The LSU Tigers have lost a lot over the past year.
This time 365 days ago, head coach Nick Saban packed up his playbook and headed for the bright lights and Monday nights of the NFL.
That couldn`t compare with the losses many Tigers and their families endured in Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, but the team fought through the adversity for a successful 10-2 season.
But now, heading into the Peach Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes and the No.2 defense in the nation, they’ve lost their starting quarterback.
JaMarcus Russell separated his shoulder in a 34-14 loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship game. The sophomore had played most of the season with various injuries, but speculation that he would play through pain in the Peach Bowl ended earlier this week when he didn’t travel with the Tigers to Atlanta.
In his place, sophomore Matt Flynn will make his first career start behind center.
So you’ve got a backup quarterback facing baptism by fire in a big time bowl game. That’s hardly a comforting situation, but Covers Expert Ted Sevransky says that quarterback’s success depends largely on the defense he’ll be looking at.
“In this case,” Sevransky says, “he`s facing a defense loaded with NFL caliber players, arguably the fastest defense in college football. That`s never good news for a young quarterback.”
Flynn entered the SEC Championship game after Russell’s fourth quarter injury. He completed only three of 11 passes and threw up an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
That’s what most people will remember about Flynn heading into tonight’s game, but Miami head coach Larry Coker expects to see an improvement from the LSU quarterback.
“He`s had a month to practice as the starter, so he`s not a backup anymore,” Coker told the Miami Herald. “In the SEC championship game, he had no time [to prepare] as the starter, and that`s a big difference. From my feedback I get, they feel very confident in him and feel like he`ll do a good job.”
The Miami defense has done an admirable job of keeping quarterbacks in check. They haven’t allowed anyone to throw for 300 yards all season and only three quarterbacks have passed for more than 200.
LSU coaches said they expect the Hurricanes, tied for first in the ACC with 24 sacks this season, to put the pressure on Flynn with some heavy blitzing like Georgia in the SEC title game.
That could create a problem if Flynn is knocked out of the game.
Flynn and Russell are the Tigers only quarterbacks with any experience. At a recent press conference, reporters asked LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher who would replace Flynn if the necessity arose.
"We have a plan," Fisher said. "But we can`t give them all away now."
Seated next to Flynn, wide receiver Skyler Green laughed at the response. Green briefly played under center in the Georgia game and was reportedly practicing at quarterback during bowl preparations.
Other candidates to back up Flynn are kicker Chris Jackson, who also played quarterback in high school, and walk-on James Welker.
Oddsmakers have Miami listed as 7-point favorites. The total is set at 40.
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