It’s that time of year again! We have finally reached the start of the 2014 college football season. While the season has already officially begun, our eyes will be on tonight’s game when the LSU Tigers square off against the 14th ranked Wisconsin Badgers in Houston.
The Tigers will begin the season ranked 13th in both the AP and coaches polls, which might be a little lower than most LSU fans typically expect, but it’s not surprising after they sent more players to the NFL draft than any other school for the second straight year. Among the departures were starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, running back Jeremy Hill and wide receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry.This means LSU will be relying heavily on their young players to be major contributors throughout the season.
Fortunately, they pulled in one of the top recruiting classes in the nation in 2014, led by heralded running back Leonard Fournette out of St. Augustine. All indications are that head coach Les Miles will begin the season with a running back – by – committee approach with Fournette and seniors Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee, but Fournette will likely establish himself as the main back very quickly if he performs as expected. Despite losing Hill, LSU should still boast a strong power running game as they have in recent years.
Replacing the receivers will be a much bigger challenge. Beckham and Landry accounted for 2345 of LSU’s 3263 receiving yards and 136 of the team’s total receptions in 2013. The next leading returning receiver was Travin Dural with 7 catches, though Dural did flash some big play ability with 145 yards. Needles to say, freshmen Malachai Dupre and Trey Quinn need to make a big impression, and they certainly have the skills to do it.
And then there’s the quarterback battle, the one everybody is watching. Sophomore Anthony Jennings was the presumed favorite for the starting job after he led LSU’s comeback victory against Arkansas and started in their bowl win against Iowa. However, freshman Brandon Harris impressed in the spring game and has been making a serious case for the starting job in camp. So far Miles has held everything close to the vest and refused to name his starter.
Don’t be surprised if he uses both of them to let live game action decide it over the first few games before LSU opens conference play. I know that might not sound appealing to the fans after watching Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson split time in 2010 and 2011, but they may just have to bear with it. Jennings and Harris could produce better results after all. Expect LSU to rely on a run-heavy ball control offense while the quarterbacks try to find their rhythm.
LSU may not have been as strong as usual on defense last season, but most of the defensive starters have returned and should benefit from more experience. Their secondary in particular figures to be one of the best in the nation, depending on what happens with Jalen Mills and his strange situation.
As usual, the SEC is loaded this season. 4 of LSU’s 8 conference games are against preseason top 25 teams, including 2nd ranked Alabama on November 8th and their regular season finale against 21st ranked Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Day. It appears LSU will replace Texas as Texas A&M’s natural rival. Outside of Wisconsin, their non-conference schedule is fairly light.
If the youth movement rises to the challenge, and the Tigers can run through their schedule with minimal damage (no easy task in the SEC), they should have a great chance to be one of the four teams in college football’s first ever playoff. We only have to wait one more day until kickoff.
Laissez le bon temp rouler!