No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
9:00 PM, ESPN
Line: LSU -4.5
After an offseason filled with players leaving early for the NFL, the hiring of a new offensive coordinator, and the ongoing off-field legal issues surrounding one of his best players, Les Miles might be one of the happiest people in the country to see the return of college football games. Of course, playing TCU in Arlington at JerryWorld might not be the way one wants to start a campaign.
TCU has had their own off the field issues and struggles as well, including the suspension of one of their best players for this game. It was a tough transition to the Big 12 for the Horned Frogs. But the return of a key offensive weapon could be just that something extra that takes TCU from the middle of the pack to the top of the league. Maybe.
For LSU to win: Establish the passing game. LSU's offensive identity is to run the ball. It's what they typically do well. Everyone knows this and expects this. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, though, was brought in to help develop the passing game a bit. This doesn't mean that LSU is going to come out in the run-and-shoot and chuck it around the field 50 times in this game. LSU, though, might want to try a couple of play action passes early in the game to try and plant the seed in the minds of TCU that they are not strictly going to run downhill. This would prevent TCU from stacking the box and allow some running room for the LSU backs.
For TCU to win: Stop the run. TCU's defensive strength is its secondary. In order to utilize that strength, the weaker parts of the defense are going to have to step up big in this game. The defensive line and the linebackers have to play huge and win the battle in the trenches. The defensive front is a bit thin, especially with the reigning Big 12 defensive player of the year, Devonte Fields, suspended for the first two games of the season. If LSU gets the ground game going, it could be a long evening for TCU.
Key Player, LSU: Odell Beckham, wide receiver. Senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger will have to come up huge this season, but Beckham will have to be his main target. Beckham led the team in receiving yards last season, and he can also contribue on special teams as a return man as well. Given the unknown quantity that is the LSU offense, the kick and punt returns
Key Player, TCU: Casey Pachall, quarterback. When Pachall plays for the Horned Frogs, they win. He is 15-2 in his career when he starts at quarterback, including 4-0 last season. However, violations of team rules and substance abuse issues forced Pachall to take some time off last year. Pachall has returned and has the skills to help TCU get over the hump offensively. Facing LSU's defense might not be the easiest way to return from an extended layoff from game action, though.
Key Stat: 1-0. That is the record for each team in their prior appearances in the Cowboys Classic. TCU beat Oregon State in 2010. LSU beat Oregon in 2011.