SQ College Football Top-25 Preview: #13 LSU
The college football staff at SQ have put together a ranking of the top-25 teams heading into 2015. To get our readers prepared for the upcoming season, the staff has created a preview for each one of these teams. Today's focus is on #13 LSU.
Team: LSU Tigers
SQ Ranking: 13
2014 Record: 8-5
Finish in AP Poll: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Les Miles (11th year)
Key Departures: LB Kwon Alexander, DL Danielle Hunter, CB Jalen Collins, RB Kenny Hilliard, RB Terrence Magee, OL La'el Collins
Previewing the LSU Offense: The Tigers are returning most of their offensive firepower from last season, including Heisman candidate RB Leonard Fournette. In 2014, Fournette rushed for 1034 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry; and don't forget this memorable 22 yard run against Texas A&M:
While Fournette will definitely be a huge part of the LSU offense this season, Les Miles will need to decide who will lead his 2015 version of LSU football. At the quarterback position, Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris will have a very competitive battle throughout fall camp. Jennings was arrested at the beginning of the summer and was suspended indefinitely, which gave Harris all of the 1st team reps in summer practices. The charges were not filed against Jennings and he was reinstated, launching him back into the QB battle.
The Tigers are talented at the wide receiver position, returning their four most productive pass-catchers from last season. Travin Dural, Malachi Dupre, John Diarse, and Trey Quinn headline a receiving core that totaled 1544 yards and 15 touchdowns combined; Dural led the way with 758 yards and 7 touchdowns.
The winner of the starting quarterback job will need to be accurate in the passing game because teams will load the box to stop Fournette, which forces the QB to beat them, something the Tigers were unsuccessful with at times last season.
Previewing the LSU Defense:
The loss of CB Jalen Collins and LB Kwon Alexander hurts the Tigers defensively but if one thing is certain in college football, a LSU defense knows how to reload. One of the bigger question marks entering this season is how the Tiger defense will perform without defensive coordinator John Chavis, who left after last season to take the same job at Texas A&M. With the additions of Kevin Steele (defensive coordinator) and Ed Orgeron (defensive line coach) coupled with the immense amount of talent, the LSU defense should have no trouble being one of the best defenses in the SEC and maybe even the country.
In 2014, LSU held five opponents to 7 points or less, including Kentucky and (at the time) #3 Ole Miss. Expect more of the same from the Tiger defense this season led by junior linebacker Kendell Beckwith and senior safety Jalen Mills. Beckwith was second on the team with 77 tackles last season and Mills had 62 tackles with an interception.
Kevin Toliver II, a 5-star cornerback from Jacksonville, is expected to challenge for some playing time in a talented secondary. However, WR Travin Dural taught the skilled freshman a lesson in a 1 on 1 drill during a spring practice.
Bullied pic.twitter.com/1W3uHPzxN3— Football Vines (@TheFBVine) April 4, 2015
Overall, look for the LSU defense to force plenty of turnovers and be efficient in every aspect.
Three Key Games:
1. LSU at Mississippi State, September 12th
In only the second week of the season, the Tigers will travel to Starkville looking to start strong in the SEC. Last season, the Bulldogs beat LSU for the first time since 1999 as the Tiger defense allowed 570 total yards of offense. QB Dak Prescott scored 3 touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing), threw for 268 yards, and rushed for 105 yards. The game is set for an 8:15 p.m. kickoff, and the winner will have the upper leg early on in the SEC-West.
2. LSU vs. Arkansas, November 14th
Entering the final stretch of games, the Tigers will look to get revenge on Arkansas and their two-headed rushing attack. Last season, the Razorbacks shutout LSU 17-0 in Fayetteville, so the Tigers will be ready when Brandon Allen and company come to Death Valley in a pivotal SEC-West matchup.
3. LSU at Ole Miss, November 21st
The last road game of the season for LSU is one that the Tigers cannot afford to overlook. In 2014, the Rebels' perfect season was ruined by the purple and gold in a defensive battle, 10-7.
Ole Miss lost QB Bo Wallace to graduation, which means this is definitely a game where the LSU defense can takeover.
Final Analysis: The 2015 schedule for the Tigers is quite interesting. After the season opener against McNeese State, the next two games are against SEC opponents Mississippi State and Auburn. Les Miles will have to make sure his quarterback, whether it's Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings, is ready for two big-time games right off the bat. If LSU can beat Mississippi State and Auburn, there is a good chance they could be 8-0 heading to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
LSU can win 10 games and reach a New Year's Six Bowl if the Tigers get a Heisman type effort from Fournette and consistent quarterback play. Every game in the SEC-West is difficult and there will be plenty of games decided in the 4th quarter, which is where the LSU defense can step up and secure some victories.