The LSU Tigers overcame every obstacle and played nearly perfect football all season but weren't able to capture the national title in a defeat to Alabama last year. In 2012-2013, the Tigers will try again, but this time a new quarterback will be in control of the offense. Will he be up to the task?
The Louisiana State Tigers finished No. 2 in the AP college
football top-25 poll last season. Yeah, they lost that thing they call the BCS
championship game to Alabama, and in rather dismal fashion. But when you look
at the body of work for last season, including and especially their performance
against the college football betting odds, shouldn't LSU have finished at No.
The Bayou Bengals began last year with a solid win over
Oregon, a team that went on to win the Rose Bowl. A few weeks later they went
to Morgantown and walloped West Virginia. They then ran the table in the SEC,
winning by 28, 30, 31, 35, 33, 49 and 24 points, beat 'Bama in Tuscaloosa and
thumped Georgia in the conference championship game.
Meanwhile, the Tide had conference championship week off.
In the end LSU finished a wallet-fattening 10-4 against the
college football betting lines, playing one of the tougher schedules in the
country. They split their two games with Alabama. They won their conference
championship. But one off-night cost them all the marbles. Just one AP voter
showed enough balls to vote the Tigers No. 1 after the title game.
Alas, that's all in the past. So what's in store for LSU
this season? Probably another run at a national title.
The Tigers return 11 starters this season, and the holes
that need to be filled will be by, as usual, top-ranked talent. And the
schedule is very manageable. LSU begins with three home games, the toughest of
which comes against Washington. The Tigers then visit Auburn to open SEC play,
and while that won't be easy it's still very winnable. They also play at
Florida, at Texas A&M and at Arkansas, but they get Alabama in Baton Rouge.
And they get the week off going into the 'Bama game.
So it won't be a surprise when LSU plays in the SEC title
As of early this week BetOnline.com is listing the Tigers at
+150 to win the Southeastern Conference championship again this season, and at
+400 to win the BCS national title
Not even a share?
I was one of those people campaigning for the Tigers to get a share of the national championship if they lost the title game. However LSU lost in such convincing fashion, getting shutout 21-0 and with 5 first downs that Alabama proved to be the legitimate champion.
There will be no Jordan Jefferson
or Jarrett Lee behind center this season and despite such an awful display in the BCS Championship game, the Tigers are listed as the favorites to win in the upcoming season.Favorites to be champs
Future betting odds
have LSU as a 9/2 choice while Alabama
and Oklahoma are listed at 11/2. Although I'm writing this piece, I don't have much faith in the Tigers ability to claim the championship this year.Zach attack
Junior Zach Mettenberger will get his chance to lead the Tigers at quarterback this season. Mettenberger has played sparingly but was impressive in the little action that he saw. In a 49-3 victory over Northwestern State, Mettenberger was 8 of 11 for 92 yards and 1 TD. He also saw a moment of action at Ole Miss in where he carried the ball one time for 25 yards. LSU expects a lot out of Metteneberger and apparently, so do the oddsmakers. Look for Mettenberger to have a solid season as he gets on the job training. Is it realistic for oddsmakers to think that this young man will lead the Tigers to a national championship? I say no and there's a possibility of getting a nice price on your NCAA future odds pick.Stacked at back
LSU has a very youthful group of running backs and all 5 of their top backs are returning this season led by the trio of Michael Ford (756 yards, 6.0 per carry,7 TD), Spencer Ware (707 yards, 8 TD), and Alfred Blue (539 yards, 6.9 per carry, 7 TD).
Expect great improvement out of massive running back Kenny Hilliard. Hilliard will pound the defense into submission at 240 lbs and gave a solid account of himself in his freshman season with 336 yards and 8 TD. Hilliard will be used often in goaline situations.Life without Reuben Randle
The Tigers lose leading receiver Reuben Randle as he's decided to skip his remaining time at LSU for the NFL
. Randle played poorly in the championship game and I don't expect much out of him at the next level.
LSU will have to find a "go to guy" during pivotal situations and it will be tough. Look for number 33, sophomore Odell Beckham to get targeted a lot. This New Orleans, Louisiana native goes into his sophomore year after catching 41 passes for 475 yards and 2 TD.
LSU did nothing in the championship game and Beckham showed some promise by catching 5 balls for 38 yards. Look for the combination of Mettenberger to Beckham to be the primary direction taken through the air in the upcoming season.
Senior Russell Shepard will also be another one of Zach's targets as he caught 4 touchdown passes last season. The opportunity is there for the receiver that will be up to the task. Recruiting wars
It appears that Alabama has dominated in recruiting in comparison to LSU. Don't get me wrong, LSU is a fantastic educational institution and has landed a lot of recruits due to being one of the best team's in the nation, but the Crimson Tide have definitely made a statement.
LSU could definitely use a receiver and they managed to land the number 23 ranked receiver in Avery Johnson while Bama picked up the 2nd and 7th ranked receivers in the country. Oklahoma, who is another contender for the national title, managed to grab the 9th, 10th, and 19th ranked receivers. Nonetheless, Avery Johnson is being compared to Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green. If the Tigers could get anything remotely close to Green, they would be eccastic.Dominant defense
Along with their exceptional running game, the Tigers will rely heavily on their top notch defense. The Tigers were ranked 2nd in the nation
in defense last season. They allowed just 11.3 points per game (2nd in the nation), 252 total yards per game, and 14 TD's.
This season, LSU loses cornerback Morris Claiborne, cornerback Brandon Taylor, and defensive tackle Michael Brockers. The Honey Badger
LSU has something that the Crimson Tide doesn't have, the best defensive college football player in the nation in Tyrann Mathieu
Mathieu stand's small in stature at just 5 foot 9 inches, 175 pounds but his accomplishments are enormous. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist last season, Mathieu won the Chuck Bednarik award given to the best defensive college athlete, was the SEC Championship Game MVP in 2011, and the SEC most oustanding defensive player of the year,
Last season, in 13 games, Mathieu had 76 tackles, two interceptions, four fumble returns (2 for touchdowns), 1.5 sacks, 9 passes broken up, three quarterback hurries, six fumble returns, and 7.5 tackles for losses. He's only 19 years old, folks!
If that's not impressive enough, Mathieu had 27 punt returns for 421 yards and 2 TD. Can someone say Deion Sanders? LSU has a gem in New Orleans native cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. Get prepared to wear those Mathieu jerseys when the Honey Badger is a future NFL superstar. Players to watch
LSU will have some standout defensive players returning to the team along with Mathieu. Safety .Eric Reid has good size at 6 foot 2, 207 pounds. Last season the future junior had 76 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 forced fumbles
Defensive end Sam Montgomey came up big last year with 9 sacks along with 49 tackles and 1 forced fumble. He's undersized at 6 foot 4, 245 pounds but that hasn't affected his level of play. Defensive end Bavarkous Mingo also returns for his junior season. Last year, Mingo had 46 tackles (15 tackles for losses), 7 sacks, 2 passes broken up, 11 quarterback hurries, and 1 forced fumble.
This defense gives a reason for Tigers fans and bettors to be optimisticWhat to Expect?
LSU has major running depth and a defense that could get them back to the title game. Tyrann Mathieu will have a huge season and will even be more of a candidate to win the Heisman Trophy (and at a good price). The key for success for LSU will be the play of quarterback Zach Mettenberger as he's unproven and playing at a key position on the field.
As I look at this season's schedule, they get a break hosting Alabama on November 3rd. However, this is another tough schedule where they host South Carolina, and travel to Auburn, Florida, and Arkansas.Prediction:
LSU 10-2 - Inexperience at a key position and possibly a letdown from their loss to Alabama last season will affect the Tigers