LSU kicks off the season against a ranked team and legitimate contender for the Big Ten title. The schedule includes five games against teams ranked in the preseason polls, including a game against the defending SEC champions and BCSCG participant on the road.
It is perhaps the easiest schedule LSU has had in a decade, and a great opportunity for the Tigers to take advantage. LSU can have a great year and contend for the title, aided by its schedule.
LSU trades a road game with Georgia for a home game against Kentucky in conference play. Meanwhile, the two other top contenders for the West title saw their conference slates get more difficult: Alabama trades Kentucky for Florida, and Auburn goes from Tennessee to South Carolina.
Tiger fans spend a lot of time fretting over scheduling, and there's a good reason for that: scheduling matters. It's a lot easier to navigate the toughest conference in college football if you don't have to play any of the contenders in the opposite division. A team's cross-divisional schedule can make all the difference between playing in Atlanta on the first weekend of December and playing in Atlanta on New Year's Eve.
Well, this is one of those rare years in which the Scheduling Gods favor LSU. LSU's conference schedule is objectively easier than both of the Alabama schools. This is not a year to look forward to the future, the schedule lines up now. There's no telling when we'll get this perfect storm again.
Heck, the schedule is even appropriately backloaded, helping out a young team to figure itself out before it gets into the meat of the schedule. Wisconsin is a difficult season opener, but Miles has always done well with a big first game to get his charges focused not just for the season at hand, but to come straight out of the gates. It's hard sometimes to focus on the nebulous concept of "the season", but it is easy to focus on playing Wisconsin.
It's also a fairly low stakes game, in the grand scheme of things. If LSU drops this game, it is not like it impacts LSU's SEC title chances in the least. This isn't quite like A&M, who not only has a tough game right off the bat, but a tough conference game.
After the season opener, LSU plays three tomato cans and Mississippi State. State has one of their best teams in years, but LSU will still be a convincing favorite. The month of September is a time for LSU to figure out its best starting 11 on each side of the ball, and forge its identity. By the time the calendar flips to October, LSU could be 5-0 and ranked in the top 10.
The biggest test of the season comes in those first two weekends in October: at Auburn and at Florida. LSU will find out in a span of eight days exactly what this team is made of. However, they will have been given a month to essentially prep for that stretch. And as far as brutal stretches in the SEC go, two straight road games against Auburn and Florida doesn't exactly rate. Everyone in the conference has a similar stretch. Bama plays four road games in six weeks, and their one home game is against a preseason top 25 team. Auburn alternates its road games, but has a slate of South Carolina, Ole Miss, A&M, and finally Georgia without a bye. No one gets an easy trek. Two straight road games against very good teams is hard, but it doesn't make LSU special. Not this year.
LSU then gets byes before its two biggest games in November, Alabama and A&M. Playing on Thanksgiving is going to suck, but LSU doesn't have to worry about a short week.
This schedule is as easy as an LSU schedule is ever going to get. If LSU is going to contend for the division this year, it will need all of the help it can get. Finally, we got it from the league office. LSU has no excuses. If this team doesn't win the division, it will simply be because it was not good enough. For the first time in a long while, LSU is not playing a rigged game.