Billy Gomila of And The Valley Shook and I exchanged questions this week. You can check mine out here.
1. So I spent last week in New Orleans and heard more than one LSU fan saying that Guice should be the starter over Leonard Fournette. Is that ridiculous? What does Guice do differently than Fournette?
Not as crazy as you'd think. For one, Fournette doesn't need a heavy load right away this week, as he's coming off a high ankle sprain, which can linger for a while. And all due respect to Ole Miss, LSU has four more conference games against very good teams after this. But Guice was a big-time recruit himself and has been everything he was hyped up to be so far.
Guice is the first true scatback LSU's had in some time, and he also happens to be about 215 pounds, so he's got the size to handle a heavy workload and run between the tackles. That makes him the perfect counterpunch to a punishing runner like Fournette, because after you're tired of tackling the 230-pound bruiser, here comes somebody that's a little harder to get your hands on, but still difficult to bring down once you do.
Ideally, LSU will lean heavily on both over these final five games.
2. I confess to not having been able to actually watch LSU over the past couple of weeks. Is Coach O actually... coaching well? Or is it just a product of playing Missouri and Southern Miss? What coaching decisions appear to have worked. Has anything hilariously odd happened?
To be honest, he's been following the same playbook he used as USC's interim head coach in 2013, which, and he'd admit as much, consists of doing pretty much the opposite of everything he did at Ole Miss. I listened to him speak about it at a coaching clinic in 2015: he's really focused everything as internally as possible within the team. Emphasizing competition and rewarding it -- a lot of backups have been getting playing time as a reward for hard work. Letting the assistant coaches have more input, something that had been a problem under Les Miles, and especially with Cam Cameron and just trying to make things as fun as possible. And that last part makes a lot of sense because let's face it, the players are going to feel some responsibility for the firing of a coach, and in this situation, a lot of teams would pack it in. But with two-thirds of a season left to go, Orgeron has been pushing the right buttons and really has this team playing with a lot of confidence.
Whether that will maintain against teams that are better than Mizzou and Southern Miss is something we should start to find out this week.
3. Who's a player on defense that Ole Miss fans may not have heard much about who could make a difference in Saturday's game? Offense?
Arden Key is getting a ton of publicity, and rightly so, and I expect to see that result in him getting a lot more double-teams over the next month. That could result in a lot more one-on-one opportunities for athletic linemen like Davon Godchaux and Lewis Neal. Key is the kind of contain player that could force Chad Kelly to step up a lot more, and guys like Godchaux and Neal will be the ones waiting for him.
On offense, watch for wide receiver D.J. Chark. He's listed as LSU's No. 3 guy, but since Danny Etling has taken over he's gotten a lot more targets, and kind of looks more like a co-No. 1 guy with Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural right now. Chark's always had a lot of speed, but he's also been very consistent with his hands and routes so far.
4. How has the offensive playcalling changed post-Miles?
Nothing drastic, but there's really just been more of a focus on what this team does well, as opposed to trying to force them into more of a power/play-action offense. Etling throws the short/intermediate passes much better, and that's made a big difference, along with a little more emphasis on some different formations.
Cam Cameron really emphasized the power game with a lot of deep-drop, down-the-field throws. Steve Ensminger has emphasized other parts of the playbook that were always there, but just not as relied upon.
5. What's your prediction on the game? Give a score and how it gets there.
It's my hope that LSU comes out with a run-heavy gameplan after watching Ole Miss get pushed around by Arkansas, and builds off of that. Kelly and the Ole Miss receiving corps are easily the biggest threat this defense has seen to date, but I'm hoping that the Tiger offense works to keep them off the field as much as they can.
This team is playing with a ton of confidence right now, and I'd be surprised if they didn't come out fighting early. Not one for score predictions, but I think the Tigers take this.