LSU Football: Why QB Zach Mettenberger Must Start Red-Hot in 2012

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IAugust 2, 2012

OXFORD, MS - NOVEMBER 19: Zach Mettenberger #8 of the LSU Tigers looks to the sideline against the Ole Miss Rebels on November 19, 2011 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. LSU beat Mississippi 52-3. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Welcome to life in the SEC, Zach Mettenberger.

LSU's first-year starting quarterback has received plenty of hype heading into the 2012 college football season, but after three non-conference games to kick off the year—one of which is against a much-improved Washington team—Mettenberger will be thrown right into the SEC gauntlet before he can blink.

The Tigers open their conference schedule with the following set of games: at Auburn, at Florida, home against South Carolina, at Texas A&M and home against Alabama.

How's that for a first-year starter getting his first true taste of SEC football?

Those five teams combined for a record of 45-20 last season. What's even more impressive is that those teams have combined to win five of the past six national championships.

The one team that stopped it from being six straight titles was LSU in 2007.

The point here is that Mettenberger is going to get thrown into the heat right away this season, and because of that, he has a lot of pressure to start off red-hot in 2012.

Every college football fan knows the quarterback position is the most scrutinized on the team. Everybody seems to praise the quarterback when something goes right, but get discouraged with them when the slightest thing goes wrong.

A perfect example of this would be last year's LSU team and senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson. After being suspended to open the 2011 season, Jefferson was reinstated and came back to lead the Tigers to an undefeated record and a spot in the National Championship Game.

But despite leading the team to one of the best regular seasons in school history, Jefferson was constantly criticized for his slow starts and inability to remain consistent throughout a complete game.

In other words, if Mettenberger starts out slow this season, he is going to get an earful from the LSU faithful. But if he starts out fast, Mettenberger will gain the trust of his teammates, coaches and fans, which is extremely important from a mental standpoint.

Before that daunting SEC schedule begins, Mettenberger and the Tigers open up against North Texas, Washington and Idaho. Those three games should give the Tigers' first-year signal-caller a chance to settle in and get a firm grasp on this offense.

Les Miles has come out and said he plans to air it out more this season with a true, pro-style quarterback under center. That should give Mettenberger the chance to show off his arm and gain the trust of his coaching staff to make big plays when the Tigers enter the conference schedule.

If the Tigers are going to go on the road and win big games at Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas, they are going to need Mettenberger to get a grasp on that offense quickly. A fast start will help him build the confidence needed to go on the road and win those types of games.

We know that LSU looks at Mettenberger as the missing piece that can help this team get over the hump and bring a national championship back to Baton Rouge. If he can start fast and get comfortable in this offense, this LSU team truly has the chance to be special again in 2012.