LSU Football: 4 Games That Could Ruin Tigers' 2014 Season
LSU head coach Les Miles will coach one of his youngest teams ever. Miles' Tigers will likely go through growing pains in the arduous SEC.
But youth will certainly not lower the expectations in Baton Rouge.
LSU fans want to win championships. Some have grown impatient as the Tigers have not reached the SEC Championship Game since 2011.
The Tigers report to camp on Sunday and will hit the field Monday. The season opener against Wisconsin is at the end of the month, which does not give much time for the incoming freshmen to get acclimated to the team.
Fortunately for Miles, the Tigers could lose to the Badgers yet have their championship hopes still in tact. LSU could go unbeaten for the rest of the season and make the SEC Championship Game.
SEC games hold more weight, particularly those in division. Here are four SEC West clashes that will determine if the season is successful for the Tigers.
October 4 at Auburn
Auburn's only conference loss last season was against LSU in Baton Rouge. Head coach Gus Malzahn will be looking for revenge when the Bayou Bengals come to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn returns quarterback Nick Marshall and a multitude of playmakers on both sides of the ball from its SEC championship team. They will likely be favored in what will be LSU's first road game of the season.
LSU's national championship hopes will not be ripped to shreds if it loses to Auburn on the road. Malzahn and his Tigers proved that last season on their magical run to Pasadena.
But Miles knows his chances will certainly be crippled, and possibly ruined, if he fails against his Tiger counterpart.
October 25 at Ole Miss
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has has success against Les Miles.
Two years ago, the Rebels played valiantly in a 41-35 loss to a superior LSU squad in Baton Rouge. But Freeze broke through last season, upsetting the Tigers despite missing five defensive starters, per Nola.com.
Freeze now has his most talented squad ever. The Rebels have multiple future NFL draft picks on both sides of the ball and a senior quarterback in Bo Wallace.
A loss to Ole Miss would be a brutal one for LSU. Miles took the blame for his team's failure last season, so expect his team to be focused when the Rebels come to town.
November 8 vs. Alabama
LSU's most important game of the season will be against Alabama. The Crimson Tide will field yet another powerful team under Nick Saban and could easily be undefeated by early November.
The Tigers have fallen to the Crimson Tide the past two seasons. Another loss to Nick Saban will likely end LSU's hopes of reaching the SEC Championship Game.
In college football, timing means everything. Games played in November will likely weigh more heavily in the minds of the College Football Playoff committee than those in the months prior. All eyes will be on LSU's clash against Alabama, which will be the highest-profile game of the year for the Tigers.
November 15 at Arkansas
LSU's season will be disastrous if it loses to Arkansas. In fact, it almost was last year.
The Tigers, as three-touchdown favorites, were outplayed by the Razorbacks last season in Baton Rouge. But thanks to some Miles magic, LSU pulled through late in the fourth quarter.
Arkansas is picked to finish last in the SEC West this season. But even if the Hogs are bad, they have always played Miles tough. Eight of the last nine matchups between the two teams have been decided by eight points or less.
An LSU loss to Auburn, Alabama or Ole Miss would be understandable in the minds of the College Football Playoff committee. But a slip-up against Arkansas would be an embarrassment and probably knock the Tigers out of playoff contention.
The game is traditionally played on Thanksgiving weekend, but that is no longer the case. Now the Tigers must travel to Fayetteville the week after beating themselves up against Alabama.
Arkansas will have a fresh squad coming off a bye week. Defensive coordinator John Chavis will need to has his defense ready for the running back trio of Alex Collins, Korliss Marshall and Jonathan Williams after facing Alabama's T.J. Yeldon, Kenyon Drake and Derrick Henry the week before.