Well folks, tonight's the night! At 9pm this evening the #22 WVU Mountaineers will square off with the #15 LSU Tigers in a big time non-conference match-up. Not since dates with Notre Dame at the beginning of this century has Mountaineer Nation so eagerly anticipated an chance to test their mettle against such a top flight opponant. I'll be hanging around during the game trying to provide some updates and insight. Until then some keys to tonight's game are:
-Keep turnovers to a minimum. Despite being 3-0, the Mountaineers are minus-4 in turnover margin so far this season. Each game has found the Mountaineers turning the ball over, oftentimes while in scoring position. Holding onto the football will be tantamount to success this evening for the Mountaineers. A steady dose of the running game should keep Tiger defenders on their heels, but giving LSU's anemic offense more opportunities than it deserves will dig the Mountaineers' a hole it would be hard to get out of.
-Defend the deep ball. Take away three long touchdowns and the Mountaineer defense looks stifling. Unfortunately, while the D has been successful stuffing the run and (finally!) getting to the quarterback, the last two weeks have featured defensive breakdowns that lead to long scores for the opposition.
-Stop the run. Bruce Irvin, JT Thomas, Robert Sands and company will need to get to their man early and often and throw a wrench into the LSU running attack. If they can disrupt it, and force QB Jordan Jefferson to throw, which is not his strong suit, the Mountaineers will have gone a long way towards doing what they need to do to win.
-Brandon Hogan? It's a big part of defending the deep ball, whether or not Brandon Hogan will play. Suspended for the Maryland game because of a DUI, Hogan practiced all week, but Coach Stewart has said he won't make his decision until gametime.
-The Offensive Line. Easily the bellweather unit if the Mountaineers will have any chance to win. The line looked better against Maryland, but still has issues. Left seems to be the only way to go for the run game, but as long as things keep moving forward it's all we can ask. The true test will be if they can hold off LSU's front seven long enough for Geno Smith to find his open receiver. If Geno's running for his life, it could be a long day for the Mountaineers. Also, how the line deals with the decibel level in Death Valley will be a key factor in keeping the chains moving.
-Control the tempo. The LSU run game has the ability to wear the Mountaineer defense down to a nub. To prevent that, the 'Eers need to control the offensive tempo with a successful running attack. Getting Noel Devine into space is important, but only when balanced with the grind-'em-out style of power back Ryan Clarke.