NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — LSU, the 13th ranked team in the country in the coaches poll, is only a three-point favorite in its first trip ever to the Rose Bowl Saturday to take on UCLA.
UCLA is getting a lot of respect, despite winning 3, 4, and 3 games in Chip Kelly’s three year tenure in Westwood.
And, a 5-5 campaign in 2020 by LSU seems to have oddsmakers shy about a quick LSU turnaround in 2021.
Here’s why I like LSU in the game not only to win, but to cover.
LSU’s returning talent is under-estimated. The Tigers return four starters on the offensive line, The club’s top two running backs, Ty-Davis Price and John Emery, return as does freshman phenom, wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, Boutte had 14 catches for 308 yards, setting an SEC receiving records for yards in a game.
He finished the season with 3 consecutive 100 yard receiving games.
Defensively, LSU returns a host of quality pass rushers, including ends Ali Gaye, BJ Ojulari, and Andre Anthony. Defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy could be a force inside. In nine games, he had two sacks, and four tackles for loss.
The secondary, a sieve in 2021, should rebound with a healthy Derek Stingley. Stingley, a preseason first team All American, played in only seven games, and did not record an interception.
And, the Tigers, despite the loss of Myles Brennan to arm surgery, still looks strong. Max Johnson, who started and won the final two games of last season, did the things that effective quarterbacks do.
He avoided pressure and sacks, and threw only one interception in 150 pass attempts.
LSU has won its last six games on the road against non-conference opponents.
UCLA is getting a lot of preseason respect, despite winning only three games. The Bruins lost the other four by a total of 15 points. The final two games of the season, the Bruins lost to USC by five, and to Stanford by one in double overtime.
This is a big game for both teams. With a win, UCLA can put a huge skin on the wall against an SEC West contender. And, with a victory, LSU can set its sights on a quick start.
And, for the Tigers, the first game the last three seasons, has been a good barometer.
LSU upset Miami, and won 10 games in 2018. A year later, the Tigers won at Texas, and went on to win a national championship.
A year ago, the Tigers lost, in a debacle at home to Mississippi State, and finished 5-5.
I like LSU minus the three points, but the total, 66, might be tough to reach.
Game time is 7:30 pm New Orleans time Saturday night.