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LSU’s Title Hopes in 2023

Unseating Alabama, Georgia won back-to-back national titles. Both games were double-digit wins. UGA’s lost just one game since 2021 kicked off. It was a loss to the Tide in the 2021 SEC title, which was later avenged in the national title.

The Bulldogs have done it with a dominant and punishing defense. The units are strong from top to bottom, with NFL players at every level. But one position has stuck out — interior defensive line.

Georgia’s had several players at that spot that completely change the defense. The 2021 squad was headlined by Jordan Davis. This past fall, Jalen Carter stepped into the spotlight.

LSU hopes its interior defensive line can have a similar impact in 2023.

Entering 2022, Maason Smith was supposed to be a star. Everything was lining up for the five-star to be one of the country’s best defenders. A torn ACL in the opener threw a wrench into that plan.

Transfer Mekhi Wingo stepped in. Wingo excelled, earning third-team All-America honors. Smith’s injury, while still a massive loss, did not derail LSU’s defense.

This fall, Smith is expected to be back healthy along with Wingo. Defensive coordinator Matt House could be able to have two elite defensive tackles, much like the present, elite Georgia defenses have.

The interior defensive line doesn’t generate as much discussion as other spots. In draft season, a lot of the conversation revolves around the edge rushers, not the big men in the middle.

But strength in the interior could be what separates the good, great, and elite.

Teams that can push the pocket from the middle are disruptive. The best QBs can work around edge rushers. It naturally takes time to come from the edge and QBs with good timing can get the ball out before the pass rushers get there.

Disruption from the middle becomes more problematic. Timing is challenged, eyelines are blocked, the pocket collapses. The QB could be forced to run out to where the edge rusher or blitzer is coming from.

It gives the defense flexibility too. Good DTs make everyone around them better. Offensive lines have to divert more attention in that direction.

Linebackers and safeties can play a more disciplined style of football because they know the guys in front of them can plug the run. It changes the entire outlook of the unit.

LSU has championship aspirations in 2023. Smith and Wingo aren’t the only key pieces returning and both coordinators could be back as well. On the interior, LSU could be better than it has been in some time, and that could be the key to the Tigers’ hopes and dreams.