Ranking LSU's opponents is a lot like listing the top five teams in the nation for the 2013 season.
That's what happens when you play in the SEC West unfortunately. So who is LSU's greatest opponent in 2013? Is it Alabama? Is it Texas A&M? Or is it the Georgia?
Whether it's Nick Saban's schemes, Johnny Football's athleticism or "Gurley's" physical nature, LSU will have its hands full this season, no doubt.
Judging strictly by location, the strength of the opponent and the timing of the encounter, these are the most difficult games of the season for the Tigers.
Truth be told—Furman shouldn't be on the schedule.
The Tigers' 2013 schedule is fierce and making appointments with a few weak non-conference opponents is understandable, but Furman?
Here's a team that went 3-8 last season against the likes of Samford, Coastal Carolina (hopefully they will be acting more like dogs by now), West Carolina, Citadel, etc. Get my drift?
The Tigers should have all of the backups in by the start of the third quarter.
Kent State isn't short of athletes. Dri Archer is one of the best in the country.
Last season, Archer led the Golden Flashes to an 11-3 record, rushing for nearly 10 yards a carry (1,429 yards) and averaging 14.4 yards per reception (561 yards). Yeah, the kid's a playmaker.
Here's the problem for Kent State, though—the Golden Flashes only have six returning starters on offense and five on the defensive side of the ball. Zach Mettenberger should have a field day.
To put it nicely, UAB struggled last season.
The Blazers went 3-9 under new coach Garrick McGee and his first-year staff. With 16 starters returning, growth is expected.
The team returns a 1,000-yard rusher in Darrin Reaves, who headlines an offense that was 20th in the country in passing and 112th in the country in rushing. Austin Brown and Jonathan Perry, the two quarterbacks responsible for those large passing numbers, will reappear, but they'll be without Nick Adams and Patrick Hearn on the outside.
Still, UAB has proven that it is able to move the football down the field. Will it against an elite defense like LSU's? Eh, don't hold your breath.
The Tigers offense should trample over UAB's undersized defensive line, while LSU's defense should force Brown to throw multiple interceptions.
Let's face it, 2013 is a rebuilding season for the Hogs.
Arkansas not only went 4-8 last season, but the Razorbacks lost Tyler Wilson, Cobi Hamilton, Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson on the offensive side of the football and have a new head coach and offensive scheme for 2013.
Immediate progress shouldn't be expected. It could get ugly in Tiger Stadium, much like it did in 2011.
Brandon Allen will assume the starting position, while Chris Smith and Trey Flowers will headline the defense. Bret Bielema has some talent up front with Travis Swanson anchoring the offensive line, but it's hard to foresee a bowl game with only four returning offensive starters. The Tigers should roll in Baton Rouge.
Location—Davis Wade Stadium
This is a bit early to find the Tigers battling Mississippi State. That's just how difficult this schedule really is.
The pieces are there for Dan Mullen's Bulldogs to make a run in the SEC, but Mississippi State will be stopped dead in its tracks when it faces LSU in October.
Though Tyler Russell, Gabe Jackson, LaDarius Perkins and Benardrick McKinney all return, the Tigers are more athletic and haven't lost to Mississippi State in the new millennium.
Don't expect that trend to change this season.
Mettenberger threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns against Mississippi State with a loaded secondary, lifting the Tigers to a 37-17 victory last year. What do you think he'll do against a depleted secondary?
Beware of Auburn. This game is a perfect sleeper pick.
LSU should be well-rested, coming off back-to-back games against inferior competition, but still, Auburn brings a talented group to Death Valley.
The pro-style offense just doesn't suit Auburn. Without Gus Malzahn and his offensive schemes, Auburn uncharacteristically was last in the SEC in offense, averaging just over 300 yards a game.
Well, Malzahn is back, and with a talented receiving corps, strong offensive line and durable running back like Tre Mason at his disposal, Auburn should get back to its high-powered, no-huddle offensive ways without a huddle.
Plus, Auburn vs. LSU is always one of the more physical games of the year.
Can Ole Miss put LSU on the ropes for a second consecutive season?
From one up-tempo offense to another, Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze did his best Malzahn impression last year by hurrying his offense to the fifth-best in the SEC.
What's scary about Ole Miss is most of the players are back, and the Rebels have some scary additions with true freshmen Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell expecting to contribute.
As for the defense, well, it gave up 41 points to the Tigers last season (including OBJ's punt return). If the defense matches the offense, Ole Miss will be scary in 2013. That's yet to be seen though.
No disrespect TCU, but LSU is normally hell on wheels in its opener.
The Tigers are 8-0 in season openers under Les Miles, and that's including wins over Arizona State, Oregon, Mississippi State and North Carolina.
Let's revisit the last time LSU was in Dallas for the season opener, shall we? The Tigers manhandled a great Oregon team 40-27. That was a better Oregon team than this TCU team, but then again, that was likely a better LSU team than this 2013 version.
Still, the Tigers' reputation in big games (minus the 2012 BCS championship) is rising to the occasion and playing lights-out.
The Tigers should do that by getting pressure on Casey Pachall and finding ways to exploit this great Horned Frogs defense. Devonte Fields and Chucky Hunter's presence in the backfield will likely give Mettenberger headaches early, but the running game should allow him to find Odell Beckham or Jarvis Landry over the top of Jason Verrett and Kevin White.
The Tigers must strap it up following a physical encounter with Auburn. Will LSU keep its season alive?
The LSU defense will have its hands full in between the hedges, as stopping Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will be no easy feat. And should the Tigers bring in reinforcement, Aaron Murray will drop back and throw the deep ball to Malcolm Mitchell.
The Tigers will need pressure, and this is where the absences of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery become glaring.
The good news is that Georgia's defense will have many new faces, so LSU's offense can possibly match score-for-score. The Bulldogs had seven defensive players drafted in the 2013 NFL draft and lost a potential starting cornerback in Reggie Wilkerson two months prior to preseason football camp. Can LSU take advantage?
Johnny Manziel's dreams will come to die in Death Valley, or so LSU fans hope.
Stopping Manziel without Mingo or Montgomery rushing from the end spots won't be fun. Luckily for John Chavis and this LSU defense, the Tigers have multiple talented, speedy linebackers.
The talents of Deion Jones, Kwon Alexander and Lamin Barrow will come in handy. Still, as we all know, Manziel is an incredible dual-threat player, and stopping him will be easier said than done.
Texas A&M's front seven will be mediocre at best without Sean Porter and Damontre Moore present, so the Tigers should find success pounding the rock.
Texas A&M will be one of the most talented squads LSU will face next season. The Tigers should outmatch them physically, but an attempt to out-finesse the Aggies would be a mistake.
Revenge will fuel LSU.
More specifically, the words of Dominique Easley should come back to haunt him. "I like seeing people bow down to me," said the young, athletic defensive end after Florida beat LSU 14-6.
The encounter between Florida and LSU in 2013 is switching venues, and though the Gators are incredibly talented on defense, the Tigers' home-field advantage should help LSU.
Here's what makes this game so tough. Both defenses are superior to the offenses, so a defensive struggle should commence. After LSU played Auburn, Georgia and Mississippi State consecutively, the Tigers have to suck it up and play their fourth SEC opponent in a row without a bye. Will the Tigers' bodies hold up?
Were there any doubts?
LSU's toughest game of the season will be in Alabama's backyard against the best team in college football.
The Crimson Tide return vital pieces that won a national championship last season, including the quarterbacks on offense and defense—AJ McCarron and C.J. Mosley.
Nick Saban plus incredible athletes plus experience plus home-field advantage makes LSU's showdown with the Crimson Tide not only the most anticipated, but the most difficult.