TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Opposition Research: Scouting the LSU Tigers offense

The first game week of the 2016 season is upon us, and that means it is time to take a serious look inside the opponent ahead for the Badgers. Week 1 means a visit from the LSU Tigers to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc. for the Lambeau Field Classic.

It also means a chance to meet up with one of the most talked about running backs in all of college football — Leonard Fournette. Just about everyone knows his name, but are the Tigers more than just Fournette heading in to the 2016 season?

Let’s dive deeper in to some opposition research, shall we?

Starters:

*2015 season stats/honors

WR (Z): Travin Dural - Sr. (6-2, 207) — 28 receptions, 533 yards, 3 touchdowns

WR (X): Malachi Dupri - Jr. (6-4, 195) — 42 receptions, 698 yards, 6 touchdowns

TE: Colin Jeter - Sr. (6-7, 254) — 12 receptions, 132 yards, 1 touchdown

LT: K.J. Malone - Jr. (6-4, 303) — 12 games played, no starts (has played all 5 positions on OL)

LG: Will Clapp - So. (6-5, 309) — 12 games played, 12 starts, 88 knockdown blocks; Freshman All-American

C: Ethan Pocic - Sr. (6-7, 302) — 25 career starts, 216 career knockdown blocks; 2015 All-SEC Second Team (Coaches)

RG: Josh Boutte - Sr. (6-5, 346) — 12 games played, 1 start, 8 knockdown blocks

RT: Toby Weathersby - So. (6-5, 302) — 12 games played, 1 start, 20 knockdown blocks

QB: Brandon Harris - Jr. (6-3, 218) — 53.8 comp. percentage, 2,165 yards, 13 touchdowns, 6 INT’s; 226 yards rushing, 4 touchdowns

RB: Leonard Fournette - Jr. (6-1, 235) — 300 attempts, 1,953 yards, 22 touchdowns; 19 receptions, 253 yards, 1 touchdowns; 2015 Consensus First-Team All-America (AP, FWAA, Walter Camp), SEC Men’s Sportsmanship Award Recipient, 2015 All-SEC First Team (Coaches, AP)

FB: John David Moore - Jr. (6-4, 241) — 1 reception, 1 yard

 

Team Rankings:

LSU Offense Rankings: (2015 Stat/SEC/National) *according to CFBstats.com

Total Offense: 437.3 ypg — 4th — 39th
Scoring Offense: 32.8 ppg — 6th — 43rd
Passing Offense: 179.8 ypg — 11th — 106th
Rushing Offense: 257.4 ypg — 1st — 7th

Badgers Defense Rankings: (2015 Stat/B1G/National)

Total Defense: 268.5 ypg — 1st — 2nd
Scoring Defense: 13.7 ppg – 1st — 1st
Passing Defense: 173.2 ypg — 2nd — 7th
Rushing Defense: 95.4 ypg — 1st — 4th

3 Keys to Badgers Success:

Limit Big Plays By Leonard Fournette: This should seem obvious, but when you are talking about a running back who is a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy once again you simply can’t let the man get rolling. Wisconsin did a great job of it in Fournette’s debut collegiate game two seasons ago, holding him to just 18 yards on eight carries.

Of course, Fournette won’t be getting just eight carries on Saturday and that means UW’s defense has to be up for the challenge. First down is going to be key, as Fournette did most of his damage on that down last season. He rushed for 980 of his 1,935 yards and 10 of his 22 rushing touchdowns came on first down as well. Most impressive is the fact that nearly 24 percent of his first down carries went for 10 yards or more.

If Wisconsin is going to win this game it can’t be playing from behind on defense. With a majority of the front seven intact from last year, this will be the matchup to watch for UW defensive success.

OXFORD, MS - NOVEMBER 21: Brandon Harris #6 of the LSU Tigers calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the first quarter of a game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Challenge Brandon Harris: If there is a weakness in the LSU offense, it is junior quarterback Brandon Harris. He has struggled with accuracy throughout is career, completing just 54 percent of his passes and having just 19 touchdowns to eight interceptions.

Last season was his first as a starter, so we’re sure growth is coming for a player who has shown the raw tools and needs to put it together. However, the Badgers defense is all about getting in to the opposition backfield and Harris has shown a propensity to struggle when faced with pressure on him.

So, it will be on the front seven to get pressure and a young, but perhaps most talented backfield the Badgers have had in years to take advantage of Harris having to make quick decisions. With new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox in the mix, the backfield is less man-to-man coverage and way more help based. It has allowed athletic corners to play more aggressively knowing help is behind them. Harris being challenged by coverage and pressure up front has to be there or UW’s defense could be in some serious trouble on Saturday afternoon.

Create Turnovers: For all of the success the Badgers had under DC Dave Aranda in the past, the one area that always lacked was in creating turnovers. As we mentioned above, new DC Justin Wilcox has re-emphasized the need to start creating turnovers in the secondary and that has been evident in both spring and fall camp.

Getting that to happen in Lambeau Field against the Bayou Bengals certainly can’t hurt an offense that has a lot more questions than answers. Short fields equal more chances at points for yourselves and less opportunities for opponents. Win the turnover battle, win the game.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com

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