LSU football vs. Central Michigan: Scouting report, prediction

Adam Hunsucker
Lafayette Daily Advertiser
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LSU has one final tune up before next week’s SEC opener at Mississippi State.

Central Michigan visits Tiger Stadium on Saturday (6:30 p.m., SEC Network) with a familiar face in tow. The Chippewas (1-1) are led by former Florida coach Jim McElwain. The Tigers (1-1) hastened McElwain’s departure from Gainesville after a 17-16 win at the Swamp in 2017, which started a five-game losing streak.

Here is the scouting report for LSU vs. Central Michigan.

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Ed Orgeron wants to go fast

Tempo has been coach Ed Orgeron’s choice buzzword for the past two weeks. He emphasized the need to play faster in staff meetings this week and LSU dedicated at least one period per practice to its hurry-up, no-huddle package.

Better pass protection would help. Max Johnson has been sacked seven times through two games. Drops have also cost LSU at times, hurting the offense’s ability to sustain drives.

Improvement up front? We’ll see

The Tigers remained shorthanded on the offensive line. Depth was a problem during preseason practice and has only gotten worse. Left tackle Cam Wire is out against Central Michigan. Right tackle Austin Deculus and right guard Chasen Hines are expected to play. 

Xavier Hill (left tackle), Marlon Martinez (right guard) and Charles Turner (right tackle) started against McNeese State. LSU managed just 124 yards rushing against the Cowboys — one week after getting manhandled up front by UCLA.

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Stop Central Michigan’s Lew Nichols

Nichols’ 214 yards rushing is second in the MAC and ranks in the top 30 of FBS. Central Michigan averages 238 yards on the ground per game. McElwain understands the value in that statistic, having coordinated to national-championship offenses for Nick Saban at Alabama in 2009 and 2011.

Defensive tackle Maason Smith shined against McNeese. The true freshman from Terrebonne High School collected three of LSU’s 10 total sacks. The Tigers held the Cowboys to 51 yards rushing, a marked improvement from the 210 yards allowed to UCLA.

Will Tre Bradford play?

LSU has not commented on Bradford’s status, but Orgeron is hopeful he’ll be available on Saturday. Bradford transferred to Oklahoma over the summer. He had a change of heart and reenrolled at LSU in September. Bradford, who signed with the Tigers in 2020, would join a talented stable of underclassmen running backs.

True freshmen Armoni Goodwin and Corey Kiner made their debuts in LSU’s 34-7 win over McNeese State. Kiner ran for a team-high 57 yards and one touchdown. Goodwin is questionable to play this week.

LSU running backs coach Kevin Faulk will miss Saturday's game following the death of his daughter. 

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Jim McElwain returns to Death Valley

McElwain was 1-2 against LSU as Florida’s coach from 2015-17. His lone win was the controversial 2016 matchup that was moved from Gainesville to Baton Rouge following Hurricane Mathew. The Gators made a goal line stand and held on for a 16-10 victory. The loss was thought to have derailed Orgeron’s chances of becoming LSU’s full-time coach, but he landed the job that November.

Florida fired McElwain after a 3-4 start to the 2017 season. He resurfaced on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Michigan before Central Michigan hired him in December 2018.

Prediction

LSU 41, Central Michigan 14: McElwain has increased Central Michigan’s talent level, but it’s not on LSU’s level. The Tigers celebrate after a fun night in Death Valley.

Follow Adam on Twitter @adam_hunsucker

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