LSU Football

LSU Football: Power Ranking Tigers' 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Carter BryantContributor IJune 18, 2014

LSU Football: Power Ranking Tigers' 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Breaking News: LSU has a tough 2014 schedule. 

    Much like the rest of the teams in the SEC, the Tigers have a rough road ahead of them. Les Miles lost numerous players with eligibility remaining this offseason, which means he must replenish his depth. 

    LSU's 2014 opponents had a combined record of 82-71 last season, according to Kevin Kelley of FBSchedules.com. Expect the Tigers' foes to finish with more than 90 wins this year. 

    Here is a quick look at the 2014 schedule from the easiest game to the hardest. 

     

    *Rankings, stats, returning starters and additional information provided by 247Sports, Phil SteeleCFBStats.com and ESPN.com.

No. 12: Sept. 13 vs. UL-Monroe

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    ULM will be without Kolton Browning this season.
    ULM will be without Kolton Browning this season.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    2013 Record: 6-6

    Returning Starters: 13 

    UL-Monroe will be the worst team on LSU's schedule. Quarterback Kolton Browning, the Warhawks' best offensive weapon, is now gone, and ULM is not left with much offensively to go along with a porous defense.  

    The Tigers played a cupcake team in the third game of the season in both 2012 and 2013. LSU combined to beat the opponents, Idaho and Kent State, by a combined score of 108-27. 

    ULM will likely suffer a similar fate. 

No. 11: Sept. 27 vs. New Mexico State

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    2013 Record: 2-10

    Returning Starters: 14

    New Mexico State is a terrible football team. The Lobos lost 10 games last season, all by 10 points or more. To make matters worse, New Mexico State lost 2,400-yard passer Andrew McDonald over the offseason. 

    Expect another blowout in favor of the Tigers. 

No. 10: Sept. 6 vs. Sam Houston State

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    Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel picked apart Sam Houston State last season.
    Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel picked apart Sam Houston State last season.Bob Levey/Getty Images

    2013 Record: 9-5

    Returning Starters: N/A

    Sam Houston State will be LSU's toughest nonconference home game of the 2014 season. The Bearkats finished a respectable 9-5 last season in the Southland Conference. 

    But when Sam Houston State faced Texas A&M last season, the Bearkats were overpowered by the Aggies, 65-28. They will likely find a similar challenge physically when they travel to Death Valley in early September. 

    Also, much like New Mexico and UL-Monroe, Sam Houston State lost its best offensive player this offseason in Timothy Flanders. The running back scored 14 touchdowns and averaged just under six yards per carry. 

No. 9: Oct. 18 vs. Kentucky

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    Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops
    Kentucky head coach Mark StoopsUSA TODAY Sports

    2013 Record: 2-10

    Returning Starters: 16

    The Mark Stoops era has generated some positive vibes in Lexington. Kentucky put together a solid 2014 recruiting class, highlighted by 4-star Bluegrass State natives Drew Barker and Matt Elam.  

    Yet Kentucky will still be a below-average football team next season.

    Kentucky's two victories in 2013 were against Miami (Ohio) and Alabama State, which is far from impressive. The Wildcats return 16 starters, tied for fourth-most in the country, but that does not necessarily mean the players are good. 

    LSU will get the Wildcats the week after playing two consecutive road games against Auburn and Florida. The Tigers might be a tad winded, so the game could be tougher than people expect. 

No. 8: Nov. 27 at Texas A&M

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    Terrence Magee rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown last year against Texas A&M.
    Terrence Magee rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown last year against Texas A&M.Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    2013 Record: 9-4 

    Returning Starters: 15

    For those who don't know by now, the Johnny Football era in College Station is over. 

    Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin must move on now that Heisman winner Johnny Manziel is in the NFL. Sumlin's first order of business is to name a replacement at quarterback. 

    Much like at LSU, the quarterback battle will feature a sophomore, K.J. Hill, and an early-enrollee freshman, Kyle Allen. Bleacher Report's Texas A&M Featured Columnist Michael Taglienti believes Allen will eventually be the victor.

    The problem for the Aggies will be the defense. Last year, they were last in the SEC in scoring defense. Things got worse this summer when Sumlin dismissed defensive starters Darian Claiborne and Isaiah Golden, as reported by The Dallas Morning News.  

    LSU will get Texas A&M after a bye week. There should be no reason for it to not move the ball on what should be a porous Aggies defense. 

No. 7: Sept. 20 vs. Mississippi State

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    Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott
    Mississippi State quarterback Dak PrescottUSA TODAY Sports

    2013 Record: 7-6

    Returning Starters: 16

    Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen is not expected to do much in the SEC West next season. But if there was ever a time for Mullen to make a run at 10 wins, it could be 2014. 

    Mississippi State is tied for the lead in the SEC for most returning starters with Kentucky. Mullen returns quarterback Dak Prescott, who got better as the season went along. Defensive tackle Chris Jones will be a future early-round draft pick. 

    LSU opens up its SEC slate with Mississippi State in Tiger Stadium. The Bulldogs hung with the Tigers in the first half of last year's game, but the defense eventually folded in the second half to quarterback Zach Mettenberger's aerial attack. 

No. 6: Nov. 15 at Arkansas

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    2013 Record: 3-9

    Returning Starters: 15

    The only way for Arkansas to go is up. 

    The Hogs went winless in the SEC in year one of the Bret Bielema era. Bielema should have an improved team next year, led by arguably the most underrated rushing trio in the country. Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams and Korliss Marshall will be a force to be reckoned with next season.

    The problem for the Hogs will be everywhere else on the field. Quarterback Brandon Allen has generated more groans than cheers from the Arkansas fanbase. The defense still has holes all over the field and lacks depth. 

    Arkansas has always played LSU tough, though. Eight of the last nine games have been decided by one possession or less. The Hogs will also get the Tigers a week after LSU plays Alabama. 

No. 5: Oct. 25 vs. Ole Miss

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    2013 Record: 8-5

    Returning Starters: 15

    Ole Miss has some serious talent on both sides of the ball. 

    Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche will all eventually be early-round NFL draft picks. Head coach Hugh Freeze also returns starting quarterback Bo Wallace and All-American safety Cody Prewitt. 

    Ole Miss defeated LSU 27-24 last season in Oxford and performed admirably in a 41-35 loss in Tiger Stadium the year before. Les Miles will make sure his team is more prepared for when the Rebels return to Baton Rouge in late October.  

No. 4: Oct. 11 at Florida

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    2013 Record: 4-8

    Returning Starters: 14

    Florida was the biggest disappointment in the SEC last season. 

    After starting 4-1, the Gators went on to lose their final seven games of the season. Head coach Will Muschamp is now on a scorching hot seat in Gainesville.  

    Simply put, Florida stunk last year offensively. The Gators were the only team in the SEC to average less than 20 points per game. Muschamp is banking on new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to transform Jeff Driskel into an efficient quarterback. 

    LSU has struggled in The Swamp under Les Miles. This year's trip to Gainesville comes at an inopportune time for Miles, as his squad will have traveled to Auburn the week before. Transitioning from Gus Malzahn's spread-option, hurry-up attack to Muschamp's ground-and-pound physicality will be tough for the Tigers.

No. 3: Aug. 30 vs. Wisconsin

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    Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon
    Wisconsin running back Melvin GordonUSA TODAY Sports

    2013 Record: 9-4

    Returning Starters: 9

    LSU will play Wisconsin in the 2014 Advocare Texas Kickoff, which is arguably the most heavily anticipated opening-week matchup in college football. Miles will be playing plenty of new faces, and the game could shake up the nerves of some of the younger Tigers.   

    Wisconsin returns only nine starters, which is tied for 122nd in the country. But the Badgers do return Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon. Few running backs possess the power and speed combination of Gordon. Expect a heavy dosage of him when he faces off against a physical LSU defense. 

    A blowout for either team is highly unlikely. Expect this game be close deep into the fourth quarter. 

No. 2: Oct. 4 at Auburn

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    2013 Record: 12-2

    Returning Starters: 14

    Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was one of the biggest stars in college football last season. What Malzahn does as an encore will be a fascinating development. 

    Malzahn's spread offense eviscerated defenses for huge chunks of yardage on the ground. The Tigers averaged just over 328 rushing yards per game, which was almost 90 yards better than any other team in the conference. 

    Quarterback Nick Marshall returns as the fulcrum of the attack. Though Marshall lost his best running back in Tre Mason, he does return No. 1 receiver Sammie Coates. Expect the passing attack to be a bigger part of the offense next season.

    Auburn is currently under a defensive scare: Defensive end Carl Lawson could miss the entire 2014 season with a knee injury. Dr. James Andrews recently performed surgery, but few details have been released, according to Brandon Marcello of AL.com.

    LSU handed Auburn its only conference loss last season. Malzahn will look to return the favor in the Bayou Bengals' first road game of conference play.

No. 1: Nov. 8 vs. Alabama

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    2013 Record: 11-2

    Returning Starters: 12

    Only at Alabama is an 11-win season considered a disappointment. 

    The success Nick Saban has achieved at Alabama has made standards and yearly expectations ridiculously high. Every season is national championship or bust in Tuscaloosa, and 2013 ended sourly with losses to Auburn and Oklahoma in high-profile games.

    Next season won't be any different—the Crimson Tide are expected to be in the playoff mix. 

    Alabama lost quarterback AJ McCarron, but it does return a talented running back corps and dangerous receiving threats in Amari Cooper, O.J. Howard and DeAndrew White. Defensively, safety Landon Collins and linebacker Trey DePriest are poised to have breakout seasons. 

    Both teams will be coming off a bye, so expect both teams to be fully rested for a physical battle. For LSU to win, The Tigers must limit turnovers and limit big plays defensively. Defensive coordinator John Chavis must have his secondary prepared. 

    Miles has lost to Saban three consecutive times. But with the home crowd at his side, he hopes to change that next season. Expect another early November classic in Baton Rouge. 

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