LSU’s schedule, at a glance

Game 1: vs. Wisconsin

WHEN: 8 p.m. Aug. 30

WHERE: NRG Stadium, Houston

TV: ESPN

Early storyline

Both teams prize the run (Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards in 2013) and possess stout defenses, but the Badgers return a veteran quarterback in Joel Stave. Wisconsin avoids Ohio State, Michigan State and Minnesota in Big Ten play this season, so a win over LSU could propel the Badgers into College Football Playoff contention.

History with LSU

The Tigers and Badgers have met just twice: LSU winning 38-28 at Madison in 1971 and 27-7 in Tiger Stadium in 1972. Anticipation for the 2016 season opener between these two at the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field is already building.

Threat level

High: The Badgers are a college football tweener: solid but never quite national-title timber. The 2014 season portends more of the same for Wisconsin, once again ranked in the teens and worthy of a fourth Big Ten championship in five years.

» Prediction: LSU 20, Wisconsin 17 (1-0)

Game 2: Sam Houston State

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Sept. 6

WHERE: Tiger Stadium

TV: SEC Network

Early storyline

Sam Houston State is coming off three straight Football Championship Subdivision playoff berths, but that consistency will be put to the test. Coach Willie Fritz is gone to Georgia Southern, as are QB Brian Bell and TB Tim Flanders. New coach K.C. Keeler returns seven starters, led by All-Southland Conference safety Michael Wade (105 tackles).

History with LSU

This will be the first meeting in football between the Tigers and Bearkats. Against other Southland members, the Tigers are 11-0 against Northwestern State and 1-0 each against Southeastern Louisiana and McNeese State.

Threat level

Low: The Bearkats have earned their reputation as an FCS power, but this year’s ranking may be based largely on that status. This is one of those games when LSU will look tight and perhaps disinterested for a half before its depth takes a toll.

» PREDICTION: LSU 38, Sam Houston State 13 (2-0)

Game 3: UL-Monroe

WHEN: 6 p.m. Sept. 13

WHERE: Tiger Stadium

TV: ESPNU

Early storyline

Gone is Kolton Browning, a 10,000-yard career passer, leaving Pete Thomas — a previous starter at Colorado State and N.C. State — to take over if he can hold off Brayle Brown. The defense is experienced but gave up 426.6 yards and 30.2 points per game in 2013.

History with LSU

The school’s name changed from Northeast Louisiana State College to Northeast Louisiana to Louisiana-Monroe before the Warhawks (formerly Indians) finally played LSU in 2003. Maybe it was still too soon. LSU routed ULM 49-7 in that year’s season opener and smashed the Warhawks 51-0 in 2010.

Threat level

Low: The Warhawks shocked UL-Lafayette to get bowl-eligible in 2013, but making it back to the postseason with road games at LSU, Kentucky and Texas A&M will be tough. Bowl hopes won’t be helped here.

» PREDICTION: LSU 45, ULM 6 (3-0)

Game 4: Mississippi State

WHEN: Sept. 20 (time and TV TBA)

WHERE: Tiger Stadium

Early storyline

The Bulldogs’ only Southeastern Conference title came in 1941, and their only SEC West crown came in 1998, but hope runs high in Starkville this fall because of quarterback Dak Prescott. One of the SEC’s top run-pass threats, he’s being touted as a dark-horse Heisman candidate. Chris Jones looks like a budding star at defensive tackle.

History with LSU

The Tigers’ dominance in this series has reached epic proportions. LSU has won 14 straight and 21 of its past 22 against State, which hasn’t left Tiger Stadium with a win since 1991. That was when the SEC had 10 teams, not 14.

Threat level

Moderate: The Bulldogs are improved and the Tigers are young in key areas, so LSU hasn’t been this vulnerable at home against State in, well, decades. But until the Bulldogs break through, it’s hard to make that pick.

» PREDICTION: LSU 27, Mississippi State 17 (4-0, 1-0)

Game 5: New Mexico State

WHEN: Sept. 27 (time and TV TBA)

WHERE: Tiger Stadium

Early storyline

The Aggies were 2-10 last year and haven’t been to a bowl since 1960. Something says their renaissance isn’t at hand. New Mexico State will try to prime the pump with junior-college transfer quarterback Tyler Rogers and former Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Larry Coyer reprising that role in Las Cruces.

History with LSU

The only time these teams met was in 1996, when the Tigers also had a freshman running back who wore No. 7. His name was Rondell Mealey, and he ran for a school record-tying four touchdowns in a 63-7 romp. Paging Mr. Fournette, Mr. Leonard Fournette.

Threat level

None: This could be the Tigers’ last opportunity to empty the bench. Other than the chance they will surrender a garbage touchdown with the subs in, there’s little reason to believe Tigers can’t name the score.

» PREDICTION: LSU 52, New Mexico State 8 (5-0)

Game 6: at Auburn

WHEN: Oct. 4 (time and TV TBA)

WHERE: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.

Early storyline

Which was the real Auburn in 2013: the team that was 13 seconds from beating Florida State for the BCS title or the one that could have lost four SEC games besides its loss at LSU? Either way, Auburn comes into 2014 with momentum and confidence, though All-SEC quarterback Nick Marshall must sit out the opener against Arkansas.

History with LSU

LSU/Auburn is almost always an epic struggle, which makes it surprising that LSU is 7-2 against Auburn under Les Miles. LSU holds a 12-10 series lead since SEC divisional play began in 1992 and a 27-20-1 lead overall.

Threat level

High: Auburn does better coming out of nowhere than sustaining expectations. Its four SEC titles and/or unbeaten seasons since 1993 all came after five losses or more the previous year. Going in, though, Auburn deserves the benefit of the doubt.

» PREDICTION: Auburn 23, LSU 17 (5-1, 1-1)

Game 7: at Florida

WHEN: Oct. 11 (time and TV TBA)

WHERE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.

Early storyline

If Florida’s season had a title, it would be “Gainesville When it Sizzles.” Former LSU defensive coordinator and fourth-year UF coach Will Muschamp occupies the hottest seat in the SEC after his Gators went 4-8, their worst season since 1979. Putting quarterback Jeff Driskel in Kurt Roper’s new fast-paced attack should help. It better.

History with LSU

The success of the Steve Spurrier years helped give Florida a 31-26-3 edge in this series, though the Tigers are 5-4 against the Gators under Les Miles. That includes only one win in Gainesville, a 32-29 thriller in 2010.

Threat level

High: Improvement on four wins is virtually a given, but no one really knows what to expect from Florida considering its erratic ways under Muschamp. This is a game LSU can win, but youth is rarely served in The Swamp.

» Prediction: Florida 18, LSU 15 (5-2, 1-2)

Game 8: Kentucky

WHEN: Oct. 18 (time and TV TBA)

WHERE: Tiger Stadium

Early storyline

In an era of SEC stadium expansion, Kentucky is actually making Commonwealth Stadium smaller, going from 67,606 to 61,000 seats. (There will be more premium seats.) Still, that seems like a metaphor for a Kentucky program showing improvement but finding it a steep climb out of the SEC East cellar.

History with LSU

These teams played every year from 1952 to 2002 but just three times since, an infrequency that will continue under the SEC’s permanent opponent schedule format. LSU has won five of the past six, including a 35-7 rout in 2011.

Threat level

Low: No SEC team should be completely counted out, but if the Tigers have wounds to lick after back-to-back challenging games at Auburn and Florida, they should be healed by Big Blue’s mediocre waters.

» Prediction: LSU 34, Kentucky 10 (6-2, 2-2)

Game 9: Ole Miss

WHEN: Oct. 25 (time and TV TBA)

WHERE: Tiger Stadium

Early storyline

No one has gotten better press out of 7-6 and 8-5 seasons than Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. Now, with 16 starters returning and two strong recruiting classes in hand, it’s time to show his cards. Ole Miss returns the inconsistent but experienced Bo Wallace at quarterback and Robert Nkemdiche on defense. Optimism is high.

History with LSU

Ole Miss and Mississippi State have had similar levels of success the past 20 years, but LSU struggles with the Rebels and dominates the Bulldogs. The Tigers are 6-3 against Ole Miss under Miles but 3-3 the past six years.

Threat level

High: This game screams danger for LSU. Ole Miss has given the Tigers fits the past two years and has upgraded its talent. One of the Deep South’s most underrated series delivers another wild one, but LSU holds on this time.

» Prediction: LSU 31, Ole Miss 27 (7-2, 3-2)

Game 10: Alabama

WHEN: Nov. 8 (time and TV TBA)

WHERE: Tiger Stadium

Early storyline

We begin with impossibly high expectations for Alabama, but that’s normal in Tuscaloosa. Despite losing AJ McCarron at quarterback and a defense that was vulnerable at times in 2013 (and don’t forget Kick Six), the Crimson Tide is expected to finish atop the SEC and challenge for a College Football Playoff berth.

History with LSU

Bama holds a substantial 48-25-5 series lead, though LSU has been much more competitive since 1982, trailing just 15-17-1. The Tigers are 5-5 under Miles against the Tide, but the tide has turned against LSU of late with three straight wins by Bama.

Threat level

High: If Alabama seems more mortal in 2014, it’s only because it has come back to the pack a bit, not slipped behind. If Florida State transfer Jacob Coker can flourish at quarterback, expect the Tide in a CFP semifinal.

» Prediction: Alabama 24, LSU 20 (7-3, 3-3)

Game 11: at Arkansas

WHEN: Nov. 15 (time and TV TBA)

WHERE: Razorback Stadium, Fayettevile, Ark.

Early storyline

The Razorbacks started 3-0 under new coach Bret Bielema last year, then dropped nine straight, going 0-8 in SEC play for their first winless conference slate since 1942. SEC freshman of the year Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams could be the SEC’s best running back tandem, but the passing game is a mess.

History with LSU

The Tigers historically beat the Razorbacks two out of three. LSU leads the series 37-20-2, is up 14-8 since Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992 and is 6-3 under Miles. This will be just the second time since 1992 these teams don’t meet in the season finale.

Threat level

Moderate: LSU sleepwalked through its past two games with Arkansas and pulled out a 20-13 win in Fayetteville and a 31-27 victory in Tiger Stadium. This is another one of those games LSU can lose if not properly motivated.

» Prediction: LSU 25, Arkansas 19 (8-3, 4-3)

Game 12: at Texas A&M

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 27

WHERE: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas

TV: ESPN

Early storyline

Johnny Football blazed a path across A&M’s first two SEC seasons. Now Manziel, offensive tackle Jake Matthews and receiver Mike Evans are in the NFL. Left behind is a QB battle between sophomore Kenny Hill and freshman Kyle Allen, a running game by committee and a defense that must vastly improve.

History with LSU

The Tigers and Aggies have the makings of an even bigger rivalry in the years to come now that they will close the regular season against each other. LSU leads the series 29-20-3, including a 2-0 mark since A&M arrived in the SEC.

Threat level

High: No one predicted the phenomenon that was Johnny Football. There’s little guidance to predict how good the Aggies can be without his mercurial talents. A&M has recruited very well. That, plus its home field, makes this a tossup.

» Prediction: LSU 28, Texas A&M 27 (9-3, 5-3)