Game of the Week: No. 5 LSU at Wisconsin
The LSU Tigers and Baton Rouge have been waiting a long time for this; the opportunity to finally put behind the distractions, heartbreak and upset.
For the state, it’s been a summer that has seen racial tension, shootings, protests, and recently 20 inches of rain fall on Baton Rouge and other parts of Louisiana, damaging over 145,000 homes.
Now on opening week, LSU and their fans have something to look forward to, something to help wipe the slate of tragedy away.
The Tigers survived the near-ousting of longtime and popular head coach Les Miles last season after a three-game losing streak ended any hopes for a playoff berth.
This year, they open the season with sky-high expectations, entering the season as the No. 5 ranked team in the AP Poll. They are led by superstar running back and Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette, who comes off a season in which he totaled 2,206 yards and 23 touchdowns.
His Heisman push begins against a Wisconsin defense that had the fourth-best run defense in the country last season. However, the Badgers’ defense was led by defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda, who has joined Miles’ staff in an attempt to return LSU to the ranks of the elite defenses.
Junior quarterback Brandon Harris is tasked with taking on a bigger load on offense to help ease Fournette, who carried the ball 300 times in 12 games last year. Harris completed a paltry 53.8% of his passes last season while only throwing 13 touchdowns.
Wisconsin also enters the season with question marks at quarterback. Bart Houston won the job for the Badgers 10 days before the opener. However, he will have the opportunity to play on the same field as the quarterback for which he was named after, Bart Starr, as legendary Lambeau Field hosts opening week.
While LSU will trot out Fournette, Wisconsin has a running back who is not too shabby himself in a finally healthy Corey Clement.
It will not just be the running backs, however, as both teams feature outstanding fronts that look to contain the oppositions rushing attack. LSU was No. 17 in run defense last year, whereas Wisconsin was No. 4.
On the ground, Wisconsin had a disappointing season last year, ranking a measly No. 95 in rushing offense. LSU, led by Fournette, ranked No. 7.
On paper, both teams appear similar enough. Strong fronts on defense and excellent running backs on offense. The key will be which quarterback can make enough plays to open running lanes.
LSU may have the advantage as they also boast a talented secondary. Yet, Wisconsin must feel they have a strong chance for a monumental upset considering their strong front seven.
Fournette suffered an ankle injury recently, and whether he will be 100 percent is up for debate. Additionally, the LSU offensive line has had a few injuries to deal with, limiting Miles’ opportunity to find the right combination to open the season.
ESPN will travel to Lambeau Field to host the first week of College GameDay. No word yet on whether Lee Corso will do a Lambeau leap.
Prediction: LSU 24, Wisconsin 14
Ryan Leonardo is a senior majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To email him, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.