The specter of the 2020 season opener will continue to haunt my memory every time LSU gets a new defensive playback. We have yet to see how Matt House will defend Mike Leach. Simply put, you can’t stay in your standard alignment, beams, and structures. You have to answer them in kind to sell for a pass, play 6, 7 or even 8 dB in the field at all times and drop 8 (or even 9) in coverage at all times. This is a crucial match between LSU and Brian Kelly to get their season back on track and prove that they took a step forward after losing to Florida State.
When LSU owns the ball
run the ball
Mississippi State loves to play a lot of light boxes with 3 high security looks. While they have ways of fitting the range from these structures fairly effectively, they still call for more running than most defenses. It’s important for LSU to be able to get them to pay for these appearances and force them out, so that they can create an appearance that is more appropriate for their passing game. Up front, Miss State likes to play so many single decks (3 down) that it’s hard to play within the zone. LSU’s running game is mostly within the zone, so it will be interesting to see how the 3 can be set down (that I wrote about This is off season) in both a running game and a TE RPO vs Miss State match. Against 3 down, the reading on TE RPOs changes from edge defender to MIKE midfielder.
It is very difficult to structurally attack the Mississippi State defense because it is incredibly amorphous in terms of structure. Its 3-3 stacked type structure allows it to be very streamlined with its facades, stresses, coverages and just about everything in general. It will be interesting to see how they try to attack this.
OL is an important unit this weekend, as it will be every week for the rest of the season. If LSU can’t run the ball and release a lot of pressure for a team committing significant resources at the back end, this will probably be over.
Passing: Jayden Daniels: 17/27, 205, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jayden Daniels: 11 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD.
Receipt: Owner of the Nebras: 6 hits, 95 yards, 1 TD.
When MSU has the ball
Drop 8, Leach, and Air Raid in its pure form
On a macro level, the scheme to slow the Air Raid to an ineffective grind is to drop an 8 in coverage and sell it for a pass. In the mid-2010s, Iowa’s Matt Campbell began making 8-covers the backbone of his defense rather than changing into clear passing positions. By doing so, he was able to shrink windows, eliminate big plays, and make it extremely difficult for the heavily populated air raid teams in the Big 12 at the time to be effective and explosive in a scrolling game. In the years since, other teams have copied this approach against the raid. As a result, most Air Raid Instructors don’t run Air Raid anymore. They live in 11 people and employ 12 people, run action games and RPOs, and are efficient on the ground when they need to. Lincoln Riley, for example, has 11-person bases, employs 12 people, and operates more effectively than anyone else in the country. They run off the ball when they want to and use RPOs and PAs to create a struggle to defend. Not that Leech, he didn’t change that thing a bit. He works in 10 people almost all the time. As a result, it doesn’t create much conflict for a defense who can now play 6-8 dB in the field at all times and drop 8 in coverage. If you’re not so inclined, you’ll be torn, because Will Rogers is an excellent quarterback. You have to keep everything in front of you, let them check the ball, and force them to tie long flights together with no margin for error. I wrote a thread on Twitter about exactly what I’m doing on a schematic level that you can check out here:
Here’s How I Can Defend Air Raid If I’m LSU on Saturday (Topic) 1/
– Max Toscano (@maxtoscano1) September 15, 2022
That’s it, stop the raid.
Passing: Will Rogers: 43/72, 431, 2 TD, 1 INT
Receiving: Rara Thomas: 13 catches, 95 yards, 1 TD.