It's not football season yet, I know. But it's 99 days away, for those keeping track (no one but me). And that means we're prepping for this all-important 2015 season at Syracuse. We start with our opponents, which "may" not be as tough as they've been in recent seasons. Each week, we'll preview another team on the 2015 slate, from week one through week 13. Today, we continue with the:
School: Louisiana State University
#BRAND Slogan: "Love Purple. Live Gold"
Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: "Come to LSU. We Have a Goddamn Live Tiger on Campus." "Geaux to College."
Recommended Blog: And the Valley Shook
Conference: Southeastern Conference, aka the ESSSS-EEEEEE-SEEEEE
Coach: Les Miles, 11th year. You know exactly who Les Miles is. He's won a national championship. He has a 103-29 record with the Tigers. He stars in commercials. He eats grass. Miles is one of the sport's most entertaining head coaches, and one of the most successful ones too. No he's not leaving this job for Michigan or Nebraska or some other non-SEC job any time soon. That's stupid.
2014 Record: (8-5) (4-4)
Recapping Last Season:
it was a surprisingly rough fall down in Baton Rouge (at least by their standards) last year. The Tigers started out strong with a 3-0 record, but went just 5-4 the rest of the way and 4-4 in the impossibly difficult SEC West. They did beat Ole Miss when they were ranked no. 3 in the nation, which is something, but were also shut out by Arkansas. Again: the SEC West is far too tough for us to even consider, and I shudder to think of what would happen to SU if handed a schedule with eight or nine top-50 squads on it.
The passing game was not a strong point for LSU, as they finished 116th in passing yards per game with a figure (162.9) somehow worse than SU's. Starter Anthony Jennings just never got things going, and regularly ceded the focus of the offense to a much stronger running game. LSUs ground attack was top-25 in the country, led by superstar freshman back Leonard Fournette (1,034 yards, 10 TDs). Though the aforementioned passing game struggled, wide receiver Travin Dura was a highlight and is back this fall.
As per usual, the LSU defense was terrifyingly good. The team ranked fifth in the country in points per game allowed (17.5) and ninth in total defense. A very young group did not set the world ablaze by rushing the passer (ranked in the bottom 20 in the country) or recording a ton of turnovers (middle-of-the-road with 20), but a third-ranked shutdown pass defense kept them in every single game last season.
History with Syracuse: These teams are 1-1 all-time against one another, with both games appearing at neutral sites. SU beat the Tigers in the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa, Fla., while LSU bested the then-Orangemen in the 1965 Sugar Bowl. The losing team scored just 10 points in both matchups.
2015 Season Outlook:
Had any hope reading the 2014 synopsis? Push that out of your head right now. LSU returns 16 starters -- nearly all of whom could potentially suit up for an NFL team right now (especially on the defensive side) -- and that bodes extremely well for a squad whose biggest weakness was youth last season. Now that the youth has become experience, it's very likely this offense, in particular, really starts to click, putting a forgettable last year behind them. Fournette only stands to get better, and could be one of the country's top running backs. Where this group will rise and fall, though, is with the passing game. Whether it's Jennings or backup Brandon Harris, someone needs to step up under center and prevent this group from being so one-dimensional.
Defensively, this could be country's best unit from top to bottom. Despite several players leaving for the NFL, there's a large collection of pro-caliber talent waiting in the wings to pick up the slack. Kendell Beckwith and Jalen Mills should star, and continue to be two of the Tigers' top tacklers, and Jamal Adams could be one of the SEC's best sophomores while suiting up at the strong safety position. Again, pass defense is going to be the strength.
LSU's schedule is incredibly backloaded this fall, with the only two difficult roadtrips (Alabama, Ole Miss) both occurring in November. Auburn and Florida aren't easy games by any means in the early months, but they're also at home for LSU. As mentioned, this is an experienced team and the schedule very much allows for them to succeed if they can get their house together on offense.
Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, September 26
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Odds of Orange Victory: 5 percent
Very Early Outlook:
Syracuse's offense was beyond awful in 2014, and even against less-than-great defenses, they struggled to move the ball. Bringing back a mix of newfound health and inexperience, an early game against a team as tough as the Tigers will probably do the Orange no favors at all. Maybe the SU offense can just keep to running the ball and cut down on mistakes, but if forced to pass, things will turn south quickly. Defensively, Syracuse could be done some favors by Jennings under center, but even if they can keep the passing game in check, there's still Fournette to worry about.
It would be nice to consider this one an upset possibility, but... nope. Sorry, this LSU team is just too set up for a great season to slip up at the Carrier Dome.