Predicting the win total for an LSU football team has never been so appealing.
Because of the talent this team possesses, the LSU Tigers are sure to make noise once again in the SEC. Is that talent enough to win an SEC Championship, though? So far preseason predictions vote against (No. 17 by Phil Steele, really?).
The talent pool on this team is seemingly shallower than years previous, and a schedule that finds the Tigers playing TCU, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Texas A&M could find LSU losing three or four games in 2013. Guess there's your reasoning behind such a low preseason ranking.
Still, you can't count the Tigers out of the race. After all, this is LSU, and to go along with its annually strong defense, a much-improved offense should see this team's production on the field skyrocket.
Is it enough to overcome that schedule, though? Indeed, the build heading into this season is downright enticing.
If one had to set a bar for an over/under in total wins for 2013, the bar has to be at 10 for many reasons. For the simplest of reasons—this is a Les Miles LSU team, and Miles' Tigers have produced 10-win (or better) seasons six of the eight years he's coached at LSU. And though the Tigers aren't as deep as they normally are, they still possess great talent at every position.
This begs the question—will the Tigers fall short of that bar, or will they overcome it?
Why the Tigers fall short
The reason the Tigers fall short in 2013 will all be situational. This isn't anything new. Depth and a daunting schedule could haunt the Tigers' chances at competing in the SEC next season.
Beginning with the depth, the defensive line will undergo an extreme makeover, while the linebacker position searches for a true leader. Jordan Allen, Danielle Hunter, Kendell Beckwith, Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain join the old staples on the defensive line—Anthony Johnson, Ego Ferguson and Jermauria Rasco.
Here's to hoping the new faces will be productive enough to provide the Tigers with a deep rotation. Keeping defensive linemen fresh has always been a priority for John Chavis' LSU defenses.
As for the linebacker position, the vacancy of the middle linebacker position is significant. After all, the man who filled it before, Kevin Minter, produced 130 total tackles in the 2012 season.
The Tigers have plenty of experienced, talented players returning, though, with Lamin Barrow, Deion Jones, Kwon Alexander and Tahj Jones headlining.
The void at middle linebacker remains unfilled, however. Will Barrow shift over to the Mike position, or will a player such as D.J. Welter step up?
From the outside looking in, it seems as though the Tigers are not nearly as deep as they have been in the past. True freshmen will have to step into roles immediately, but who knows, the Tigers may have a few freshman sensations in the pack. They always seem to.
As for the schedule, it's easily the toughest in the SEC, and it makes winning an already tough SEC West seem impossible. Chances are the Tigers won't escape three losses this year.
Why the Tigers exceed expectations
The reason the Tigers rise above adversity in 2013 will be because of talent, an improved offense and pride.
Talent is something that goes hand-in-hand with LSU football. No matter how young or how inexperienced, Miles and his staff plug positions on the field with players who can produce game-altering plays.
Miles applied that freshman philosophy with Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid in 2010, he did it with Odell Beckham and Kenny Hilliard in 2011, and he repeated that approach in 2012 with Jeremy Hill, Jalen Mills, Jalen Collins, Micah Eugene and Jones.
Who will emerge out of nowhere to become superstars for LSU in 2013? We have a few ideas (Bain, Beckwith, Quantavious Leslie), but rest assured, Miles and his staff have a better one.
And speaking of his staff, Cam Cameron serving as the new offensive coordinator should allow this offense to grow, and more specifically, his presence should help Zach Mettenberger blossom as a quarterback.
This is a perfect year for him to break through, as the familiar faces of Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Kadron Boone and James Wright return alongside him. New additions to the wide receiver corps, such as Travin Dural and Leslie, should give this offense a boost as well.
The running game will still be effective with J.C. Copeland leading Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard, Terrance Magee or Jeremy Hill (fingers crossed) through holes that Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander create.
Perhaps the most important reason to not count these Tigers out involves an emotional one. You see, anytime the media and the fans count LSU out, they come right back and dominate the college football world.
Remember before the 2011 season? The schedule was incredibly tough (playing against Oregon and at West Virginia before a brutal SEC schedule), and the Tigers were going to have to replace Kelvin Sheppard, Stevan Ridley, Terrence Toliver and Patrick Peterson. The Tigers went on to win 13 games that season, with most of them ending in blowouts.
Hmm, this sure does look familiar. That'll make you hesitate before putting a sure bet on under.