Per ESPN's FPI, LSU has the second-toughest schedule, and projects one definite loss and three other real toss-ups? What game or which stretch do you think makes or breaks the 2017 Tigers?
I thought we weren't caring about FPI?
The easy answer is the Florida-Auburn one-two punch after a really easy non-conference slate. But I'm more interested to see how LSU responds by what is probably going to be another loss to Alabama. Up until last year, LSU fell victim to the Bama Hangover where they show up and play like dogshit against Arkansas. If all goes according to plan, Bama could possibly be LSU's first loss of the season and I'm curious to see how LSU responds to that against Arkansas and Tennessee, two teams whose coaches will probably on the hottest of hot seats. Those two games could determine if LSU can possibly land an outside — VERY outside — shot in the playoffs or make a "Prestige Bowl" (since the Sugar is a semifinal game this year).
Or they can fall victim to the hangover once again and wind up in a New Year's Day bowl in Florida, again.
I hereby deem September a month of trickiness. LSU doesn't play one really good team until October and yet four of the five games in September are the type where you could bumble around and find yourself with an L if you don't take your opponents seriously. All of those teams will put up a fight, and three of the four are featuring pretty freshly minted head coaches looking to make a stamp on their programs and/or move on to bigger and better jobs.
But the real stretch to worry about is October through the 1st week of November. Shocker, we're again talking about the part of the schedule that features Alabama. But leading up to that point you have three straight SEC foes, all of which will have something to prove against LSU. UF on the road, back home for Auburn, who is probably the best of the lot, and then back on the road against what is sure to be a bad Ole Miss team, aka usually the most dangerous Ole Miss teams. And that all strides us into a bye leading into Bama.
LSU could enter October 5-0 and then feasibly enter the second week of November 5-3. That's brutal.
I'm with Dan on September. Syracuse is going to come in here with that Baylor Bear-Raid style offense, and it's going to be a different look with the receiver splits and the pace. Almost like having a triple-option team on your schedule — it can be tough to prepare for because it's totally different. And if you're not ready, suddenly you're in a dogfight with an offense you can't stop. And until we see what this LSU offense is fully capable of, that's not something I'd be totally comfortable with. Likewise, you have a trip to Starkvegas and a 10-win Troy team that gave Clemson all it wanted last year.
It's not that I think they're losable, it's just that you have to go to through that, and then immediately go on the road to Gainesville, then play what could be a very good Auburn team at home and then go to Ole Miss. That's a helluva grind, mentally and physically, before the bye week. If LSU can make it through that, they should be in good shape for the final test in November. But that October stretch is going to determine whether LSU will be in a position to compete for anything beyond a bowl game.
There's no question LSU has one of the toughest schedules in college football this season. I think it's agreed upon that September will be an interesting month that features some toss-ups. Last season, it seemed like LSU didn't really play to their full potential in that they underestimated some of their '"lesser" opponents, and could have avoided some unnecessary losses by keeping a different mentality. Not to mention, a number of these teams have undergone significant changes to their coaching staff that will make them especially difficult to prepare for this season.
October is when the games guaranteed to be tough begin. They've got major SEC teams like the Florida Gators in an away game, Auburn at home and then back on the road to Ole Miss. It all happens at once too, making playing these teams even tougher than it already is. And, of course, there's Alabama to play after the bye week, which will easily be the toughest game on the schedule. If they're able to get through this stretch with a good record, LSU is set up to contend for something more than a bowl game.
One of the deciding factors in winning many games on this schedule will be whether or not LSU's offense is truly new-and-improved this year. It looked much better towards the end of the 2016 season, and positive changes were made to the coaching staff during that same time frame. Now we're just left with the question as to if it's strong enough to contend with some of these stout defenses.
I'm putting LSU down for a 5-0 start. There may be some difficult games and tests in there, but I expect they'll comfortably win all 5. The key for me will be the Florida game. LSU had won 3 in a row vs Florida before just letting one get away last year. It'll be the first true test as it's in the Swamp and UF will always be tough, but if LSU wins that game they'll be 6-0, with a home game against Auburn to follow and a game against an Ole Miss team that's coming off a bad year and is ineligible for the postseason. That puts you in a position to maybe be 8-0 going into the Alabama game, and no matter what happens there, you have 2 of 3 in November at home. But you lose to UF, and now it's a good Auburn team standing in the way of 2 losses in a row and probably 3 of 4 with Bama coming.
I think the Florida game could change the course for LSU from potentially a 1-2 loss season to a 3-4 loss one.
If LSU loses one of the first five games, they aren't a very good team. Okay, State might present a problem, and none of the games are total cakewalks, but if LSU isn't 5-0, then this team is a mediocre football team. Bragging that the layup games you schedules are tougher than other team's layups are one of my least favorite college football arguments: they are all still layups and you shouldn't lose them. These aren't horrible teams, but they aren't top 25 quality either, save again possibly State. Losing one of the September games is just shy of a disaster (unless it's State, which would be bad, but at least excusable). This is an illusory tough schedule, not one with a bunch of great teams.
Come October, things get real in a hurry. LSU plays Florida, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Bama in succession, with only Auburn at home. That's both divisional favorites, both on the road, the likely pick for second in the West, and a team in the Rebels that saves its best game for us, particularly at home. We'll find out how good the team is in this stretch. Four losses aren't off the table, and it would take a minor miracle to beat Bama this year, so this team likely tops out at three wins over this stretch. This is clearly the make or breaks stretch, and there are still games against A&M and Arkansas, neither of which is a sure thing.