Jarvis Landry will be a big key to LSU's success on offense
With Les Miles set to meet the media on Monday the long anticipated kickoff with TCU is less than a week away.
There have been plenty of predictions on what the Tigers are going to do in 2013 with some saying LSU will have its worst season ever under Miles.
Others like Desmond Howard of ESPN’s College Gameday crew have picked the Tigers to topple South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game and to roll to a national championship by defeating Stanford.
The thing about pre-season predictions is with so many prognosticators telling you how things will go some will fall flat on their face.
With that said, here is how I see LSU’s 2013 campaign shaking out. And in several months we will see if I’m still standing, or if I’m facedown with egg on my face like so many other sportswriters who try and predict the future.
Aug. 31: LSU vs. TCU in Cowboys Stadium
The Tigers and Horned Frogs will meet for the eighth time when they tee it up to start the 2013 campaign. TCU won two of the first three back in the 1930’s and these two teams played to a tie in the other meeting. Since then, LSU has won the last five contests and has allowed a total of 21 points over that span.
Most Tiger fans aren’t too worried about this season opener. However, I see a much closer game than most.
LSU is breaking in a plethora of new starters on the defensive side of the ball, and they could be ripe for the picking for a TCU quarterback that is chomping at the bit after missing the final nine games in 2012 due to off the field issues.
Gary Patterson leads TCU
Prior to leaving the team, Casey Pachall had the Horned Frogs sitting at 4-0, ranked No. 15 in the country, and he was the nation’s highest rated passer.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson will dial up an assortment of blitzes against LSU’s offensive line that will be breaking in four starters at new positions.
Outcome: TCU gets out in front early, but an improved Zach Mettenberger rallies the troops in the second half and LSU wins by a touchdown after a late score by the Horned Frogs.
Sept. 7: UAB at LSU in Tiger Stadium
UAB and LSU have met only once and that was in 2000 when the Blazers picked off a Josh Booty pass late in the fourth quarter to hold on for a 13-10 upset in Nick Saban’s first year in Baton Rouge.
The big difference back then was that was LSU’s third home game of the season, and this will be the home opener in front of a Tiger Stadium crowd that has been waiting eight months for some Tiger football.
Outcome: It may be daylight when the game kicks off at 6 p.m. But by the third quarter, Dan Borne will be able to say it’s Saturday night in Death Valley and that’s when LSU begins to pull away and let some backups get some much needed snaps.
Sept. 14: Kent State at LSU in Tiger Stadium
Kent State is coming off an impressive 11-3 campaign that set a record for most wins in a season. The Golden Flashes even came within a touchdown of knocking off Northern Illinois for the MAC title.
That was then, though, and this is now.
Malzahn returns to the Plains
The defense returns only four starters and the offensive line will have three new starters to start the year under first-year head coach Paul Haynes.
Outcome: LSU may have dropped its first-ever meeting with UAB, but Kent State will not be as lucky as the Tigers run roughshod over the Golden Flashes from start to finish.
Sept. 21: Auburn at LSU in Tiger Stadium
This will be Auburn’s first road test of the season after getting its first three opponents in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
LSU has won 7 of the last 10 contests and has outscored the War Eagles by a total of 56 points in their last two trips to Tiger Stadium.
Gus Malzahn is considered one of the top offensive minds in the SEC. But, how much of that was due to having Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton leading the charge?
Outcome: Auburn’s trickery under Malzahn is something LSU will have to be aware of. But this could be one turnover shy of turning into the 45-10 romp the last time Auburn visited Baton Rouge.
Sept. 28: LSU at Georgia in Sanford Stadium
LSU’s first true road test of the season will be on this last Saturday in September when the Tigers go “Between the Hedges”.
Georgia has a brutal stretch to open the season by going to Clemson and hosting South Carolina the first two weeks. If they come out of those two games healthy and unbeaten then they will be primed for a run at the East title.
How good will Mullen's troops be?
Georgia has one of the nation’s most potent offenses with Aaron Murray under center and Todd Gurley carrying the rock.
LSU can match Georgia’s rushing attack and Zach Mettenberger has shown that he can rise to the occasion and put the team on his back like he did against Alabama.
Outcome: A win in Athens would put LSU in the discussion of teams to watch with the first BCS poll just a few weeks away. The Tigers match Georgia’s offense for the first three quarters. But home field advantage and a late score against LSU’s young defense is too much to overcome for the Tigers and puts the first mark in the losing column.
Oct. 5: LSU at Mississippi State in Davis Wade Stadium
LSU has defeated the Bulldogs 20 of the last 21 times they have met with the only loss in Starkville back in 1999 on a questionable fourth down call by the officials that could have kept a drive alive and given the Tigers a first down inside the 5-yard line.
Outcome: The Tigers have dominated this series like none other in the SEC and even an 11 a.m. kickoff would not be enough to help the Bulldogs put an end to their misery.
Oct. 12: Florida at LSU in Tiger Stadium
Florida was the only opponent that physically beat LSU on both sides of the line of scrimmage last year and it led to a 14-6 win.
Will Muschamp had Mike Gillislee toting the rock last year to take pressure off quarterback Jeff Driskel. This year, he will have to find someone to be that guy.
Florida’s defense lost a lot of talent from last year’s group and the Tigers will be looking for revenge after the way the offense struggled in Gainesville with 200 yards of offense.
Can Bo Wallace stay healthy?
Outcome: LSU’s offensive line should be starting to gel at this point if it has remained healthy. And if so the Tigers should be able to move the ball and make up for last season. If the offense struggles again, the young Tiger defense should be starting to come into its own and that should be enough to send Florida back to the Swamp with possibly its first loss of the campaign.
Oct. 19: LSU at Ole Miss in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Hugh Freeze’s team almost pulled off the upset last season and would have if not for Odell Beckham’s 89-yard punt return for a score and Jeremy Hill’s 1-yard plunge with 15 ticks left on the clock.
The Rebel offense gave LSU fits last year with 463 yards of offense, and if Bo Wallace stays healthy this is the game I have circled as one that could be a huge test coming off an emotional and physical contest against Florida the previous week.
LSU has won 9 of the last 11 against the Rebels and the Tiger offense should be able to topple the 400-yard mark like it did last year.
Outcome: The key is Wallace and whether or not he is healthy. If he isn’t, LSU wins and it’s not that close. As of now, Wallace is healthy and this has upset written all over it.
Oct. 26: Furman at LSU in Tiger Stadium
Furman and LSU meet for the first time on the gridiron.
Outcome: The first meeting in this series is about the only storyline as LSU rolls and rolls big.
Nov. 9: LSU at Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium
Ric Flair is famous for his slogan of “To be the best, you have to beat the best”. And with Alabama’s cupcake schedule there isn’t any reason to think the Crimson Tide will not be ranked No. 1 in the country when LSU travels to Tuscaloosa.
Will Sumlin be as successful in his second year in College Station?
After going to College Station the second week of the season, Alabama should be able to put things on cruise control the next six weeks leading up to this one.
LSU came within about two minutes and some change from knocking the Crimson Tide off last season in Tiger Stadium so there is no reason to think this year’s group of Tigers can’t do the same thing.
Outcome: Alabama has some question marks at running back if TJ Yeldon goes down and the offensive line is rebuilt. If this game was in Tiger Stadium then I would feel better. But, it isn’t. So the edge goes to the Crimson Tide.
Nov. 23: Texas A&M at LSU in Tiger Stadium
John Chavis gave defensive coordinators the blueprint for containing Johnny Manziel last season. Who knows? He may not even have to deal with Johnny Football if there is any proof to the autograph scandal.
Odds are Manziel will be taking snaps in Kevin Sumlin’s offense, but one has to wonder how much of an effect the tumultuous off-season will have on the Aggies.
LSU hasn’t beaten Texas A&M in Tiger Stadium since 1990 when Todd Kinchen was a one-man wrecking crew.
Outcome: This is the game LSU fans have circled on their calendar when it comes to home games, and the stadium will be rocking. The Aggies are in it for three quarters until the Tiger run game takes over because the A&M defense can’t stand tall for four quarters.
Nov. 29: Arkansas at LSU in Tiger Stadium
The annual battle for the Boot the day after Thanksgiving is usually more interesting than it should be with five of the last eight meetings being decided by five points or less.
Arkansas had issues in 2012 and the Hogs may have even more in 2013 on offense under first-year head coach Brett Bielema.
The good news for Arkansas is they return eight starters from last year’s defense. The bad news, though, is they allowed 409 yards a game.
Outcome: LSU’s seniors will go out with a “W” and give the Tigers a 9-3 finish.
Post Season: As you can see, I’m torn between 10-2 and 9-3 with Ole Miss being that big swing game. A 10-2 finish could likely send LSU bowling back in the Sunshine State.
With Texas A&M playing in the Cotton Bowl in 2012, even a 9-3 finish should earn the Tigers a return trip to Jerry’s World to square off with Texas.
But that’s the best thing about pre-season predictions is right now everyone is still batting a .1000.