The 2007 season was a stressful but very special season for the LSU Tigers and fans. Several games were decided at the very end. Florida came in and pushed us around, but we pushed right back until Tim Tebow cried. The term “triple overtime” became the most hated phrase in Louisiana.
A few lucky bounces went our way (okay, more than a few), thank you letters were mailed out to Pittsburgh and Oklahoma, and LSU landed in the National Championship game. LSU captured its second national title in five seasons by defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 38-24 (and it wasn’t even that close).
Now the 2008 season is slowly creeping up on us. Who’s the quarterback? How does the defense respond after losing Glenn Dorsey?
Here’s my take on the 2008 edition of the Tigers.
Okay, I’m only going to mention his name once and then not again. Ryan Perrilloux is gone.
No quarterback on the roster has started a game. Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee enter 2008 having never started a collegiate game in their lives. Hatch, the Harvard transfer, has completed half of his passes (one out of two). One of these two is likely to be named the starter.
I must admit that before his dismissal (I vowed not to mention his name again), I was concerned about his mental makeup and leadership qualities. He was a good fill-in starter against Middle Tennessee early in the season and against Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game, but I questioned whether or not he could lead a team through an entire season while being the man at quarterback.
He already proved his vanity and immaturity when committing to LSU by announcing to the world that he would win four Heisman trophies. Now, I don’t have to question.
We have a brand new quarterback. We just don’t know who yet. Luckily, for whoever that man might be, he will be protected behind a solid, veteran line, and he will have a vast array of weapons to give the ball to.
The offense returns four starters along the line, including seniors Brett Helms and the gigantic Herman Johnson. Johnson is listed at 6'7", 351 pounds.
They will be blocking for a trio of talented running backs. Junior RB Keiland Williams probably will get the start, but he will share the running load with junior Charles Scott and sophomore Richard Murphy. Scott brings power to the running back position, while Murphy brings speed to an already fast group.
Look for the fastest man in college football, Trindon Holliday, to get a few touches per game. While Holliday may be the shortest Tiger on the roster, he is tough to get a hand on.
He uses his lack of height to hide behind his linemen and find a hole. No one has a quicker burst, and he can get into the secondary before the defense realizes where he is. Look for Holliday to use his elusiveness and speed on kickoff returns as well.
Early Doucet is gone, but the Tigers come back loaded at wide receiver. Doucet faced a number of leg injuries throughout the season, and this gave others a chance to step up and gain some valuable experience.
Demetrius Byrd, a senior, led the team with seven touchdowns a year ago and made a last-second play to beat Auburn with a second left. Brandon LaFell battled inconsistency all year but still finished with 50 receptions. If he can catch the football more consistently, he can be a star in the SEC.
Sophomore Terrance Tolliver, perhaps LSU’s most explosive wide out, is 6'5" and can flat-out run. In limited action, he averaged nearly 25 yards per catch. Look for Tolliver to be LSU’s third receiver.
We don’t often mention tight ends when referring to LSU’s receiving threats, but Richard Dickson is an exception. After only managing six receptions and less than 100 yards as a freshman, Dixon broke out his sophomore year with 35 receptions, 375 yards and five touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns came in the BCS Title Game against Ohio State.
Look for Dickson to become a security blanket for LSU’s next quarterback.
Let’s take a look at the key losses first. Everyone knows that All-Everything DT Glenn Dorsey has gone on to the riches of the NFL. Dorsey will be remembered as one of the best to ever put on a Tiger uniform.
But the defense suffered some other key losses as well. LB Ali Highsmith, CBs Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon, and S Craig Steltz are all gone.
2007 defensive coordinator Bo Pelini left the Tigers to serve as Nebraska’s head coach. He will be replaced by co-coordinators Doug Mallory and Bradley Peveto, who were promoted from within the Tigers’ coaching staff.
LSU returns a number of quality players on their defensive line. In the middle, they have Al Woods, Marlon Favorite, and Charles Alexander. On the ends, the Tigers return Tremaine Johnson, Tyson Jackson, and Ricky Jean-Francois.
Jackson showed flashes of greatness in 2006 but dropped off a bit last year. Jean-Francois missed most of last season due to academic problems but showed his rare talent against the Buckeyes.
Darry Beckwith and Jacob Cutrera lead a young and inexperienced linebacking corps. They will try to replace the production left behind by Highsmith and Luke Sanders.
Three starters are gone from a secondary that did one of the best jobs in the country at defending the pass. The good news is that there is still a lot of experience returning at safety.
Danny McCray, Curtis Taylor and Chad Jones each bring experience to the table. Harry Coleman did a more than adequate job in filling in for the injured Steltz in the National Championship Game.
The bad news may lie at cornerback. Jai Eugene and Chris Hawkins, backups last season, emerge as the only corners with any significant playing time. Redshirt freshman Phelon Jones will compete for a starting spot, as will true freshman Patrick Johnson.
K Colt David returns for his senior. David has been solid on field goals and extra points throughout his career. P Patrick Fisher graduated and there will be competition for a new punter. Look for a combination of Chad Jones and Trindon Holliday to handle much of the return duties.
One determining factor on how well your team will do is the schedule. Does your schedule grant you mercy, allowing you to play one or two tough teams a year on the way to getting blown out in consecutive years by two superior teams from a superior conference?
Or do you have to run the gauntlet of playing multiple ranked teams on the road and survive a conference championship game?
This year is an even year, Tiger fans, and that means our tougher games are on the road.
A brutal stretch in the middle of the season includes games at Auburn (we haven’t won there in a while), at Florida (we won our last two there before 2006’s five-turnover mess) and at South Carolina.
Sandwiched in-between is a visit from Mississippi State. Now I know LSU has demolished them as of late, but don’t underestimate Sylvester Croom’s crew this season.
Georgia also returns to the schedule after a four-year absence. They’ll be looking for redemption in Tiger Stadium after what happened last time. If you remember, and I know you do, Skyler Green caught a last-minute TD pass from Matt Mauck to beat the Dawgs 17-10.
Every Tiger fan has November 8, 2008 circled on their calendars. That’s when the man in the straw hat, Nick Saban, visits Tiger Stadium for the first time since he skipped out on the Tigers after the 2004 season (okay, so it’s really the second time. The first time he was coach of the Dolphins when they played the Saints in Tiger Stadium in 2005.).
Oh, and did I mention he’s not coming alone? He’s bringing Alabama’s football team with him. Saban is going to have his team focused in a hostile environment. Expect the game to be close.
We have beaten the Tide four consecutive years, including the last two at home, but it hasn’t always been that easy. The absolute worst game that I attended in Tiger Stadium was a 31-0 blowout in 2002. Not only were the Tigers never in the game, but the weather was freezing and miserable.
The rest of the schedule is fairly easy. LSU opens the season with three home games against Appalachian State (remember them?), Troy, and North Texas.
Even with their opening season victory last year against Michigan and their own national title, I don’t see Appalachian State winning this game. They’ve lost the element of surprise. The Tigers will be ready.
The only question I have about this game is, “Why, ESPN, is this game slated for 4 pm (local time)?” Don’t they know the rules? No game in Death Valley (the real Death Valley, Clemson) should start before 7 pm.
As the season winds down, LSU renews its “rivalry” with Tulane. This time the Green Wave come to Mike VI’s house. The first half won’t be nearly as close as last year’s.
The Tigers close the year battling two teams that should be fighting for fifth in the SEC West.
First, a visit from Ole Miss. The Rebels’ offense did surprisingly well against the Tigers last year in Oxford. But yet again, another rebuilding year for this team. Houston Nutt takes over at Ole Miss after ten seasons at Arkansas.
To close the season, LSU travels to Arkansas for the annual day-after-Thanksgiving game for the Battle of the Boot. Bobby “Screw you, I’m leaving” Petrino is the new coach at Arkansas. I can’t guarantee that he’ll be there when the Tigers come to town.
With no McFadden or Felix Jones, the Tigers should easily win their last two contests.
Let’s face it, Tiger fans—it’s hard enough to win a national title. To expect to win them back-to-back is unrealistic.
There are questions at quarterback, linebacker, and cornerback. This year’s schedule is probably a little tougher than last year’s. Everyone’s gunning for us (because they’re jealous).
We will definitely win six home games. I’m pretty confident about the ‘Bama game because we are still a notch above them talent-wise. The Georgia game has me concerned after how they ended last season on a tear.
As for our road games, I’m confident about South Carolina and Arkansas, but not as much Auburn—as I mentioned earlier, we don’t do so well there.
The Florida game is an interesting one. We’ve done okay at The Swamp lately, but are the Gators going to be amped up or what? I think Tim Tebow’s head just might explode from all of the excitement.
My guess is that Les “My stones are bigger than yours, have a great day” Miles will lean on his defense and running game when the going gets tough, and that’s what he’ll do here to escape narrowly with a victory.
Overall record: At worst 8-4, at best 11-1. I’ll stick with 10-2 (6-2) in the regular season and fighting Auburn for a trip to Atlanta. As for a bowl, I’m guessing the Capitol One Bowl. I hope not, though. I have bad memories there.