Can LSU Defense “Slow Down” Lamar Jackson in the Citrus Bowl?


When the LSU Tigers football team faces the Louisville Cardinals in 2 weeks from this Saturday (New Year’s Eve) in the Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, they will be facing the latest member of college football “royalty”.

That’s because Louisville QB Lamar Jackson is the 82nd recipient of the Heisman Trophy.

He earned that prestigious honor by terrorizing opposing defenses to the tune of 1,538 rushing yards, 3,390 passing yards and 51 total touchdowns.

Dec 10, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson poses with the trophy during a press conference at the New York Marriott Marquis after winning the 2016 Heisman Trophy award during a presentation at the Playstation Theater. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

That, ladies and gentlemen; is most impressive.

Jackson’s Louisville Cardinals squad has lost 3 games this season. The first loss was a showdown with Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson and the Clemson Tigers.

Louisville lost the game in a wild “shoot-out” (42-36), but Jackson did his part — throwing one touchdown and rushing for two more scores.

Loss number two came against the University of Houston, 36-10. The Cougars held Louisville to just ten points and limited Jackson to 211 yards passing and 1 touchdown.

The biggest factor in this game for the Houston defense was getting constant pressure on Jackson.

He was sacked 11 — yes: ELEVEN — times and was visibly frustrated throughout the game.

This game was ultimately what lost the Cardinals program and head coach Bobby Petrino a chance at the College Football Playoffs.

The third and most surprising loss came against their hated rival, the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Jackson had a record setting day, recording his eighth 100 yard rushing game and his 4 touchdowns helped break the ACC record for total touchdowns in a season (previously held by Deshaun Watson).

However — Jackson also threw three interceptions and had a late fumble in the red zone that cost Louisville the game.

The biggest weakness that I can see from examining the losses is the turnovers, not just by the team but by Jackson himself.  Multiple interceptions and fumbles are a big part of what makes Jackson vulnerable.

LSU’s defense has only allowed 9 passing touchdowns on the season and a little over 200 passing yards per game. The Tiger’s secondary is one of the best in the nation and Tre’Davious White is a threat to take the ball away or shut down the Louisville wide receivers.

Oct 17, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers defensive end Lewis Neal (92) pressures Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris (3) during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Tiger front seven will need to watch the Houston game tape and try imitate how the Cougars were able to get pressure on Jackson.

Star middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith will miss the game with a leg injury, so that will be a huge loss for the defense. Look for Duke Riley to step in and fill Beckwith’s shoes. Arden Key will need to use his speed to set the edge and keep the elusive Jackson contained in the pocket.

Davon Godchaux, Greg Gilmore and Lewis Neal will need to push the center of the pocket to force Jackson in to making quick decisions and creating opportunities for turnovers in the secondary.

Jackson’s legs are the biggest threat to this LSU defense.

Nov 26, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) tries to evade the tackle of Kentucky Wildcats cornerback J.D. Harmon (11) during the second half at Papa John

Mobile quarterbacks have always been a bugaboo for this team. The defense has matured in Aranda’s system, but they have not seen a player of Jackson’s ability this season. Jalen Hurts is probably the closest thing they have come up against, but even he is not quite as polished an athlete as Lamar.

On the other side of the coin, Lamar Jackson hasn’t faced a defense as stacked with talent as LSU has, either.

Running is always a good idea until you get hit….HARD.

This defense is fast, physical and loaded with play-makers. Jackson will have to beat them both through the air and on the ground. LSU will look to make the Louisville offense one dimensional.

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Now that Jackson is the reigning Heisman winner, the hype for this match-up will grow with every passing day.

LSU’s defense vs Lamar Jackson’s record setting offense will be THE story line.

The talent on both sides of the field in undeniable, and everyone (this writer included) will be chomping at the bit to see who wins in the battle of unstoppable forces and immovable objects……