Breakdown/Prediction: LSU

Breakdown/Prediction: LSU

BadgerNation breaks down No.14 Wisconsin matchup with No.13 LSU at NRG Stadium tonight and offer our prediction.

No.14 Wisconsin (9-4, 6-2 Big Ten in ‘13) vs. No.13 LSU (10-3, 5-3 SEC in ‘13)

Date/Time - Saturday, August 30 at 8:10 p.m. CT

Stadium –NRG Stadium (71,054/Grass)

Television –ESPN (Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman, Todd McShay)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series –LSU leads 2-0 (First meeting on neutral site)

Last Meeting –LSU won, 27-7, on Sept.30, 1972 in Baton Rouge, LA

Series Notes

UW is 0-3 all-time in regular-season meetings with Southeastern Conference teams and has not faced an SEC foe during the regular season since suffering a 20-19 loss to Kentucky in Lexington in 1984.

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LSU owns an 8-4-1 record against Big Ten opponents when the team was actually in the Big Ten Conference (Tigers are 0-5-1 against Nebraska and 0-1 against Penn State)

The Badgers’ only other regular-season meetings with an SEC member school came in losses to LSU in 1971 (38-28 in Madison) and 1972 (27-7 in Baton Rouge).

The matchup with LSU will mark the 21st time in the modern era (since 1946) that Wisconsin has opened a season against a nonconference foe currently affiliated with one of the power-five conferences. UW is 10-9-1 in such games, including three straight wins: Virginia in 2001 (26- 17), West Virginia in 2003 (24-17) and Washington State in 2007 (42-21).

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Wisconsin has twice opened its season at a neutral site, going 1-1 in those games.

The Badgers and Tigers are among the nation’s leaders in wins, winning percentage and production of NFL draft picks over the last five seasons. Since the start of the 2009 season, LSU’s .803 winning percentage ranks No. 6 nationally, with the Badgers’ .731 mark ranking No. 12. Over the last four NFL drafts, only LSU and Alabama (16 each) have produced more top-75 picks than Wisconsin (10).

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LSU has won at least nine games in 9 of the last 10 seasons, one of just two teams nationally with more nine-win campaigns than the Badgers’ 8 over that 10-year span.

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LSU and Wisconsin rank 1-2 nationally in terms of wins in regular-season non-conference games since 2002.

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The Badgers have won 16 consecutive season-openers, dating back to 1998, while LSU has won 11 straight games to open a season, a streak that dates to 2003

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin has won 16 consecutive season openers dating back to 1998, matching USC for the third-longest active streak in the nation. Only Nebraska (28) and Florida (24) have longer active streaks.

Gordon enters 2014 as the nation’s active career leader in rushing average at 8.1 yards per carry, and his 1,609 rushing yards last season ranks No. 2 among returning players. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah (1,690) is the nation’s top returning rusher.

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Gordon needs just 12 attempts to be eligible to break the Big Ten career rushing average record of 7.27 yards per carry set by Penn State’s Ki-Jana Carter (1992-94).

Wisconsin is 35-14 in its last 49 games (.714), with 23 of those wins coming by at least 20 points and all but one of the losses coming by seven points or less.

Wisconsin opens the season ranked No. 14 in the Associated Press Top 25 and the Coaches Poll. This is the fifth-consecutive season UW has opened the season in both polls. UW has begun 12 of the last 15 seasons ranked in the AP Top 25.

LSU Notes

LSU enters Saturday’s game riding an FBS-record streak of 45 consecutive wins in regular-season non-conference games. The Tigers haven’t lost to a non-conference foe in the regular season since a 26-8 setback to Virginia Tech in their 2002 season opener.

LSU’s streak of consecutive weeks in the AP Top 25 has reached 82, which ranks second to only Alabama in terms of current streaks. This is the 14th consecutive season that the Tigers are ranked in the preseason polls.

LSU has won 21 games under Les Miles despite trailing in the fourth quarter, including one in 2013. The Tigers rallied to overcome a fourth quarter deficit against Arkansas last year.

In 119 games under Miles, LSU’s success is easy to predict when it comes to net rushing yards. Get to 100 yards rushing and LSU will more than likely win as the Tigers are 90-9 under Miles when that happens. Hold the opponent to fewer than 100 yards and the Tigers are 54-4. An even more telling stat is that when LSU rushes for 100-plus yards and holds the opponents to fewer than 100 yards, the Tigers are 53-0.

Breakdown

Gary Andersen loves these types of games. Not only is he ready for his second year coaching at Wisconsin, Andersen has talked for weeks that the Badgers’ opener tonight is probably the biggest litmus test his program has had in his brief 15 game UW coaching career.

For starters, Andersen knows what he has but doesn’t really know what he has until they get on the field and play somebody else. That somebody else happens to be No.13 LSU – a fast, athletic, versatile SEC power - in NRG Stadium in downtown Houston. This game will tell Wisconsin’s coaching staff exactly where they sit at every position and get a gauge on most of the 85 players who traveled down to the game.

That’s not the only reason Andersen loves having, arguably, Wisconsin’s toughest test week one. If the Badgers lose as many people predict, there are 11 more games in which to impress the 13 member college football playoff selection committee and earn one of those coveted spots for the two semifinals on Jan.1.

And with a schedule that’s perceived as “soft,” the Badgers will likely be favored the rest of the season. But should Wisconsin beat the Tigers in SEC country, the Badgers will have catapulted off to a tremendous start with one of their best regular season wins in the last two decades.

Wisconsin and LSU don’t match up in terms of talent, but the two teams are incredibly similar with its personnel issues. Both teams have strong running games predicated by a talented group of offensive linemen. Wisconsin has the talented tandem of Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement, while LSU’s backfield of Terrence Magee (626 yards, eight touchdowns) and Kenny Hilliard (310 yards, seven touchdowns) got an ever bigger boost thanks to Leonard Fournette, the nation’s top freshman in 2014 who is already being talked about for the Heisman.

Those strengths slightly overshadow the weaknesses of both offenses, which reside at quarterback and wide receiver. LSU is reportedly choosing to start sophomore Anthony Jennings, who became a Wisconsin favorite for leading the Tigers to a comeback win over Arkansas in the regular season finale, but the Tigers’ young receiving corps took a hit when five-star wide receiver Malachi Dupre (ankle) didn’t travel.

The problems extend to the defense, as both teams have strong secondary, question marks in the front seven and tremendous respect for one another.

“We’ve got great respect for LSU,” said offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. “Their skill on defense, their scheme on defense, their defensive coordinator John Chavis, their head coach and what that program has accomplished under their leadership, there’s great challenges in preparing for that, whether it’s all summer or all week.”

Wisconsin will have to deliver on the things Andersen promised to fix heading into this season. Feeling the offense was one note a lot of times last year and failed to extend defenses, Wisconsin has put an emphasis on attacking the defense’s outside edges to create big plays. Part of that comes from having an athletic quarterback, likely part of the reason McEvoy is expected to start.

The Badgers also must run the ball consistently and effectively. LSU return seven starters on a defense that ranked No. 15 nationally in total defense (340.7 yards allowed per game), and Gordon has talked about the opportunity to succeed in big games as one of the reason he returned for his junior year.

“He was excited about his opportunity,” said Andersen. “He's definitely goal-driven and I would expect Melvin to be goal-driven. I want him to talk about the things that he wants his team, the goals he sets for his team and the goals he has for himself.

“To this point (I) couldn't be more proud of the way he handles his team, his expectations of his team, and I think that will be able to show as we continue to grow. He'll give the credit to the [offensive linemen] and tight ends and fullbacks and quarterbacks, but he expects to be a great tailback.”

Every position is in for a true litmus test. How will the young wide receivers perform and can they show the best is yet to come? Will Sojourn Shelton and the returning starters of the secondary be a stingy unit or will they struggle like they did in the final two games last year? Will we see both quarterbacks?

Wisconsin will have to successfully answer all those questions in order to finally come through against a power-five nonconference team, as the Badgers last win of the caliber came against Oregon State in 2011 (five such games ago).

Win or lose, however, this game will go a long way in carving out how good the Badgers are going to be this season.

“This game will help us create our identity,” said defensive end Chikwe Obasih. “I think it’s going to set the tone for us this season. We’re going to find out who we are against LSU and definitely improve against other teams.”

Prediction

Although just 4.5-point underdogs, there are very few pro-Wisconsin predictions out there. These were the games Wisconsin lost last season, so how they perform will go a long way in convincing the fan base that they are taking steps in the right direction.

LSU has ruled some of its talented players out for this game, which should help the Badgers with some matchups. Both teams will test each other’s front seven with their potent running game, so whichever teams limits the turnovers and wins the field position battle will likely earn a big early season victory.

While the more I have broken down this game the more I think Wisconsin can win, I am sticking with my prediction of a LSU victory.

LSU 31, Wisconsin 20

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 10-3

Against the Spread: 10-2-1

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