LSU left a poor first impression for 2020, but the 20th-ranked Tigers have a chance to make a better one when they travel to Nashville, Tenn., for a Saturday night kickoff with SEC foe Vanderbilt.
Last Saturday's 44-34 loss to Mississippi State was not the debut the Tigers or their new defensivecoordinator Bo Pelini wanted, as heavily favored LSU allowed Bulldogs quarterback K.J. Costello to throw for an SEC-record 623 yards.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron addressed Pelini's debut this week.
"(Pelini) was hurt just like everybody else," Orgeron said. "... Hurt that he didn't do better. Hurt that the defense didn't do better. Just like we all are."
Also hurt in the actual sense was All-America cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., who was hospitalized with an illness last week and didn't play in the MSU debacle. Orgeron says the sophomore, who had 38 tackles, six interceptions and 15 pass break-ups last season, should play this weekend.
The LSU offense, led by quarterback Myles Brennan, also failed to get anywhere near the bar that departed quarterback Joe Burrow and that 15-0 team set a season ago. Brennan threw for 345 yards, but also two interceptions. The Tigers' running game (38 carries, 80 yards) was pedestrian, though that counts minus-45 yards on MSU's seven sacks.
The Tigers defense should get well against a Vanderbilt attack that struggled to post 255 yards (3.8 per play) at Texas AM on Saturday. However, the Commodores -- 30.5-point road underdogs -- fell just 17-12 thanks to a new-look defense under first-year coordinator Ted Roof.
Vanderbilt defense end Dayo Odeyingbo (seven tackles, two stops for loss, one sack, one hurry) and linebacker/end Andre Mintze (two tackles, one stop for loss, one forced fumble) were outstanding, part of a defensive line that Pro Football Focus graded the best in the country last week. The Commodores allowed 17 first downs and held the Aggies to 372 yards.
Vanderbilt even found some optimism on offense, where true freshman quarterback Ken Seals was 20 of 29 for 150 yards, with two interceptions and a touchdown. Seals showed poise and pinpoint accuracy on almost all his throws (one pick appeared to be a miscommunication with receiver Cam Johnson) and got rid of the ball quickly behind a makeshift offensive line decimated by opt-outs.
"Obviously it's at the high school level, but what you saw on Saturday is what we saw of Ken coming out of high school: extremely accurate on the move as well as in the pocket, and those are the things that have shown up throughout camp," Commodores coach Derek Mason said on Tuesday.
The Tigers are 20.5-point favorites in a game that can be seen on the SEC Network. Vanderbilt, which earlier announced it won't allow fans for games until at least November, said it would allow a "limited" number of students to attend.
The teams played last season at Vanderbilt, with LSU wining, 66-38.
--Field Level Media