3:30 PM EST, ABC – Line: LSU -5.5, Over/Under: 55
It didn’t take long, but the first meeting of Top-10 Teams takes place in week Two, as the No. 10 Texas Longhorns play host to the No. 6 LSU Tigers, from Royal Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. Standing in one corner, we have LSU (1-0, 0-0 in SEC), who look to pick up where they left off in 2018, when they finished at No. 6 in the AP Poll. It’s no coincidence that they entered 2019 in that same position, for Ed Orgeron continues to shape the program in his image, with the Tigers gradually improving with each passing season. Though he was thought to be on the hot seat this time a year ago, Coach O guided his charges to their first ten-win finish since 2013, a figure that they may eclipse thanks to a bevy of returning talent on both sides of the football. Offensively, it appears that things are indeed in good hands with Joe Burrow (57.8%, 2,894 YDS, 7.6 Y/A, 16 TD, 5 INT in 2018) returning to pilot the attack; the former Ohio State Transfer had his moments in 2018, but has thus far exhibited deft control of the team’s modernized spread scheme, completing an efficient 23-of-27 Passes for 278 Yards, and tying a single-game school record with Five Touchdowns, a figure he managed to equal before halftime of a 55-3 drubbing of Georgia Southern this past Saturday. The hosts quickly jumped out to a 21-0 lead, which is something that they failed to accomplish in any of their thirteen games a year ago. In fact, their Fifty-Five Points were the most for what has been a largely offensive-starved program since 2014. In the end, the Bayou Bengals totaled 472 Yards of Offense, including 122 via the run and another 350 courtesy of the pass. Fourteen different players caught a pass, led by Justin Jefferson (54 REC, 875 YDS, 16.2 Y/R, 6 TD in 2018) who hauled in Five Receptions for Eighty-Seven Yards and a Touchdown, while Terrace Marshall Jr. (12 REC, 192 YDS, 16.0 Y/R in 2018) reeled in Four Catches for Thirty-One Yards, and Three Touchdowns. And if that wasn’t enough, Thaddeus Moss, a Tight End that just so happens to be the son of Hall-of -Famer, Randy Moss, caught a pair of passes for Sixty-One Yards, including a Forty-Four Yard connection down the right side of the field. Of course, as satisfying as that performance was, a much stiffer test looms tonight against Texas, whose Defense will no doubt offer a much greater challenge than that of Georgia Southern. And speaking of Defense, LSU has quite a bit going for them on that side of the football too. In 2018, Orgeron’s Defense relegated opponents to 21.8 Points (26th Overall) on 338.7 Total Yards, including 200.1 Yards against the Pass, and another 138.6 Yards versus the Run, while forcing a whopping Twenty-Five Turnovers. Even without the presence of Butkus winner, Devin White, this figures to be one of the nastiest units in the country, thanks to a number of returning stars, including All-American Safety Grant Delpit (74 TKL, 9.5 TFL, 5.0 SK, 1 FF, 1 FR, 5 INT, 9 PD in 2018), Cornerback, Kristian Fulton (25 TKL, 1.0 TFL, 1 FF, 1 INT, 9 PD in 2018), Linebacker Jacob Phillips (87 TKL, 5.5 TFL, 1.0 SK, 1 INT, 1 TD, 3 PD in 2018), and Edge Rusher K’Lavon Chaisson (5 TKL, 1 TFL, 1.0 SK in 2018). The Tigers absolutely suffocated the Eagles’ Offense, relinquishing a scant Ninety-Eight Yards, including a mere Twenty-Four against the Pass, with Five Tackles for Loss, a Sack, and a pair of Recovered Fumbles, the last of which was caused by the aforementioned Chaisson, whose contact caused Georgia Southern’s Tailback to be taken off the field by the team’s Training Staff. All in all, Orgeron and his Staff had to have been pleased with their showing in Season Opener, though how they perform in a hostile environment against the Longhorns will go a long way towards establishing just how formidable these Tigers will be in 2019.
Meanwhile, in the opposite corner we have Texas (1-0, 0-0 in Big XII), who enter 2019 as a virtual mirror image of their opponent tonight, looking to parlay last year’s glacial improvement into legitimate contention. Indeed, it’s been a while since we could talk about the Longhorns in the same breath as the country’s elite programs, and while we’re still not there quite yet, there is plenty to be excited about in Austin, where they enter a season ranked within the Preseason Top-10 for the first time in a decade. Indeed, Tom Herman’s charges finished last season winning four of their final five outings, highlighted by a statement 28-21 victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, en route to winning ten games for the first time since 2009. With that said, Texas started things off early this season with a glorified walkthrough against Louisiana Tech, who they had little trouble at all in disposing of in a 45-14 rout. Believe it or not, but after getting bested in each of his previous two Season Openers since arriving in 2017, this win marked the first time that the Longhorns are 1-0 under Herman. Offensively, the hosts were met with very little resistance form the visiting side, amassing 454 Total yards, including 153 Yards on the ground and another 301 through the air. Junior Quarterback, Sam Ehlinger (64.7%, 3,292 YDS, 7.7 Y/A, 25 TD 5 INT in 2018), was excellent, completing an efficient 28-of-38 Passes for 276 Yards, and a career-high Four Touchdowns, while rushing for another Thirty-Four Yards on Eight Carries. Much is expected of Ehlinger, who as a Sophomore showed improvement under Herman, accounting for a whopping Forty-One Touchdowns, sixteen of which were of the rushing variety. 2019 will be all about the Signal-Caller becoming more efficient within the confines of the Offense, not to mention remaining healthy; his physical running style has oftentimes left him open to jarring hits, which have caused him to miss a number of games in each of his two seasons in Austin. While he was sacked once and took another big hit on a rush, the Junior was protected well by the Offensive Line. This is something t0 keep an eye on moving forward, for Texas only has Freshmen behind him in relief. That same notion can be attributed to Tailback, Keaontay Ingram (142 CAR, 708 YDS, 5.0 Y/C, 3 TD in 2018), the team’s leading rusher form 2018, who had been dealing with a bruised knee during Training Camp. The Sophomore didn’t receive a hefty workload by any means on Saturday, carrying the football eleven times for Seventy-Eight Yards and a Touchdown, while also catching Three Passes for Forty-Three Yards. After totaling 142 Carries a year ago, Ingram has added Twenty Pounds to better prepare him to endure the contact that he’s expected to take this season. On the defensive side of the football, the Longhorns are rebuilding to a good degree, with eight new Starters taking the field in the win over Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs managed to put up all of their points and a good volume of their Offense in general in the Fourth quarter, where the contest well and over at that point. Texas gave up a disappointing 413 Total Yards, but managed to force Three Turnovers, and all but shut down the run, yielding just Seventy-Three Yards on Twenty-Six Carries. They utilized a plethora of coverages, including one particular formation in which they lined up with Eight Defensive Backs. When you take into account the prolific passing attacks that have littered the Big XII in recent years, then you can see why a package such as this could be very useful. Senior Linebacker, Joseph Ossai (20 TKL, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 SK, 1 FF in 2018), and Defensive Back, Demarvion Overshown, both logged Interceptions, while Senior Cornerback, Brandon Jones (70 TKL, 5.5 TFL, 2 FR, 1 INT, 1 PD in 2018), recovered a Fumble produced by Defensive Lineman, Jacoby Jones.