Richard Pittman, from the LSU blog And The Valley Shook, took some time with me to answer a few questions about the showdown in the Bayou:
Go!Fight!WinApps!: What is your honest opinion of this match-up? Good or bad for LSU?
And The Valley Shook: My honest opinion of this matchup is that it is good for LSU. I am not a trash talker or anything like that by any means, but I genuinely think your chances of pulling an upset in this game are very slim. I respect the program, and you may quite honestly be the best OOC team we play this season (the FBS teams we play outside of the SEC are wretched). However, I think the Michigan game means you aren’t going to sneak up on a power team again for another 10 years.
As for what it gets us, it gets us a game on television on opening weekend, probably the last one we will have until Week 4 at Auburn. It will get the fans’ minds on football.
GFWA: What kind of impact will the quarterback situation have on LSU’s offense?
ATVS: The QB situation is definitely worrisome. For your fans who don’t know, the situation we have is that we lost our senior quarterback to the NFL draft. Then we lost our sky-is-the-limit younger quarterback, a guy with genuine Heisman potential, with a great arm, a quick release, and very good wheels, a Bayou Vince Young with a better release and not quite as electrifying running skills, was kicked off the team for repeated violations of team rules and other assorted trouble. He never did anything awful, like stick a gun in someone’s face or something, but every couple of months he would find himself in the news for some penny ante crap. It got to be a big distraction and the coach eventually showed him the door. I wish him luck, because he does not seem at all like a genuinely bad kid. He just has some bad habits, and maybe some difficulty handling the stress of being under the microscope.
Anyway, we enter the season with a redshirt freshman, and a former walk-on we plucked off of a Mormon mission and convinced to transfer from Harvard. It looks like we will at least start with Andrew Hatch, the Harvard guy. It means our QB play won’t be very dynamic, but then again, it wasn’t all that dynamic last year, and we won it all. In fact, in many ways, our QB play was the most inconsistent part of our team last year, and when our QB struggled, we struggled.
We don’t really know what to expect from Hatch, and if he lays an egg, we could be in real trouble. The good news is that the talent around Hatch is absolutely outstanding. We have 3 running backs who can take it to the house on any touch, and another running back who can get the tough yards. We have maybe the best wide receiver corps in the conference. Brandon Lafell in particular is grossly underrated. He’s got all the tools to be the next great LSU receiver in the Dwayne Bowe mold. Demetrius Byrd is a very productive speed receiver, and Terrance Toliver is another of those sky-is-the-limit young players, a sophomore, who is a threat every time to get the ball into the end zone. The offensive line is a veteran group that was one of the better in the conference last year and looks to be even better this year.
So we may not have a proven quarterback, but we have a great lineup in which to incubate a young QB. It remains to be seen if the QB play holds us back or not.
GFWA: What do you expect from Appalachian State?
ATVS: I expect Appalachian State to play with a lot of heart and enthusiasm. I expect them to be overmatched in size and athleticism, but not as much as you’d expect from an FCS team playing a national power. I expect App to absolutely wither and die in the August afternoon heat. August 30 is usually a day in which I avoid going outside between the hours of noon and 6:00pm. Really, you guys could not have picked a worse time of the year to come to Louisiana to play a football game, or a worse time of the day in which to play it. This will be a substantial disadvantage for you in the game, as our guys will be accustomed to playing in the 95 degree, 80% humidity weather while you guys will be used to playing in the cool mountains. If we went to Appalachian State in late November, you’d have a big advantage, but I do not envy you guys coming to Baton Rouge to play an afternoon game in August.
But I digress. I expect Armanti Edwards to be a player. He’s exactly the kind of QB we struggled most with last year, the QB who can run a lot. Actually, it was genius scheduling App State because we get to practice for the kind of quarterback we see a lot. We’ll see a runner against Auburn (always our biggest and most important game of the year) and against Florida. We will need to get used to those kinds of guys. Edwards, in fact, will in all likelihood be better than the guy Auburn throws at us, and will probably be faster than Tim Tebow, though not as hard to bring down once you catch him.
Where you guys will really have trouble is in the trenches. Michigan did not have anywhere near the line play that LSU will show you. Every one of our starting defensive linemen will be drafted into the NFL, with probably 2 of them being first round picks, and they’re all veterans. Many of the backups will probably be drafted as well when their time comes. We will throw wave after wave of defensive linemen who are better than probably anyone your offensive line has ever faced. Probably 3 of our 5 starting OL will eventually be drafted, and the other two will get a look. It’s probably the best offensive line in the SEC, and therefore one of the best in the country. This will be very very difficult for your lines to handle, especially as the day wears on.
GFWA: What makes a gameday experience at Death Valley so unique?
ATVS: It’s been a while since I’ve been to an LSU game, but for all you Mountaineers looking to go, I have some advice. Get there early and walk around. You may get “Tigerbait!’d”, but don’t take it personally. It is not actually a threat of violence, and is meant to be all in good fun. Stop by at the tailgates. At least half of the tailgates will share some food and/or beer with you. We like sharing our food with fans of opposing teams, particularly teams that aren’t here often. And the food is absolutely wonderful. You won’t find tailgating food quite like jambalaya, gumbo, beans and rice, and other cajun/creole creations anywhere else in the country. It would be a shame if you went all the way to Louisiana and didn’t have any of it.
Aside from the food, the fans are as passionate as you’ll find anywhere, and they will treat you decently as long as you aren’t obnoxious. If an LSU fan gets obnoxious with you unprovoked, be assured that the other LSU fans will side with you.
GFWA: What are your expectations for LSU this season?
ATVS: I don’t really know what to EXPECT exactly. I do think we are more than capable of making a run for the SEC championship again. We just have to a) beat Auburn, and b) avoid getting upset by S. Carolina, Bama, Ole Miss, MSU, or Arkansas. If we beat Auburn, we can afford to lose to both Florida and Georgia, though I think we can certainly win one of those two. We just need the QB situation to turn our alright and we’re as good as anyone. We’re as talented a team as there is in the country, we’re just inexperienced in some key areas (corner, linebacker, quarterback).
GFWA: Anything else you’d like to add?