Time: Saturday, September 2, 8:30 p.m. CT/9:30 p.m. ET
Watch Online: WatchESPN
Spread: LSU opened as 12.5-point favorites. The line bumped up to 13.5, 14.5 and as high as 15 in some places.
O/U: The O/U opened at 44. It bumped up to 47, 47.5, 48 and 48.5 in some locales.
The game will be held at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Originally, the encounter was set to be held at NRG Stadium in nearby Houston, Texas. Hurricane Harvey’s devastation caused the matchup to be moved over to the Superdome in NOLA earlier this week (Related: Here’s how you can help the relief efforts in Houston).
The Bayou Bengals are returning several stars from their 2016 season. Namely Derrius Guice, who is one of the top contenders for the Doak Walker Award and the Heisman Trophy. Edge rusher Arden Key is also back, but the Tigers pass rusher will be absent from the opener. Key has been banged up, and earlier this week, Coach O confirmed that he would miss the game against the Cougars.
Meanwhile, the Cougars are looking a bit different this season. Quarterback Tanner Mangum is still around under center. Mangum will be without the stud he had in the backfield in 2016, as Jamaal Williams headed to the pros this offseason. Additionally, a number of his top receiving targets are no longer in Provo. Nick Kurtz, Colby Pearson and Mitchell Juergens have all departed. Defensively, they should be solid enough. Whether or not they’re able to contain the explosive Guice? Time will tell.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
DERRIUS GUICE VS. THE BYU RUN DEFENSE
In terms of stopping the run, BYU was terrific a season ago. The Cougars ranked seventh in Rushing S&P+ defense. Compared to their 77th-ranked pass defense, it was clear that the run stoppers were the stars of the defense. Their Stuff Rate ranked 40th in the country. Any way you slice it, BYU had the chops to stop the run.
There is but one problem. A large glut of their defensive line is gone. No longer are Harvey Langi, Sae Tautu, Logan Taele and Tomasi Laulile patrolling the LOS. There’s still a lot of experience on this BYU team. Several juniors and seniors make up the roster, along with sophomore Trajan Pili. There’s also Motekiai Langi, a freshman defensive tackle who’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 417 (!) lbs. But they are without a huge cut of their top tacklers from last year.
That could spell trouble against the likes of Derrius Guice. We saw what Guice could do when he replaced the injured Leonard Fournette last season. He was as dynamic as could be. There’s a reason he’s garnering as much hype as he has. With the experience that BYU has, they’ll hopefully be able to shore up quickly with their savvy and knowledge of the defense. But they’re going to have their work cut out for them from the jump.
With much of his offense gone, quarterback Tanner Mangum might have his hands full against the vaunted LSU defense. Even without Key, there’s still a very experienced secondary patrolling the defensive backfield. The linebacker corp, anchored by senior Donnie Alexander, and the line, which will star Christian LaCouture and Greg Gilmore up the middle, should wreak havoc.
LSU will be replacing wideouts Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, but they have the luxury of doing so with seniors D.J. Chark and Russell Gage. They’ll have an experienced line protecting QB Danny Etling, who for the Tigers’ sake will show something of promise under new OC Matt Canada. And Guice, well, we’ve gone at length about what he can do.
This writer thinks that it will be just too much for Mangum and BYU to overcome on Saturday night in New Orleans.
Prediction: LSU 28, BYU 13