Head Coach: Les Miles
2015 record: 9-3 overall, 5-3 SEC West
2015 Postseason results: Beat Texas Tech 56-27 in the Texas Bowl
2016 returning starters: 8 offense, 9 defense
Odds to win 2017 College Football Championship game: 19/2
Odds to win 2016 SEC Championship Game: +405
Odds to Win 2016 SEC West Division: +253
Regular season wins: under 10 1/2 -215 / over 10 1/2 +170
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The LSU Tigers began last season 7-0 but then lost three straight games all by 14 points or more to arguably their three biggest rivals, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss. There were rumors coach Les Miles was set to be fired after the end of the season, but the university changed their mind after an outpouring of support from Tigers fans in the season finale home win over Texas A&M. The Tigers would then go on to destroy Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl 56-27.
This year, LSU is one of the favorites to win the SEC and perhaps the College Football Playoff. Miles gets 17 starters back. It was a little absurd that his job was even in jeopardy as he is widely considered one of the best coaches in college football. He has won a national title and could have more if not for a certain school in Tuscaloosa.
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LSU averaged 437 yards per game on offense including 257 rushing yards and 33 points per game. The Tigers were #7 in rushing nationally but #105 in passing. Eight starters are back for coordinator Cam Cameron.
Quarterback Brandon Harris threw for 2,165 yards with 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, and he rushed for 226 yards with 4 touchdowns. These numbers aren’t great by any stretch but he did enough. He will have to do more though in 2016 even with a powerful running game to create balance. Purdue transfer Danny Etling will be the back-up.
Leonard Fournette is a Heisman contender at running back. He set the LSU single season rushing mark with 1,953 yards on 300 carries with 22 touchdowns, and he also made 19 catches and a touchdown. Derrius Guice looks to lighten Fournette’s workload with more carries in 2016. He had 51 carries for 436 yards and 3 touchdowns. Darrel Williams rushed for 296 yard and 4 touchdowns last year and will get some carries as well. Fullback John David Moore could get a few carries but is mainly used for blocking.
The top two receivers are back for the Tigers. Malachi Dupre had 43 catches for 698 yards and 6 touchdowns. Travin Dural had 28 catches for 533 yards and 2 touchdowns. Besides Fournette no other receiver had more than 19 13 catches. Tight end Colin Jeter had 12 catches and a touchdown.
The offensive line loses Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins. Still, they bring back center Ethan Pocic who will anchor the line. They only allowed 17 sacks last year, but LSU doesn’t pass the ball much.
LSU allowed 347 yards per game on defense including 224 passing and 123 rushing yards. The Tigers allowed 24 points per game. Nine starters were supposed to be back but safety Corey Thompson and defensive linemen Christian LaCouture and Isaiah Washington are all out indefinitely or for the season. This is the third defensive coordinator in the last three seasons. Auburn hired coordinator Kevin Steele away, so LSU poached Dave Aranda away from Wisconsin.
LaCouture was supposed to start at end but is out for the season with a knee injury. Greg Gilmore returns at tackle. He will be flanked by ends Lewis Neal and Devon Godchaux. The duo combined for 14 sacks last year. Aranda pledges the defense will be more aggressive in the pass rush this season.
Kendall Beckwith is back at linebacker after making 84 tackles including 10 for loss last year. True freshman Devin White was impressive in spring ball. Donnie Alexander and Duke Riley will also start for the linebackers.
The LSU secondary could be the best in the country or at least the SEC. Tra’Davious White will start at one corner and Kevin Tolliver II will man the other corner. White had 7 pass break-ups last year. Jamal Adams and Rickey Jefferson will start at safety. Adams had 4 interceptions.
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Kicker Trent Dominique made 13 of 17 field goals last year after converting his first 10 of the season. He surprisingly transferred to Texas after his scholarship was revoked. Colby Delahoussaye will be the new kicker. Josh Growden will handle the punting duties. White will return punts again and Guice will return kicks again.
Schedule and Outlook
LSU opens the season in Green Bay against Wisconsin, Aranda’s old team. Then comes home games against Jacksonville State and Mississippi State. Road trips to Auburn and Florida are sandwiched around a home game against Missouri. LSU then gets Southern Miss, Ole Miss and Alabama all in Baton Rouge. The Tigers travel to Arkansas, then host South Alabama before closing the season at Texas A&M.
The schedule is tough but that goes without saying in the rugged SEC. A trip to Lambeau Field against Wisconsin will not be easy, but the stretch that includes Florida, Ole Miss and Alabama will likely decide the season. I think they win 10 games and get a berth in a New Year’s Six Bowl.
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