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Final Questions Before the Game

1. Let’s start with the quarterback. Brian Kelly opted not to name a signal caller. What have you seen from the two signal callers this preseason, and who do you think ultimately gets the nod?

Shortly before Myles Brennan hung up his cleats around the middle of the camp, I felt Jayden Daniels start to create a slight separation with Garrett Nussmeier, his biggest challenger.

Since then, both quarterbacks have elevated their game more, making it an actual QB battle described as 1A-1B rather than 1-2 by Kelly. However, I still feel Daniels gets the nod, with one statistic heavily favoring the junior transfer from Arizona State – 29 to 0. Those are the number of starts Daniels had over the previous three seasons, including the shortened 4-game campaign in 2020 compared to his redshirt freshman counterpart.

Daniels has improved as camp progressed, notably with getting the ball to his playmakers. If he does that efficiently and plays with his feet like he did last year when he ran for over 700 yards, it will be tough for Nussmeier to overtake him.

But, if Nussmeier gets a chance, he may never hand the reins back because he brings that same dual-threat presented to the field but flashed a livelier arm in camp.

2. The strength of LSU’s defense, and perhaps its roster, appears to be the defensive front. Who are some of the critical pieces in this group, and do you think this group is more substance or potential at this point?

LSU’s front four – consisting of BJ Ojulari (JACK), Ali Gaye (DE), Jaquelin Roy (NT), Maason Smith (DT) – is the strength on that side of the ball, and it must play like that while the back seven gets accustomed to playing together.

Ojulari has a chance to be a difference-maker in Matt House’s defense, and the same goes for Maason Smith. That inside-outside tandem should make it tough to double both.

Ojulari was a menace to signal callers last year with seven sacks, nine hurries and 11.5 TFLs. Smith logged four sacks and 5.5 stops behind the line, but three of the sacks and 3.5 of the TFLs were against an FCS foe.

Gaye showed flashes in 2020, leading the team with 9.5 stops for loss, and when healthy in 2021 with 2.5 sacks in four contests. Roy was solid last year, and he should be better this year. The same goes for Missouri transfer Mekhi Wingo, who will play a lot.

With LSU’s line play over the last two seasons and the results posted, this group is still more about potential than substance. This campaign determines whether it makes that leap.

3. Who would you say is the best player at each level of the defense?

Maason Smith will probably go higher in the NFL Draft, but on this defense, BJ Ojulari can be that DUDE with his ability to disrupt the passing game. He and Smith will feed off one another and give the other guy more opportunities because of their sheer presence alone.

On the second level, many feel the best player is not projected to start in Micah Baskerville. Though he is expected to play a big role in this unit, Greg Penn III and Mike Jones Jr. went through the entire spring as the starters, which never changed throughout fall camp. I’m hesitant to throw a ‘best’ label on anyone, but I feel Penn could be the best; he just has to prove it where it matters the most.

Jarrick Bernard-Converse has the accolades that point to him being the best in the secondary. However, the Oklahoma State and All-Big 12 transfer missed much of the spring and a large chunk of the summer with a foot injury. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound cornerback is one of six defensive backs LSU picked up from the transfer portal.

4. How have this fan base and players received Kelly? He doesn’t seem like a natural fit for an SEC team, but he’s also one of the better coaches in the country, and I’m curious to see how this dynamic unfolds.

A lot was made of Kelly and the fit in Baton Rouge, especially when the 2023 class sat at five commitments and ranked 49th in the country on the last day of May. Since then, Kelly and his recruiting staff have added 17 pledges and climbed to No. 7, with four commits and a No. 3 class for 2024. Those concerns seem to have dissipated.

From a player’s perspective, LSU did not suffer much-unexpected attrition after the spring. That, combined with how the players talk about Kelly and the process they quickly bought into, give him a passing grade there.

At the end of the day, the fit will come down to how many games Kelly wins.

The three previous head coaches won national championships on the bayou, so the floor has already been set.

5. Alrighty, let’s see your thoughts on how this shakes out…score prediction?

I went into the FSU-Duquesne contest feeling like this would be similar to the LSU-Miami game in 2018 that ended in a 33-17 Tiger victory.

I feel this one will be closed after seeing FSU in the trenches. The Seminole D-line against LSU’s offensive front could be slightly more problematic than I initially envisioned. I also think the FSU offensive line is not as big of a mismatch favoring LSU’s defensive front, though it is still a sizable mismatch for me and what will determine the outcome.

I like LSU to cover the 3-point spread in what I see as a one-score game that goes down to the wire at 24-16.

Bonus: Is Cafe Du Monde underrated, overrated, or properly rated?

Undrrated. But if you’re coming into New Orleans for the game, Cafe Du Monde should be on your long list of places to grub. You can’t go wrong with fried dough covered in powdered sugar, at least the first couple of times you have them.