LSU-Arizona State insider
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. CDT at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
Coaches:LSU’s Les Miles (28-21, sixth season, first at LSU); Arizona State’s Dirk Koetter (53-33, eighth year, fifth at Arizona State).
TV/Radio: ESPN, N/A
KEEP AN EYE ON - LSU RUNNING BACKS: With Alley Broussard out for the season, Joseph Addai, Justin Vincent and Shyrone Carey will take turns. All three have shown at times they are capable, but the question is how much will the Tigers miss Broussard’s bruising style. Watch Vincent, in particular, to see if he shows signs of recovering from his sophomore jinx. Carey is in the best shape he’s ever been in and could finally provide some of the electrifying, change-of-direction runs he excelled at while at Shaw High School. Addai is Mr. Dependable and the best receiver of the three.
ARIZONA STATE’S PASSING GAME: Junior quarterback Sam Keller appears to have things down, and he has a preseason All-America receiver in Derek Hagan to help him along. They combined for two touchdown passes last week, but the story was that 10 different Sun Devils caught passes. Tight end Zach Miller set school freshman receiving records last year with 56 catches and 552 receiving yards and caught three for 26 yards last week. Keller doesn’t move all that well but he does have a veteran offensive line for protection. The Devils need another strong rushing effort from freshman Keegan Herring to keep the heat off Keller. He had 134 yards last week in his first career start as the Devils rushed for 300 yards.
GAMEPLAN: Don’t look for last year’s conservative style. The quarterbacks have matured enough to step in and be comfortable throwing or handing off. JaMarcus Russell is the likely starter, and, though he still has some of the issues that slowed him last year, he has plenty of weapons to prop him up for awhile.
Across the line, Russell will be looking at a Sun Devil team with one starter returning in the secondary. Look for the Tigers to attack at all points on the field. Expect the return of the bubble screen, a favorite play in 2001 and 2003, with Skyler Green and Shyrone Carey using their shiftiness in the open field.
Defensively, the Tigers will have to defend the whole field. Arizona State showed a surprisingly good running game last week. Herring may not find as much room as he did against Temple, running into the strength of the LSU defense, the front line, led by tackles Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten. The Sun Devils may go after weakside linebacker Jason Spadoni, a converted running back making his first college start after changing positions in spring practice.
KEY MATCHUP - ARIZONA STATE WR DEREK HAGAN VS. LSU CORNERBACKS RONNIE PRUDE AND CHEVIS JACKSON: Hagan is a preseason All-American who caught 83 passes for 1,248 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. Prude and Jackson logged significant minutes last year, but each is starting for the first time. Prude is eager to make amends for his blown coverage on the final play of the Capital One Bowl, which cost LSU the game. Jackson, a sophomore, is making his first career start, so he may get tested early and often. The Sun Devils would like nothing better than to get off to a big offensive start and get their crowd into the game. And the Tigers can’t over-concern themselves with Hagan. Tight end Zach Miller caught 56 passes last season as a freshman.
BY THE NUMBERS: LSU is 10-3 against Pac-10 teams and is facing one for the third consecutive season, having beaten Arizona (59-13) in 2003 and Oregon State (22-21) last year. ... This is the first meeting between LSU and Arizona State in football. ... Les Miles is the 32nd head coach in LSU history, and he is 1-3 in season openers. ... LSU OT Andrew Whitworth will start his 40th consecutive game, the longest active streak in the SEC. ... LSU has a streak of 37 games with at least one sack. ... LSU missed eight PAT kicks last season, five by Chris Jackson and three by Ryan Gaudet. ... The Devils’ 300 yards rushing was the most since getting 314 in 2001 against Oregon State.
ODDS AND ENDS: LSU will wear white jerseys and is the designated home team. ... RB Joseph Addai, DT Kyle Williams and deep snapper Gant Petty were chosen as game captains. LSU will choose captains each week and name permanent captains at the end of the season. ... Technically, Arizona State has never played an SEC team before. Arizona State lost to Arkansas in 1951 and 1985 when the Razorbacks were members of the Southwest Conference. ... This is the second unscheduled game in two years at Sun Devil Stadium. In 2003, Miami and San Diego moved their NFL game from San Diego because of the threat posed by brush fires.
SOMBER SETTING: The sympathetic eyes of the nation will be on the Tigers. Talk of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the ongoing relief effort in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama will be mixed in with X’s and O’s. LSU players, who have spoken of wanting to give hurricane victims something to be happy about, will wear logos of the state flag, as well as the Fleur de Lis, on their helmets. The Fleur de Lis traditionally has been used to represent French royalty, but also signifies perfection, light and life, and is often an often-used symbol in New Orleans. After deciding to move the game from Tiger Stadium to Tempe, the schools agreed that proceeds should be donated to the relief effort. “That’s the best deal about this game,” said Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller. “First and foremost, there’s a tragedy going on down there. The game is secondary to people’s lives and homes lost. The game has to be on the backburner.”
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH: “I see a team (LSU) that has a pretty solid workman-like approach to football. For them to put on the back burner the things that have happened around them, it speaks to older guys, guys with perspective.” LSU coach Les Miles.