X-Factor of the Week – LSU Edition


Every week there will be one player or coach who will be considered the x-factor.  The x-factor is player/coach who will really need to perform well that week, in order for the Dawgs to come away with a win.  Essentially the x-factor is the make-or-break position on the field for that week.

If you are a Mississippi State fan, LSU week for 14 of the last 15 years was not a pleasurable experience.  However in 2014, the unranked Bulldogs traveled to Baton Rouge and beat up on the favored Tigers in a 34-29 game that was not as close as the score indicated.  That game really spring boarded the Bulldogs onto the national scene and Dak Prescott into the Heisman race.  This game also set the pace for the rest of the season for LSU going 8-5 on the season.

That was 2014, this is 2015.  The Bulldogs (1-0, 0-0) did not play their best last week against the Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi.  However the Dawgs were able to shake off some of the rust that comes naturally at the beginning of the season.  They were also able to give some valuable snaps to the newcomers on the team.  Fred Ross was able to get a fumble out of his system early on in the game while attempting to field a punt, and by the end of the night really looked comfortable back there.  The new guys on the offensive line were able to get acclimated to what game situations look like.  As Dan Mullen put it, “They looked better as the game went on.”  Fumbles, bad throws, and dropped passes were all a part of the win on Saturday night.

LSU was not able to get any of this valuable playing time as their game with McNeese State was cancelled Saturday night due to inclement weather.  The Tigers are replacing 3 offensive linemen who could have used some snaps in an actual game to get a real game feel.  They are also starting a quarterback in Brandon Harris who will be making his second career start Saturday night in front what is sure to be an electric atmosphere in Davis Wade Stadium.  They only return 6 players on what was a ferocious LSU defense last season.  None of the new comers were able to get in-game snaps like the Bulldogs got.

With all of that being said, LSU still has a lot of talent on this team.  Look no further than the tailback position.  Leonard Fournette returns for his sophomore season after rushing for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.  He is no doubt a Heisman caliber back.  He will be relied on heavily on Saturday night if the Bayou Bengals are to leave Starkville with a win.

It is for this reason that the x-factor is the week is Chris Jones.  Jones was a highly touted defensive end coming out of high school, and after his freshman year, and a move to defensive tackle, the Bulldog faithful saw why.  Jones followed up a stellar freshman year with a subpar sophomore season, only racking up 26 tackles, tied for 19th on the team.  He also had 3 sacks, which was tied for 4th on the team.  Chris Jones would be the first to tell you that his performance in 2014 was not acceptable.  He has put in work this offseason to make sure that more than just his jersey number changes this season.  Last week against USM, Jones had 5 tackles en route to a 34-16 victory in Hattiesburg.

Chris Jones will have his work cut out for him on Saturday night when Fournette comes to town.  He will be relied on heavily to clog up the running lanes and force Fournette to run elsewhere.  If Jones and company are able to slow down the running game, Les Miles will have no other option other than to put the ball in Brandon Harris’s hands.  In Harris’s only other start in his career he went 3-14, with 58 yards against Auburn in 2014.  Mississippi State knows that Fournette can run.  The question now is can Harris throw?  LSU does have very talented wide receivers in Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre, but can Harris get them the ball?  That remains to be seen.

If Chris Jones shows up on Saturday night and does his part to slow the running game, then the Bulldogs will come away with the win.  However if Jones is a no-show and Fournette is able to run wild, then things won’t look so good for the Maroon and White.  Look for Chris Jones to be a huge factor on Saturday night in Davis Wade Stadium.