LSU football: The two words, for a good part of the last decade, meant NCAA domination and SEC supremacy.
The program was brought out of the slums by Nick Saban in 2003, followed by a few down years—the repercussion of losing the nation's best coach to the NFL—all before its most recent championship, which was a product of Les Miles, and a plethora of coordinators and position coaches that are no longer on the coaching staff.
Although LSU has had a couple more down years added onto the program's resume—when you compare them to 2003 and 2007—Les Miles brought confidence to the team with last year's second-rated recruiting class, only to follow the same pattern of recent less-than-stellar seasons.
The preconceived greatness and determination on LSU's part was quickly sloughed off again when the Tigers continued to struggle after another poorly-utilized class in 2009.
Two championships in one decade give a team the national recognition it needs to recruit, land major T.V. contracts, and bring some good ol' conference-validity, but seriously; what's the deal with LSU's back-to-back losses to Florida and Alabama after such success?
How does it all turn into...this? How does a team go 9-4? Considering it was with perhaps the best recruiting class in LSU history, and some fairly upper echelon classes before that, everyone has the right to ask, "What's the deal?"
It starts with the coaching, and consequently trickles down to the players.
Finding a quality group of coaches doesn't happen overnight, given that a large majority of them have moved on to bigger and better jobs since LSU's reign over the NCAA during a solid portion of the last decade. On top of that, soundly meshing a group of coordinators and position coaches is hard to do on the fly. One more year under their belts certainly improves the likelihood that they will in fact grow as a more cohesive unit, though.
On another positive note about coaching improvements: Billy Gonzales, former Florida WR coach-extraordinaire, joined the staff mid-December. The players will benefit from both Gonzales and the highly-expected coherence of LSU's staff.
The challenge for LSU Football isn't raising enough money; it isn't getting BCS recognition, and it most certainly isn't acquiring talent. It has apparently come down to finding competent coaching, and waiting for them to grow together. A little luck every now and then would help, too, but that's a different subject.
Hopefully for the LSU faithful, they will get it together in Baton Rouge soon and we'll be celebrating an extension to what is already an extension of Mardi Gras next year (WHO DAT! Yes, I'm throwing in a back-to-back Super bowl champion prediction in here, too, free of charge).
LSU's Record Prediction:
For the regular season, realistic fans see 10 or 11 wins for the Tigers next year, based on a recent poll. Optimistic fans see 12 wins. (Okay, maybe "delusional" is a more justified term than "optimistic" for those who see 12 on the horizon.)
Alabama and Florida will be extremely tough, grind-it-out games. Having said that though, I think there's no reason why the Tigers can't pull off an upset against either a Tebow-less Gator squad or the Crimson Tide next year. It's unlikely that the Tigers can win both, so I'm guessing they'll lose at least one of them.
Final Verdict: 11-1
Safeties Chad Jones, Danny McCray, and Harry Coleman are all leaving. Not good. But alas, red-shirt safety, Craig Loston, a former five-star athlete out of Aldine, TX, can play some football. Loston lays big hits and has great hip flexibility to cover the best of the best in the SEC (see: A.J. Green, Julio Jones).
Rated the No. 1 safety out of high school, if Loston were a basketball player, he'd already be in the pros by now, metaphorically speaking.
Final Verdict: Craig Loston
Rueben Randle will challenge Julio Jones and A.J. Green as the top wide receiver in college football next year. Also a No. 1 recruit at his position, I have a feeling Randle will not disappoint.
Final Verdict: Rueben Randle
It's really, really tough not to say that the Tigers could surprise some people this year in the SEC. Florida lost its heart and soul on both sides of the ball (Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes), and Alabama is losing the best linebacker in the country, plus 400 pounds of force (well, just about) in the middle of their defensive line courtesy of Terrance Cody. Both of whom were major contributors to Alabama's No. 1 ranked defense last year.
I see the Tigers losing one game in the regular season to either Florida or Alabama in the regular season, like I said. But for all of us who follow sports, or have ever played in a league themselves, it's practically impossible to beat a good team two times in a row. With hardly any competition outside of the conference other than Texas led by their first-year starter, Garrett Gilbert, my prediction makes sense if the Tigers run the table in the SEC.
Final verdict: BCS Championship Game Win
Yes, yet another biased sports fan out there (What's new?). I pick LSU every year that I think they have a shot at winning it all. And the scary part is, in my lifetime, I've usually been right.