LSU Prediction Column: LSU to play better, but will need Brennan to beat South Carolina
BATON ROUGE - LSU coach Ed Orgeron has said he plans to play both true freshman quarterbacks TJ Finley and Max Johnson tonight night when the Tigers host South Carolina.
Finley will start, and if he plays very well, he will likely not come out, Orgeron said. But he also wants to play two. And he may play three to win.
If Johnson does play, and neither he nor Finley play well, and LSU is losing, do not be surprised if Myles Brennan enters the game.
Brennan, who is considered questionable for the game, did return to practice this week and threw for the first time since tearing his abdomen in the 45-41 loss at Missouri on Oct. 17 in LSU's last game. The once-No. 5 Tigers fell to 1-2 on the season with that loss for the first time since 1994. Brennan is also expected to be dressed out for the game, Orgeron said.
If a player dresses out, a player can play.
And LSU's season could well hang in the balance against South Carolina (2-2) in a 6 p.m. kickoff on ESPN. The Tigers have not been 1-3 since 1994 as well when they started off 1-4 and finished 4-7.
With the most difficult teams on LSU's schedule yet to come with No. 2 Alabama (4-0) at home on Nov. 14, No. 9 Texas A&M (3-1) on Nov. 28 away, and No. 8 Florida (2-1) away on Dec.12, it would not be prudent for Orgeron to try to save Brennan unless Finley and/or Johnson are playing well Saturday.
Brennan already played on the injury for more than three quarters at Missouri, and played very well, finishing 29-of-48 passing for 430 yards and four touchdowns. Before the injury he was 7 of 8 for 114 yards with a touchdown. He was 22 of 40 for 316 yards and three touchdowns after the injury. That is pretty good.
He also had a whole half for his adrenaline to wear off and for the abdomen to get more painful, but in the second half he completed 16 of 26 passes for 264 yards and a 75-yard touchdown.
"Adrenaline, you know it, he's fired up," Orgeron said when asked why Brennan can't play Saturday on the injury if he played on the Saturday of the injury. "And in the game, players go through pain. He wanted to play, and Jack Marucci (LSU trainer) thought he could play."
And today against South Carolina is game day.
At 1-3 with the above three opponents, LSU is clearly looking at a possible 4-6 season. And that's with wins at Auburn (2-2) a week from Saturday at 2:30 p.m., at improving Arkansas (2-2) on Nov. 21, and at home against an up-and-down Ole Miss (1-3) on Dec. 5. No opponent looks like a sure win for LSU unless the defense drastically improves.
Brennan has played well enough for LSU to be 3-0 now. Brennan could be the difference against South Carolina, which looked surprisingly good in a 30-22 win over Auburn last week. The Gamecocks' defense pressured and flustered Auburn quarterback Bo Nix into an erratic performance - 24 of 47 for 272 yards and three interceptions around three sacks.
And Nix is a sophomore. Finley and Johnson have not played in a college game yet.
Brennan is hurt and has a painful injury, but he has had 13 days to recover with LSU getting an open date last week with Florida coming down with a rash of COVID-19.
If it comes down to a last possession, put him in, or put him in earlier.
The most amazing thing about Brennan's mysterious injury is how well he played with it at Missouri. Surely, he can play in spots tonight - if not most of the game. Unless, he aggravated the injury while playing on it at Missouri.
Orgeron was asked that, too.
"After the game, and after he got sore, and after they tested him, they found out exactly what was wrong with him," he said. "We found out the significance of the injury. Now, the thing about the injury is that some people heal fast. Some people don't heal fast. There's not a timeline. Each human being is different, so that's what we're facing right now."
Brennan seemed to heal very fast at Missouri.
"What happens is once the adrenaline's gone, you get sore," Orgeron said. "He got sore in his rotation in his body (his core). It's hard for him to go through regular quarterback mechanics that he has to. It's not healed enough properly for him to perform his duties."
But Orgeron said that on Wednesday.
What if Brennan wakes up Saturday and feels great?
That's what happened to LSU's Warren Morris on the day of the College World Series national championship game on Saturday, June 8, 1996, after suffering from a hamate bone injury in his wrist. He hit a two-run walk-off home run to beat Miami, 9-8, and the national championship.
Remember the 2000 Peach Bowl. Starting offensive tackle Brandon Winey was ruled out of the game with an injury. But after his replacement, Brad Smalling, struggled, and LSU trailed at the half, 14-3, suddenly Winey ran onto the field to start the second half, and the Tigers won 28-14.
Rohan Davey replaced Josh Booty at quarterback, too, to lead the Tigers back, but the point is, sometimes a game day and what happens on it can change an injury.
Adrenaline can come back. Brennan could be healing fast as we speak. He could take something for the pain. And miracles can happen.
"I'm not saying he won't," Orgeron said. "Some miraculous thing may come up. When he's ready, we'll put him back in."
LSU may need a miracle to save this season, and after tonight, it may be too late.
3 things to look for in tonight's game
1. THE LONG BALL: New LSU starting quarterback TJ Finley can hum it effortlessly. But that was not all he did at Ponchatoula High. He often threw many more short passes that require touch. If he has time and is not nervous, look out.
2. JAYCEE HORN: The South Carolina starting cornerback is the son of former Saints wide receiver and Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member Joe Horn, and naturally he has good hands. He has intercepted two passes this season.
3 LSU DEFENSE: First-year defensive coordinator Bo Pelini gained an extra week without a game to correct what has been a terrible defense with players often looking completely confused. He badly needs for his unit to show some improvement or Orgeron has to consider an in-season change.
SCORE PREDICTION: LSU will return to old school football with a strong running game and a decent defense for a 20-13 win, thanks to Brennan's 34-yard touchdown pass to Terrace Marshall Jr. with 1:16 to play.