SportsRatings 2015 College Football Pre-season Top 128
|LSU Tigers (SEC #4; West #2)|
|AP #31 USA #33||Strength:#12 Success:#24 Overall:#18|
|Record: 8-5||Bowl: Lost to Notre Dame 31-28 (Music City)
|Picks: AP #14 | USA #13 | Lindy's #13 | Athlon #15 | Steele #10 | ESPN #5
||Bowl odds: 99.1% Playoff odds: 5%|
LSU might have the best defense in all of college football this year. But is the offense up to snuff?
7 ret. starters
|2014 Scoring Offense: #74 (raw) #43 (adjusted for opposition)|
|2015 Projected Scoring Offense: #34 (adjusted)
LSU is still deciding who should play quarterback, meaning, the guy who hands the ball off to Leonard Fournette.
|2014 Passing Rank: #116 (raw) #109 (adjusted)||2014 Sacks Allowed (raw): #57|
|2015 Projected Passing Rank: #87 (adjusted)
||2015 Sacks Allowed (proj.): #69|
Anthony Jennings (1,611 yards, 11 TDs, 7 int) and Brandon Harris (452 yards, 6:2) battled for the QB position all last season and it's still not settled. But one way or another the passing game should at least creep out of the cellar as 5 of the top 6 in receiving yards are back including #1 Travin Dural (758 yards, 7 TDs).
|Rushing||2014 Rushing Rank: #25 (raw) #20 (adjusted)||2015 Projected Rushing Rank: #19 (adj.)
If Leonard Fournette (1,034 yards, 10 TDs) didn't quite live up to his 5-star promise last year then blame LSU's committee approach. The next two committee members, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard, combined for 1,018 yards and both are gone, leaving Fournette more of the focus. The offensive line returns three starters, Vadal Alexander, Jerald Hawkins, and Ethan Pocic. Fournette should shine this year but may have less help, leaving production about the same.
|2014 Adjusted Stats:||Rush Defense: #30 Pass Defense per-game: #2 Per-attempt: #3|
6 ret. starters
|'14 Scoring Defense: #4 (raw) #3 (adjusted)||'14 sacks: #106||'14 picks: #92|
|'15 Projected Scoring Defense: #1 (adjusted)
||'15 sacks: #112||'15 picks: #72|
LSU's defense returns two starters on the defensive line including Davon Godchaux—one of three sophomores that will start this year—though they lose Danielle Hunter (11.5 tackles for loss). The linebacking corps also has two starters back; they lose top tackler Kiwon Alexander while #2 tackler Kendell Beckwith returns. The secondary is in pretty good shape though returning starter Jalen Mills needed surgery in the summer and will miss up to half the season. If none of this sounds overwhelmingly great, just remember that LSU finished #3 in scoring defense last year and, while we show them giving up a little more this year, the former #1 and #2 teams (Stanford, Ole Miss) drop off a bit more and that moves LSU to #1. Granted, it doesn't help that the Tigers also lose their defensive coordinator, so it's a prediction without a lot of confidence behind it, but there you have it.
- Kicking Game: Punter Jamie Keehn (44.9 average) and kicker Cody Delahoussaye (11 of 15 FG) are both back.
- Return Game: Both Tre'Davious White (10.9 average on punt returns) and Leonard Fournette (26.0 on kickoffs) had a touchdown return last year.
- Turnovers projection: LSU's fumble luck was too good last year to probably last, but the defense should have more interceptions to balance it out.
Coaching Hot Seat Ranking: #31 (WARM)
It must suck to coach at LSU, where if you have an 8-win season people start talking about the hot seat. Our formula reflects that mainly because of the dropoff from two 10-win seasons, and 8 wins only matches the program's long-term expectations...which have been rising. Miles always seems to have a really good year whenever the "hot seat" talk gets too hot, so watch out.
Recruiting 2015 Recruiting Rank: #13 2014 Recruiting Rank: #4
This year's class wasn't in the top 5 like last year's but it's still firmly in the top 25. Corner Kevin Toliver from Florida and WR Tyron Johnson from New Orleans are both consensus 5-star recruits.
LSU came back to beat Wisconsin 28-24 in the opener and two shutouts later (97-0 total) it looked like the Tigers might make another NCAA championship run. But Mississippi State rained on that dream 34-29, and two games later Auburn stomped it to death 41-7. Faced with salvaging their season, the Tigers went into Florida and pulled out an unlikely 30-27 win, and two games later they did the same at home vs. Ole Miss, beating the previously undefeated Rebels 10-7. They had one last shot at greatness but fell short of Alabama in overtime. They had their own hangover loss at Arkansas, 17-0. The Tigers finished with a gut-check 23-17 road win at Texas A&M, but in the bowl game they lost to Notre Dame 31-28.
Last year's prediction: We had LSU #13, pretty much in line with everyone else, but projected only an 8-4 record due to a tough schedule. It turned out to be right, even if we didn't pick losses to Mississippi State or Arkansas on the game-by-game chart. We also gave Florida the tossup game (49%), which really was a tossup. And even though it seemed a little crazy to think LSU's passing game would fall from #41 to #110, it did fall to #109.
LSU 2015 schedule & forecast
Straight up: 10-2 Cume: 9-3 Bowl eligible: 99.1%
LSU has a gimme game against McNeese State, then they have to travel to Mississippi State for a tossup game. Back home, they take on Auburn and we favor them despite the 41-7 loss last year. Two more easy games and the Tigers will be 5-0 if everything goes right; 4-1 if the coin flip went awry; and 3-2 if they have bad luck.
The next three games aren't that bad, though; they should be able to handle South Carolina, Florida, and Western Kentucky, a team that will certainly test their incredible pass defense. Then comes the tough finish: Games at both Alabama and Mississippi, and home stands vs. Arkansas and Texas A&M.
We figure LSU can come out of this with 9 wins, and 10 is not unlikely either. 11 or more is going to take some great play from the offense, in addition to the great play we expect from the defense. That's the one problem with expecting an SEC title and/or Playoff spot for LSU—is the offense going to be good enough?
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SportsRatings 2015 College Football Pre-season Top 128