LSU has got to be one of the toughest jobs in the country. Not because recruiting is tough, the Tigers have an incredible base on that front, but because they are a consistent bridesmaid to Nick Saban in the SEC West, and getting close but falling short can be worse for programs than just consistently falling short. Les Miles was pushed out in 2016 despite finishing ranked nine times and making the national title game twice, with one win, and that’s because he finished his tenure losing to Saban five straight times.
The Tigers brought in well like Ed Orgeron to take over as head coach. After taking over midseason in 2016 and going 6-2 with the only losses to Florida and Alabama, Orgeron has gone 19-7 in his first two full seasons, with a New Year’s Six Bowl victory last year, but with an 0-3 start to his tenure against Alabama (including two shutouts), Orgeron now finds his name mentioned on the hot seat. Despite all that, this is a preseason top-four team in the CSD Prime model, the problem is that the #1 and #2 are also in the SEC, and the Tigers will have to upset at least one of them to make the playoff, either Alabama in the regular season or Georgia in a potential SEC title showdown.
Former Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow returns at quarterback after doing a solid job in his first year as a starter. Burrow wasn’t special by any means, but he was solid and held his own against SEC defenses, often keeping them on their toes due to his ability to make plays in the run game. Six of his top seven targets from last season return, including the top five in receiving yardage in a group led by Justin Jefferson (875 yards, 16.2 YPC, six touchdowns).
The run game wasn’t up to the LSU standard last year, and while backup Clyde Edwards-Helaire returns (658 yards, seven touchdowns, 4.5 YPA), I’d expect five-star freshman John Emery to get the nod as the top back for the Tigers this year.
Five starters are back on the line and the Tigers add a top-100 overall four-star guard, Kardell Thomas. This offense should be one of the most improved in the country as Burrow settles into his role after improving greatly the back half of last season.
The LSU defense slipped a little last year, but the Tigers played young and eight starters are back in a group led by All-SEC linebacker Jacob Phillips, who is the top returning tackler on the team and added in 4.5 TFL and three PBUs last season. Sophomore K’Lavon Chaisson is a name to watch at linebacker after he totaled 4.5 TFL as a backup last year and should benefit from additional playing time in 2019.
Some nice pressure returns in ends Rashad Lawrence and Glen Logan, who combined for eight sacks last year. Rush linebacker Michael Divinity added five more. The Tigers add some blue-chip recruits in the middle to help add some depth.
The secondary is probably the best group on the defense. Grant Delpit is back after an All-American year where the safety racked up five sacks, 4.5 TFL, nine PBUs, and five interceptions. Corner Kristian Fulton added nine PBUs, and FS JaCoby Stevens had five of his own as a backup. The unit also adds five-star corner Derek Stingley, and I’d expect the defense to be one of the best in the country overall.
This team is favored in every game this year, most by pretty large margins, except for one exception, the Tigers are near 17 point underdogs to Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide, and in a rivalry that hasn’t been close at all the past four years, and where one side hasn’t won in nearly eight years, I don’t think that is far from reality. The question stands, can Orgeron keep having really good but not national title level years, or is he going to have to beat Saban.
|Date||Opponent||OPp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|19-Oct||at mississippi state||13||4.8|
|16-Nov||at ole miss||48||13.2|
Average Projected Record: 9.3 wins, 2.7 losses (5.7 wins, 2.3 losses)