The LSU Tigers' biggest strength and weakness in 2013 are one in the same.
Sure, it's easy for one to point out all of the departures on defense as a weakness, and it's certainly just as easy to attract optimists by saying the Tigers wide receiving corps is deep, talented and ready to break out.
But let's move past that for a second. Let's overlook the Tigers' strong offensive line, solid secondary and talented running back corps and forget about the absence of superstars on the defensive line.
For the sake of not posting a "rerun" article, let's think outside the box here. The Tigers' greatest strength and weakness heading into the fall is the unexpected. It's simply the unknown surrounding this season's club.
Count it with me one more time—Sam Montgomery, Barkvevious Mingo, Tharold Simon, Kevin Minter, Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, P.J. Lonergan, Bennie Logan and Eric Reid are all gone. That means a lot of new faces are going to be playing this season, and because we haven't seen them in action, it's nothing but speculation that surrounds this team.
While that should be considered a weakness, it also should be considered a strength. Any other team and this would all be gloom and doom with a rebuild label stamped and approved by the fanbase. Not at LSU.
Why it's a strength
This is a Les Miles coached team—of course the unexpected favors them.
Any time the Tigers have the deck stacked against them with "irreplaceable players" leaving for the draft (Patrick Peterson in 2010, Jamarcus Russell in 2006) or a seemingly unconquerable schedule (2011), LSU has risen to the occasion.
Why should 2013 be any different?
There are visible similarities to years passed. For instance, the Tigers have a new offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron this season. LSU had a brand new offensive coordinator in 2007 with Gary Crowton. The Tigers won the national championship that season. Let's hope Cameron has an overall better career.
And about that schedule...look, beating Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and Alabama is going to take a full team effort and then some. But that doesn't mean these Tigers can't run the table.
I remember a team in 2011, with new faces such as Odell Beckham, Kenny Hilliard, Tharold Simon, Anthony Johnson, Jarvis Landry and Brad Wing, running the table against the eventual BCS national champion (Alabama), eventual Rose Bowl winner (Oregon), eventual Orange Bowl victor (West Virginia) and Cotton Bowl champs (Arkansas).
The 2013 schedule is daunting, but is it as fierce as 2011's?
Another similarity is the return of an experienced quarterback. Zach Mettenberger is back, and if Jarrett Lee's improvement in 2011 is any indicator of what Tiger fans can expect from Mettenberger, well, there's reason to be excited.
However, the fact still remains—we don't know. We're not sure how any game will play out or how any player's production will increase or decrease.
Why it's a weakness
Which is why it's also the Tigers' weakness.
Replacing a star-studded defense and potentially having to replace last year's leading rusher in Jeremy Hill should see the Tigers experience growing pains.
Which sets up the TCU game as a perfect trap game. Many, including myself, expect the Tigers to emerge victorious from another Cowboy Classic encounter, but the fact is that TCU has more experience on defense and has a more explosive quarterback.
Experience and comfort may favor the Horned Frogs in that matchup, and a loss to TCU in the season opener would be detrimental to LSU fans.
What if the Tigers show up in Dallas deflated and present a pass defense that resembles LSU's showing in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl game (346 passing yards given up)?
What if LSU starts the season 0-1? What if this sets up a four-loss season?
What if these "what if" questions were never asked in preseason?