Obviously Jeremy Hill had a tumultuous offseason. He has been fantastic so far this year and has in many ways carried the offense. Talk a little bit about what makes him special and what the Tigers have backing him up.
He's just a complete back that can do it all. He's got size, speed, he blocks well when asked and can also catch the ball. Hill has great vision in traffic, and always seems to know the exact right moment to really accelerate, which is a big reason why he's had so many long runs this season. He'll pick his way through the line and then explode right through the linebackers.
Backing him up is junior Kenny Hilliard, who was off to a slow start in September but has really come on in the last few games. He's much more of a pure power back, and last week he even got in some carries from the fullback spot. There's senior Alfred Blue, who's more of a slasher type, and Terrence Magee, who had a big day against TCU and is much more of a quicker, speed back. You can also expect fullbacks J.C. Copeland and Connor Neighbors to touch the ball as well.
With the way the offense has been producing so well (somewhat unexpectedly), what are fan expectations like? Is it SEC West Champs or bust?
Fair or unfair, most LSU fans are always expecting a division title, regardless of the realism there. Even this year, with a much more difficult schedule, there were some fans talking up a couple of losses, but that always goes away when the season starts. Now, given the way things have played out, realistic folks know that there's still a chance that Alabama or Texas A&M pulls those games out, but the division title is certainly out there for the taking.
LSU lost eight defensive players to the draft. While the defense hasn't been spectacular, it hasn't been bad. Talk a little bit about a couple of players who stepped into major roles and have flourished.
The biggest story of the last two weeks has been the play of freshmen cornerbacks Tre'davious White and Rashard Robinson. White is a full-time starter, and when LSU goes to its nickel package Robinson comes in outside with Jalen Mills sliding inside (as you can imagine, in today's SEC that happens quite a bit). That's not totally surprising from White -- he was a five-star recruit. But Robinson was a late qualifier that didn't make it on to campus until about a week before the season, so seeing him hit the ground running so quickly shows that he could be special. They're still freshmen, so they will get beat every now and then, but they've really done a great job the last two weeks and made some plays.
I, for one, expected this defense to take its lumps, but the surprise has been that the struggles have largely come from the veterans. Guys like Craig Loston and Lamin Barrow were supposed to be the rocks of this defense, and they've each been weak points in different games. But the hope is that this group maybe turned a corner last week against Florida. Yeah, the Gators are pretty bad on offense, but so are teams like TCU and UAB, which had success moving the ball on LSU as well. Overall, the communication problems that plagued the secondary against Georgia seems to be cleaned up a bit. At least for now.
Many people were perplexed about the score of your game against Mississippi State until you pulled away and dominated. Talk a little bit about what Mississippi State did well in that game. Is it something other teams can replicate?
LSU's defense couldn't tackle air that day, so State was able to move the ball. A well-timed turnover helped them get the lead in the second quarter, and they added a field goal with the opening drive of the second half before LSU tacked on 31 points and put the game away.
If LSU's defense is struggling that badly, then a turnover or two can certainly give somebody a shot to get ahead. But the Tigers, aside from the Georgia game, have done a solid job of putting teams away in the second half. Even against Florida's defense, LSU was able to go out and get points when they needed to.
But in the back of our minds, I think most LSU fans would acknowledge that an offensive-minded team like Ole Miss could turn this game into a shoot-out if the Tigers are sloppy with the ball.
What's your prediction on the game? Give a score and how it shakes out.
To me, the big key for LSU is to execute early, jump out in front and take the crowd out of the game. Ole Miss has been a pesky opponent for the Tigers in recent years, but with the team so banged up, a big deficit early could be a knockout blow. You certainly don't want to let them hang around like the Rebels did last season, because then the crowd gets involved and momentum can swing.
Ultimately, I think that's exactly what LSU will do. Zach Mettenberger has been so good early on in games, and the Tigers have scored 90 points in the first quarter. He'll pass them out to a lead and then Jeremy Hill and the running game will close things out. Ole Miss should put up some yards and some points, but I don't think they can keep up, especially with a defense this banged up. No score, but I think LSU makes it four in a row.