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LSU’s Special Teams vs. TCU’s Special Teams

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Odell Beckham Jr. can change a game with his return skills. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.
Jaden Oberkrom is one of the most dependable kickers in the country. Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images.

This is the final installment of the three-part series debating LSU vs. TCU. So far, I picked LSU’s offense against TCU’s defense, but the Horned Frogs’ offense got the nod over the Tigers’ defense. I suppose this means the monstrous scoreboard at AT&T Stadium will get a good workout. Which team has the edge on special teams?

If both offenses are predicted to get the better of the opposing defenses, then this intriguing matchup could come down to a special teams play in order to determine the winner. Both Les Miles and Gary Patterson are known for coaching solid special teams units, and Miles is particularly known for calling a well-timed trick play during a scrimmage kick.

The Case For LSU’s Special Teams

Junior receiver Odell Beckham Jr. may have been inconsistent as a receiver last year, but he was more than reliable as a return man. His 89-yard punt return against Ole Miss helped the Tigers to win that game. That was one of two punts Beckham Jr. returned for a touchdown last season.

Incoming defensive back Jeryl Brazil has a chance to return punts or kickoffs as well. The four-star recruit is known for his blazing speed and elusiveness in the open field. Beckham Jr. and Brazil could form an intimidating duo in the return game and cause teams to alter their kicking plans. Punters and even kickers performing kickoff duties might be told to kick out of bounds to avoid the big return.

LSU will be trading one Australian punter for another. Jamie Keehn performed well in the Chick-fil-A Bowl when he had to play for the suspended, and now departed, Brad Wing. He averaged 44.6 yards on nine punts during the Tigers' loss to Clemson.

Perhaps the only area of concern on special teams for LSU is placekicker. James Hairston, a junior from Dallas, handled kickoffs last season and now will be asked to convert field goals and extra points as well.

The Case For TCU’s Special Teams

The Horned Frogs are blessed to return two highly-effective sophomores in their kicking game. Ethan Perry averaged 44.5 yards per punt in 2012 and had 20 punts of at least 50 yards. Jaden Oberkrom converted 22 of 30 field goals and didn’t miss any of his 42 extra-point attempts. TCU is one of just eight schools in the country to have its placekicker on the Lou Groza Award List and its punter on the Ray Guy Award List.

Sophomore Deante’ Gray averaged 22.4 yards on punt returns last year. Gray endeared himself to Horned Frogs fans early in his career as he returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown on his very first punt return.

Receivers Waymon James and Brandon Carter provide experience in the kick return game. James has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in his career (2011) and Carter averaged just more than 25 yards per return in 2012.

The Winner: LSU’s Special Teams

At first glance, it would be easy to pick TCU’s special teams because the Horned Frogs return both their punter and kicker. However, LSU gets the edge due to their return men and the Les Miles X-factor. He seemingly has a sixth sense when it comes to calling the right trick play at the right time. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see this game come down to a field goal, blocked kick, or punt/kickoff return for touchdown.