Sunday, May 19, 2024

Army Football Preview: at LSU

This has been an interesting week for Army Football fandom. The Black Knights just played their worst game in 20 years, getting shut out at home by the Troy Trojans in yet another miserable rainstorm. Now they’re headed to Death Valley in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the home of the Louisiana State University Tigers, to take on one of college football’s most successful perennial powerhouses. 

What should we expect this weekend?

Army Black Knights

With Bryson Daily hurt, the Black Knights will likely start a true freshman at quarterback in plebe QB Champ Harris. Harris went a meager 6/13 passing last week for all of 63 yards with an interception. Moreover, between their injury problems and the requirements of their new offensive scheme, Army had four true freshmen on the field by the end of last week’s game, including at center, running back, wide receiver, and as noted, at quarterback. Though two of those were due to injuries, the center and running back are actually the best guys on the team at their positions!

So. Army has a TON of young players, and they’re on a three-game losing streak, headed into one of the toughest places to play in all of college football. Not coincidentally, they’ve lost 8 fumbles and 5 interceptions this season, making them one of the worst teams in all of FBS college football in terms of turnover margin as well. In fact, Army currently sits at 118th overall in turnover margin with a net -5 turnovers lost despite having forced a very respectable 4 fumbles and 4 interceptions themselves.

Record aside, Army needs to find some consistency on offense. They’ve looked truly unbeatable at times this season, but they’ve also fumbled — a lot! — on promising drives in plus territory when it looked like they were about to score to take over various games. They’ve also played amazing, overwhelmingly old-school Army football, going on long, error-free drives that look decisive, only to then get stymied later in the game with multiple three-and-outs as opponents have adjusted to the Black Knights’ attack.

We’re halfway through the season, and the starting roster has seen a ton of turnover. Between that and the new offense, the inconsistency has been understandable if maddening. Army is probably not going to a bowl game this year. However, the team still has a few things to play for, and if they can stop fumbling and show signs of steady improvement week-to-week, then maybe we can all still walk away from this season happy.

#19 Louisiana State University Tigers

LSU has also had kind of a disappointing season, at least within the context of their typical expectations. They got routed by then-#8 FSU, 45-24, in the second half of the Camping World Kickoff Game, bounced back to beat Grambling, Mississippi State, and Arkansas, lost on the road at then-#20 Ole Miss, but then seemed to right themselves, soundly beating both then-#21 Mizzou and Auburn over the last two weeks. Like Army, LSU has been all over the place in terms of their overall execution, but the Tigers’ problems have mostly come on defense. Among other things, they currently have the nation’s 87th ranked rushing defense, allowing 157.3 yards/game on almost 5 yards/carry.

That’s a problem in the SEC.

Thankfully, LSU also has arguably the best quarterback in the nation in Jayden Daniels. Daniels’s stats are truly unbelievable. He has gone 152/208 passing this season for 2,294 yards and 22 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions. Yes, friends, that gives Daniels a 73.1% completion percentage, making him among the most accurate passers that the Black Knights have ever faced in their long, storied history. What’s crazy is that Daniels is arguably even more dangerous with his legs. He is LSU’s second-leading rusher, having run 86 times for 515 yards (6.0 yards/carry) and 4 rushing touchdowns. The one knock on Daniels is that he’s taken 16 sacks, meaning that he has a tendency to try to extend plays, which is good, but he doesn’t always throw the ball away when the play isn’t there. That’s not going to matter much at the collegiate level, but we’re bound to hear all about it from scouting gurus as we approach the NFL Draft.

On defense, LSU has put together 13 sacks, led by DT Mekhi Wingo, but only 6 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles. S Andre Sam leads the team in tackles with 47, 29 solo, plus 1 interception. He’s followed by LB Greg Penn III, but if you’re wondering why LSU has struggled at times against the run, it’s because 3 of their top 4 tacklers come out of the secondary. The Tigers are not getting as much production out of their linebackers as one might hope.

K Damian Ramos has been perfect on extra points this season, but he is just 9/11 on field goals with a miss from 50+ yards and a missed chip shot from 20-something yards. P Jay Bramblett doesn’t necessarily get a lot of work, but he hit his sole punt against Auburn for 44 yards.

Final Thoughts

Beside the overall venue itself, the best thing about this game will be the weather. If you’ve been to Michie Stadium lately, you’ve gotten soaked to the bone amid miserable, disheartening play on the field. We’ve got even more rain coming this weekend here in the northeast. But Baton Rouge promises partly cloudy skies tomorrow with temperatures in the upper-70s at kickoff. That should be both fun and comfortable. I expect Army to play crisper if nothing else.

Kickoff tomorrow goes at 7:30 pm on the SEC Network. James from Brigade Review will be there. He said, “Going to LSU for a night game is a bucket list experience!” He’ll have a piece on that some time Sunday.

LSU is rolling out the red carpet for Army, so have fun, everybody.

Cover image via @LSUFootball.

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