LSU only returns 11 starters and sits at 111th in the S&P+ returning production rankings. Head coach Ed Orgeron brought in Matt Canada from the University of Pittsburgh as the new offensive coordinator. Canada, one of five Finalists in 2016 for the Broyles Award given to the nation's top assistant, also had previous success at NIU and Wisconsin. The offense will look different, as Canada will move the Tigers from an I-formation to a shift-based spread. There will be much more shifting and misdirection than you are used to seeing on the offensive side of the ball in Baton Rouge.
Even though the offensive scheme will be different in 2017, the star of the offense will remain the same. Derrius Grice, a legitimate Heisman contender, led the SEC in rushing in 2016 with 1,387 yards. Expect him to carry the load again, especially considering the fact that LSU lost 60 percent of its wide receiver production, and questions still remain about QB Danny Etling. Most considered the offensive line a towering strength a few months ago, as LSU expected to return four of five starters from a unit that PFF ranked No. 1 in the country last year. However, this outlook drastically shifted with the recent news that right guard Maea Teuhema left the program after an indefinite suspension. LSU also had four other offensive linemen depart this offseason, which will impact their two deep. As a result, there are now legitimate questions about this group.
For the first time since 2014, LSU will have a returning defensive coordinator. This should help with continuity, but the Tigers will need to replace a few key pieces lost from the productive 2016 unit. Getting Arden Key back healthy is priority No. 1, followed by addressing the holes at linebacker and defensive back; LSU lost four players from these two units in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. They will get two seniors back healthy in defensive end Christian LaCouture and linebacker Corey Thompson, which should help immensely. If Key comes back healthy and they find adequate plugs at inside linebacker and defensive back from their youth, this defense has the potential to be elite.
Expected Win Totals
CW Projected Total Wins: 8.8
CW Projected SEC Wins: 5.0
Posted Total Wins: O 9 -130
Home Field Advantage: 2.8
Opening Power Rating: 65
|Sep 16||LSU||Mississippi St.||11.5|
|Oct 21||LSU||Ole Miss||12.5|
|Nov 25||Texas A&M||LSU||-12.5|
|Legend: After bye week / Overlook Watch / B2B road games / Neutral site|
LSU has a difficult schedule primarily thanks to Mother Nature. The Tigers will play five true SEC road games as a result of the 2016 Florida game that was rescheduled due to Hurricane Matthew. Since Florida flipped to a road game, LSU will only play home SEC games against Auburn, Arkansas and Texas A&M.
I will look to fade LSU on November 11th when they host Arkansas, a team seeking revenge from a 28-point home beating last year. The situational spot also favors the Hogs, as they come into this game after two relatively easy weeks against teams with interim coaches (Ole Miss and Coastal Carolina). Conversely, LSU should be a little hungover from Alabama the week before. The Razorbacks are 2-3 in their last five trips to Baton Rouge, with two of the three losses coming by a combined seven points. Look for Arkansas catching anything over two touchdowns for the Game of the Year Line.
Keep an eye on LSU snap counts early on in the season. Canada had a low number per game at Pitt last year (62), which could translate to unders for LSU, especially if the defense lives up to its potential.
LSU has lost six straight to Alabama and will travel to Tuscaloosa this year where they have been outscored 68-33 during their last two trips. If they don't find a reliable passing game to balance their offense by November, this will be another lopsided affair.
Arden Key (OLB/DE) - There has been a lot of speculation about when Key will return from shoulder surgery, and rightfully so. The dominant pass rusher, who mans LSU's Buck linebacker, amassed 12 sacks last year. Key is arguably one of the best defensive players in the country; LSU can't afford to go too long without his presence.
D.J. Chark (WR) - LSU must replace receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre, both of whom are on current NFL rosters. LSU is counting on Chark, who's responsible for the only returning receiver production, to move from the slot to the primary receiver outside. Additionally, the senior will be a key part of the running game via reverses in Canada's spread system. LSU is so concerned about receiver depth that they moved JaCoby Stevens, the No. 1 high school safety in the 2017 class, to offense. If Chark doesn't give them a reliable No. 1, the offense is doomed.
GeauxTigers are 1-7-1 ATS as an underdog since 2013. They should be an underdog in at least two games this season (at Alabama and at Florida).
It all goes right if…
LSU gets production in the secondary from their youth to fill the holes left by safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Tre'Davious White, who were both selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. LSU, or should I say DBU, also lost their primary nickel, Dwayne Thomas, an important position given the amount of spread offenses they will face. Kevin Toliver will return at one corner, and the other should be filled by Donte Jackson, the fastest player in college football. However, they will need freshmen to contribute at nickel and strong safety, which is a scary proposition in a division with passers like Austin Allen, Shea Patterson and Nick Fitzgerald.
It all goes wrong if…
LSU can't fill the inside linebacker position with capable run stoppers. Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith have moved on to the NFL, and the inside linebacker corps struggled during the spring game. Depth and ability are not issues as the Tigers have plenty of talented youth, but they are just raw and lack game experience.
Mississippi State +11
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