2010 Record: (11-2, 6-2 in SEC)
Head Coach: Les Miles (62-17 at LSU, 90-38 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 20102011 Cotton Bowl (beat Texas A&M 41-24)
Final 2010/2011 AP Ranking: #8
Final 2010/2011 CFBZ Ranking: #8
9/10: Northwestern State
9/15: at Mississippi State (2010 result: won 29-7)
9/24: at West Virginia (2010 result: won 20-14)
10/8: Florida (2010 result: won 33-29)
10/15: at Tennessee (2010 result: won 16-14)
10/22: Auburn (2010 result: wlst 24-17)
11/5: at Alabama (2010 result: won 24-21)
11/12: Western Kentucky
11/19: at Ole Miss (2010 result: won 43-36)
11/26: Arkansas (2010 result: lost 31-23)
Early Game Preview:
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 29.7 ppg (9th in SEC, 45th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 187.54 yds/game (4th in SEC, 27th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 155.6 yds/game (last in SEC, 107th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 343.2 yds/game (11th in SEC, 86th in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 18.2 ppg (2nd in SEC, 11th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 137.31 yds/game (6th in SEC, 42nd in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 169.8 yds/game (1st in SEC, 10th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 307.2 yds/game (3rd in SEC, 12th in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: +0.62 per game (3rd in SEC, 22nd in Nation)
Penalties: 46.4 yds/game (8th in SEC, 42nd in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB Jordan Jefferson, Sr (118 of 209 for 1411 yds, 7 TD, 10 INT)
Rushing: RB Michael Ford, Soph (45 for 268 yds, 5.9 ypc, 3 TD)
Receiving: WR Rueben Randle, Jr (33 rec for 544 yds, 3 TD)
Tackles: LB Ryan Baker, Sr (87)
Sacks: LB Ryan Baker, Sr (7)
Interceptions: CB Morris Claiborne, Jr (5)
Athlon Sports: Sugar Bowl (vs Notre Dame)
LSU is in almost everybody's Top 5 and we are no different. In fact, one of the three Zealots that vote in our poll ranked them #1. Of course, that was before all of the controversy started down in Baton Rogue. WR Russell Shepard has been suspended and starting QB Jordan Jefferson is being investigated for his part in a bar fight. That is a lot to deal with as the season is just around the corner. And I haven't even mentioned the tragic circumstances that caused once new Offensive Coordinator Steve Kragthorpe to step down to QB coach. It has been a wild off-season for college football and it has been no different for LSU. The main problem for LSU could be that all of this is coming to a head just days before their big opening week showdown with National Championship Runner-Up Oregon.
LSU plays a daring out of conference schedule this season. I already mentioned the opener against LSU in Arlington but they also go to West Virginia in the fourth game of the year. LSU squeeked past WVU last year and this year the Mountaineers look to be much improved from a coaching standpoint and they are always tough to beat at home. The first four games could very well decide this season for the Tigers. Oregon on a neutral field (an Oregon team that has been seething and game planning for LSU ever since they lost to Auburn in the National Championship Game), at an ever improving Mississippi State, and at West Virginia. That's got to be one of the toughest opening stretch of the season.
LSU has a bunch of question marks on offense. Will Jordan Jefferson be under center for the first game (or games)? And if he is, has he made improvements in his game? Is Zach Mettenberger (the transfer from Georgia by way of JUCO) the QB of the future and will he see the field this year early or often? Russell Shepard is currently suspended. Will he be back and if not who will step up to be Reuben Randle's tag-team partner? Stevan Ridley and his near 1,200 yards rushing have gone to the NFL. The Tigers seem to have a stout stable of potential replacments but who will step up to grab the ball and run with it?
On defense there are a lot more answers than questions. Under John Chavis, the Tigers have been very good over the last few years and I expect that to be no different this year. They have to replace Patrick Peterson (who was also a dynamic play-maker on Special Teams), Drake Nevis and Kelvin Sheppard. Morris Claiborne and Ryan Baker are the leaders on D this year and I don't see them taking much of a step back on that side of the football if any. There are a lot of questions surrouding this LSU team and we caught up with the guys at Saturday Night Slant to get their take on the 2011 LSU Tigers.
We can't do a LSU preview without talking Jordan Jefferson. What are your expectations for the QB position this year?
(Editor note: this question was posed prior to the recent allegations surrounding Jefferson)
The coaching staff and players have been telling us all off-season that Jordan Jefferson has improved. New quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe certainly likes him. And even a fair share of outsiders were impressed watching him work out at the Manning Passing Academy last month. However, LSU fans are not taking the bait...not until they see some improved play on the field. But there is some hope for optimism, even when looking at results on the field. Jefferson ended 2010 on a fairly good note. His numbers over the last four games against BCS conference opponents were not bad: 49 of 76 (64.4%) 737 yards (184.25 yards per game) 5 TD 2 INT 173 rushing yards (43.25 rushing yards per game).
My expectation is that Jefferson play like he did during that stretch for the entire season. When Gary Crowton left for Maryland, he reportedly took his thick playbook and multiple formations and personnel packages with him. Kragthorpe and new offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa have preached simplicity and execution. That bodes well for Jefferson. Will Jefferson be an All-American? No. Will he be All-SEC? Probably not. But I do anticipate that he'll be a part of LSU's offensive success this year, rather than the biggest obstacle to obtaining it.
Leading rusher Stevan Ridley has moved on but LSU looks very talented at RB. Who are the guys to watch at RB this year for the Tigers?
Spencer Ware is the guy to watch this year. The former five-star prospect eventually made his way to the #2 spot behind Ridley last year. When he finally received extensive work in the Cotton Bowl, Ware shined with a 10 carry 102 yard performance that included a number of big gainers. He has also proven to be an exceptional receiver out of the backfield. He blocks well. He runs hard inside but can break it outside and make people miss. In short, he looks like the most complete back that LSU has seen since Joseph Addai. He still has to go out and prove it, but the expectations are pretty high for him around Baton Rouge. I'll venture to say that at this time next year, Spencer Ware will receive the same kind of hype and attention that Marcus Lattimore and Trent Richardson are currently getting. LSU has some nice, though unproven, depth behind Ware. Mike Ford and Alfred Blue both played at times last year. Ford had a couple of big games including 85 yards and a touchdown against Ole Miss. He also rushed for 86 yards and two touchdowns against McNeese State. So we have seen glimpses. Blue is a 6'2" 215 pounder than runs very hard, and the coaches rave about his potential. Like Ford, he'll see some carries in a backup role to Ridley.
You've got a true freshman, Terrance Magee, that has been turning a lot of heads at practice. He's actually very similar to Ware in his style. Also like Ware, he played quarterback in high school and is a standout on the baseball diamond too. From listening to the coaches, it sure sounds like he's not going to redshirt. He could see increased time as the season progresses. And then there is Jahkari Gore, who provides a nice change of pace and will likely play in certain situations.
LSU has one of the toughest out-of-conference schedules in the Nation. They play Oregon early in Arlington and then go on the road to Morgantown to play a tough West Virginia team. What does LSU need to do to win these games?
Playing two ranked teams, both away from Tiger Stadium, is not too helpful in the quest for a national championship or BCS bowl. But it sure is a lot of fun for the fans. Winning these games will not be easy. I do like LSU's chances against Oregon in Dallas. The crowd should be very pro-LSU, enough to where they could potentially have an impact. And I really like the match-up of LSU's running game against Oregon's front seven. LSU will likely employ the same game plan they did in the Cotton Bowl when the held the ball for 38 minutes. It does not take Oregon long to score when they have the ball, but if you can limit their possessions and opportunities, then you also limit the number of big plays.
West Virginia is more of an unknown. It will be a true away game, and the game will likely be at night in front of an enemy crowd -- one that is now allowed to drink during the games. I'm very curious to see how new head coach Dana Holgorsen implements his offense with quarterback Geno Smith. Smith completed 64% of his passes for 2,763 yards and 24 TDs a year ago. He threw just seven interceptions. Of course, you'd expect those numbers to only improve under Holgo, and it will be interesting to see if he can go down the field more to stretch out a defense. I have no doubt that they'll try. WVU has always played good defense under Jeff Casteel, and I expect them to again. LSU has more overall talent than the Mountaineers, and they'll probably be more physical. But can they overcome a high flying offense and a hostile environment? Like any other tight game, it will come down to turnovers and big plays. It's tough to make a prediction right now, but it should be fun.
Defensively the Tigers lose Patrick Peterson, Drake Nevis and Kelvin Sheppard. Who is going to step up and be the leaders for this defense?
I'm not sure anyone can really replace those three guys. With Peterson, Nevis and Sheppard, LSU had an All-American candidate at each level of the defense. They also had a really tremendous leader in Kelvin Sheppard. LSU is going to counter in 2011 with speed -- and lots of it. LSU has insanely quick defensive ends that are going to be turned loose. They have a couple of former safeties playing linebacker. And they have what should be considered the best young secondary in the nation. They are going to fly around the field and while they'll probably make mistakes and over-pursue at times, they're also going to make a hell of a lot of plays.
At tackle, LSU probably won't have individual to put up the numbers that Nevis did. But they have a solid collection of guys that can, together, make up for his loss. Peterson was special, but LSU's secondary is going to be very good. Peterson will be missed more on special teams than he will on defense. But Kelvin Sheppard is the toughest to replace, and I think LSU will struggle to do so. With just one proven linebacker and with so many defensive backs, look for LSU to play a lot of nickel and dime this year, even in situations that normally would not warrant it.
As far as leadership, safety Brandon Taylor is the lone senior in the secondary and has taken the reigns. He is a favorite of defensive coordinator John Chavis. Also keep an eye on sophomore Tyrann Mathieu, who is coming off an incredible freshman season. Patrick Peterson passed down his #7 jersey to Mathieu, and he is having a great fall camp. At linebacker, senior Ryan Baker is the veteran and only proven play maker. On the defensive line, sophomore Sam Montgomery has been said to be taking on a big-time leadership role. He looks to bounce back from a knee injury and put up some nice numbers in 2011.
Outside of the two out-of-conference games we've talked about, what are the most important games this year for LSU?
All of them.
While that's true, I know that's not the answer you want to hear. So obviously the two biggest games on the schedule look to be Arkansas and Alabama, the other two teams expected to compete with LSU for the SEC West Championship. Of course everyone circles Alabama on the schedule, and rightfully so. But I have a feeling that the game against Arkansas will be the most important one in 2011. If the SEC West is not on the line, then it's quite possible that an at-large birth to a BCS bowl will be. In 2010, the game was essentially a "play-in" game for the Sugar Bowl, and I would not be surprised the game carries a similar significance again this year. Quietly, this has turned into a pretty intense series. The last several games between the two have had their share of huge plays, crazy plays, and wild finishes.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
The expectations are such that anything short of winning the SEC West or going to a BCS bowl game would be considered a bit of a disappointment in 2011. LSU has not accomplished either since 2007, and it's time for them to get back there. My gut is that LSU will finish the regular season with a 10-2 record. If one of those two losses is to one of the out of conference foes, then I think LSU wins the West and goes to Atlanta. If not, then I think they'll land in a BCS game as an at-large team. While I do not believe this will be a national championship type of season for LSU, I do think it will be another very good one and it will pave the way for 2012 when LSU's roster will be absolutely loaded.
CFBZ Top 25
#4 LSU Tigers
2011 Team Previews