If you were to go by future NFL talent on a roster in college football for 2015, LSU would rank in the Top 3 nationally. Yet the Tigers are only No. 14 in the preseason AP Top 25. And their 5Dimes win total is 8.5, with both at -110.
An 8-5 record would be cause to celebrate at many schools around the country, but that's unacceptable at LSU. But that's where the LSU Tigers finished in 2014, their worst mark since the same 8-5 record in 2008.
The Tigers were loaded on defense last year and had one of the nation's top running back prospects in recent history in Leonard Fournette, who some said was the top recruit at his position since former Oklahoma star and one-time NFL MVP Adrian Peterson. But even with all that talent on the field, the 2014 Tigers proved you aren't going anywhere with a good quarterback. And LSU didn't have that.
The team started 3-0, including a big comeback win over Wisconsin in Houston in the season opener. SEC play opened with a 34-29 home loss to what at the time was an unranked Mississippi State team, although MSU obviously proved much better than that. The Tigers had won 14 straight in the series.
The offense's problems really showed against the good teams. At No. 5 Auburn, LSU was crushed 41-7 and had only 142 yards of passing. LSU did upset No. 3 Ole Miss in Baton Rouge but only managed 10 points. The Tigers had four turnovers there. Against No. 5 Alabama, LSU was held to 13 points in an overtime loss. Starting QB Anthony Jennings was a laughable 8-for-26 for 76 yards with a pick. And LSU lost 17-0 at unranked Arkansas to end the Hogs' 17-game SEC losing streak. Jennings was 12-for-22 for 87 yards in that one.
The season ended with a 31-28 loss to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl. But that was the breakout game of the year for Fournette as he rushed 11 times for 143 yards, including an 89-yard score, and added a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
I'm not saying that Coach Les Miles is on the hot seat following that disappointing season, but you get a sense that LSU fans are getting a tad antsy. Reports are that Miles might have taken the Michigan job (it's Miles' alma mater) this offseason if No. 1 choice Jim Harbaugh didn't.
So before we place our College Football picks, lets take a look at some of hte question that this team still needs to answer before their season gets underway.
Who Is The Quarterback?
Jennings was the team's primary quarterback in 2014. He was just 111-for-227 for 1,611 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven picks. Brandon Harris also saw some time and completed 25-for-45 for 452 yards, six touchdowns and two picks.
Their battle for the job was the big story into preseason camp and it appears that Harris, a sophomore, is the leader heading into next week's season opener against McNeese State. Harris, who got one start in 2014, has been receiving the majority of first-string snaps since preseason practice began on Aug. 6. It didn't help Jennings' cause that he was suspended for six weeks of summer voluntary workouts for a June arrest.
Clearly whether it's Harris or Jennings, the Tigers will be run-heavy with Fournette. College Football odds curently list him at +1300 to win the Heisman. But the team also has two very highly-touted receivers in Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural. Be a shame to waste those guys. Overall, nine starters are back on offense.
There are six back on defense, which might have the nation's best secondary. However, one of those guys, preseason first-team All-SEC Jalen Mills, who has started 39 games (every game of his career), is out another four weeks or so with a fractured fibula. Barring something surprising, he will miss the McNeese State game and the SEC opener at Mississippi State on Sept. 12.
What LSU is hoping is that Mills can return for the Sept. 19 game at home against No. 6 Auburn. If somehow LSU can win at MSU and beat Auburn, then LSU could be 8-0 entering the Nov. 7 showdown at Alabama. Following Auburn is: at Syracuse, vs. Eastern Michigan, at South Carolina, vs. Florida, vs. Western Kentucky. I'd expect LSU to win all those.
The tail end of the schedule is the toughest stretch as following the Tide, LSU hosts No. 18 Arkansas, visits No. 17 Ole Miss and hosts Texas A&M.
NCAAF Free Picks: LSU is +725 to win the SEC title game and +490 to win the West Division. It is +550 to make the four-team playoff and +150 for a New Year's Six bowl. If only LSU had a quarterback you could trust, this team is talented enough to win the West with Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss all introducing new starters at quarterback. I don't think the Tigers win the West but go 'over' those 8.5 wins: 9-3 sounds right.