2013 LSU football's 10 things to know: Don't write off Les Miles' Tigers just yet

USA TODAY Sports

For just the second time in the Les Miles era, LSU is looking at a preseason ranking worse than 11th. It'll still be ranked, but elite play is not expected of the Tigers this time around. But with a strong-as-ever running game, a strangely underrated secondary, and a good-as-always special teams unit, Miles' Bayou Bengals might make us feel pretty silly for doubting them. For more Tigers, visit LSU site And the Valley Shook.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Defining the baseline

Pop quiz: What's an average season for LSU and Les Miles? Is there such a thing?

Over the last seven seasons, Miles' Tigers have ranked either first or second in F/+ three times and ranked 23rd or worse twice. They have won eight, nine, 10, 11 (twice), 12, and 13 games. Their offense has ranked as high as fifth in Off. F/+ (2007) and as low as 63rd (2009). Their defense has ranked as high as second in Def. F/+ (2011) and as low as 40th (2008).

There are only three constants in Baton Rouge, really: game-changing special teams play (while the Special Teams F/+ top-10 list changes dramatically from year to year, LSU has been in it five straight years), down-to-the-wire games (eight one-possession finishes in 2012, eight in 2010, seven in 2009), and Les Miles being Les Miles.

Two years ago, I wrote this about Miles and LSU, and it still rings totally true.

But to the extent that meaningful, existential thought can be applied to this beautifully flawed obsession called college football, Les Miles will probably be involved. To watch a Les Miles team operating on that wonderful, double-green, yard-markers-every-five-yards field at Tiger Stadium is to witness existence in all its beauty, humor, strength and ridiculous vulnerability. […]

There are no mundane sensations on the Bayou, it seems. There is no fear, only terror. No casual delight, only pure, joyous bliss. No tipsy, only drunk. It is exactly like being an LSU fan. […]

In an era of coachspeak and clinical, precise offenses, Les Miles has figured out how to strip games down to a visceral, chaotic core; you may not want to go there, but you're going there, and you better know how to handle yourself in this bizarre world of odd time management, spectacular fake field goals and general ridiculousness. Because he does. His record in close games proves that. In the last six years, no team has played in, or won, more close games than Miles' Bayou Bengals. College football is a land full of wonder, mystery and danger. Some say to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter. Especially in Louisiana.

The Bayou Bengals don't really do average, but they came as close to it as possible in 2012, ranking 10th overall and going 10-3. With three losses by a combined 13 points, they were extremely close to a return trip to the SEC and perhaps BCS title games. With five wins by a combined 22 points, they were pretty close about 7-5, too.

And while we're writing them off to a certain degree in 2013 following some solid attrition on both lines, we probably shouldn't. This coming fall, LSU will once again pass the eyeball test with flying colors, once again swarm viciously on passing downs, and once again play maddening, inconsistent, and occasionally powerful and unstoppable offense. And its season will once again be defined by the eight (or so) down-to-the-wire games that take years off of the lives of every LSU fan in the Bayou.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 10-3 | Adj. Record: 12-1 | Final F/+ Rk: 10
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep North Texas 41-14 W 38.8 - 12.3 W
8-Sep Washington 41-3 W 42.1 - 9.7 W
15-Sep Idaho 63-14 W 38.5 - 16.7 W
22-Sep at Auburn 12-10 W 19.8 - 14.2 W
29-Sep Towson 38-22 W 31.3 - 26.5 W
6-Oct at Florida 6-14 L 18.5 - 18.4 W
13-Oct South Carolina 23-21 W 37.0 - 15.5 W
20-Oct at Texas A&M 24-19 W 20.1 - 13.0 W
3-Nov Alabama 17-21 L 37.4 - 24.4 W
10-Nov Mississippi State 37-17 W 33.8 - 28.4 W
17-Nov Ole Miss 41-35 W 33.0 - 25.0 W
23-Nov at Arkansas 20-13 W 17.5 - 28.4 L
31-Dec vs. Clemson 24-25 L 23.8 - 17.3 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 29.8 58 17.5 12
Adj. Points Per Game 30.1 52 19.2 9

2. The friendly confines

Tiger Stadium has long been known as one of college football's most intimidating venues. Ninety-two thousand raucous LSU fans, a live tiger, and a fired-up, top-10 squad await your arrival. In 2012, Tiger Stadium played one heck of a role in keeping LSU in the top 10. Away from Baton Rouge, the Tigers were barely above average, even despite the win at Texas A&M. Inside Tiger Stadium, they were damn near untouchable.

Adj. Points Per Game (in Baton Rouge): LSU 36.5, Opponent 19.8 (plus-16.7)
Adj. Points Per Game (road/neutral): LSU 19.9, Opponent 18.3 (plus-1.6)

In Baton Rouge, LSU beat South Carolina (then ranked No. 3 in the country) and almost took down No. 1 Alabama. Away from Baton Rouge, LSU almost lost to Auburn and Arkansas. Yes, the Tigers did win at College Station, but they were vulnerable to upset bids with a terribly sluggish offense.

Road struggles were one of many hints that this young offense wasn't ready for the big-time. That's what tends to happen with a new quarterback, a freshman running back, and a still-raw receiving corps. In 2013, the line takes a hit, but the skill positions are in much better shape overall. This could lead to a little more home-road stability.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 87 39 41 38
RUSHING 52 8 15 7
PASSING 94 65 62 66
Standard Downs 35 29 38
Passing Downs 46 72 38
Redzone 10 9 13
Q1 Rk 27 1st Down Rk 30
Q2 Rk 60 2nd Down Rk 48
Q3 Rk 31 3rd Down Rk 24
Q4 Rk 22

3. "I'll take 'Questions I Never Thought I'd Ask' for $500, Alex"

Did LSU pass too much?

No, seriously. Did LSU, a team that leaned on the run as far as it could take it in 2011 (and the run took it pretty far), throw too much for its own good in 2012? The Tigers were a top-10 rushing team last year, with a strong line opening holes against great run defenses and with a true freshman showing serious moxie.

Jeremy Hill entered an incredibly crowded backfield that already had four proven (or at least semi-proven) options, and over the last half of the season, he was the No. 1 guy. In three weeks against South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Alabama, he rushed 64 times for 358 yards and four touchdowns. He scored three times against Ole Miss and gained 124 yards in the bowl game versus Clemson. He overtook a completely underwhelming Spencer Ware on the totem pole, and he and the other four backs gave LSU a reason to lean even more heavily on the run in 2012 than it did in 2011.

But LSU didn't. Instead, LSU ran and passed an almost completely normal amount; the Tigers were five percent above the national average running on standard downs but passed more than average on passing downs. They put a lot of trust in quarterback Zach Mettenberger and the aforementioned raw receiving corps, and it didn't necessarily pay off. LSU was slightly below average with the forward pass, showing big-play ability on passing downs but little efficiency. As good as the passing game looked during LSU's second-half comeback against Alabama, that wasn't the norm.

The passing game did improve, however. Starting with the Alabama game, Mettenberger and the receiving corps did seem to improve their rapport.

Zach Mettenberger, first eight games: 112-for-198 (57%), 1,419 yards (7.2 per pass), 7 TD, 4 INT
Zach Mettenberger, last five games: 95-for-154 (62%), 1,190 yards (7.7 per pass), 5 TD, 3 INT

Former five-star recruit Jarvis Landry caught fire in the last five games, catching 33 passes for 357 yards and four scores (first eight games: 23 catches, 216 yards, one score). With Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr., back, there is hope for the passing game. But the Tigers attempted balance to their own detriment last year.

(And Alex Trebek is still on Jeopardy!, right? Jeopardy! is still a thing, right? That's an aged reference, I'll admit.)

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Zach Mettenberger 6'5, 230 Sr. **** (5.8) 207 352 2,609 58.8% 12 7 32 8.3% 6.2
Stephen Rivers 6'8, 225 So. *** (5.7)








Rob Bolden 6'4, 208 Jr. **** (5.9)






Hayden Rettig 6'4, 210 Fr. **** (6.0)






Anthony Jennings 6'2, 202 Fr. **** (5.9)






Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Jeremy Hill RB 6'2, 235 So. **** (5.8) 142 755 5.3 6.0 12 +17.1
Spencer Ware RB 94 367 3.9 3.3 1 -3.7
Kenny Hilliard RB 6'0, 231 Jr. **** (5.9) 82 464 5.7 7.4 6 +7.3
Michael Ford RB 71 392 5.5 2.8 3 +4.7
Alfred Blue RB 6'2, 220 Sr. *** (5.6) 40 270 6.8 4.8 2 +5.6
Terrance Magee RB 5'9, 212 Jr. *** (5.7) 27 133 4.9 N/A 1 N/A
J.C. Copeland FB 6'1, 272 Sr. **** (5.8) 21 67 3.2 3.6 4 -2.0
Russell Shepard WR-Z 20 161 8.1 19.5 1 +5.9
Zach Mettenberger QB 6'5, 230 Sr. **** (5.8) 15 37 2.5 1.1 0 -2.8

4. Addition by subtraction

Five LSU running backs averaged at least three carries per game in 2012; two averaged worse than 3.5 highlight yards per opportunity. Those two are gone, and the three most explosive backs return. Two of them, at least.

With Hill and Kenny Hilliard leading the way (assuming Hill's suspension ends at some point), the run game should be quite explosive; the ground game's efficiency will depend on how quickly a reasonably new line can gel following the departure of two three-year starters. Last year's line was fantastic at preventing negative plays and keeping LSU on schedule.

Kenny Hilliard. Ronald Martinez, Getty.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jarvis Landry WR 6'1, 195 Jr. ***** (6.1) 87 56 573 64.4% 6.6 25.4% 57.5% 6.6 76.7
Odell Beckham, Jr. WR-Z 6'0, 187 Jr. **** (5.9) 72 43 713 59.7% 9.9 21.0% 59.7% 9.9 95.4
Kadron Boone WR-X 6'0, 207 Sr. **** (5.9) 52 26 348 50.0% 6.7 15.2% 48.1% 6.1 46.6
James Wright WR-X 6'2, 203 Sr. **** (5.8) 30 18 242 60.0% 8.1 8.7% 60.0% 8.1 32.4
Spencer Ware RB 23 18 230 78.3% 10.0 6.7% 39.1% 10.1 30.8
Russell Shepard WR-Z 19 6 92 31.6% 4.8 5.5% 63.2% 4.6 12.3
Chase Clement TE 11 5 51 45.5% 4.6 3.2% 0.0% 2.0 6.8
Jeremy Hill RB 6'2, 235 So. **** (5.8) 9 8 73 88.9% 8.1 2.6% 33.3% 5.5 9.8
Nic Jacobs TE 9 5 58 55.6% 6.4 2.6% 88.9% 4.4 7.8
Travis Dickson TE 6'3, 230 Jr. **** (5.8) 8 6 73 75.0% 9.1 2.3% 62.5% 9.2 9.8
Dillion Gordon TE 6'5, 280 So. *** (5.7)
Travin Dural WR 6'2, 180 RSFr. **** (5.8)
Quantavius Leslie WR 6'4, 190 Jr. **** (5.8)
Logan Stokes TE 6'5, 253 Jr. *** (5.5)
DeSean Smith TE 6'4, 222 Fr. **** (6.0)
John Diarse WR 6'1, 205 Fr. **** (5.8)
Kevin Spears WR 6'3, 190 Fr. **** (5.8)

5. One more receiver

Despite some inconsistency, the duo of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr., worked pretty well by the end of the season. Landry was a possession receiver with upside, while Beckham was more of an all-or-nothing guy with high-end speed and minimal technique. LSU's passing game went from below average to solid with Landry's emergence, but the Tigers still need one more semi-dependable weapon if they're going to be passing as much as they apparently want to.

There is an absurd number of former four-star recruits in this unit; who might step up? Can Kadron Boone raise his catch rate to an acceptable level? Is James Wright ready to see a few more passes? Might junior college transfer Quantavius Leslie be the answer? And what about the tight end position that nearly vanished from the passing game last year?

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 114.9 3.11 2.92 37.5% 69.6% 14.9% 78.9 7.4% 9.7%
Rank 13 39 87 78 56 8 92 106 105
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
P.J. Lonergan C 38 career starts
Josh Dworaczyk LT 36 career starts
Josh Williford LG 6'7, 332 Sr. *** (5.5) 20 career starts
Chris Faulk LT 16 career starts
La'el Collins LT 6'5, 321 Jr. ***** (6.1) 13 career starts
Vadal Alexander RT 6'6, 350 So. **** (5.8) 9 career starts
Trai Turner RG 6'3, 306 So. **** (5.8) 7 career starts
Elliott Porter C 6'4, 300 Jr. *** (5.7) 1 career start
Chris Davenport LT
Jonah Austin LG 6'6, 329 So. *** (5.7)
Jerald Hawkins LT 6'6, 300 RSFr. *** (5.7)
Derek Edinburgh, Jr. RT 6'8, 316 RSFr. **** (5.8)
Fehoko Fanaika RG 6'6, 340 Jr. *** (5.5)
Ethan Pocic LG 6'7, 285 Fr. **** (6.0)
Josh Boutte OL 6'5, 305 Fr. **** (5.9)
Andy Dodd OL 6'4, 320 Fr. **** (5.8)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 8 4 9 3
RUSHING 9 5 7 3
PASSING 28 7 15 3
Standard Downs 9 17 6
Passing Downs 1 1 1
Redzone 60 73 58
Q1 Rk 12 1st Down Rk 6
Q2 Rk 6 2nd Down Rk 4
Q3 Rk 12 3rd Down Rk 9
Q4 Rk 12

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 124.2 2.42 2.87 35.1% 70.6% 24.4% 113.6 6.2% 9.1%
Rank 5 9 31 20 83 12 43 21 22
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Bennie Logan DT 13 30.0 4.3% 5.5 2 0 3 1 0
Barkevious Mingo DE 13 29.5 4.3% 8.5 4.5 0 3 1 2
Sam Montgomery DE 13 27.5 4.0% 13 8 0 2 2 1
Anthony Johnson DT 6'3, 304 Jr. ***** (6.1) 13 20.5 3.0% 10 3 0 1 0 0
Lavar Edwards DE 13 20.0 2.9% 7 4.5 1 0 0 0
Josh Downs DT 13 12.5 1.8% 5.5 3.5 0 0 0 0
Ego Ferguson DT 6'3, 308 Jr. **** (6.0) 13 8.5 1.2% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Danielle Hunter DE 6'5, 235 So. **** (5.8) 12 7.5 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jermauria Rasco DE 6'3, 255 Jr. **** (5.8) 13 6.0 0.9% 2 0 0 0 1 0
Chancey Aghayere DE 11 5.5 0.8% 1 1 0 1 0 1
Quentin Thomas DT 6'3, 294 So. *** (5.7) 3 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mickey Johnson DT 6'0, 306 So. **** (5.8) 1 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Allen DE 6'6, 253 Jr. **** (5.9)

Justin Maclin DE 6'4, 237 Jr. **** (5.8)

Frank Herron DE 6'5, 260 Fr. ***** (6.1)

Christian LaCouture DT 6'5, 290 Fr. *** (5.7)

Tashawn Bower DE 6'5, 241 Fr. **** (5.8)

Greg Gilmore DT 6'4, 275 Fr. **** (5.8)





6. Fret not about the defensive line

The primary reason why people seem a bit lower on LSU this season is because the defensive line was decimated by departures. The top three ends are gone, as are two of the top three tackles. But damned if I just cannot get too worried about them.

For one thing, the LSU pass rush was only good last year, not great. Opponents didn't fear the pass rush an overt amount; whereas opponents ran a ton on passing downs against South Carolina and Georgia to avoid Jadeveon Clowney and Jarvis Jones, they really didn't stray from the pass in fear of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery (though perhaps they should have at times). That may have had to do with the fact that LSU wasn't blitzing a lot (linebackers had just five sacks) and was using linebackers to support the young secondary.

Regardless, now the secondary is seasoned and exciting, and defensive coordinator John Chavis can probably get away with a bit more aggressiveness in the blitz if he wants to. Safety Micah Eugene did a decent Honey Badger impersonation at times in 2012, and between him and a deep corps of linebackers, I think the pass rush will end up alright even if the defensive end position regresses. And between Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson, I can't worry much about the tackle position (though depth could be a concern).

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kevin Minter MIKE 13 92.5 13.4% 15 4 1 5 1 0
Lamin Barrow WILL 6'2, 232 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 78.0 11.3% 7.5 0 0 5 1 2
Deion Jones SAM 6'2, 202 So. *** (5.7) 13 15.5 2.2% 3 0 0 0 0 1
Kwon Alexander WILL 6'2, 215 So. **** (5.8) 7 10.0 1.4% 1 0 0 1 1 2
Lamar Louis MIKE 6'0, 220 So. **** (5.8) 11 9.0 1.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Luke Muncie LB 9 8.5 1.2% 1 0 1 0 0 0
Seth Fruge LB 5'11, 189 Sr. ** (5.4) 13 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tahj Jones SAM 6'2, 205 Sr. *** (5.6) 1 2.5 0.4% 1.5 1 0 0 1 0
Ronnie Feist MIKE 6'2, 230 So. *** (5.7) 5 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
D.J. Welter MIKE 6'0, 226 Jr. *** (5.6) 1 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lorenzo Phillips WILL 6'2, 215 RSFr. **** (5.8) 4 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Trey Granier SAM 6'1, 227 RSFr. *** (5.7)

Kendell Beckwith LB 6'3, 228 Fr. **** (5.9)

7. Anticipating losses

Last year, LSU's defensive two-deep was structured in a way that seemed to acknowledge that the Tigers were going to lose some of their steadiest players. The second string was made up of nearly all true freshmen and redshirt freshmen, and LSU utilized a large number of players throughout the season.

Kevin Minter and Lamin Barrow were the clear leaders at linebacker, but four other players (three freshmen) logged at least 8.5 tackles. And in the secondary, three freshmen got a lot of time in backup roles. A few other redshirting freshmen were listed on the two-deep, presumably getting a lot of "just in case" reps in practice.

The depth the Tigers were attempting to maintain last year could pay off in spite of the departures of Minter, safety Eric Reid and corner Tharold Simon. Sophomores Deion Jones, Jalen Mills, Micah Eugene, and Jalen Collins all showed glimpses of major star power last year; now they'll get a bigger spotlight.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Eric Reid FS 13 66.5 9.6% 1 0 2 7 0 1
Jalen Mills CB 6'0, 185 So. *** (5.6) 13 47.5 6.9% 0 0 2 5 0 0
Craig Loston SS 6'2, 205 Sr. ***** (6.1) 12 42.0 6.1% 3 0 3 1 0 1
Tharold Simon CB 13 40.0 5.8% 0 0 4 9 0 1
Ronald Martin FS 6'1, 202 Jr. *** (5.6) 13 26.5 3.8% 1 0 2 0 1 0
Micah Eugene SS 5'11, 190 So. *** (5.6) 13 24.0 3.5% 3.5 3.5 0 3 0 0
Jalen Collins CB 6'2, 195 So. **** (5.8) 13 22.5 3.3% 0 0 2 6 0 0
Corey Thompson FS 6'2, 210 So. *** (5.7) 13 8.0 1.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jerqwinick Sandolph FS 6'2, 190 So. *** (5.5) 9 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Dwayne Thomas CB 6'0, 175 RSFr. **** (5.8)

Derrick Raymond CB 6'1, 175 RSFr. *** (5.5)

Kavahra Holmes CB 6'2, 180 RSFr. *** (5.5)

Tre'Davious White DB 5'11, 175 Fr. ***** (6.1)

Jeryl Brazil DB 5'10, 181 Fr. **** (5.8)

Rashard Robinson DB 6'2, 163 Fr. **** (5.8)

Rickey Jefferson DB 6'0, 180 Fr. **** (5.8)

8. Is it possible for the LSU secondary to be underrated?

Despite an only decent pass rush, LSU had the No. 1 passing-downs defense in the country last year. The perpetual nickel defense probably helped, as did linebackers who weren't blitzing.

But is it possible that we're not talking about the LSU secondary -- the LSU secondary -- enough? This could be a deep, downright awesome unit this year. It's the other main reason why I can't get too worked up about the loss of Mingo and Montgomery up front.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Brad Wing 59 44.8 10 17 21 64.4%
Jamie Keehn 6'4, 222 So. 12 43.7 1 5 3 66.7%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
James Hairston 6'1, 220 Jr. 79 61.3 27 34.2%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Drew Alleman 44-44 18-21 85.7% 3-8 37.5%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Michael Ford KR 20 27.5 0
Odell Beckham, Jr. KR 6'0, 187 Jr. 5 15.8 0
Jarvis Landry KR 6'1, 195 Jr. 4 19.0 0
Odell Beckham, Jr. PR 6'0, 187 Jr. 35 9.1 2
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 9
Net Punting 8
Net Kickoffs 41
Touchback Pct 72
Field Goal Pct 62
Kick Returns Avg 21
Punt Returns Avg 57

9. No more Brad Wing :(

Everybody's favorite Australian punter is now a Philadelphia Eagle. But everybody's new favorite Australian punter, Jamie Keehn, looked pretty damn good when filling in for Wing last year, posting a nearly identical yardage average and FC/I20 ratio.

LSU leaned heavily on its punting to produce another top-10 special teams performance, and while the return game is in flux (Michael Ford is gone, and Odell Beckham, Jr., is a little too all-or-nothing at times), punting might not actually be a question mark. And let's face it: LSU gets the benefit of the doubt at special teams until proven otherwise.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug vs. TCU 16
7-Sep UAB 105
14-Sep Kent State 80
21-Sep Auburn 59
28-Sep at Georgia 9
5-Oct at Mississippi State 51
12-Oct Florida 4
19-Oct at Ole Miss 29
26-Oct Furman NR
9-Nov at Alabama 1
23-Nov Texas A&M 13
30-Nov Arkansas 37
Five-Year F/+ Rk 7
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 8
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +16 / +9.5
TO Luck/Game +2.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (8, 5)
Yds/Pt Margin** -5.0

10. Another season defined by close games

LSU is going to once again be ridiculously big, strong, fast, and, yes, unstable in 2013. The Tigers will also play six teams projected in the top 30. They get huge home games versus Florida and Texas A&M, a huge neutral-site game versus TCU to start the season, and tough road trips to Georgia, Ole Miss, and Alabama. Most of these games will be close, and LSU's season will once again be defined by its ability to muddy up the water, make plays in the fourth quarter, and win a majority of its close games.

That's what the Les Miles Tigers do. They went 5-3 in one-possession games in 2012, 1-0 in 2011 (a major outlier), 6-2 in 2010, 5-2 in 2009, 2-2 in 2008, 4-2 in 2007, 2-1 in 2006, and 4-1 in 2005. They have never had a losing record in such games in the Miles era, and while this could portend the most vicious, damaging regression-toward-the-mean ever at some point, for now we'll just say that Les Miles teams win close games. And for the seventh time in nine seasons in Baton Rouge, this Les Miles team will probably win 10 or more games, too.

I know exactly why people are a little down on LSU this year, but I just can't convince myself to join them. I see a top-10 team here, with strong-as-always special teams, a defense with a secondary good enough to compensate for losses on the line, and an offense that will probably look good (better than in 2012, at least) throwing the football. The Tigers aren't going to win the SEC West, but whatever average is for Les Miles at this point, he should see at least another average season this fall.

More from SB Nation:

Spencer Hall interviews Baylor head coach Art Briles

A word with Kevin Sumlin on recruiting and video games

Bill Connelly previews ugly, brilliant Florida

What’s the point of playing Texas?

National recruiting coverage

Today’s college football news headlines

In This Article

Teams
Players
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.