(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Im
Most of those aforementioned media pundits are not expecting much from the Tigers.The Coaches' Poll released last week did have the Tigers in the top 10, one spot ahead of Ole Miss but third in the SEC behind Alabama and Florida.
Worse still, most preseason CFB magazines have the Tigers outside of the top 10 and in some cases barely in the top 20.
That's understandable, considering last year's:
* 8-5 finish
* inability to establish an effective passing game (unless you consider passes completed to opposing linebackers!)
* dismal performance of the once vaunted defense.
Rarely can a team turn around such seemingly systemic problems in just one offseason with only one significant player upgrade and/or a few non-head-coach-related coaching changes.
Yet for the eternally optimistic "homer" fan (guilty as charged), it is easy to point to these two glaring issues and say, "ALL is well. Didn't you see Jordan Jefferson in the Peach-fil-A Bowl?" (That's Chick-fil-A for the younger audience.)
OK, Homer, but your defense, it was...pitiful, to put it mildly.
"Ah, but we hired John Chavis. He put together all those great defenses at Good Ole Rocky Top. ALL is well..."
The problem with Homer's thinking here, you might say, is that it is all too simple. Was that REALLY all there was to the Tigers' demise last year? Can everything be fixed by virtue of those two simple changes?
Isn't the real problem that Les Miles could only win with Nick Saban's recruits or that he just got lucky all those times before, yada, yada, yada...?
Sorry to break it to you, CFB world, but Homer's got this one right. LSU was hit last year by a perfect storm of decisions made by head coach Les Miles that led to an impossible situation.
These were however, good AND honorable decisions.
First, releasing Ryan Perrilloux had to be done.
But Miles did so knowing full well that his team's hopes for success in the upcoming year would be in jeopardy.
Second, promoting from within and being loyal to your people is honorable leadership.
Not throwing them under the bus and making them the scapegoat when things go wrong is ultimate leadership.
The decision not to go out and find a suitable replacement for Bo Pelini led to the breakdown of an otherwise talented and skilled defensive unit that had been one of the best in the country in 2007.
However, not replacing Pelini last year allowed LSU to hire Chavis this year.
We may not yet know the result of that hire, but you would be hard pressed to find any so-called "expert" that doesn't rank the Chief (John Chavis) as one of the best defensive coordinators in the country.
Moreover, the true sophomore Jefferson may have only had a short time to prove himself last season, but everything about the kid—particularly his performance in several games last year and winning the Chick-fil-A Bowl's MVP award—indicates that he is the real deal.
Also, look for LSU to throw a devastating change of pace at defenses this year with five-star true freshman Russell Shepard. (Just picture the Geaux Wild Formation—LSU's version of the Wildcat—only turbocharged!)
Also, speedsters Brandon LaFell, Trindon Holliday, and Kieland Williams lead a long list of impeccable talent at every skill position.
Look for the Tigers' offense to be one of the most potent and dynamic the SEC has seen in recent years.
Bottom line: The Tigers will be the most improved team in the country and will split with the Gators.
Florida will eke out a win in Tiger Stadium, but LSU will regain the conference crown in Atlanta by avenging that loss.
The win could propel LSU into the BCS National Title Game, although chaos in the BCS is more likely. (More on that to follow...)