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Syracuse football 2017 opponent preview: LSU Tigers

You remember our friends from Louisiana, I’m sure...

LSU v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

We’re in peak offseason for the Syracuse Orange. But that won’t stop us from talking about football as much as possible. For the next few months, we’ll be diving into each of SU’s 12 (very difficult) opponents and all you’ll need to know about them in advance of this fall. Despite the challenges of the schedule, we’re going to be positive wherever possible. Today’s team:

LSU Tigers

School: Louisiana State University

Mascot: Tigers

#BRAND Slogan: “Geaux Tigers”

Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: "DACOACHOLIVESHERE,” “No, the Better Death Valley.”

Recommended Blog: And the Valley Shook

Conference: SEC

Coach: Ed Orgeron, 2nd year. Orgeron is a Louisiana native (played at Northwestern State), and has spent a good deal of his career in the Southeast part of the country. He was a grad assistant at Northwestern state and McNeese State right out of college, then after a brief stop at Arkansas, Orgeron headed to Miami to coach the defensive line for five years.

Miami beget a one-year stop at Nicholls State, before coaching Syracuse’s defensive line for three seasons in the mid-1990s. Oregeron parlayed the SU gig into an extended stay at USC (the first time) and then his first head coaching gig at Ole Miss. Unfortunately, he flamed out with the Rebels, going 10-25 in three seasons.

Brief trips to the New Orleans Saints and Tennessee boomeranged him back to USC, a job he took over as interim head coach in 2013, going 6-2 (including a major upset of Stanford). While the Trojans didn’t hire him, LSU did. He spent a year and a half coaching the Tigers’ defensive line before being named interim coach to replace Les Miles. He went 6-2 in eight games, and was hired as full-fledged head coach during the offseason.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl - LSU v Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

2016 Record: (8-4) (5-3)

Recapping Last Season:

LSU’s offense sputtered along through the early stages of the season, looking miserable in dueling losses to Wisconsin and Auburn, respectively. That was enough to get Miles canned, and Orgeron the head coaching job he seemingly always wanted. The Tigers reeled off three straight home wins before a tough, 10-0 defeat at the hands of Alabama. LSU recorded high-profile wins over Arkansas, Texas A&M and Louisville (all away from home), which certainly helped Coach O make the case to keep the gig.

On paper, the Tigers seemed to take a bit of a step back, but it was also a younger (yet experienced) team. They were 59th in total offense, but moving at a pretty slow pace, they were actually top-15 in yards per play (6.71). A lot of that was due to the bruising rushing attack of Derrius Guice and Leonard Fournette. The passing game wasn’t great (bottom-third of the country), but Danny Etling seemed to figure out the job reasonably well. Etling, a Purdue transfer, threw for 2,123 yards and 11 touchdown passes while managing the offense.

LSU was anchored once again by one of the country’s top defenses. They were top-10 in yards per game allowed and yards per play, and fifth in points per game allowed (just 15.8). They were top-25 against both the pass and rush, and also managed 36 sacks (in only 12 games). They didn’t force too many turnovers, but made it up for it with shutdown play at the line.

2017 Season Outlook:

With a younger team last year, LSU still brings back talent for 2017, which should terrify any opponent — or perhaps Syracuse, particularly. While Fournette’s gone, lead rusher Guice (averaged over 7.5 yards per game) is back, though the team will have a bit of an overhaul at receiver. Etling is back, but the Tigers are in the mix for Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire, so the quarterback situation might change. Even if no one returned this year, the offense would look different, however. Orgeron brought in former Pitt (and NC State) offensive coordinator Matt Canada to revamp that side of the ball.

Defensively, players like Arden Key (12 sacks last year) are back to wreak havoc on opposing lines, and he should grab attention above anyone else. Still, Donte Jackson should lead the secondary and there are a host of contributors young and old throughout the rest of the D.

The schedule lays out pretty similarly to last year’s for the Tigers, just sans the game against Wisconsin. They’ll meet Syracuse and BYU in non-conference play, but also trades Missouri for Tennessee as an SEC East crossover. Orgeron was not necessarily a “continuity hire,” but he’s expected to steer the ship in the same direction things were going late last season. There’s enough talent on the roster for another eight- or nine-win season.

Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, September 23

Location: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.

Odds of Orange Victory: 5 percent (this may be generous)

Very Early Outlook:

Having a very capable pass rusher like Key will be a critical factor for LSU in disrupting the Orange pass attack. They may not have the personnel to run an up-tempo offense, but even with a run-heavy attack, the Tigers will still be able to keep pace now that Canada’s driving the play-calling. Expect LSU to blitz often and get into the Orange’s passing lanes. If the SU offensive line can’t hold up, it could be a very long evening for Eric Dungey, especially with a run game that can’t really bail him out. Expect a game that stays close-ish for half, then cedes to the Tigers by 14-to-20 points.