Teams: Troy (3-1) vs. LSU (3-1)
Rankings: Troy (#69 S&P+) | LSU (#12 S&P+, 25th AP, 22nd Coaches)
Kickoff Time: 6 p.m. CT/7 p.m. ET
Watch Online: WatchESPN
Last Time We Met...: LSU defeated Troy 40-31 back on November 15, 2008.
Series History: The Fighting Tigers and Trojans have squared off two times in history. LSU has never lost to Troy. They won in 2008 and also won 24-20 in 2004.
Spread: LSU opened as 22-point favorites. The line has since bumped down to 20.5/21 points.
O/U: The total opened at 47.5. It was upped to 48.5 and 49 depending on location.
Records ATS: Troy (0-4) | LSU (1-3)
The LSU Tigers have had a bumpy start to 2017. After blanking BYU Cougars and handling the Chattanooga Mocs, the last two weeks have been anything but perfect. They were destroyed by the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a trip to Starkville. Then, last week, the Syracuse Orange gave LSU everything they had. The Fighting Tigers emerged with a 35-26 victory, but it wasn’t easy by any means.
The visiting Troy Trojans could be everything the Tigers need to remedy themselves. Entering Saturday, LSU’s win probability vs. the Trojans is at 88 percent. They are projected to win by just over 20 points (by this model and, well, the point spread too). LSU had best take care of business against Troy. Their remaining opponents represent something of a gauntlet right now. The average S&P+ ranking of the next seven opponents is 22.3, and the median of 23 doesn’t fall too far off either.
Simply, LSU has to take care of business or their road gets even tougher going ahead. And it already looks pretty daunting as it is.
Sticking to the bread and butter
LSU’s bread and butter on offense is the run game. Again. Their Rushing Success Rate of 53.5 percent ranks 11th in the country. They’re in the Top 40 in Opportunity Rate, Power Success Rate and Stuff Rate. With Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams spearheading, LSU has been hard to stop on the ground. This is a feature and not a bug. It’s what they do, and what they should continue to do.
Against ‘Cuse, Williams starred. The senior back averaged 5.75 yards per carry on 16 carries, falling just shy of a 100-yard day. LSU, on the whole, wasn’t able to run all over the Orange as much as they would’ve liked. They pretty much bottled up everyone but Williams last Saturday. Cuse’s run D is good, not great, but if Williams can continue to succeed with Guice still a bit banged up, LSU will be put in position to win.
They may have their hands full though. Troy’s rushing defense has been pretty dang good this year. Their ranks of 27th, 26th and 15th in Rush Success Rate, Opportunity Rate and Stuff Rate are nothing to snuff at. Their linebackers have been great, especially. Zo Bridges, Tron Folsom and Sam Lebbie have starred for the Trojans defense so far.
Of course, that may be the thing. So far. Troy’s SOS has... well, it hasn’t been great. Boise State Broncos managed enough success on the ground in the opener. They only permitted 4.3 yards per carry, but their Success Rate hovered around average that day. Then Troy faced Alabama State, New Mexico State and Akron. NMSU and the Zips are both, at best, average units and at worst... lackluster.
Guice and Williams will be the best running backs that Troy faces all year. We’ll see if this success that they’ve had stopping the run can continue. Or, if LSU can continue to utilize what drives them best towards getting another victory.
Hoping to disrupt more up front
LSU is typically stingy on defense. They are again this year, to be sure.
They rank 7th in S&P+ and 30th in scoring defense (only 24.3 points per game allowed). The Tigers are in the Top 40 in Rush Success Rate, but if there is a weakness it might be pass defense. More importantly, Overall Havoc Rate. Their Overall Havoc Rate a year ago ranked 15th in the country. They were 27th in DL Havoc Rate, 81st for LBs and 7th for DBs.
This time around? Well, they have improved for LBs, as that unit stands 43rd. But the D-Line and DBs have taken steps back. Their DL Havoc Rate ranks 125th in the country, a dramatic difference from where they were a year ago. The DBs took a step back to 36th, but nothing is quite as steep as the DL’s. LSU needs more out of their D-Line.
The only players who’ve really been able to make an impact are Christian LaCouture, Greg Gilmore and Rashard Lawrence. The two have combined for only two tackles and 1.5 sacks. Gilmore has the 1.5 sacks. Lawrence, a sophomore, has 2.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks all by himself too. The rest of what is a mostly youthful bunch has to come together soon enough. Glen Logan, Ed Alexander and Neil Farrell Jr. should look to make a bigger impact. As should senior Deondre Clark. If they do against Troy, it might be enough to give them some confidence going forward.
Troy has been typically alright in preventing sacks this year. On Standard Downs, they rank 68th, but Passing Downs sees them at 30th. LSU will have to look to disrupt and create havoc up front, especially in the trenches. Doing so against an opponent like Troy could certainly help them as they venture towards seven straight SEC opponents.
This is, again, a game that LSU should win and win comfortably. They sputtered against ‘Cuse last week. However, the Orange are certainly solid. Especially defensively. It’s no easy venture for anyone to go into Tiger Stadium and nearly pull off a win.
I don’t see that happening two weeks in a row though.
Prediction: LSU 35, Troy 17