LSU fans have learned to take the good with the bad.
With Les Miles leading the Tigers, LSU is a prominent program with star athletes filling the playing surface. Under Miles, the Tigers have also experienced unrealistic expectations, which oftentimes find Miles' LSU teams underachieving. Last year is a great example. With nine (eight not counting Honey Badger) LSU players taken in the 2013 NFL draft, a championship-or-bust mentality is understandable.
The bar is lowered for 2013, though. No longer a favorite to win or battle Alabama for an SEC West title, the Tigers are overlooked heading into the season. That's a good thing. Still, the Tigers' fanbase expects close to a 10-win season. There's reason to believe LSU will either overachieve or underachieve such a goal. Let's look at it from both an optimistic and pessimistic point of view.
Let's get the bad news out of the way for you pessimists.
The year of the SEC schedule is upon us.
Normally, we get a kick out of hearing Steve Spurrier complain about the SEC scheduling, but this season, it's turned all serious. Les Miles has had enough of the unbalanced scheduling, and with him opposing, it's all folks have been talking about.
Miles has a point, though. Facing TCU, Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida might be the Tigers' undoing this season.
Hold your breath, Tigers fans: LSU could lose up to five games with such a schedule. Worst-case scenario, indeed.
Let's face it: 2013 is a rebuilding year.
The offense didn't lose much with the exception of maybe losing its star running back, Jeremy Hill, for the season. Obviously, if he doesn't suit up for the fall, the Tigers will be losing their best offensive player. There's still enough offensive firepower returning to hopefully overcome such a loss.
As for the defense, the Tigers have to replace a laundry list of players, including eight players who were drafted.
The Tigers will miss Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo's pressure, Kevin Minter's sure-tackling ability and Eric Reid's command over the secondary. It's time for these young bucks to step up.
LSU's recipe for success is taking the football and shoving it down its opponent's throat.
By doing so, they rotate running backs frequently, keeping their legs fresh and having them available to control the clock in the fourth quarter.
What are they going to do if Hill can't go and Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard or Terrence Magee suffers an injury? The running back position, which has been the deepest position on LSU's roster in the past five years, would be the shallowest.
It's hard to ground-and-pound with only two healthy running backs available. This is a storyline to keep an eye on all season.
Now on to the good news...
Here's two words Tigers fans haven't heard in a while: offensive growth.
You want to grow as an offense, you need a strong offensive mind developing it. That's exactly what the Tigers inherited with Cam Cameron.
Quicker pace, better execution, variety—that's what Cameron is adding to this offense. With Les Miles still acting as head coach, a ground-and-pound attack is expected to still be LSU's focal point of attack (as it should be).
A change of pace with some timely aerial attacks should complement the running game quite well, though.
Just look at all of these familiar faces. Does it make you feel all warm inside?
The gruesome twosome (Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham) are back, BullDozer (Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander) returns and everyone's boy, Blue (Alfred), looks to rebound from last year's season-ending injury. Add in Kenny Hilliard, La'el Collins, J.C. Copeland, Travis Dickson, Josh Williford, etc. and it's tough not getting excited about this offense's potential.
But more importantly, look under center. A returning starting quarterback could be the difference between losing four games and losing none. I can see that smirk already, "Really? Zach Mettenberger's going to make that big of a difference? He can barely stand in the pocket. Roll Tide!" SEC rivals will say.
Yes, Mettenberger had his struggles in 2012, but he also showed promise with strong outings against Alabama and Mississippi State. His strong arm is a tool that Cameron will work with, and Cameron should be able to improve his fundamentals. Surrounding him with a familiar cast will also help further elevate his game.
Gloom and doom. Nobody is giving LSU a chance this season because of the losses and the scheduling.
Just one question—have you forgotten about LSU's athleticism? I mean seriously, every year the Tigers face a tremendous amount of adversity (most of the time self-inflicted), yet they remain one of the top programs in college football.
Why is that? Just look to the talent on the field. Let's take a head count, shall we? The Tigers have capable running backs, a dangerous wide receiver tandem, the best fullback in the game, an experienced offensive line and a gunslinger at quarterback.
But what about defense? Well, Anthony Johnson should be the best pure defensive tackle in the SEC, and the Tigers drafted great prospects to join him. At linebacker, Kwon Alexander, Deion Jones and D.J. Welter should combine with Lamin Barrow, Tahj Jones and Lamar Louis to give the Tigers a deep linebacker corps. Some are unproven but talented nonetheless. As for the secondary, Craig Loston is the most seasoned safety in the SEC, and Jalen Collins, Ronald Martin, Jalen Mills and Tre'Davious White should continue the legacy of DBU.
Time and time again, LSU's talent bails the team out of predicaments created by player mistakes or coaching errors. Who's to say the talent on this 2013 team can't overcome a daunting schedule and significant losses?