With the LSU Tiger's first game just over a week away, it is time to make some predictions pertaining to their potential national championship season in 2011.
Whether it be Jordan Jefferson tossing for 2,000 yards and more TDs than interceptions, or Spencer Ware stepping up to fill Stevan Ridley's cleats with his first 1,000-yard season, anything can happen in any given college football season.
Or perhaps, LSU will have the nations best defense in 2011. No one will know until the season is over, but these are just a few of many things the LSU Tiger's 2011 team has an opportunity to accomplish.
With the indefinite suspension of starting QB Jordan Jefferson due to off-field problems with the law, senior QB Jarrett Lee is set to take over under center. Although Lee got some playing time in 2010, nothing could prepare him for the situation he has now undertaken.
Lee does have the ability to win and knows Les Miles' system well enough to pull off the victory against Oregon in Week 1 of the college football season.
Lee has proven himself, and the Tigers should just treat this like a situation where the starting QB is injured and the back up is in. If the offensive line can hold and give Lee a little extra time, he should be able to do the job.
Lee needs to channel his inner self to play like he did in 2008 when he was the Tigers starter. He threw for 14 TDs and 1,873 yards that year but needs to keep the turnovers to a minimum.
Jarrett Lee can win the opening game against Oregon, or at least help the team to victory, and in doing so, could carry a lot of winning momentum through the rest of the season.
Due to the loss of Jordan Jefferson for an unknown amount of time in 2011, running back Spencer Ware can expect a lot more touches from center.
Coming off a weak freshman season with just 175 yards rushing, Ware has a lot to prove in 2011. He showed flashes of brilliance in the 2010 Cotton Bowl when he put up 102 yards in a winning effort, giving fans a glimpse of what to expect in 2011.
Despite being put up against the likes of Michael Dyer, Marcus Lattimore and Trenton Richardson in the SEC this year, the loss of Jordan Jefferson could be significant enough to force the Tigers to run the ball way more than they did in 2010.
If Ware puts up performances like the Cotton Bowl week in and week out, he could run away with a shocking victory as the SEC's top running back in 2011.
With all that has transpired this offseason, Les Miles and the LSU Tigers can either have a really good season or a really bad one. After losing several star players including CB Patrick Peterson to the NFL, and Jordan Jefferson to off-field issues, the Tigers could now be a flop.
Head coach Les Miles has not lost back-to-back games in over three seasons, but this could be the year. Any two-plus loss team doesn't have a shot at the BCS National Championship in 2011, let alone at winning the SEC.
Potential back-to-back losses can occur when the Tigers face off against Mississippi State and West Virginia or when the Tigers play Auburn and then Alabama.
Miles will have to coach his best season to date to prevent this from occurring. There aren't doubts that he can coach his way out of these issues, but it is going to be quite the task.
With the departure of Gary Crowton to Maryland to become their offensive coordinator, the Tigers have a new man calling the plays in Greg Studrawa.
Studrawa brings a much simpler playbook, and with Jarrett Lee set to start the season off for the Tigers, this could be a blessing in disguise and result in a lot more success than Lee is expected to bring.
Gone are the multiple formations which were both a blessing and a curse for the Tigers, and new simplified plays are welcomed in by the inexperienced second-string members of the Tigers as well as Lee.
The simplified play structure will result in less confusion which results in less turnovers.
Studrawa's new system may not be cemented in the brain of players who have known Crowton's methods for several seasons, but they should know it by kickoff on September 3rd against Oregon.
When LSU meets Alabama on Saturday November 5th, it could likely decide the winner of the SEC West. With the aforementioned losses to the draft and the law, this is going to an even more difficult task as before.
Alabama led by powerhouse running back Trent Richardson and a veteran defense on paper should be picked to win this game. The outcome of this game is purely dependent on how well the Tigers do in the first few games of the season.
If they manage to pull of victories against all three of their early ranked opponents, this one should be a barn burner; however, if they struggle out of the gate, look for the Tigers to get rolled over by the Tide.
Richardson could be too much for the Tigers D-line to handle, and the young, inexperienced Tigers offense could get shut down.
In saying this, the Tigers defense was ranked 11th in the nation at the end of last season and is poised for another great performance this year. If Tyrann Mathieu can rush the backfield as well as he did last season and the defensive line holds, it will provide the Tigers with a shot at shutting Trent Richardson and the 'Bama offense down.
Look for a motivated defense in this game, and the Tigers pulling it out in a close one.
LSU Tiger's WR Russell Sheppard has been suspended for the season. With this unfortunate turn of events WR Rueben Randle will be tested. Expect Randle to face a lot of double coverage in 2011, but regardless he will be counted on to catch the ball, A LOT.
Randle was once a five star recruit, but in his two seasons with the Tigers he has failed to impress. In his career with LSU he has caught for just 5 TDs and 717 yards of offense. In 2011 he has the opportunity to catch for more yards than in his first two seasons combined.
With his elusive speed, soft hands, and great football IQ (from playing quarterback in the past), Randle has the potential to put up huge numbers this season, and 800 yards is not attainable.
In 2011, LSU cornerback has the opportunity to pick up where former CB Patrick Peterson left off; winning the Chuck Bednarik Award as the top defensive player in the country. 2010 saw Claiborne put up 37 tackles and 5 interceptions. Clairborne is only going to improve in 2011.
With the departure of Peterson to the NFL, Claiborne becomes the No. 1 CB in the Tigers depth chart and will have the same opportunities to create turnovers as Peterson did in 2010.
Using his good hands and impeccable view of the field and play recognizing, Claiborne gives himself a huge opportunity to come away with the Chuck Bednarik award in 2011.
The LSU Tigers defense could very well be the only thing that keeps them in contention in 2011. With seven returning starters to the 2010 11th best defense in the nation, the Tigers could dominate opponents this season.
Led by CB's Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu, the Tigers defense is very strong this season.
Matthieu is coming off a season in which he put up 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles (three fumble recoveries) and two interceptions and will be a menace in the nickle again this season. Claiborne put up five interceptions and will be looking for more in 2011.
On the defensive line, the Tigers are looking good despite losing Drake Nevis to the NFL draft. Defensive end Kendrick Adams and DT Michael Brockers are both set to improve on their 2010 seasons and punish offensive lines even more.
The Tigers allowed just 18 points against last season, and with the proper matchups against offenses they are set to face in 2011, they could lower this number even more.
The chances of the LSU Tigers winning the SEC title this season are diminished by everything that has gone on this offseason, but it is still possible.
If the Tigers defense manages to keep games tight in 2011 or shuts down the opposition, the Tigers may not fail as much as people are making them out to do with the arrest of Jordan Jefferson.
Much optimism surrounding the Tigers was that Jefferson would vastly improve in 2011 and keep interceptions to a minimum and turn them into points for the offense. Now that Jefferson is gone for and unknown period of time, it is up to Jarrett Lee to lead the team.
Lee is fully capable of a good season, but he hasn't played a full season in college to date.
The Tigers must win their first four games of the season to have a chance at the SEC, and with wins over Auburn and Alabama in 2011 however, the Tigers should earn themselves a shot at the SEC Title.
In each of the past five BCS national title games, there has been an SEC team represented.
So in all likelihood, the victor of the SEC in 2011 will be in the national championship game. In order for this to happen for LSU in 2011, they need to be perfect.
Whether it be Jarrett Lee or Jordan Jefferson leading the team there in 2011, the team needs to come together as one and win out.
They need to have at least one blowout victory over a ranked team in there as well, and that could come against No. 22 Florida in October. Florida still isn't quite back in the BCS talk since Tebow left the team.
The Tigers need the perfect storm this season to make the championship, but as we all know, in college football, one play can change a season. It will be a tough road but not as tough as people will make it out to be.