In what is easily the most anticipated game for Texas football since the 2010 BCS National Championship, the Longhorns welcome No. 6 LSU to Austin for the first meeting between the schools since 2003, when the teams were coached by Mack Brown and Nick Saban, respectively. Austin will play host to ESPN’s College GameDay for the first time since 2009’s duel against Texas Tech. The Tigers stomped Georgia Southern a week ago and boast one of the best safeties in the country in junior Grant Delpit, as well as a solid offensive attack. Here’s what the No. 9 Longhorns will have to do if they’re going to beat the Tigers and take a huge step toward a College Football Playoff spot:
Spread the ball
In his press conference prior to last week’s season opener, Texas head coach Tom Herman said that using true freshman quarterback Roschon Johnson at the running back spot would be an “in case of emergency, break glass” move.
Well consider the glass broken, because after true freshman Whittington aggravated his sports hernia injury and is slated to be out for four to six weeks, Texas is down to sophomore Keaontay Ingram and Johnson at running back. To counter that glaring weakness, the Longhorns are going to need to move the ball to the outside using quick screens — a tactic they utilized often against Louisiana Tech — as well as get the ball in the hands of different guys.
Ten different players caught a pass for Texas last Saturday, and for the offense to keep the Tigers’ defense guessing, the Longhorns will have to spread the ball just as well Saturday night.
Keep Joe Burrow from getting hot
The 6-foot-4, 216-pound senior from Athens, Ohio, could be the most overlooked quarterback of any major program in the country. Burrow threw for nearly 3,000 yards on a 10-3 LSU team that won the Fiesta Bowl last year.
He’s also benefiting from throwing to junior wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who had 87 yards receiving and a touchdown last week, and is coming off an 875-yard, six-touchdown campaign in 2018.
The key for Texas will be improving on the “Cowboy” package that features eight defensive backs in order to get the Tigers off the field and keep Burrow from turning up the heat on a national stage.
Win the battle on the line
The Tigers could pose trouble for junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, especially with sophomore K’Lavon Chaisson at linebacker along with senior Michael Divinity Jr.
Chaisson will be the player to watch Saturday night, but the Texas offensive line is as formidable as its been in recent memory, with senior center Zach Shackelford and sophomore tackle Sam Cosmi holding the fort for Ehlinger and company. The battle at the line of scrimmage when Texas has the ball will likely decide the game. Ingram averaged 7.1 yards per carry for Texas against the Bulldogs last week, but that will only continue if Texas is able to get a good push forward against a talented LSU defensive line.
When the Tigers have the ball, the challenge will be for Texas to put pressure on LSU’s lackluster running game. LSU averaged just 3.3 yards per carry against Georgia Southern, and spent a lot of time in the shotgun formation in their opening week matchup. Saturday will tell if that continues, but senior defensive end Malcolm Roach will have a chance to make some crucial stops on defense.