One of the more interesting opening week matchups takes place between two programs that are in transition. Both Miami and LSU are fighting to show the progress in which their coaches have made since their arrivals. Miami is now entering its third season under the Mark Richt regime and is coming off its best season since joining the ACC. LSU is in its second full season with Ed Orgeron, but the Tigers haven’t had a ten win season since 2013. In reviewing this game, we preview the battle for relevance in the Miami-LSU Matchup
These are two storied programs that have been known as football factories for producing NFL players and having great teams. The key word in the previous sentence is great. Fans of both schools want to see their teams back to winning championships. This matchup is pivotal in displaying that the right progress is being made for both teams. Below is a breakdown of what a victory would mean for the future of both teams.
Importance for Miami
From a historical sense, it seems asinine to question a Miami team coming off of a ten win season. Going back to 1983, only four teams have failed to match or exceed the win total when winning ten or more games. With any games to have been played yet, some are already calling the Miami Hurricanes overrated. Miami lost three games consecutively to end the season and many are crying foul of the Hurricanes number eight ranking.
Beating the Tigers would give Miami a victory against a ranked SEC opponent. Furthermore, it’s against an LSU team that is still very good defensively. While other teams are opening up with FCS opponents, Miami chose to take on a true contender. As a result, winning against a difficult opponent says that Miami is more than worthy of its preseason ranking.
Arguably no quarterback last season experienced as big of a rollercoaster than Malik Rosier. His last-minute touchdown pass against Florida State made him one of the most beloved players on the Miami roster. When his completion percentage was horrid the last three games and the Hurricanes lost, much of the blame went directly at him. He returns this season with more to prove than anyone on the roster and the keys to the Miami offense.
As bad as the season ended for Rosier, it’s premature to label him a “bust” for a number of reasons. First, he played injured for the last six games with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Another reason is that he broke school records for touchdowns in his first season as the starting quarterback. If Rosier is able to lead Miami to a win against LSU, it will not only lead to a heightened confidence of the team but for him also. Miami could be a dangerous team nationally with consistency from the quarterback position, and LSU is the perfect challenge for Rosier.
First and foremost, Mark Richt has always been perceived as a good man. However, he does have a reputation that followed him from his time at Georgia for not winning the “big game”. Whether or not that may have been true, it’s unfair to use that tag for Richt’s tenure at Miami. Since his arrival, the team has yet to play a season with the depth needed to make a run at a championship. This year’s team is as deep as Richt has had and is favored to win every game in the regular season. Defeating LSU, a ranked opponent, would go a great measure to helping Richt knock that label off of his name. It would also symbolize the progress that Richt has made revamping the roster to a championship level.
Another area that Richt received criticism for this past year is the lack of offensive consistency at Miami. A major enticement to Richt returning to Miami was the need to be directly involved in the offensive game planning. The third down conversion rate for Miami’s offense was nearly dead last in the country. Additionally, the offense also struggled in the red zone. But, Richt cited some of those issues on lacking a fullback which he has since added. Proving that the offense can hold their own against a quality opponent helps Miami become a more complete team.
Importance For LSU
Job Security for Ed Orgeron
As crazy as it sounds entering in his second full season as the coach, Ed Orgeron really has to worry about his job security. Even with nine wins in his first season, there is still pressure to win even more in the difficult SEC West. Additionally, LSU faces off with Miami, that just won it’s division last season. Consequently, the schedule makes Orgeron’s job increasingly difficult, even without the rumors. LSU also has a new offensive coordinator this season. Also, coupled with the fact, Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow has been named the starter.
To say that there is big pressure riding on Burrow in his first collegiate start is an understatement. The Tigers are trusting him to carry the offense this season as the team transitions to a more spread offense. LSU is also hoping that Burrow can break the spell of bad quarterback play that has haunted the Tigers in recent years. Putting together a good performance against Miami gives confidence that the decision to start Burrow was the correct choice.
Being the starting quarterback, Burrow could be the deciding factor as to whether or not The Tigers can get back competing with Alabama and Georgia. Bad quarterback play could be another reason to add more pressure on his coach.
This matchup is ultimately an assessment test on the progression of both programs under their coaches. There are similarities in both programs, but the matchup could prove how the team’s futures are trending. Both teams have strong dependability on their quarterbacks and are entrusting them to take their teams to new heights.