In what will be the third full season under head coach Ed Orgeron, the Tigers have as favorable of a schedule as one could ask for in the SEC West, but can they build off one of their better seasons in the last decade?
Louisiana State University will enter the season as the USA Today‘s No. 7-ranked team, but they will also have to play their fair share of top teams during the 2019 college football season. Almost half of their schedule is made up of teams currently ranked in preseason polls, including five in the top-17.
With all three of the team’s losses from 2018 on their schedule again, they definitely have an opportunity for redemption, but the losses of Greedy Williams and Devin White to the NFL may be a big deal for a defense that has always reloaded for the last two decades.
The difference for this team should be the offense, though. Joe Burrow was the quarterback this program has needed to keep the offense moving, so maybe the offense will be the strength of the team in 2019. But can the senior lead LSU through this challenging SEC schedule?
Game 1: Georgia Southern
Although this should be an easy win at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Georgia Southern was a solid team last season, finishing with a 10-3 record and playing Clemson pretty close early in the season. But if they struggle to win this game, it could be a rough sign for the rest of the season. I expect this will be a relatively easy win, though, which will set them up for a tough game the following week.
This is also a nice starting game to the season compared to starting the 2018 season against Miami, though that really gave the team some confidence moving forward.
Game 2: AT No. 10 Texas
This game won’t mean much for the SEC rankings, but if the Tigers have hopes for the College Football Playoff, this is a game they need to win at Texas Memorial Stadium. The last time LSU played the Texas Longhorns was in the 2003 Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns won, 35-20.
Texas finished last season at 10-4 and had Sam Ehlinger step up at quarterback, so they are really at about the same level as the Tigers. This is a game where the defense will be tested for the first time in the season and to see how good they can be with the losses of Williams and White. But Texas’s defense wasn’t exactly great in 2018, allowing about 26 points per game, so Burrow and the offense should be able to keep up with the scoring.
Game 3: Northwestern State
I won’t go into this game much because as the only non-FBS team on the schedule, there should be no struggling against an FCS team, but weirder things have happened in college football. Hopefully there is no hangover from the game against Texas.
Game 4: AT Vanderbilt
LSU has not played Vanderbilt in Nashville since 2010, but they have won seven-straight games against the Commodores dating back to 1991 and also 11 of the last 12 since 1976. Vandy finished last season at 6-7 in the SEC East and is replacing starting quarterback Kyle Shurmur.
This is the game that makes the Tigers’ schedule much better than it could be. Last season, their cross-division games were against Florida and Georgia, so replacing the Bulldogs with the Commodores makes the schedule much easier. A Georgia and Florida cross-division match-up is rough when there are programs in the East that would be easier to deal with in South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri.
Game 5: Utah State
In most seasons, I would say Utah State is an easy win. However, the Aggies have one of the gems outside the Power 5 with quarterback Jordan Love. To open the season last year, Utah State pushed Michigan State to the brink, just losing it at the end, 38-31. But the Spartans only went 7-6 last year, so LSU is definitely better than they were in 2018, so it should still be a win.
Game 6: No. 13 Florida
The Florida Gators handed LSU its first loss of the season in 2018. It was a 20-19 game with under two minutes left when Burrow threw a pick-six to Brad Stewart Jr. The Gators are one of the teams receiving a lot of hype heading into 2019, so this could be a huge game, and definitely the first real test in conference play.
In last year’s 27-19 game, Burrow struggled, passing for just 195 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions. If he played even just a little better, it is very possible they would have won the game. Florida lost some defensive players like the Tigers did, so this game should be a lot like the 2018 showdown.
Game 7: AT Mississippi State
In the first game against an SEC West team, LSU will travel to Starkville for a tough game in a tough environment. The Bulldogs lost much of their defensive talent and their starting quarterback, so the Tigers should be able to build upon their 19-3 win from a season ago. In the second season under Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State should be more adjusted to their schemes and playbook. I expect this to be a win, but it is never easy to win in Starkville, especially if it’s a night game.
Game 8: No. 16 Auburn
It took 12 consecutive points in the second half, including a Cole Tracy field goal as time expired to beat the Auburn Tigers in 2018. With a new freshman quarterback taking the place of Jarrett Stidham, it will be a different team, but Auburn is always a good team that is tough to beat. This will be one of the most important games when it comes to the SEC West standings, especially with the next few games to end the season.
Game 9: AT No. 2 Alabama
When it comes to the SEC West, the most important game is always against Alabama. The Crimson Tide took down the Tigers pretty easily last year in a 29-0 rout in Baton Rouge. However, expect LSU to use that as fuel this time around. A bye week before heading to Tuscaloosa can give the Tigers some extra time to prepare and heal up. With Tua Tagovailoa having another season of experience and a huge loss in the National Championship game, they will also have fuel to get back to the College Football Playoff, but this is a must-win for the team who wants to represent the division in the SEC Championship in Atlanta.
Game 10: AT Ole Miss
The Tigers have beat Ole Miss easily over the last three seasons, each game being won by at least 16 points, including a 29-point win over the Rebels last season. With their loss of every receiver from 2018, the Rebels offense is definitely not going to be as dangerous, but they should still be a worthy opponent. A conference win here could mean a ton moving towards the end of the season, especially if the standings are close and teams like Alabama and Auburn have a loss or two before the Iron Bowl.
Game 11: Arkansas
In 2018, LSU was controlling the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks until the fourth quarter. After leading 24-3, two Ty Storey passing touchdowns cut the lead to just seven points. Luckily, the Tigers were able to close the game out against a struggling team, which finished the season with just two wins. There probably won’t be much of a difference this year for Arkansas, but you can never count out an SEC team.
Game 12: No. 8 Texas A&M
In one of the most entertaining games of the season, LSU was unable to stop the Texas A&M Aggies on a two-point conversion in the seventh overtime. With time expiring in the fourth quarter, the Aggies scored a touchdown to tie the game at 31. After seven overtimes, the final score ended up being 74-72, which is the highest-scoring game in college football history.
Although winning this game wouldn’t have made a difference in winning the SEC West last season, this could be a deciding factor in 2019 if they are able to win some of the other big games.