June 20, 2024

2016 SEC West Preview: LSU Tigers

With a massive amount of talent returning to Death Valley in 2016, the LSU Tigers will be one of the top teams in the nation and a serious contender for the College Football Playoff.

In 2015, the LSU Tigers had a solid season. The team went 9-3 (5-3 SEC) and Leonard Fournette asserted his claim to best running back in the nation by leading the country in rushing yards per game.

However, a below-average passing attack led to an overreliance on Fournette and the running game, which caused problems for the Tigers when they ran into stiffer competition. After starting the season 7-0, LSU lost three in a row in the month of November @ Alabama, Arkansas and @ Ole Miss. This rough stretch took the team out of contention for the division crown.

In 2016, with a bevy of returning talent, more experience for the younger players and continued improvement from Brandon Harris, LSU figures to be a real contender for the College Football Playoff.

Strengths:

Offensively, the Tigers ride on the shoulders of Fournette. Touted as a superstar and the next Adrian Peterson right out of high school, Fournette has lived up to the hype during his career in Baton Rouge, providing the team with an explosive, reliable cornerstone on the offensive side of the ball.

Fournette’s production helped garner LSU the No. 7 ranking in total rush offense in 2015. The talent at running back doesn’t end with Fournette, though. As a Freshman in 2015, Derrius Guice had an outstanding campaign that would have got him much more attention were it not for Fournette’s dominance. The Tigers also have Darrel Williams and Nick Brossette, making their backfield arguably the deepest in the nation.

LSU also has arguably the deepest secondary in all of college football. With Jamal Adams being regarded as one of the top safeties in the country and Tre’Davious White proving he can be a shut-down corner, the defensive backfield will once again be strong in 2016.

White returning to school leads into what is perhaps LSU’s biggest strength in 2016 – experience. For the first time in a while, the Tigers have several seniors returning to Death Valley, instead of heading off to the NFL Draft. This experience, combined with the leadership of Fournette and stability at quarterback, should result in a team with great talent that also knows how to get the job done.

Weaknesses:

The 2016 Tigers should be a great football team, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their weak spots.

First and foremost, the most glaring issue for the Tigers will be the passing game. In 2015, they were often abysmal through the air. This lead to predictability on offense and caused Fournette to have to run against eight and nine men boxes. With the talent that quarterback Brandon Harris possesses along with the impressive duo of Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, it is unacceptable for the passing attack to continue to be so horrid. With a full season of experience under his belt, it is expected that Harris will take a big step forward in his consistency and effectiveness. If he can do so, then the LSU offense will cause major problems for opposing defenses.

The Tigers will also be experiencing some turnover in 2016, with their third defensive coordinator in three years being hired. This time, the defense will be switching to a 3-4 scheme, which could create problems. Although the defense is extremely talented, there could be some growing pains, which would not bode well for the defense this season.

Players to Watch:

RB Leonard Fournette, Jr. – The obvious choice is superstar running back Leonard Fournette. He will again be the focal point of the offense and has the chance to dominate Heisman Trophy voting, depending on how the Tigers do this season.

QB Brandon Harris, Jr. – In his first full season at quarterback, Harris was wildly inconsistent. At times he looked good and at other times he was atrocious. With a season of experience under his belt and his top receivers returning, Harris has all the tools to build on last season and provide LSU with a consistent, reliable, and effective passing attack. If he can do that, LSU will be a force to be reckoned with on offense.

S Jamal Adams, Jr. – Adams is one of the top safeties in college football and has been excellent for the Tigers in his two seasons. With his size, speed, instincts and ability to hit, Adams figures to once again be an All-SEC level safety and a high NFL Draft pick when he finishes his collegiate career.

Games to Watch:

Oct. 8 @ Florida – A major cross-divisional matchup will take place when the LSU Tigers visit the Swamp to take on the Gators. Despite Florida playing their first game with Treon Harris at quarterback last season, LSU was only able to squeak by with a 35-28 victory at home in Death Valley. If LSU wants to win the SEC West in 2016, this would be a huge game to help their cause.

Oct. 22 vs Ole Miss – With Ole Miss’ emergence as a top-level program in recent years, this annual SEC West matchup has become quite meaningful in the race to Atlanta. The Rebels have won two of the last three games in the series, including last year’s 38-17 victory over the Tigers. LSU will need to win this game to reach their season goals.

Nov. 5 vs Alabama – Of course the premier rivalry in all of college football was going to be one of the games to watch this season. The Crimson Tide have won the past five meetings and LSU hasn’t had their way since the infamous, “Game of the Century” meeting back in 2011. If LSU wants to once again reach the SEC Championship game and make its first College Football Playoff appearance, they will have to go through the defending National Champions.

Prediction:

12-0 (8-0 SEC)

SEC Champions w/ a College Football Playoff berth

Edited by Jordan Dajani

Featured image by Shoshanah

 

Adam is the Assistant Sports Editor for the Tennessee Journalist and a Junior at UT. Most of his free time is spent watching sports, listening to good music, and enjoying life. If you wish to contact him, you can email him at amillike@vols.utk.edu, follow him on Twitter, @AdamMilliken14, or find him at https://www.linkedin.com/pub/adam-milliken/109/a89/a32.