As most of you know, I went to LSU for graduate school and continue to follow them every week. I'm more than familiar with everything they will showcase against Clemson on New Year's Eve. My recommendation is this: just get drunk and enjoy the NYE celebration. While Clemson can definitely win the game, and I believe we'll put up 21-28 points, victory would depend on whether LSU wants to be there and win the game. This kind of thing happens in bowl games all the time, and it happened to our benefit in 2003 against a Top 10 Tennessee team. It happened to our detriment last year when part of our own team gave up in the Orange Bowl.
I'm sure most of you watched the SC vs. LSU game a few months ago, and on the first 2 LSU drives you basically got a taste for everything their offense does the best. Unless Les Miles has another brain fart (entirely possible) and comes out with a shit gameplan like he did against Alabama in the BCS Title game, this is what you'll see from LSU:
The running game consists of, in order of how well they run it
1. Pitch Isolation - LSU's best play was inexplicably absent against Bama last year, and I have yet to figure out why. The difference between this play and the regular Isolation/blast is that the QB pitches the ball back to the RB.
2. Isolation. Our original article applies again here.
3. Power O/Pitch Power O - two variations with the same blocking
4. Inside Zone - includes zone read options, but Zach Mettenberger rarely runs it.
5. An outside zone toss - a toss sweep play with outside zone blocking
They run a few other things here and there, like an occasional trap on a 3-technique, or the Fullback Dive, but most of the time this is what you'll see. The zones are primarily run from one-back or shotgun formations, while everything else is primarily the I-formation or an offset-I.
All of LSU's RBs are capable of starting anywhere in the south, and it seems to have been this way since Saban went to Baton Rouge. We have a similar situation at WR right now.. Spencer Ware is a little quicker and not quite the big bruiser. Alfred Blue was one of my favorites until he got hurt, but is a bruiser. Kenny Hilliard is pretty good, as is Michael Ford. However, the RB to watch is Jeremy Hill, a 235lb freshman I-back who would run through a brick wall behind converted DT-now-FB J.C. Copeland. The Bengal Tigers are fully capable of running the ball with any one of these guys, and Miles goes with the hot hand. You may see one guy start and another get a majority of carries for the rest of the game.
With Jordan Jefferson's graduation, the flirtation with the read option has primarily gone by the wayside, and Mettenberger is a small threat in the run game....but so was Dylan Thompson.
LSU's offensive line has suffered major injuries since the beginning of the season, and they still block really well. Looking at the depth chart, they could not stand another injury. They start two freshmen on the right side, and unlike ours, which have to wait 2-3 years to be useful, the two of them have stepped right in without missing much of a beat in the running game. OC Greg Studrawa is also the OL coach, and though I think they could do better in the passing game, he's done well at instruction of blocking and they are damn good at running the ball. Recall Les Miles has an OL coaching background at Michigan and the Dallas Cowboys, so it should come as no surprise that they are always good here.
LSU's QB Is Zach Mettenberger, who was booted at UGA and spent a year at a JUCO. For the first half of the season, he was absolutely terrible. If he had done better here, LSU may be playing for a BCS title. You could see anytime you turned on the TV that he was prone to getting rattled and his eyes showed me that he was confused by what opponents were giving him. As a result, opponents stuck 8 or 9 in the box and dared LSU to throw, and they weren't able to do it. Mett picked up his game in late October, and I think he's on his way to becoming a solid QB. If there is a weakness for Brent Venables to attack however, it would be the QB.
LSU's WRs are talented and capable of big plays, particularly the go-to guy Jarvis Landry, but they are not very good at getting themselves open. They do not run great routes, and have been prone to drops. I'd say they were good after the catch but not very good before the catch. They have the speed to kill our pitiful safeties once the catch is made, but working to open holes is not something they excel at.
LSU's passing offense is mostly play-action based, similar to what Napier tried to run here. Their bread-and-butter play is the quick Slant, followed by a sluggo route once you start jumping the slants. Landry and Odell Beckham tend to run these quite often, followed by the much-balleyhooed but never-able-to-produce Russell Shepard. Kadron Boone gets the Nuk Hopkins backside/boundary hitch. Clemson's is a WR screen and bubble screens, but LSU only occasionally throws those.
Most big plays are built off play-action, such as sprint draw passes, power pass, a wheel route pass to the FB/TE. Best routes/patterns are Post-Dig combos, Levels patterns, Slant-wheels, or an Out route, and of course the slant/sluggo. In nearly all blitz situations the slant is the hot call to Landry or Beckham. These routes attack the OLBs and Nickelback directly.
Returning to the run game, we wanted to go into a few plays that LSU runs well. A post on the inside zone and power plays are coming up later this weekend. I pulled some clips out of the Isolation and pitch-iso that they run frequently.
Isolation is a dirt simple play. The FB leads into the hole and gets isolated on a LB. If he can make the block its 3-4 yards every time. Copeland can make the block. In its basic form it is gap blocked and, as opposed to the Inside zone and stretch play, it has a definite hole for the RB to hit by design. As in the IZ/OZ, he does have the freedom to cutback or bounce outside, but here the blocking scheme is meant for him to go one way.
In their regular Iso, the QB pivots and starts stepping back as the I-back comes forward until the mesh is reached. The QB puts the ball in his belly and his eyes lock onto the butt of the FB, and he follows him. If the FB can get isolated on the MLB, the RB just needs to cut to the correct side of the block. The outside isolation tends to involve going to the OT's butt and the FB can either kickout an edge player or gets isolated on the OLB, and looks more like OZ when LSU runs it.
The pitch isolation is a variation that involves the QB pivoting on one foot and pitching the ball directly backwards to the RB, instead of stepping back to the mesh. The advantage is apparent when you see the extra speed carried by the I-back into the hole. He has another second to make a read if the blocking doesnt work, and hits the hole even faster. They run this nearly the same amount of times as they run the regular isolation, and the Power O can start off with the exact same look to the defense.