Instead of playing the defending National Champions and 17th ranked LSU Tigers in prime-time on the road in Death Valley, the Missouri Tigers will now get them in Columbia with an 11:00 a.m. CST kick-off. That sounds a little better, doesn’t it? Regardless, it’s the third straight ranked opponent Eli Drinkwitz has to face to begin his Mizzou head coaching career. That’s rough.
This will be LSU’s first-ever trip to Columbia. About time!
To discuss the upcoming match up, we chatted it over with Zachary Junda over at And The Valley Shook for a Q and A. Here’s what Zach thinks of LSU so far:
Sammy Stava: After losing a whole bunch of talent from last year’s undefeated National Championship team, LSU almost looks like a completely different team this season. What are your main expectations from Ed Orgeron and the Tigers this season after so much of a turnover from a year ago?
Zachary Junda: The biggest thing I’m looking for is, can LSU maintain its recent excellence? In 2018 the Tigers won the Fiesta Bowl; in 2019 the stars aligned perfectly and that LSU team is on the short list of best college football teams in history. The core of those two teams is gone, LSU only brings back five starters from last season. Over the past decade, Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State have lost players to the draft and coordinators to other jobs but those teams constantly remain at the upper echelon of college football because they reload instead of rebuilding. Can LSU reload or will 2019 be a one hit wonder? They’ve already dropped a game and still have to go to Florida, Auburn, A&M and will host Alabama November 14. Coming into the year I was hoping for an 8-2 season, where they split those four games and finish second in the SEC West. That’s still my hope but I’m not sure LSU can win three out four of those games. Damn you Mike Leach.
SS: What are your thoughts on Myles Brennan’s first two games this season in the tough circumstances and the big shoes to fill of having to replace Joe Burrow?
ZJ: I’d rather be anyone else on earth than be in Myles Brennan’s shoes. You never want to be the guy after THE GUY and no matter what Brennan does this year there will be plenty of people who will say “he’s still not Joe Burrow.” All things considered, I’m rather pleased with Brennan’s first two outings. Not having spring ball hurt, and Ja’Marr Chase opting out was a huge blow but he’s done okay. I’ve found that people are being far too extreme in either defending Brennan, or ripping him. Some look at the numbers and say “most yards ever!” “Most touchdowns ever!” “Most completions ever!” And sure that’s good and all but football has changed, everyone’s throwing the ball more you know? Even LSU who ran the most backwards ass offense finally got with the program and started throwing it more often.
On the other hand every incompletion, every late throw, every miscue is so heavily scrutinized and people will yell “JOE BURROW WOULD NEVER.” It’s a really unenviable position to be in. My one complaint with Brennan was that he seemed gun shy. Now to his credit he improved on that against Vanderbilt and was much more decisive. He’s got all the arm talent in the world, he just needs to let it fly.
SS: Besides Myles Brennan and Derek Stingley Jr., who are a couple of other key players on the offensive and defensive side of the ball who have impressed you so far this season that Mizzou fans need to keep an eye on?
ZJ: On offense Terrace Marshall will be Brennan’s top target. He was LSU’s No. 3 receiver in 2019, catching 13 touchdowns in 12 games. Now he’s the No. 1 option with Ja’Marr Chase opting out and he’s LSU’s leader in catches, yards and touchdowns. He’s playing his way into a first round draft pick. There’s also sophomore running back John Emery who had his first great game as a Tiger last week, 103 yards and a touchdown. Coach O insists he has three starting running backs and wants to rotate them all, but Emery simply has to get more touches. He had a hard time adjusting to the college game coming out of high school, but the game seems to be slowing down for him and he can finally see now. That’s right, he was the No. 1 running back coming out of high school and he couldn’t see in one eye. Amazing what a small thing like “being able to see” does for one’s football career.
Defensively be on the lookout for No. 11 Ali Gaye, a JUCO defensive end. It’s only been two games but Gaye’s given LSU a force at defensive end that they haven’t had since Arden Key set the single season sack record in 2016. Through two games Gaye has three tackles for loss, a sack, four quarterback hurries and three pass break ups. Watch for grad transfer linebacker Jabril Cox, who came to Baton Rouge after dominating at North Dakota State. He flies around the field the same way that Debo Jones, Devin White and Patrick Queen did, and true freshman corner Elias Ricks has picked off a pass in both games so far. He’s the next DBU stud.
SS: As of right now, LSU is about a 20-point favorite over Missouri, which sounds about right. How do you see this game playing out on Saturday night? Have a final score prediction?
ZJ: Yeah LSU will need to cover for me to feel okay about their chances against Florida next week. I don’t mean to diminish Missouri, but LSU needs to treat this like a tune up game and come out firing on all cylinders. Let’s say 38-13 LSU wins.
Note: I was going to ask Zach about what makes a night game at Death Valley so special, but no need for that now!