Cowboys Stadium - Arlington, TX
Kickoff: Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: LSU -4, Total: 50
Two highly-ranked schools square off on Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium with a clash between No. 12 LSU and No. 20 TCU.
New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will try to ignite the Tigers' underachieving offense that ranked 87th in the nation in total offense last season. The Tigers’ defense remains loaded with NFL-caliber talent though, finishing eighth in FBS total defense last year (308 YPG). TCU was a dominating 4-0 last year before losing QB Casey Pachall after a DWI arrest. After spending a long time in rehab, Pachall is back for the 2013 season where his team has a legitimate shot of winning the Big 12 in just its second season in the new conference. RB Waymon James is also back after a knee injury last September. The Horned Frogs return nine starters from last year’s 16th-ranked defense. Though this is officially a neutral-field game, it will played in Arlington, TX, some 20 miles from TCU’s campus. These teams haven’t met since 1968. While the Tigers went 4-8 ATS (33%) as a favorite and 1-4 ATS (20%) on the road last year, the Horned Frogs are just 2-7 ATS (22%) in non-conference games in the past two seasons. However, TCU benefits from this long-standing trend: Since 1992, underdogs of 3.5 to 10 points in the first two weeks of the year, after playing in a bowl and losing their final two games of the previous season are 34-7 ATS (83%).
Although LSU scored less than 30 points per game last season, eight offensive starters return, including QB Zach Mettenberger (2,609 pass yds, 12 TD, 7 INT). With long-time NFL offensive coordinator Cam Cameron calling the plays, Mettenberger figures to drop back more often than usual. WRs Odell Beckham Jr. (713 rec. yds, 2 TD) and Jarvis Landry (573 rec. yds, 5 TD) both need to be more consistent for Mettenberger to grow. Top RB Jeremy Hill (755 rush yds, 12 TD) was arrested for sucker punching a man outside a bar, but he was somehow reinstated to the team just in time for fall practice. Back-up RB Kenny Hilliard (464 rush yds, 6 TD) will also get a good chunk of carries behind the Tigers' strong offensive line. The fierce LSU defense (17.5 PPG allowed, 12th in FBS) lost seven starters, including everybody on the defensive line, but this unit is still loaded. LB Lamin Barrow (104 tackles, 5 QBH), CB Jalen Mills (57 tackles, 2 INT) and SS Craig Loston (55 tackles, 3 INT) are all productive returnees. LSU's defense is always opportunistic, chalking up 2.5 turnovers per game last season (T-7th in FBS).
TCU's offense may need time to gel, but there is no denying the talent of QB Casey Pachall (36 TD, 8 INT in career), who has really stepped up as a leader of this team. His supporting cast includes WR Brandon Carter (590 rec. yds, 6 TD), who has been bothered by an injured hand, but is still considered probable for the season opener. RB Waymon James (6.9 YPC in career) is also an underrated back whose knee is now completely healed after undergoing surgery last fall. The Big 12’s top defense remains stacked with nine returners, including future pros DE Devonte Fields (10 sacks) and CB Jason Verrett (6 INT). The Frogs ranked 16th in total defense last year (324 YPG), specializing in stopping the run (105 YPG, 10th in FBS). And like LSU, they were also great at forcing turnovers with 2.5 per game (T-10th in nation).