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Thursday, September 22, 2011
WVU offense in tough spot vs LSU defense


College GameDay could be in store for an epic showdown between two irresistible forces as it descends upon Morgantown for the first time ever this weekend.

LSU has won 35 consecutive regular season non-conference games, the longest such streak in the FBS. And the West Virginia Mountaineers have won 18 straight non-conference home games dating back to a 34-17 loss to Virginia Tech in 2005.

While the symmetry of those two streaks is impressive, the most daunting thing on the field Friday night will be the challenge that LSU’s defense could post for West Virginia.

WEST VIRGINIA vs LSU SECONDARY
LSU’s defense has allowed only two completions on throws of 15 yards or longer in three games this season. Meanwhile, West Virginia’s offense has 14 such completions, including five touchdowns.

Quarterback Geno Smith will have to keep an eye on LSU junior cornerback Morris Claiborne. He snagged five interceptions last season playing opposite first-round pick Patrick Peterson and he already has two more this season. Claiborne moved up on Mel Kiper’s Big Board this week after he picked off Mississippi State twice last week.

WEST VIRGINIA vs LSU RUN DEFENSE
Behind Smith, West Virginia’s 356 pass yards per game ranks seventh in FBS. Those are hearty passing numbers no matter who they came against. But Head Coach Dana Holgorsen could be losing sleep this week due to the lack of offensive balance by his team. The Mountaineers rank 107th in rushing with 79 rush yards per game.

Those anemic rushing numbers sound awfully familiar when compared to the struggles West Virginia had in last season’s 20-14 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge. The Mountaineers had just 177 yards of total offense in that loss.

And it could be more of the same on Saturday. Check out these sobering numbers.

LSU has held opponents to no gain or a loss on 46 percent of rush plays this season which is the second-highest percentage in FBS.

Last week against Mississippi State, LSU forced 15 negative rush plays on 34 attempts. It was the most negative rushes forced in any game this season and the third most in any SEC game since 2004.

West Virginia’s inability to sustain a rushing attack could force its hand to pass right into the teeth of LSU’s secondary.