2 PBU
  • Ed Paris (6’1, 203, Jr.) — 3.5 tackles, 1 PBU

SS

  • Jamal Adams (6’1, 213, Jr.) — 23.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL
  • John Battle (6’2, 202, Jr.) — 6.5 tackles

FS

  • Rickey Jefferson (6’0, 209, Sr.) — 14.0 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PBU
  • Dwayne Thomas (6’0, 201, Sr.) — 5.5 tackles
  • Xavier Lewis (6’0, 190, RSFr.) — 2.5 tackles

CB

  • Kevin Toliver II (6’2, 193, So.) — 10.5 tackles, 1 PBU
  • Donte Jackson (5’11, 173, So.) — 10.5 tackles, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FF

Tre’Davious White has 3.5 havoc plays to 7.5 tackles — an active, disruptive ratio for a cornerback. One assumes he will be spending a lot of time matched up with J’Mon Moore, and I’m guessing he’ll win that battle as often as not.

So if the No. 1 key to Mizzou’s offensive success is Lock having time to throw, and Key 1a is the run game generating enough to help to keep pressure off of him, Key No. 2 is who Receivers Not Named J’Mon are doing.

This could be interesting. Mizzou has played two major opponents so far, and in those two games Lock targeted Moore an incredible 36 times. That worked out pretty well against Georgia (8-for-13 for 196), not so much against WVU (8-for-23 for 104). White is one of the better corners Moore will face, so Lock will need a Plan B. Chris Black (9-for-11 for 146 against WVU/UGA)? A tight end, maybe? Sean Culkin caught 2 of 4 for 27 against WVU, while Jason Reese and Kendall Blanton caught 5 of 7 for 54 against UGA.

NCAA Football: Lambeau Field College Classic-Louisiana State vs Wisconsin
Rickey Jefferson after picking off a pass
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams

K

  • Colby Delahoussaye (5’10, 180, Sr.) — 9-11 PAT, 3-3 FG under 40, 0-1 FG over 40
  • Cameron Gamble (5’11, 189, Jr.) — 18 kickoffs, 4 touchbacks

P

  • Josh Growden (6’2, 198, RSFr.) — 21 punts, 39.1 average, 12 fair caught, 6 inside 20

KR

  • Derrius Guice (5’11, 212, So.) — 5 KR, 20.8 average (long: 29)
  • Nick Brossette (6’0, 209, So.) — 1 KR, 14 yards

PR

  • Tre’Davious White (6’0, 197, Sr.) — 6 PR, 11.8 average (long: 60), 1 TD

LSU’s special teams unit has been just about like Mizzou’s: decent. Mizzou currently ranks 55th in Special Teams S&P+ to LSU’s 59th, though LSU doesn’t have a weakness quite as strong as Mizzou’s place-kicking has been overall. White is a bit-all-or-nothing in punt returns (one for 60, five others for 11), and LSU is more or less average to solid everywhere else.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Florida
Colby Delahoussaye celebrates
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports