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ATVS Roundtable: 2023 Season Outlook

The gang gets together to discuss LSU’s ceiling and floor ahead of this football season

2023 SEC Media Days Photo by Johnnie Izquierdo/Getty Images

Well it’s that time of year again. What’s your best case and worst case scenario for the Tigers this 2023 season?


Best Case: I’ve got a lot of hope for this 2023 football season. LSU’s never won the West in back-to-back seasons, but this feels like the year they do it. Jayden Daniels ends up being a Heisman trophy finalist thanks to a talented offensive line taking the next step, Malik Nabers having another All-SEC/All-American caliber season, and Mason Taylor flirting with the Mackey Award. One of Shelton Sampson or Ka’Morreun Pimpton put themselves on the radar as the next great playmaker to wear the purple and gold, and a deep running back room has a 2011-type of season where Williams/Cain/Diggs/Emery all do different, but complimentary things.

On the defensive side of the ball, Maason Smith stays healthy and delivers upon his five-star, No. 1 defensive lineman promise, Harold Perkins has another Harold Perkins season and brings home the Butkus Award, and a patchwork secondary gels. Zy Alexander and Duce Chestnut are this year’s Jarrick Bernard-Converse and Mekhi Garner, while Denver Harris walks the straight and narrow.

If everything goes right, LSU has an 10-2/11-1 regular season, beats Georgia in Atlanta and makes the playoff. From there? It’s anyone’s guess.

Worst Case: I really can’t see a situation where the LSU offense isn’t at the very least good. To me, LSU’s worst case scenario is the offense is preeetttyyy good but still leaves us wanting a little bit more. Maybe Jayden Daniels throws for 2800 yards instead of 3300 and has to rely on his legs like last year; maybe nobody emerges as a go-to running back; and maybe no wideout emerges to help out Nabers and teams figure out if you take away 8 you’ve all but neutralized the passing game.

Defensively everything hinges on the secondary. Last year LSU rolled the dice on a secondary comprised mainly of transfers and had good fortune; this time around LSU gets snake eyes. The 2023 secondary puts LSU in a bunch of shootouts and the Tigers end up on the wrong side of two or three games (hello Florida State). Harold Perkins is a god and Omar Speights should be good, but by my count that’s two (2) linebackers you feel good about. Can you survive an entire season with just two linebackers? Probably not.

LSU isn’t so vastly superior to Ole Miss, Florida, A&M, or Auburn (though it helps that three of those games are in Tiger Stadium) that they drop a couple of conference games that we’re not expecting to go 8-4 and end with a disappointing middle of the pack finish in the SEC West.


This is LSU football, so the “best case scenario” is always winning a national championship. Likely to happen? No, but always plausible. That’s why it’s one of the five best jobs in the sport while also being one of the five hardest.

The worst case is a sophomore slump from Kelly, one where the team we saw play against Alabama and Ole Miss was lightning in a bottle and the teams we saw against Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas A&M are more of the baseline of what we can expect.

Like many things in life, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. I’m glad that Jayden Daniels is the most elusive quarterback in college football, but I also have my doubts that we can build on last year’s success by doing the same thing with him. It’s a nice fallback option, but we can’t build the plane out of that. Line play is always crucial, but for the team to take the next step they’ll need to shoulder a bigger load this season. I trust House on the other side of the ball, even if our backfield is…green.

I think this is a team that is a lock in the 12-team playoff era, and would be comfortable calling them a high seed in that format, but I think is one of the first two teams out in a four-team playoff. Which is fine, nobody ever said Kelly needed a ring in his second year to be successful, even the most ardent Kelly haters/doubters.

Win 10 games, play in a primetime big boy bowl, and gear up for ‘24. That’s where I’m at this year.


There are so many signs of the Tiger Zodiac that line this year up for something special that I need to acknowledge them. We are 4 years out from our last football Natty, and since 2003 that has been clockwork for us as an indicator for how the season could end up (sans 2015). I also feel the supernova vibes of Head Coach super hires and what they have done for LSU in year 2. But if I turn off this commercial that sounds like an LSU version of Miss Cleo the Tarot Psychic I still see a glimmer of the best case scenario for the Tigers. Jayden Daniels flourishes with more weapons, gets invited to NYC, and keeps our momentum hot in QB recruiting. Our O Line dominates and gives us the option to play any type of pace we want offensively. Our defensive line plays so well it overshadows some weak spots on the back end and Harold Perkins looks even more dominant than Devin White when he won the Butkus. The offense is dynamic enough for us to reach Atlanta, even after one loss in the division, and we play well enough to upset UGA in SECCG. The chips fall where they may after that with a playoff berth.

Worst case scenario is we turn into a shootout team that relies way too much on an offense to deliver and make up for defensive weaknesses. It puts too much strain on our QB, which leads to abysmal performances in big stages. We lose two division games before November, which zaps momentum and we end up with 3 losses before December looking like a team with great starters at certain spots but no depth and overwhelmed at times.

As we sit, this still feel like a 2 loss team with the capabilities to swing 1 win or 1 loss difference depending on QB play. The outcome of the FSU game benefits us either way because they actually carry their own weight throughout the year and maintain their status as a top tier ACC contender.


It feels like we’re back to normal, where the best case scenario is a National Title and the worst realistic case is about 9-3 or 8-4. This team appears to be extremely good, with high tier players on both sides of the ball. Jayden Daniels is an all-purpose, Collin Klein type offensive weapon, Malik Nabers is a likely round 1 pick with a well-rounded game, Maason Smith is a Chris Jones caliber freak on the IDL, Mekhi Wingo is a versatile piece with serious pass rushing juice, Harold Perkins may be unlimited, Mason Taylor is a budding do it all superstar, and Will Campbell might be better than all of them. There are weaknesses to be sure, I have concerns about personnel usage in the front 6. With a team more built to penetrate, I have concerns about the usage of fronts more designed to occupy gaps than create disruption. Additionally, I think Harold Perkins has a rare skillset off the edge that should be leaned into despite likely being great anywhere he plays. Of course, the secondary is a big question too.

Regardless of those finer, nitpicky concerns, the big picture shows a very good football team. While I think they’re a year away, it could all come together sooner. Optimism is justified.


This should always be LSU’s ceiling and that’s making the playoff at a minimum, Natty is the APEX.. Between the returning production everywhere (hello Harold Perkins), Jayden Daniels Heisman hopes, a bevy of new transfers and freshman, including potential breakout star Ka’Morreun Pimpton, LSU is in good shape for a great run. Prediction, LSU makes the playoffs as everything falls into place, yet still loses to Georgia in the semi-finals.

Worst case scenario is the injury bug visits either or both the offense/defense. The offense could survive better than the defense and with a weaker than usual backfield, LSU could be in a world of hurt if Perkins or a few safeties or corners get hurt. Brian Kelly would then really need to earn that salary as it could lead to just seven or eight wins which would be a major step backwards.

All in all, the middle scenario is most likely, 10 or 11 wins and a NY6 Bowl.


After a couple years in the doldrums, LSU is back to the point where a national title is the best case scenario without requiring a few precision meteor strikes. The main obstacles in their way to that title are Georgia and Alabama. The worst case scenario is, barring the injury luck I was keeping track of in the winter, probably 8-4 with losses to FSU, Alabama, Texas A&M and Ole Miss.

There are two areas in which I’m concerned and which I believe will be the difference between New Year’s Six and a second-tier SEC bowl. The first area is secondary depth. LSU built its brand on being DBU in the past decade, so what happened to get it to the point it sits now? Harold Perkins isn’t covering any team’s WR1, not even Grambling’s. The secondary has to play well and hold up. Not even the Dome Patrol-era Saints could stop teams from beating them on the back end with lackluster DB play.

The second area of concern is one we got way too familiar with last year: special teams. We had been spoiled with four seasons of great kicking from Cole Tracy, Cade York, ZVR and Avery Atkins. In 2022, Punts became moments in which we held our breaths. LSU couldn’t hit mid-30-yarders from the far hash marks with any semblance of consistency. Brian Polian could’ve been fired the night of the FSU loss and few fans would’ve been upset. Polian’s back at his alma mater of John Carroll to serve as the AD, so at least that’s gone. If there’s any light in the special teams department, it’s the knowledge that the two main placekickers LSU used last season were freshmen and that the punt return game got better as the season progressed. You never think about how much the special teams matter until they do, and tight matchups will come down to that crucial phase.

If those two things are good, though, this should be another fun football season. Last year was fun because the team rose above low expectations. The expectations for this team better not be to replicate what Kim Mulkey and Jay Johnson did in their second years at the helm, but it should be to show improvement. This year should be proof that last year was no fluke.


Best case is the offense clicks and the athletic freaks on the defense make it a terrifying unit and the team makes the playoff by finally slaying Georgia in Atlanta. Worst case is they never find their footing and stumble for four losses.

This is an unusual time where the SEC West, in what seems to be its final year of existence, seems wide open and ready for the taking. That type of thing doesn’t usually matter to players though so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond.

Transfers were huge last year in stepping up to patch the holes in what should have been a difficult transition year. Now it’s time for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts. Can the Jayden Daniels-Malik Nabers connection go from “two skilled dudes” to “unfair wrecking ball?” Can the O-line go from “just good enough for our elusive QB to make things happen” to “force of nature imposing their will?” Can a secondary of no-name transfers become elite once again? People think so because Brian Kelly has a history of winning. I think so too, but they have to prove it, and that chance will be there Week 1.


Let’s do the bad stuff first. Recent history has shown that, realistically, LSU bottoms out as a 500 football team. So, if a running back doesn’t emerge, there’s a proteacted QB controversy all year which divides the room, the kicking game continues to suck out loud, the team’s best players get injured, AND the secondary gets burnt repeatedly without a true elite corner... LSU still wins 6 games. I won’t say it can’t happen, we’ve seen it happen, but it would take an extraordinary run of bad luck to drag this team to 6 wins.

National title or bust, right? Well, probably not. This is a really good team, but its not a great one. There’s some holes there, and I do worry about the old adage of “if you have two starting quarterbacks, you have none.” Daniels-Nuss is working out so far, but it is the sort f thing that can divide a room after a loss. The good news is that Bama doesn’t look like Peak Bama, especially under center, and A&M’s recruiting hauls has yet to turn into functional production. The path to Atlanta is wide open. And therein lies the problem. Let’s be honest, Georgia is better than LSU this year. It’s not insurmountable, but the realistic path to a national title means playing the bet team in the nation twice, and probably needing to win both times. That’s a tall order.

I think this team tops out at a playoff bid, but... stranger things have happened. Realistically, I have LSU winning between 8 and 11 games. Which is where the program should be,


The ceiling for LSU is 12-0 and the floor is 9-3. My prediction will be that LSU goes 11-1. I think LSU will beat Florida State and Alabama, but they will slip against a team like Ole Miss or Auburn. Jayden Daniels will be a much better quarterback as he has looked great during fall camp. The running back room is a lot better than people may think and LSU will have its best O-Line since 2019. I don’t even have to talk about the wide receivers and the defense because I think anyone reading this understands. I think they win the SEC West and the SEC Championship will determine who gets a playoff bid.