Troy heads down to the Bayou on Saturday to take on LSU in Tiger Stadium. It’s been a slow start to the season for LSU in Ed Orgeron’s first full-time season as the head coach.
To help us learn more about the 2017 Bayou Bengals, I hooked up with Billy Gomila of SB Nation’s And the Valley Shook. Billy helps us understand what is the current state of the LSU program and what may happen when Troy comes to town on Saturday night.
Adam Luckett: How has the transition to new offensive coordinator Matt Canada gone? Is the pass game coming along as expected?
Billy Gomila: I think you'd get a lot of different answers to this question, but it's pretty clear that the transition hasn't been as smooth as we'd all hoped. Some of that is due to a line that is very thin and being forced to start some young players -- although some of the vets seem to be struggling as well. I do think that there's a lot more to see, and that the story of this offense is far from over to date. In terms of the passing game, it's not as consistent as we'd like, but Danny Etling has been fine to date. Not great, but fine. Freshman Myles Brennan got some playing time last week, and will almost certainly again this week versus Troy, but I don't expect to see more of him in SEC play unless something changes.
AL: It appears the rushing game is struggling to produce explosive plays. How banged up is Derrius Guice? What has been the biggest problem with the ground game getting going?
BG: Guice should be out this week, and definitely hasn't ripped off that big run, something he excelled at last season. I think that's mostly on a line that has been struggling. As far as his health goes, I really hope that he can sit this week and be back at full strength against the conference schedule.
AL: How has Arden Key played since getting back into the lineup?
BG: All things considered, I thought he was solid against Mississippi State, given that it was his first game back and he wound up playing much more than expected. Conditioning was an issue against Syracuse though, with the Orange hitting the 80-play threshold. Again, the hope is that he can maximize his time a little more efficiently this week, and be ready for the SEC gauntlet over the season's second half.
AL: What are the chances Myles Brennan becomes QB1 before the season ends?
BG: To be honest, I'm not all that sure. I would have put the chances pretty low a week ago, but I seem to be in the minority on that position right now, and it's making me question the position. Brennan is certainly the future, and LSU's staff is making a concerted effort to prepare him, not only for that, but for any playing time that could come this year should Etling get hurt, and I think that's smart. I don't know if this will become a full-fledged "two-QB system" unless something changes -- injury, extreme ineffectiveness or, maybe, if the season just spirals out of control.
But right now it's hard to be sure of anything.
AL: Who are a couple players on the LSU defense Troy fans should be aware of?
BG: Redshirt freshman cornerback Andraez "Greedy" Williams is off to a huge start, and against a passing team like the Trojans he should certainly be tested. Middle linebacker Devin White is also playing some great football right now, and should have a chance to make a lot of plays against Troy's stout running back duo.
AL: What is the ceiling for this LSU team? How do you see Saturday night playing out?
BG: I think this LSU team is still trying to find its level, so covering a 20-point spread seems a bit unlikely, but I do think that we saw them get some footing in the second half last week. When Syracuse cut the lead from 18 to two, the Tigers immediately drove down the field and put the game away with a touchdown. I'm hoping that they can build on that and put together a win this week that is at least somewhat comfortable. Anything more than that is gravy, and anything less would be a bad sign for what's to come.
In terms of a ceiling, I never really saw this as a championship level team, with 9-10 regular season wins as my expected mark. I still think that's possible because the rest of the SEC doesn't look all that great, aside from Alabama. But this game with Troy will be a key progress report.