As the Oklahoma Sooners and LSU Tigers get set to face off in the Peach Bowl, we’re joined by Zachary Junda of And The Valley Shook — SB Nation’s LSU site. We discuss Joe Burrow, the LSU defense, his favorite LSU alum and more!
Also make sure to check out this week’s edition of the Oklahoma Breakdown Podcast.
While LSU’s offense has been dominant throughout, the defense hasn’t always been up to the level of what we’ve seen in years past. Having said that, the unit’s recent performances have been impressive. What were the unit’s weaknesses early on, and how has Dave Aranda’s defense been able to right the ship?
Health was the biggest bugaboo early on, especially along the defensive line. The oft-injured defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence and defensive end Glen Logan each went down in the Texas game while outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson left Austin wearing a walking boot. Then, as the line got healthy, the secondary got beat up. Todd Harris was lost for the year with an ACL injury and that put more pressure on Grant Delpit to play more like a centerfielding free safety, as opposed to the in the box, attacking strong safety. Then of course he sprained an ankle against Auburn, and it was most noticeable against Ole Miss when quarterback John Rhys Plumlee just blew past him numerous times in the open field. Delpit sat out the Arkansas game and that forced true freshman Maurice Hampton to action. Hampton’s a two-sport guy, he’ll play baseball in the spring where he’ll presumably be the starting centerfielder. So, with Hampton flashing his speed on the back end, that allowed
Dave Aranda to keep Delpit and safety/outside linebacker hybrid Jacoby Steven inside the box and voila. LSU looks like LSU.
Speaking of the defense, which names should OU fans familiarize themselves with in the coming weeks?
Well Patrick Queen for sure introduced himself, didn’t he? Call me paranoid but I don’t love the idea of my starting linebacker saying the Sooner offensive line and running backs aren’t great and that they’re going to “dominate” Oklahoma. Better back it up, that’s all I’ll say.
Anyway, Sooner fans need to familiarize themselves with LSU’s cornerback tandem. Derek Stingley Jr. was the SEC’s newcomer of the year (but not the freshman of the year?) and a consensus All-American. He led the SEC and was fifth overall in the entire country with six interceptions. He’s not just the best freshman in America, he’s the best corner in America. Opposite him is Kristian Fulton. You may not have heard much of Fulton because he’s only been thrown at 47 times this year. But he and Stingley have each allowed a 39 percent completion percentage. Regardless of what side of the field he lines up on, Ceedee Lamb won’t catch a break Saturday because LSU has two absolute stud cornerbacks.
Other than obviously benefitting from some scheme adjustments, how has Joe Burrow improved as a QB from last year to this year?
He’s just so in control of the offense. There are all kinds of numbers to point to about why he’s excelled at this or dominating at that, but it’s that intangible, unquantifiable confidence he exudes that has made him the best player in the country. There’s not a throw he can’t make nor a situation that’s too big for him.
Who is your favorite LSU alum outside of sports?
Easy, Todd Graves the founder, CEO, fry cook and cashier of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers.
Raising Cane’s. One Love! Woof woof!
Is Neck a great college football song or the greatest college football song ever?
Why is it better than Dixieland Delight? Neck’s a great college football song but not the song when I think about LSU football. From an LSU perspective it’s not better than Garth Brooks’ “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” which is about a man calling his dear Samantha down in Baton Rouge; it’s not better than Mel McDaniel’s “Louisiana Saturday Night,” which is about basically every night in Louisiana but especially so on Saturday; nor is it better than “Bitch I’m From Louisiana” by Louisiana Ca$h which is about telling bitches that you’re from Louisiana. But Neck IS better than Dixieland Delight because at no point does Dixieland Delight ever tell someone to perform fellatio upon a tiger.
What are the ideal protein ingredients for a great gumbo?
Chicken and sausage are your staples, you can never go wrong with that. Personally, I love shrimp thrown in there. My momma makes the best gumbo there is and I have a big ole bag of it frozen and ready to serve on a moment’s notice.
Which do you prefer – a Po Boy or a Muffaletta?
Personally, I prefer a poboy and I say that knowing I am fully disgracing my Italian ancestors.
Sticking with a similar topic, have you ever tasted an Oklahoma Onion Burger?
I have not! I’ve never been to Oklahoma. I live in Nashville now and I see OKC is ONLY a ten-hour drive. Maybe I’ll try and watch my beloved/trash Pelicans at the Chesapeake Energy Arena next season and treat myself to one.
What are your drinks of choice before, during and after an LSU game?
So, I am not a drinker. I am the rare sober LSU fan. I ironically like Coors Banquet (aka “The Banquet”) because of how terrible it is. But honestly my drink of choice is Dr. Pepper. It is, after all, the official drink of Fansville TM.
Who is the greatest musical artist that Baton Rouge or LSU have ever produced?
Boosie Badazz and/or Webbie. Both grew up a few blocks away from campus. And speaking of Boosie, watch the video the LSU creative department made in celebration of Joe Burrow being named. About 50 seconds in it cuts to Boosie’s “Set it Off” and I wept the first time I saw it.
Let’s talk about LSU’s fan base. Is it the most hostile fan base in college football, and if so (it is decidedly so), do your fans take pride in that fact? Also, what should Oklahoma fans know about LSU fans outside of this?
I mean, it’s college football and every fan base sucks. I did band for LSU and saw all kinds of hostility from the one’s you’d expect (like Alabama and Florida) and one’s you wouldn’t (Iowa, believe it or not). We’re all idiots, is what I’m saying. LSU fans will rib you, like any fan base will, but they’re good people and they’ll offer you a beer and a plate of deep-fried something.
Who’s your favorite LSU football player of all time, and who is your favorite OU football player of all time?
I’m going to divide this distinction up a few ways. Prior to me going to LSU it was either Lionel Turner because he signed a hat for me a few weeks after the 2003 National Championship and that blew a 10-year-old Zachary’s mind that an actual LSU football player signed something of mine. I’d also nominate Glenn Dorsey because he was just so damn good. He was unstoppable on NCAA 2007.
While I was a student at LSU, I’d say Tyrann Mathieu was my favorite player because I had never seen one guy cause as much mayhem than him. He just had a supernatural knack for causing turnovers. He was like the IG droid on The Mandalorian, his sole purpose was taking the ball away from offenses.
Now that I’m a grumpy alumnus of LSU, my favorite player has to be Joe Burrow, right? It’s the easy and obvious answer, but it’s also the correct one.
Burrow has done things I’d never thought an LSU quarterback could do. Plenty of other schools have offenses like that, but not LSU. No, they would win a 21-20 contest and throw for 200 or so yards. Burrow changed that. He’s the best player in school history.
For Oklahoma, put me down for Jason White, who helped LSU win its first national title in 45 years.
How do you see this one shaking out, and what’s your score prediction?
I just can’t imagine a scenario where LSU loses this game. LSU certainly doesn’t need any motivation but here’s an extra heaping of it: go win this game and you’re in New Orleans to play for a national championship. Done. It’s a wrap. The defense has been playing its best ball all season long and the offense can’t be stopped. Oklahoma’s going to get their share of points, but if there’s a defense that can slow down LSU, we haven’t seen it yet and I sincerely doubt Oklahoma’s going to be the one to do it, especially down its best pass rusher. I feel like we’re looking at a 45-28 kind of game.