Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.
Today’s team: No. 6 LSU (Related coverage: LSU’s Fournette, Baton Rouge hoping football becomes a happy escape)
The Tigers will contend if … quarterback Brandon Harris (assuming he’s named the starter) continues to progress behind an offensive line that lost starting tackles Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins to the NFL. We already know the talents of running back Leonard Fournette, who ran over, around and through the opposition in a terrific sophomore campaign that at one point appeared to be on a collision course with the Heisman Trophy. Harris’ job is to manage the offense and keep run-expecting defenses honest.
INSIDE THE TIGERS
Coach: Les Miles (12th season, 112-32; 139-53 overall at Oklahoma State, LSU)
2015: 9-3, 5-3 in the SEC; beat Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl, 56-27
Returning starters: 9 offense, 10 defense
The key game: Nov. 5, Alabama
Hello: Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, DT Rashard Lawrence, CB Kristian Fulton, CB Saivion Smith, WR Stephen Sullivan
Goodbye: OT Jerald Hawkins (Pittsburgh Steelers), OLB Deion Jones (Atlanta Falcons), Vadal Alexander (Oakland Raiders), FS Jalen Mills (Oakland Raiders), CB Rashard Robinson (San Francisco 49ers)
Spring cleaning: Les Miles nearly lost his job last season after the Tigers dropped three straight games following a 7-0 start. We all remember his players carrying Miles off the field after LSU’s 19-7 win over Texas A&M and the revelations of a halftime meeting of power brokers and the decision to bring Miles back for another season. So Miles is back, albeit without a contract extension. … Dave Aranda, the new defensive coordinator, guided his last three Wisconsin defenses to top-10 rankings; his 2015 defense led the nation in points allowed (13.1). … LSU was picked to finish second in the SEC West and second overall in the conference by the SEC media.
Passing: Brandon Harris, 149-277-2,165 yards, 13/6 (1st)
Rushing: Leonard Fournette, 300-1,953-22 (1st)
Receiving: Malachi Dupre, 43-698-6 (1st)
Tackles: LB Kendell Beckwith, 84 (2nd)
Sacks: DE Lewis Neal, 8 (1st); DT Davon Godchaux, 6 (2nd); DE Arden Key, 5 (3rd)
RETURNING ALL CONFERENCE (4)
Offense: RB Leonard Fournette (1st team), C Ethan Pocic (2nd)
Defense: CB Tre’Davious White (2nd), S Jamal Adams (2nd)
- On Sunday, senior kicker Colby Delahoussaye suffered second-degree burns to his legs in the car crash that killed Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler in rural Wisconsin. The crash occurred on the same day that Tigers kicker Trent Domingue, whose scholarship had not been renewed, announced he was transferring to kick at Texas. The Tigers have two other kickers on the roster — junior Cameron Gamble and redshirt freshman Jack Gonsoulin.
- Since the 9-6 regular-season win over Alabama in 2011, LSU has dropped five straight games to the Crimson Tide. That includes the 21-0 rematch loss in the 2011 BCS national championship game. LSU gets Alabama at home this season and will be coming off an open week.
- Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron called LSU’s plays from the sideline in last year’s Texas Bowl win over Oklahoma State, the first time in his three years at the school that he’s done that. During SEC media days, Miles said he hopes Cameron will continue to work from the sideline.
LSU's 2016 schedule
|Date||Opponent||Last yr's result (if played)|
|Sept. 3||at Wisconsin|
|Sept. 10||Jacksonville State|
|Sept. 17||Mississippi State*||W, 21-19|
|Sept. 24||at Auburn*||W, 45-21|
|Oct. 8||at Florida*||W, 35-28|
|Oct. 15||Southern Mississippi|
|Oct. 22||Ole Miss*||L, 38-17|
|Nov. 5||Alabama*||L, 30-16|
|Nov. 12||at Arkansas*||L, 31-14|
|Nov. 19||South Alabama|
|Nov. 24||at Texas A&M*||W, 19-7|
|* SEC game|
LSU: The last 5 years
|2015||9-5 / 5-3||14th / 16th||Texas Bowl, W|
|2014||8-5 / 4-4||13th / 23rd||Music City Bowl, L|
|2013||10-3 / 5-3||12th / 14th||Outback Bowl, W|
|2012||10-3 / 6-2||3rd / 14th||Chick-fil-A Bowl, L|
|2011||13-1 / 8-0||4th / 2nd||BCS title game, L|
|Total||50-17, 28-12||5 bowl games (2-3)|
TOP 25 SO FAR …
No. 6: LSU
No. 5: Coming Tuesday. Want a hint? This school’s head coach has been both an NFL quarterback and an NFL head coach.
5 schools: Pac-12 (8-Stanford, 14-USC, 17-Washington, 21-Oregon, 25-Washington State)
4 schools: SEC (6-LSU, 9-Tennessee, 12-Ole Miss, 16-Georgia)
3 schools: Big Ten (7-Ohio State, 15-Michigan State, 18-Iowa); Big 12 (13-TCU, 19-Baylor, 22-Oklahoma State)
2 schools: ACC (20-North Carolina, 23-Louisville)
1 school: AAC (11-Houston); Mountain West (24-Boise State); Independents (10-Notre Dame)