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Preview: Texas Welcomes LSU In A Highly Anticipated Top 10 Matchup

The Longhorns are looking to make a statement with 6th-ranked LSU coming to Austin.

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Sam Ehlinger of the Texas Longhorns looks to pass in the third quarter - Getty Images - Tim Warner
Getty Images - Tim Warner

The Longhorns enter this game as a 7-point underdog, but let’s look at a few numbers real quick. Historically, Tom Herman holds a career record of 13-2-1 against the spread as an underdog. Also worth noting, that includes an 8-2-1 record as an underdog, against the spread at Texas.

Also, Texas has an overall record of 191-91-9 against SEC teams. That includes winning records against nearly every SEC team, including a 9-7-1 record against LSU.

The last time these two teams met, Cedric Benson was a sophomore. It was the 2003 Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day and it ended in a 35-20 Texas win. However, these aren’t the Tigers of SEC past, and Texas’ running back depth is more shallow than the dried up kiddie pool in your neighbor’s back yard.

These two schools have not met in nearly two decades, but these two have a little bit of more recent history. In 2016, Texas signed Tom Herman as the next head coach of the Longhorns football team. Later that same day, LSU announced that interim Head Coach Ed Orgeron would take over down in Death Valley.

Seems simple and straight-forward right? Not quite. LSU had been actively pursuing the Houston head coach, and allegedly, had agreed on the terms and demands of Herman. Then, out of nowhere, a “late night meeting” occurred between Herman and Texas after their loss to TCU. The following day, Herman would be named the head coach in Austin, which allowed Orgeron to be hired at LSU. Saturday night on ABC, we’ll see Coach Tom Herman facing not only a team he was supposed to be coaching, but a coach who’s job was practically Herman’s.

These teams are very different than we’ve seen in the past. LSU, behind quarterback Joe Burrow, may try to do what Georgia did in the Sugar Bowl and attempt to trade points with Texas. Which, if they learned anything, they may want to focus on clock management, instead of being an SEC team trying to play a Big 12 game.

This game should be a spectacle regardless of the final score. Look out “The Bold and the Beautiful”, this Southern soap opera may give you a run for your money.

Game Details

  • When: SAT, SEP 7 at 6:30 PM CT
  • Where: DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium
  • Forecast: Partly Sunny, High of 98
  • TV: ABC
  • Stream: WatchESPN
  • Betting Line: LSU -7, O/U 57.5

#6 LSU Tigers (1-0)

The Tigers are 26-9 since Ed Orgeron took over in Baton Rouge. The Tigers have progressively gotten better in his tenure. The hire of ex-Saints offensive assistant Joe Brady has led to a team who now runs a spread style offense. The spread better utilizes the talents of starting quarterback Joe Burrow, a former transfer from Ohio State. Incorporating Brady as the passing game coordinator has added extra energy to the offense; as we saw last week against Georgia Southern where Burrow threw for 278 yards and five Touchdowns.

Add that with Dave Aranda’s defensive schemes, and this LSU team jumps off the paper.

One of the premier player matchups on Saturday night will be nose tackle Tyler Shelvin versus Texas center Zach Shackleford. This matchup will be decided by Shackleford’s ability, or inability, to keep Shelvin out of Sam Ehlinger’s face. Not an easy task at all. The advantage could play in favor of Shelvin. Especially, if Texas ends up having to double team the nose tackle. That leaves another monstrous LSU defensive lineman to pursue Ehlinger freely. These trenches will be where this heavyweight fight is decided.

#9 Texas Longhorns (1-0)

The Horns are 18-10 with Herman at the reins. We’ve seen the Charlie Strong recruits come and a go, and now we’re seeing a majority of Tom Hermans recruits establish their own identity. They play faster, more physical, and at a much higher level than they have since Mack Brown left.

Week one showed a Longhorn team ready to capitalize early, and not take their foot off the gas. Ehlinger showed how much he developed in the offseason, and looked more commanding in his role. Attach that to his natural leadership and playmaking abilities, and Texas looks ready to take on anyone in the nation.

Todd Orlando’s schemes and adjustments have improved the Longhorns defense. They are one of the most physical units in the Big 12. They’re fast, they hit, and rarely is there a seam deep.

The Longhorn’s secondary versus LSU’s dominant receiving corps will be the second highlight of this fight. Justin Jefferson, Terrance Marshall Jr. and JaMarr Chase all have height, catch radius, and speed. Defensive backs Jalen Green, Brandon Jones, and Caden Sterns will have to play lights out, physical football.

Last week, Kobe Boyce celebrated a defended pass, when in reality the LA Tech receiver not only caught the pass, but he turned up field and advanced the ball. That mental error, plus Boyce’s penalties and other mental errors have no place in this matchup. Look for BJ Foster to come out of the nickleback to cover the island in this head-to-head. The Longhorns ability to keep things underneath and properly tackle will slow the production of Burrow.

Texas’ 3-2-6 package, also known as the Lightning package, has notoriously given opponents a hard time. The Horns will have to utilize it against LSU and their new “spread style” of offense. Then, with Texas’ ability to change looks and adjust on the fly, very effectively, I might add, and we could see Joe Burrow go from getting in a groove to uncomfortable very quickly.

Something else to watch Saturday night would have to be the Dave Aranda versus Tim Beck chess match. The LSU defensive coordinator loves to rotate players, especially the front seven. That keeps plenty of fresh legs at his disposal. Tim Beck, on the other hand, knows how to roll Ehlinger out to utilize his legs and his arm at the same.

Ehlinger has learned to use his pocket much better, but what makes Sam so dangerous is what he can do with the football outside the tackles. If LSU is getting penetration early, look for Beck to take advantage of the Tiger’s aggressiveness with run-pass options and option reads out of every formation. This chess match between these two men is something every college football fan should look forward to.

3 Keys to the Game

Trench Warfare – Texas has to at least hold their own in the trenches. If they can’t, then this could get ugly. On the defensive side they have to at least make Burrow uncomfortable. On the offensive side, we will get to that in a second.

Turnovers – Texas needs to force Joe Burrow to play hero ball. If the game is put in Burrow’s hands because of the Longhorns’ ability to maintain coverage on Jefferson and company, Texas will get the turnovers they need to help put this game away. Burrow, who rode the pine three years at Ohio State, is talented, but he’s no hero when the game is on the line. Force Burrow into that role, and you’ll see the Longhorns win the turnover war and take this game.

Time to Throw – Giving Sam Ehlinger time to throw will allow Devin DuVernay’s production to tip the scales here. Strong Safety Grant Delpit is phenomenal at what he does. Run support, pass coverage, you name it, he can do it at a very high level. However, if Collin Johnson can give the LSU defenders a reason to bring Delpit or another safety, for over the top support, then DuVernay will have an All-American afternoon. The post routes, slant and go’s up the hashes, will end up gassing the LSU defense.

The flip side of that coin will be DuVernay getting started early, forcing LSU to go to man coverage, leaving a poor LSU defensive back with the job of 1-on-1 with 6-foot-6 Collin Johnson. That advantage would be to the Texas wideout for his ability to high point the ball and his catch radius. Either scenario, it comes down to Devin DuVernay’s production either early or late.

Game Prediction

LSU is a very solid team. Offensively and defensively, it’s not hard to find talent. A team even, that has a minimum of 8-10 guys being drafted this coming up NFL draft in the spring. That being said, this Texas team isn’t a doormat, either. Yes, the defense is young, but this offense is one of the fastest offenses that LSU will see all year. LSU’s defense is not accustomed to being spread out as wide as they will be Saturday. Then forced to come back in, only for Texas’ offense to challenge them to keep up as they spread it again and use their sideline to sideline speed. The point is, we’ll have two highly talented teams on Saturday playing for the College Football Playoff conversation.

As I stated earlier, if Texas can give Ehlinger time, DuVernay put on his show from the slot, and Tim Beck make it an aggravating chess match, Texas will win this game. 

I like the Longhorn’s chances at home in Austin, with the hype of ESPN’s College GameDay on campus, and a chip on their shoulder of being doubted. Texas wins this game. 100,000-plus strong will remind LSU exactly where they’re at. 

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