The first-ever matchup between BYU and LSU was originally supposed to be played in NRG Stadium in Houston. But due to the tragic events from Hurricane Harvey in Texas, the game is now in New Orleans, less than 100 miles from LSU’s campus, at the Mercedes-Benz Louisiana Superdome.
This is LSU’s 18th game all-time in the Superdome and the first since the infamous 2011 BCS National Championship Game against Alabama where the Tigers offense was shutout and didn’t pass the 50-yard line.
One-fifth of LSU’s roster consists of players from New Orleans. Will the Tigers be able to carry this exciting momentum into their play on the field?
On the BYU side, the Cougars are likely not thrilled with having to go into a venue that is definitely not neutral. LSU gobbled up their 25,000 ticket allotment in a matter of hours when tickets became available to the Superdome earlier in the week. BYU has a large contingent of fans in Texas that are no longer going to be there in New Orleans.
Besides this being the first time these two storied programs have squared off against each other there also are plenty of intriguing storylines entering what should be a very entertaining ball game.
BYU vs. LSU (New Orleans)
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 2 at 9:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: LSU -16
Three Things to Watch
1. Replacing LSU DE Arden Key
Arden Key is arguably the nation’s best pass rusher entering the 2017 season. Some around the SEC consider Key to be a better defensive end last season than former Texas A&M All-American Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft. However, Key has been ruled out of this weekend’s game against BYU due to a lingering shoulder injury.
Key’s exact return to the field is still up in the air. In his absence, look for four-star true freshman K’Lavon Chaisson who is thought to be in the same mold as Key, to be a guy to see a lot of time. Also, buck linebacker Ray Thornton will see snaps as well.
2. Will the real BYU offense please stand up?
Unlike LSU, BYU already has a game under its belt. Last week, the Cougars opened the 2017 season with a lackluster 20-6 home win over FCS foe Portland State. The Cougars’ offense struggled to put points on the board and was unable to unleash quarterback Tanner Mangum, who ended up with only 194 passing yards.
BYU’s wide receivers had issues getting off the line of scrimmage against Portland State cornerbacks, now they have the challenge of going up against a program known as “DB U.” LSU’s secondary is young, but BYU’s offense gave the Tigers nothing to stay up about at night this week.
Was BYU’s game plan a week ago limited to not reveal everything to LSU? Or were last week’s struggles against Portland State a sign of what to expect throughout this season?
3. Ed Orgeron’s debut as full-time head coach
The Bayou Bengal faithful wanted Tom Herman. Herman didn’t want LSU, he wanted his dream job in Texas. So Herman is in Austin and the Tigers now have Orgeron, a Louisiana native who epitomizes everything that is LSU football. Orgeron’s primary task in front of him is to bring home an SEC championship to Baton Rouge for the first time since 2011 and take down the Goliath that is Alabama. An upset loss to BYU to open up his tenure as full-time head coach would not be pleasing to the LSU faithful (especially now that the game got moved to New Orleans) and athletic director Joe Alleva. This is an important game as any for Orgeron and new offensive coordinator Matt Canada to get off to a fast start.
BYU vs. LSU is one of the spotlight games in this first full slate of the 2017 college football season. BYU is going to make this game a lot more competitive than the experts are giving the Cougars credit for right now. Under second-year head coach Kalani Sitake, BYU has been competitive in every game. However, LSU’s speed and power will ultimately wear the Cougars down in the second half.
Running back Derrius Guice is one of the best running backs BYU has faced since USC’s Reggie Bush in 2004. Expect Guice to wear down a BYU defense that will be on the field too much because BYU’s offense will not be able to generate enough drives and points to keep their defense fresh.
It will be a solid, hard-fought win for the Tigers to kick off the Ed Orgeron era in Baton Rouge.
Prediction: LSU 23, BYU 13
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is BYU Insider for ESPN 960 Sports and Publisher of Cougar Nation, part of the Rivals network. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.