LSU-Wisconsin preview

BY foxsports • August 30, 2016

The first indication of what kind of impact new LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is having will come against his former team.

Aranda joined the Tigers in the offseason after an impressive three-year stint as the Badgers defensive coordinator. Aranda's old team and his new team open the season Saturday (3:30 ET) at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

LSU coach Les Miles brought in Aranda to replace Kevin Steele one year after he brought in Steele to replace John Chavis as the Tigers try to regain the elite defense that they had at the start of this decade.

Last season under Aranda, Wisconsin had the No 1 scoring defense in the country (13.7 points per game) and the No. 2 total defense (268.5 yards per game). LSU ranked 41st in scoring defense (24.3) and 25th in total defense (347.2).

"Dave Aranda has done a very nice job with the defense," Miles said, "playing a real physical style, fast, speed to the ball performing extremely well during scrimmages, so it was extremely difficult for us to move the football.

"I know he cares very much for the place he used to work and to line up against them and players he's coached. I'm not speaking for him, but I know that he respects Wisconsin extremely well."

Aranda might not need the Tigers to duplicate the Badgers lofty rankings in order to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff. With junior Leonard Fournette coming off the most productive rushing season in SEC history, the LSU offense should put up big numbers that won't require the defense to be overly stingy.

The Tigers have had to do some juggling on their offensive line due to injury. They should have their five starters available but exactly how they line up could be a work in progress in the first few games as LSU didn't have as much time to test various combinations during the preseason as they would have preferred.

LSU is hopeful that junior quarterback Brandon Harris has matured sufficiently to provide better offensive balance and make things a little easier for Fournette.

"Our offense has got a veteran signal caller now, more poised and ready for situations," Miles said. "We will have maybe the finest tailback group that I've been around with Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice, Darrel Williams and just a number of guys that can really run the football."

"I like the offense and the way they've come. I think balance is a way to remove people from the box and allow us bigger plays. So if we can do the job that we have planned to do throwing the football, then I think you will find that there will be less people in the box and then maybe more productivity out of less carries."

Fournette launches his Heisman Trophy campaign on national television against a team that had the fourth-best run defense in the country last season. LSU already was hoping to lessen Fournette's workload a bit before he was slowed by a sprained ankle toward the end of preseason camp. He had 300 carries in 12 games last season.

The Badgers have their own quarterback questions entering Saturday with Bart Houston winning the starting job just 10 days before the opener. Houston, named after former Packers great and Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr, is living a dream by taking snaps at the hallowed home of his favorite NFL team. But LSU's defense brings nightmare potential. ranked LSU as the No. 2 program in terms of draft potential of the current roster, and speed is everywhere on this Tigers' defense.

The new 3-4 defense LSU employs is strongest up the middle, where inside linebacker Kendall Beckwith has All-America potential.

Wisconsin wants to win on the ground. Running back Corey Clement is the bell-cow back after a hernia injury knocked him out last season, when the Badgers were far below their own lofty standard in the running game.

Wisconsin averaged 150.3 yards rushing per game last season - the worst single-season total since the 1995 team averaged 128.9. Since 2007, the Badgers averaged at least 200.8 yards per game for eight straight seasons. In 2014, Wisconsin averaged 320.1 yards rushing per game

The Badgers trail the all-time series 3-0 but are no stranger to deadly competition in kickoff games. There's also a rough road ahead, with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State - all ranked in the preseason top 12 - all on the Wisconsin schedule for the first time since 2010.

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