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2019 SEC Preview: LSU Tigers

By Matt Smith
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Matt Smith breaks down everything you need to know about the 2019 LSU Tigers.

Head Coach: Ed Orgeron – third* year at LSU, sixth* year overall (41-36 overall, 18-28 SEC)

Offensive Coordinator: Steve Ensminger (second season)

Defensive Coordinator: Dave Aranda (fourth season)

2018 Record: 10-3 (5-3 SEC); defeated UCF in Fiesta Bowl

Returning Starters: 15 (7 offense, 8 defense)

*Interim coach at LSU for eight games in 2016 (6-2), interim coach at USC for eight games in 2013 (6-2)

2019 Schedule

Aug. 31 – GEORGIA SOUTHERN (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Sept. 7 – at Texas (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Sept. 14 – NORTHWESTERN STATE (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
Sept. 21 – at Vanderbilt

Oct. 12 – FLORIDA
Oct. 19 – at Mississippi State
Oct. 26 – AUBURN

Nov. 9 – at Alabama
Nov. 16 – at Ole Miss
Nov. 23 – ARKANSAS
Nov. 30 – TEXAS A&M

What We Know

-There are no questions at quarterback. While Joe Burrow isn’t going to win the Heisman Trophy, he’s brought a rare stability to Baton Rouge at the sport’s most important position. Ed Orgeron raves about his toughness, never more than evident than bouncing back from a crushing block after throwing an interception in the Fiesta Bowl. If Burrow can elevate his completion percentage above 60 percent to go along with his threatening legs (399 rushing yards, 7 TDs in 2018), this can be a College Football Playoff team.

-LSU currently holds the “DBU” moniker for its production of NFL defensive backs. The Tigers won’t lose that title after this season, as there is no better secondary in college football than the one wearing purple and gold. Safety Grant Delpit could be a top-10 NFL Draft pick eight months from now, while the other three likely starters were five-star recruits: cornerbacks Kristian Fulton and Derek Stingley and safety JaCoby Stevens. The Tigers allowed quarterbacks to complete fewer than 50 percent of their pass attempts last season – a feat matched only by Michigan among Power Five teams. There’s no reason to think this group won’t be just as stingy this year.

-Alabama and Georgia both lost key pieces from their defensive lines. LSU did not. The Tigers lose only part-time starter Ed Alexander from last year’s contributor group. The returnees are led by senior end Rashard Lawrence, the Fiesta Bowl defensive MVP, who at this time a year ago seemed like he would be in an NFL training camp in August 2019. Lawrence and Glen Logan are an excellent pair of ends. The Tigers have multiple options at nose guard, including massive freshman Siaki Ika. Expect a fifth straight season of LSU holding opposing offenses to fewer than four yards per carry.

What We Don’t Know

-There’s a ton of experience at the offensive skill positions after having to reload a year ago, but do they stack up with what the other SEC bluebloods are sporting? The Tigers bring back their top five receivers and add five-star John Emery to the backfield to join junior Clyde Edwards-Helaire, which bodes well, but LSU hasn’t had an elite wide receiver since Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry left Baton Rouge. Is Justin Jefferson that guy after an 875-yard sophomore season? This a good group of receivers, but for LSU to get where it wants to go, it needs a receiver that opposing defenses have to specifically account for on every play.

-How impactful will the loss of Devin White be to the linebacking corps? The other three starters are excellent, but White was special. Junior Patrick Queen was the starter for the first half of the Alabama game last year while White served his now-famous targeting suspension. Queen is good enough that with the help of returning starters Michael Divinity and Jacob Phillips, along with the return of edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson (who missed 2018 but was awarded the prestigious No. 18 jersey earlier this morn), White’s absence may not be all that significant. However, even with LSU’s talent, there’s no positive spin to put on saying farewell to a top-five NFL Draft pick.

-Has Orgeron figured it out? Skeptics remain, especially after another non-competitive loss to Alabama, but Orgeron is no longer the caricature that his reputation made him out to be from his time at Ole Miss and as a position coach. The foresight to go to the NFL to bring in passing game coordinator Joe Brady shows an ability to adapt for a head coach who has tended to restrict his offensive coordinators in the past. Dave Aranda is a stud at defensive coordinator, and recruiting is going great as always. He doesn’t need to beat Alabama this year, but Orgeron may need to go 11-1 with this team to silence most of the remaining critics.

Ranking The Units

1. Defensive Backs
2. Defensive Line
3. Linebackers
4. Quarterbacks
5. Receivers
6. Offensive Line
7. Running Backs

Schedule Analysis

National Ranking: 6
SEC Ranking: 3
Swing Game: Oct. 12 vs. Florida
Trap Game: Oct. 19 at Mississippi State

The Tigers always have it tough. LSU plays a non-conference road game against a ranked team for the first time since a trip to West Virginia in 2011 when it heads to Texas in Week 2. Flipping Georgia for Vanderbilt is a huge plus, but the two Group of Five opponents – Georgia Southern and Utah State – both won double-digit games in 2018. If there’s a blessing, it’s the SEC road schedule. Other than going to Alabama, the other three road games are Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss. Survive Austin in Week 2, and there’s a path to 11-1 and a potential first College Football Playoff appearance for LSU.

Season Prediction

This is Orgeron’s best team, and the schedule sets up decently for a legitimate run at the top four. The game at Texas will be an awesome scene, but I think LSU gets it done in Austin. Even with favorable home-road splits, I still can’t see the Tigers getting through the season without a bad loss, and I’ll call for it to come in Starkville against Mississippi State. LSU will sweep the home schedule, but national title hopes will again be ended by Alabama when the Tigers visit Bryant-Denny Stadium in November. They’ll get a really fun bowl game in their backyard, but a feeling of a missed opportunity will linger over Baton Rouge.

Overall Record: 10-2
SEC Record: 6-2
Final CFP Ranking: 6
Bowl: Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.