Friday, December 13, 2002
ABC analysts break down LSU-Illinois
ABC Sports Online
In preparation for the Nokia Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day between Illinois and LSU (ABC, 8:30 p.m. ET), ABC's analysts broke down what each team needs to do in order to win.
ABC studio analyst
The Sugar Bowl features two of the most unlikely teams to be playing in the BCS, but I assure you both are deserving. LSU finished its season with five straight victories, and are the hottest team in the SEC, while Illinois features the Big Ten's finest quarterback, senior Kurt Kittner.
For Illinois to win this game, the Fighting Illini have to limit Domanick Davis. With LaBrandon Toefield out for the game, Davis is a more than adequate replacement. But with nobody there to give him a breather, Illinois needs to pound him early. Although LSU is an outstanding passing team, it is all based on having a strong running game. If the Illini can shut down this part of their game, it forces Rohan Davey to the shotgun, and allows for a little more double-coverage in the secondary.
Speaking of double-coverage, if the Illini are smart, they will use it on wide receiver Josh Reed from the very first play. This guy is a tailback playing wideout, and if you let him catch the ball in the open field, he's going to make something happen. If Illinois' defense can keep him blanketed and put some heat on Davey, the Illini will have a chance to win this game. You have to remember that no matter how big Davey is, he has a tendency to get hurt if he gets banged around a bit.
LSU also has its hands full with the Illinois offense. The Tigers' secondary has been suspect all season, and Kurt Kittner will know how to exploit that. His favorite target is wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. LSU must respect his speed because he's a burner who has the ability to get behind you if you don't give him enough of a cushion. LSU would be better off making Kittner dink the ball down the field with short passes than going the distance with one long pass to Lloyd.
Finally, LSU needs to get some help from those crazy Cajuns, who should be all over that place. The Superdome will likely be full of Bayou Bengal fans, and after having played them several times down the road in Baton Rouge, I assure you they come to night games in a very spirited mood, if you know what I mean. This could be the final factor that weighs the game in LSU's favor.
|Domanick Davis is being counted on to give the Tigers a good runnning game.|
After Tennessee's loss to LSU in the SEC Championship game, the knee-jerk reaction was to conclude that the Nokia Sugar Bowl had lost some luster. After all, a matchup between Illinois and Nebraska -- two one-loss teams, with a Heisman Trophy winner tossed in for good measure -- sounded like a real marquee matchup.
But after further review, LSU-Illinois turns out to be one of the truly intriguing games of the entire bowl season. This game will feature two of the highest flying passing attacks in the country. LSU's offense is the best in a long, storied history in Baton Rouge. Illinois has a chance, with a win, to be the best Fighting Illini squad ever to line up in Champaign.
With LSU tailback LaBrandon Toefield out and Illinois using the run to set up the pass, this BCS bowl game will hinge on the play of the quarterbacks. The Tigers' Rohan Davey and the Illini's Kurt Kittner love to throw the ball down the field, and clearly prefer the big play over the short pass.
Most importantly, with ticket requests through the roof in Illinois and LSU at home in the Sugar for the first time since 1987, it's safe to say that the Louisiana Superdome will be rocking on New Year's Night.
Nebraska has indeed headed west to California, but the combination of the teams' aerial attacks and the dome's electric atmosphere could turn this contest into an instant classic.
|Kurt Kittner threw two or more TD passes in nine games this season.|