Texas Tech has not faced the LSU Tigers since 1957 so many Red Raiders know little about today’s opponent outside of Leonard Fournette. Thus in advance of today’s Texas Bowl, Wreck‘EmRed.com reached out to Joshua Criswell, the editor of FanSided’s LSU site Death Valley Voice. Criswell gives inside analysis of the Tigers including a report on former Texas Tech recruit Tyron Johnson’s freshman year, LSU’s mindset for this game and what he thinks of today’s matchup.
WER: To say that the 2015 LSU football season was a roller coaster might be an understatement. Going from No.2 in the polls to a three-game losing streak (all to big rivals) then thinking that Les Miles was going to be fired only to learn after the final game of the year that he would stay had to have been tough for the team to handle. Given all that the LSU players went through this year, what is the mindset of the team and the program as a whole heading into the Texas Bowl?
DVV: As much commotion was made throughout the media during the two weeks or so where Les Miles was supposedly on the verge of being fired, and as little reassurance was provided by the administration during this time, the team never seemed to be affected by the rumors surrounding the pending exit of their head coach. Miles is beloved by his players, and there is little doubt that they wanted him back. Expect the Tigers to come out determined against Texas Tech, seeking to make a statement as they gear up for a 2016 campaign that will feature them as one of the favorites to contend for a national title.
WER: LSU is one of the most storied programs in college football while Texas Tech is a mid-level power 5 program. Many suggest a win against Texas Tech would mean nothing for the Tigers while beating LSU would be huge for Texas Tech. Do you agree that LSU has little to gain by winning the Texas Bowl? In addition, how motivated do you think the Tigers will be to play against a lesser program than they are used to facing in the postseason?
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DVV: Maybe my view is skewed as a Houston native who nearly attended Texas Tech, but I do not view the Red Raiders as a lesser football team. It seems that even when they lack an advantage in talent, they make up for it with an explosive offense.
This has been true in recent years, and continues to be true in 2015. While I agree that little is to be gained from an LSU victory, the team will come out motivated on Tuesday. If anything, because the Tigers need to prove their capabilities in stopping a prolific passing attack, especially with Jalen Mills and likely Tre’Davious White heading out the door in the secondary.
WER: Texas Tech was heavily involved in the recruitment of LSU freshman wide receiver Tyron Johnson who was the No. 1 high school receiver in the 2015 recruiting class. The New Orleans product caught only 9 passes in 2015 for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns. What is your assessment of Johnson? Does he appear to be worth the hype he received in February? Are his modest season stats a reflection of struggles on his part or a result of LSU’s offensive philosophy?
DVV: It is difficult to expect much out of a true freshman wide receiver at LSU, and Johnson’s production has done plenty to provide promise. After all, this is a run-heavy program that relegated future NFL star Jarvis Landry to special teams duty during his freshman season just a few years ago.
Outside of Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, there is little doubt that Johnson was the most dangerous receiving threat for the Tigers in 2015. A bright future is on the way, and he appears every bit worth the hype that surrounded his arrival on campus.
WER: Everyone in America knows about Leonard Fournette. Who are some other key players Texas Tech fans should know about (on either side of the ball) and what do these players bring to the table for Les Miles’ team?
DVV: The Red Raiders will need to watch out for Derrius Guice, Lewis Neal and Arden Key, as well as the entire LSU secondary. Guise, a true freshman running back, has displayed his big-play capabilities all season long. He confirmed these skills in the regular season finale against Texas A&M with a 75-yard kickoff return and a 50-yard touchdown run that proved crucial in the Tigers’ victory.
Guice will enter the game unheralded and frustrate Texas Tech fans with his ability to make an immediate impact in the running game. Key is a true freshman defensive end who has continued to progress throughout the season, finishing the year with 5.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in his last seven games. Neal is a junior defensive end who led LSU with eight sacks this season in his first year starting on the defensive line.
WER: Finally, is there anything about Texas Tech that you see as a concern or potential problem for LSU? How can Texas Tech hurt the Tigers and pull of the upset? Ultimately, how do you see the game shaking out and what is your final score prediction?
DVV: Texas Tech’s passing attack is more than enough to give LSU headaches. The Tigers’ secondary has strengthened down the stretch, but has also shown a tendency to give up big plays through the air.
Patrick Mahomes will need an elite performance at quarterback to give his team a shot at an upset, and DeAndre Washington will need to do the same in the backfield. Ultimately, though, I just don’t see a way that LSU’s two-headed monster at running back in Fournette and Guice will be contained by a horrendous Texas Tech run defense.
Prediction: LSU 42, Texas Tech 31
Thanks to Josh for providing the LSU perspective on the Texas Bowl and Texas Tech. You can follow Death Valley Voice on twitter @DeathValleyFS and you can follow Joshua Criswell on twitter @joschccriswell.