Head coach Ed Orgeron of the LSU Tigers looks on against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first half of the Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. Orgeron is 15-6 in his first two years at LSU. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Football

Our 10th annual Top 25 countdown: No. 24 LSU has a tough schedule, questions at key spots

The Tigers have been a real NFL factory, but are pinning hopes on unproven quarterbacks, no big-name running back and two Texas Tech transfers.

Posted July 5th, 2018

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Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s eventual CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 5, 8 and 14 on our 2017 list.

Our Top 25 — so far:

No. 25: Texas

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Today’s team: No. 24 LSU

The Tigers’ best-case scenario: Ohio State graduate transfer Joe Burrow beats out three inexperienced quarterbacks, wins over the locker room and ignites a Tigers attack that’s been tame for too long. The Bayou Bengals have swung and missed at QB for most of the last decade.

Their worst-case scenario: A meat-grinder schedule, which Bleacher Report rates the fourth toughest in the country, chews up the Tigers. They face national title-game finalists Alabama and Georgia, have road trips to Auburn and Florida and a neutral-site opener against Miami.

RELATED COVERAGE: Ed Orgeron is ‘fired up’ for what could be a daunting season

RELATED COVERAGE: Miami is as in the dark about LSU’s offense as, well, LSU

Inside the Tigers

Coach: Ed Orgeron (third year, 15-6; 31-33 overall at Ole Miss, USC and LSU)

2017: 9-4, 6-2 in the SEC (lost to Notre Dame 21-17 in the Citrus Bowl)

Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense

Goodbye: RB Derrius Guice (Redskins, 2nd round); CB Donte Jackson (Panthers, 2nd); WR DJ Chark (Jaguars, 2nd); QB Danny Etling (Patriots, 7th)

Spring cleaning: Justin McMillan, Lowell Narcisse and Myles Brennan each had a lot of stars next to their names when recruited, but none of the three QBs made the offense hum. Perhaps Burrow, a competent passer who sensed he was being phased out by younger talent at Ohio State, can come in and save the day.

Feleipe Franks (13) of the Florida Gators is sacked by LSU’s Devin White (40) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 7, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida. White is the Tigers’ returning leader in tackles, sacks and interceptions. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Returning leaders

PASSING: Myles Brennan, 14-24-182, 2/1 (2nd)

RUSHING: Nick Brossette, 19-96-0 (5th)

RECEIVING: TE Foster Moreau, 24-278-3 (2nd)

TACKLES: LB Devin White, 133 (1st); S John Battle, 61 (3rd); S Grant Delpit, 60 (4th)

SACKS: LB Devin White, 4.5 (4th)

INTERCEPTIONS: S Devin White, 1 (T-2nd); S Grant Delpit, 1 (T-2nd); CB Kary Vincent Jr., 1 (T-2nd)

Returning All-SEC players (3)

Offense: OL Garrett Brumfield (2nd team)

Defense: LB Devin White (2nd); CB Greedy Williams (2nd)

FYI

A WR factory: Despite mediocre QBs, the Tigers always produce premier NFL wide receivers. The latest catch, Jonathan Giles, actually is a transfer from Texas Tech. Giles was fourth in the Big 12 in receiving yards (1,158) and catches (69) and fifth in TDs (13). Justin Jefferson is poised for a breakout after a big spring game that included a 94-yard TD. Watch out for freshman Terrace Marshall, a five-star recruit who chose LSU over Florida State, Texas and Texas A&M on the last day of the early-signing period.

The Tech Factor: Strangely, it’s another ex-Red Raider who could make a big difference on defense. Like Giles, DE Breiden Fehoko, one of Tech’s highest-rated recruits ever, left Lubbock for the Bayou, and he looks formidable. ILB Devin White led the SEC in tackles and Greedy Williams is next in a long line of LSU shutdown corners. OLB K’Lavon Chaisson, a sophomore edge rusher from Galena Park North Shore who spurned Texas on signing day in 2017, shows signs of blossoming.

From Fournette to Guice to …: For the first time in nearly a decade, LSU enters the season without a proven tailback. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who had a leg up after the spring, gained 31 yards in eight carries last year. Nick Brossette had 96. Freshman Chris Curry could find his way into what looks like RB by committee.

2017 national rankings

Scoring: 76th (27.2 ppg) — right above No. 77 Fresno State, right behind No. 75 Syracuse

Points allowed: 14th (18.9 ppg) — right above No. 15 TCU and Ohio State, right behind No. 13 Michigan

Passing: 84th (203.5 ypg) — right above No. 85 UTSA, right behind No. 83 Arkansas

Rushing: 28th (207.6 ypg) — right above No. 29 Toledo, right behind No. 27 Oklahoma

Total offense: 54th (411.1 ypg) — right above No. 55 Northwestern, right behind No. 53 Virginia Tech

Total defense: 12th (316.0 ypg) — right above No. 13 Virginia Tech, right behind No. 11 San Diego State

Members of the LSU Tigers are introduced against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Tiger Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Sept. 2 (6:30, ABC)Miami
Sept. 8 (6, ESPN2)Southeastern La.
Sept. 15 (2:30, CBS)at Auburn*W, 27-23
Sept. 22Louisiana Tech
Sept. 29Ole Miss*W, 40-24
Oct. 6at Florida*W, 17-16
Oct. 13Georgia*
Oct. 20Mississippi State*L, 37-7
Nov. 3Alabama*L, 24-10
Nov. 10at Arkansas*W, 33-10
Nov. 17Rice
Nov. 24at Texas A&M*W, 45-21
*SEC game

Note: LSU-Miami is at AT&T Stadium in Arlington

The key game: Sept. 15, at Auburn. Forget Alabama — the Tigers can’t beat the Tide. But if they can take down the other Alabama powerhouse, it could kickstart a surprise season. If not, a 6-6 campaign predicted by ESPN’s Power Index could become a reality. LSU hasn’t won fewer than eight games since 1999.

The last 5 years

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGSBOWL, RESULT
20137-6 (3-5)— / —Liberty, W
20149-4 (6-2)— / 7thOrange, L
20159-4 (4-4)— / —Belk, W
20166-7 (3-5)— / —St. Petersburg, W
20179-4 (4-4)— / 19thTaxSlayer, W
Total40-25 (20-20 SEC)4-1 in bowls

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final rankings.

Our Top 25, by conferences

1 school:

SEC — No. 24 LSU

Big 12 — No. 25 Texas

Coming tomorrow: Our No. 23 team

Want a hint?

This was the last team that Mack Brown faced as Texas’ coach.

 

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