LSU football team praised by publications as season approaches
The arrival of the preseason college football magazines on newsstands across the country signal two important things for the college football fan:
- 1. Their favorite sport isn’t that far away (although the mags do seem to come out earlier each year), and...
- 2. There is usually reason for optimism for everyone, even for the teams picked to dredge up the bottom of their respective conferences.
While there may be shreds of hope for even the most downtrodden, the reviews of LSU’s upcoming team in the preseason magazines offered by Athlon, Lindy’s, Phil Steele and USA Today are likely to blow away even the most persistent frowns lurking on Tiger fans’ faces since the Jan. 9 BCS national championship game shutout against Alabama.
In a word, everyone has LSU pegged as a national championship contender once again.
Lindy’s states the case for LSU at No. 1 because it sees the Tigers winning as Les Miles often recites: on offense, defense and on special teams.
Offensively, Lindy’s focuses on new starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, saying he “gives the Tigers the strong-armed, pocket presence they’ve been lacking.” Defensively, “There’s no shortage of playmakers, from speedy ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo to a secondary that features All-America junior cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.” And in the kicking game, Lindy’s reminds, “About the only thing sophomore punter Brad Wing did wrong last year was excessively celebrate what would have been a touchdown off a fake punt” against Florida.
Overall, Lindy’s writes: “Everything but the final outcome went extraordinarily well for the Tigers in 2011. That’s why expectations are through the roof. Reaching them is never easy, but 13 returning starters and a home game against Alabama helps. The Tigers can score at a moment’s notice and stop the opposition with a multitude of talented defenders.”
Despite picking LSU No. 2 in its preseason national rankings behind Southern California, Athlon projects the Tigers to go 13-0 for the second straight season, including a second consecutive SEC Championship Game win over Georgia.
Accurately sizing up the scene in Baton Rouge, Athlon writes: “LSU is well-stocked at every position on the field, though a lack of experience at linebacker and the loss of (Rueben) Randle at wide receiver are concerns. The staff believes Mettenberger will upgrade the quarterback position and allow the offense to be more balanced.
“There are several potential land mines, but the Tigers are good enough to beat every team on their schedule. Another SEC title and a return trip to the BCS National Championship Game are the expectations in Baton Rouge.”
Phil Steele is usually the renegade of the preseason magazine lot and proves it again here with his out-of-left-field choice of Florida State as his preseason No. 1 (none of the other magazines rank the Seminoles higher than No. 7). He also has Oklahoma at No. 2, but doesn’t discount LSU’s chances of being a national title contender, pegging the Tigers as a preseason No. 3:
“This year’s team will get better quarterback play than they received last year from the (Jarrett) Lee/(Jordan) Jefferson combo and (is) deep at every position,” Steele writes. “LSU gets a key game vs. Bama at home and (has) a bye the week prior … that makes them my favorite to get back to the SEC Title game and a legitimate national title contender.”
USA Today presents a best case/worse case scenario for each team.
For LSU, the best case is an improved offense under Mettenberger and a victory over Alabama that propels the Tigers back to the BCS national championship game.
The worst case wouldn’t be so bad — for most teams: a 9-3 record because of an erratic offense and a defense that is less than dominant.
Ultimately, though, USA Today is bullish on the Tigers.
“Here’s a scary thought for the SEC: LSU could be even better than last year’s conference champions,” USA Today writes. “LSU’s offense might be pedestrian, but it controls field position. Punter Brad Wing routinely pins opponents inside the 10-yard line. John Chavis’ marauding defense, young and raw, overwhelmed almost every offense the Tigers faced last season. With a year’s seasoning, they could be even better in 2012.”
As far as bowl projections go, Lindy’s states the case for why it would be better for college football if an SEC team were left out of this year’s BCS national championship game, but nonetheless chimes in with Athlon in projecting LSU to meet up with USC Jan. 7 in Miami. Meanwhile, Phil Steele has LSU in the Sugar Bowl against Michigan State (USC vs. Oklahoma in Miami).
A battery of Tigers earned All-Ameican status in this year’s magazines with two — cornerback/punt returner and Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Sam Montgomery — being picked first-team All-Americans across the board.
Also earning high marks are offensive guard Alex Hurst, punter Brad Wing (who only missed a sweep of first-team honors when Phil Steele went with Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Allen) and safety Eric Reid.
Only one magazine, Lindy’s, sees fit to devote space to Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level programs these days, though to be fair, Phil Steele does tout a separate FCS preview publication.
Lindy’s picks Southern third in the SWAC West behind predicted conference champion Grambling.
Lindy’s has McNeese State (its preseason No. 25) at No. 4 in the Southland, followed by Northwestern State fifth, Southeastern Louisiana seventh and Nicholls State last in eighth.
USA Today’s magazine picks Alabama No. 1 in the nation, but picks LSU to win the SEC and the SEC West.
At first, it looks like a daring pick of the way last year’s season played out, but in the SEC preview section, it lists the Crimson Tide with a 10-2 record while it has LSU at 11-1.
Lindy’s picks Louisiana Tech’s Allen as its first-team All-WAC punter, but says he plays for Louisiana State.
Athlon tells its readers Tennessee’s schedule will be easier with Missouri and Mississippi State replacing LSU and Alabama, blanking out on the fact that the SEC made a point of protecting traditional rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee in a vote at its spring meeting. The Crimson Tide visits Knoxville on Oct. 20, which is correctly listed in the schedule with the Tennessee preview.
Fun with geography
Under a section called “Gimmie Five,” Lindy’s asks:
“Five names that are either an LSU starter or a New Orleans Intersection … 1. Tharold Simon, 2. Royal Iberville, 3. Tyrann Mathieu, 4. Toulouse Decatur, 5. Barkevious Mingo.”