LSU vs. Wisconsin
Rematch of the 2014 season opener in which the Tigers won 28-24 in a come from behind victory in Dallas, Texas. Former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is now the defensive cooridnator for the LSU defense.
The Tigers averaged 32.8 points per game in 2015 and were led by sophmore quarterback Brandon Harris. On the season LSU averaged 257 rushing yards per game and passed for 179 yards per game. On the year, Harris completed 53.6% of his passes for 2,158 yards with 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Harris struggled stretching teams vertically and when the offense could not run the football effectively, the team lost three games. In LSU’s three losses, Harris threw 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions while completing 50.4% if his passes. The lack of production in the passing game put pressure on the offensive line and Heisman Trophy candidate running back Leonard Fournette.
Fournette dominated the conference in the early part of the season rushing for 1,953 yards averaging 6.5 yards per carry with 22 touchdowns on the ground. However, when breaking down the Tigers three losses, the offense struggled keeping opposing defenses off balance. In the team’s three losses to Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, the offense averaged 99 rushing yards per game. Fournette averaged 76 rushing yards per game in the losses and only managed to score two touchdowns on the ground during that span. The offensive line played very well and allowed 17 sacks as a unit last year.
In the team’s three losses last year, the Tigers offense was outscored 55-24 in the first half of those games. In the three losses the Tigers averaged 15.6 points per game which was 17 points less than their season average.
Defensively, LSU allowed 24.3 points per game and was very solid in run support allowing 122 yards per game to their opponents. LSU allowed 224 passing yards per game in 2015, which was their highest total since prior to 2008. LSU was very opportunistic ending the 2015 season with +7 turnover margin. The team finished with a +8 margin at home and -1 on the road. The weakness of the unit came in the team’s three losses when it failed to shut down the run consistently. Against Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss-the unit allowed 233 rushing yards per game and 9 touchdowns on the ground. That was 111 yards more than their season averaged and put pressure on the LSU offense to play catch up in those contests. A strong point from the last year was the front seven that recorded 34 sacks on the season.
Wisconsin enters the 2016 with a new quarterback. Former signal caller Joel Stave has moved on and the Badgers will look to find a replacement this spring. Senior Bart Houston looks to be in the mix as he threw for 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in limited duty last year. Wisconsin averaged 26.8 points per game and passed for 228 yards per game in 2015. That was their highest total since the 2011 season when quarterback Russell Wilson put up dynamic numbers under Paul Chryst’s tutelage as offensive coorinator. However, as strong as the passing game was last season, the Badgers managed only 150 rushing yards per game. This total was their lowest since prior to the 2008 season and was significantly lower than the team’s previous two years production in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, the Badgers rushed for 283 yards per game and in 2014 the total was 320 yards per game. More importantly, in the Badgers three losses to Alabama, Iowa and Northwestern-the offense averaged only 33 yards per game!
That total must change during the 2016 season if the Badgers are to make a run at the 2016 Big 10 title. The offensive line allowed 24 sacks as a unit last season.
The defense was the strength of the team last year and was a main reason why the Badgers won 10 games. Wisconsin allowed 13.7 points per game while holdiing opponents to 95 rushing yards per game. The secondary played very well allowing 173 passing yards per game to their opponents. The Badgers were +3 in turnover margin and played better on the road with a +6 margin while managing a -3 at home last year. When breaking down the three losses, the unit failed to shut down the run consistently. In the Badgers three defeats the defense allowed 177 rushing yards per game and 5 rushing touchdowns. The secondary allowed only 7 passing touchdowns on the year and forced teams to methodically work down the field. However, how big of a loss will the departure of Aranda hurt this unit entering the 2016 remains to be seen. Wisconsin recorded 28 sacks and will look to build upon that total entering the new year.
Joseph Lisi is a college football analyst and has hosted his own show on Yahoo Sports Radio Network called: Go For The 2 with Joe Lisi
He is former ABC Sports college football researcher and owner of www.Goforthe2.com. He is also the sports content editor for two-time Super Bowl Champion Mark Collins website called:www.2fivesports.com
He is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America), the Maxwell Football Club and the National Football Foundation. Jospeh is the Director of Communications for the NY Chapter of the National Football Foundation.
He has been featured on Yahoo Sports Radio, ESPN Radio, Sirius XM, The Sid Rosenberg Show (640 AM Sports) and The FNTSY Network.
Jospeh recently publised his own eBook on Amazon called: “From The Gridiron To The Sandbox”-Memoirs of A College Football Junkie which is availbe for purchase here: