BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 22: D.J. Chark #82 of the LSU Tigers celebrates a touchdown with Danny Etling #16 during the first half of a game against the Mississippi Rebels at Tiger Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

BEVO BEAT Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25 countdown: No. 12 LSU

New coach, same objective: Figure out how to get past mighty Alabama. Oh, and develop a quarterback, too.

Posted July 18th, 2017

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Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.

Today’s team: No. 12 LSU (Related coverage: Ed Orgeron breaks down LSU’s offensive, defensive depth charts)

Best-case scenario: New offensive coordinator Matt Canada, whose unit rolled up 41 points per game at Pitt last year, is creative enough to make a wretched passing attack competent enough to keep defenses honest. Then the Tigers’ power-run game won’t fizzle out against elite opponents. LSU’s last several OCs have whiffed on that.

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Worst-case scenario: Danny Etling, a Purdue transfer who is the only man on campus to have thrown a pass in a college game, proves a mediocre game manager, and no other quarterback is ready for the spotlight. And the back-loaded schedule with trips to Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Tennessee grinds down the Tigers.

The key game: Oct. 14, Auburn. And you all thought we’d type Alabama. The Tigers can’t beat the Tide anymore (0-6 since 2011). Better to concentrate on the other Alabama school, also picked ahead of LSU in the SEC media poll.

INSIDE THE TIGERS

Coach: Ed Orgeron (second year, 6-2)

2016: 8-4, 5-3 in SEC (beat Louisville 29-9 in Citrus Bowl)

Returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense

Goodbye: RB Leonard Fournette (Jaguars, 1st round); S Jamal Adams (Jets, 1st); CB Tre’Davious White (Bills, 1st); C Ethan Pocic (Seahawks, 2nd); LB Duke Riley (Falcons, 3rd); LB Kendall Beckwith (Buccaneers, 3rd); DT Davon Godchaux (Dolphins, 5th); WR Malachi Dupree (Packers, 7th) … QB Brandon Harris (transferred to North Carolina)

Spring cleaning: At LSU, early departures to the NFL draft are a way of life. This year there were four, including three first-rounders. … Etling, the likely starting QB, had back surgery but is recovering nicely, throwing the ball with more zip than last year. … Help is on the way from Lubbock, of all places. Texas Tech’s top WR, Jonathan Giles, transferred in; he led the Red Raiders with 69 catches for 1,158 yards and 13 TDs last fall. DT Breiden Fehoko, the Red Raiders’ top defensive recruit in more than a decade, also transferred in. Both have to sit out this year.

BATON ROUGE, LA – OCTOBER 01: Derrius Guice #5 of the LSU Tigers reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Missouri Tigers at Tiger Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Danny Etling, 160-269-2,123, 11/5

Rushing: Derrius Guice, 183-1,387-15 (1st)

Receiving: D.J. Clark, 26-466-3 (3rd)

Tackles: LB Arden Key, 56 (6th); LB Donnie Alexander, 45 (7th)

Sacks: LB Arden Key, 12 (1st)

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS (3)

Offense: C Will Clapp (1st team), RB Derrius Guice (1st)

Defense: LB Arden Key (2nd)

BATON ROUGE, LA – OCTOBER 22: Head coach Ed Orgeron of the LSU Tigers celebrates after a game against the Mississippi Rebels at Tiger Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. LSU won 38-21. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

LSU: FYI

Life, death, taxes and Bama: It always comes back to two things — Alabama and the passing game. Les Miles was fired despite a spectacular record (114-34) because he lost five straight to Nick Saban and his staff couldn’t develop a quarterback. So now it’s on Orgeron, a popular Louisiana native but unproven head coach, and Canada, making his sixth NCAA stop since 2003. Canada has a good track record and adapts to the personnel on hand. It wouldn’t take much to outshine his predecessors. Orgeron went 6-2 at USC and LSU as an interim but was 10-25 in three disastrous years at Ole Miss. He earned his chops as a defensive assistant/recruiter. Is Orgeron miscast as a head coach?

Roll of the Guice: Believe it or not, Leonard Fournette is one guy LSU probably won’t miss. Guice, not Fournette, led the SEC in rushing, touchdowns and all-purpose yards last year. Guice has averaged a ridiculous 8.3 yards per carry as the featured back. He’s running about 10th in the Heisman Trophy odds, between 15-1 and 20-1. He’ll operate behind a strong line with two preseason all-SEC choices — C Will Clapp and LT K.J. Malone.

Rankings vs. reality: College Football News named LSU one of the nation’s five most overrated teams, with USC, Penn State, North Carolina and Wyoming. It isn’t for lack of talent. The Tigers landed seven players on preseason all-SEC teams and their last four recruiting classes were ranked 7, 2, 5 and 2 by 247Sports’ composite ratings. They haven’t been out of the top 10 since 2008. The 2018 class is currently No. 5. Some ‘17 freshmen who might contribute early: Safeties JaCoby Stevens and Grant Delpit, OG Austin Deculus and OLB K’Lavon Chaisson of Galena Park North Shore, who chose LSU over Texas on signing day.

LSU's schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Sept. 2BYU (Houston)
Sept. 9Chattanooga
Sept. 16at Mississippi St.*W, 23-20
Sept. 23Syracuse
Sept. 30Troy
Oct. 7at Florida*L, 16-10
Oct. 14Auburn*L, 18-13
Oct. 21at Ole Miss*W, 38-21
Nov. 4at Alabama*L, 10-0
Nov. 11Arkansas*W, 38-10
Nov. 18at Tennessee*
Nov. 25Texas A&M*W, 54-39
* SEC game

The last 5 years

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGBOWL GAME
TOTAL45-18 (25-15)3-2 in bowls
201210-3 (6-2)3rd/14thL Chick-fil-A
201310-3 (5-3)12th/14thW Outback
20148-5 (4-4)13th/23rdL Music City
20159-3 (5-3)14th/16thW Texas
20168-4 (5-3)5th/13thW Citrus

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking

 

2016 NATIONAL STAT RANKS

Scoring: 68th (28.3 ppg)

Points allowed: 5th (15.8 ppg)

Passing: 101st (190.1 ypg)

Rushing: 21st (233.0 ypg)

Total off.: 59th (423.1 ypg)

Total def.: 10th (314.4 ypg)

 

OUR TOP 25 SO FAR

No. 25: Boise State

No. 24: Oregon

No. 23: Tennessee

No. 22: Texas

No. 21: Kansas State

No. 20: Miami

No. 19: West Virginia

No. 18: South Florida

No. 17: Florida

No. 16: Stanford

No. 15: Louisville

No. 14: Georgia

No. 13: Wisconsin

No. 12: LSU

No. 11: Coming Wednesday. Want a hint? Part of this school’s fight song has the line “fly down the field ever to conquer, never to yield.”

BY CONFERENCE

4 schools:

SEC (12-LSU, 14-Georgia, 17-Florida, 23-Tennessee)

3 schools:

Big 12 (19-West Virginia, 21-Kansas State, 22-Texas)

2 schools:

ACC (15-Louisville, 20-Miami)

Pac-12 (16-Stanford, 24-Oregon)

1 school:

AAC (18-South Florida)

Big Ten (13-Wisconsin)

Mountain West (25-Boise State)

 

4: SEC (12-LSU, 14-Georgia, 17-Florida, 23-Tennessee)

3: Big 12 (19-West Virginia, 21-Kansas State, 22-Texas)

2: ACC (15-Louisville, 20-Miami); Pac-12 (16-Stanford, 24-Oregon)

1: AAC (18-South Florida); Big Ten (13-Wisconsin); Mountain West (25-Boise State)

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