LSU can prove it’s a contender if its O-line shows up

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, October 2, 2021

It will be a late night in Tiger Stadium for two sets of Tigers.

But either Auburn or LSU will come out of today’s 8 p.m. kickoff feeling like they belong in the Southeastern Conference race.

Maybe not Bring-on-Bama ready, but at least in the conversation.

Normally this game would be atop the SEC marquee, but this week, this year, it seems to be playing second fiddle to upstarts Arkansas (against No. 2 Georgia) and Ole Miss (against the No. 1 Tide).

Neither team seems to be where it wants to be yet. Unranked LSU (3-1, 1-0 SEC) has shown progress but is still trying to get past a disconcerting season-opening loss to UCLA. Auburn (3-1, 0-0) might be forgiven for its 28-20 loss at No. 4 Penn State two weeks ago — the War Eagles are ranked No. 22 — but still has to explain why it needed a last-minute drive with a fourth-down miracle to beat Georgia State last week.

For LSU it’s pretty simple: those Tigers have improved markedly on defense since the opener and the passing game has clicked — at least when Max Johnson has been protected.

But all week it almost didn’t matter what question Orgeron was asked, eventually he turned the conversation to getting more production out of the offensive line.

Finally he was asked if he thought his team could get to where it wanted to be without it.

He said: “I don’t think so. Not at all. You’re going to have to run the football. There’s some things we can do to help our offense, but I think we need to find a way to run. We have some great backs but we have to find something in the run game that can give us some relief where we’re not always throwing the football.

“If not, they’re going to be in the backfield making plays all day. We have to win our one-on-one matchups. We might have to double team them. That’s what it’s going to take. It’s going to be a battle. It’s a big man’s game. It’s going to be a physical battle. We’re going to have to win some (matchups).”

There’s other fine-tuning on Orgeron’s check list.

“We still need to eliminate the mistakes we’re making on defense that are going for touchdowns. And we still need to get better on third down. But do we have the players to do it? Yes. Do we have the coaches to do it? Yes.”

But it all comes back to the guys up front.

“We’re disappointed in it,” Orgeron said. “I think we have some outstanding backs, we just don’t have any room to run. We have some guys that are getting knocked back. We just need to be more consistent.”

At least LSU should be fresh out of excuses.

For the first time since the first quarter of the UCLA game, Orgeron said the entire offensive line should be intact with the return of left tackle Cam Wire along with versatile backup Charles Turner.

Even the starting group fell behind as injuries during August camp robbed them of the chance to become a cohesive unit.

“Our offensive line needs to jell a little more to get us where we want to go.”

Tonight would be a good opportunity to find the answers. And Orgeron has been encouraged this week.

“You never know until you get tested on the field,” he said. “There’s some new techniques we’ve tried up front; we’re being a little bit more aggressive in our blocking schemes. There’s some different plays we feel our guys can do a very good job of but we need to see on Saturday.”