College Football Preview: What Sort of Year Will LSU Have in 2012?

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LSU finished last season with a perfect 12-0 regular season mark, and the oddsmakers seem to believe the Bayou Bengals have the talent to repeat that feat by setting LSU’s 2012 college football win totals at over 10 (-145) and under 10 (+125) and over 10.5 (+130) and under 10.5 (-170).

Helping us preview and project LSU’s 2012 season win totals is Kris Brauner of Saturday Night Slant. SNS is a great place to get the latest analysis, insight, and news on LSU Football and Recruiting.

Same as last year, only better

LSU’s strengths will be the same as they were in 2011. A stifling defense, solid running game, and outstanding special teams.

Even though they’ll be without first rounders Michael Brockers and Morris Claiborne, LSU’s defense should again be stingy.

The secondary has received a ton of accolades over the last two seasons, winning back to back Thorpe Awards, back to back Bednarik Awards, and producing a Heisman finalist.

But LSU’s defensive success starts up front. The Tigers benefited from plenty of depth along the line, constantly rotating guys in and out. Brockers was a huge presence in the interior, but the Tigers do return Bennie Logan who is on the NFL Scouts’ radar as a potential first round pick next April. They also have a pair of sophomores in Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson who seem primed to break out.

On the edge, the Tigers have a couple of guys who are getting pub as early first rounders next year in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. They have plenty of depth at defensive end too.

In the running game, LSU returns every single runner from a year ago which accounts for over 2,600 rushing yards. And just for fun, they add blue chip freshman Jeremy Hill to the mix.

At the same time, four of five starting offensive lineman return. They also bring back a former two year starter in Josh Dworacyzk who returns after missing 2011 with an injury. So it stands to reason that with essentially the same personnel as a year ago, LSU should once again have a devastating run game.

LSU returns their All-American punter Brad Wing, place kicker Drew Alleman who was 16 of 18 on field goals a year ago, and punt returner Tyrann Mathieu. The combination of Wing’s ability to pin opponents deep and Mathieu’s ability to provide solid returns helped give LSU an average starting field position that was 13 yards better than their opponents in 2011. Expect LSU’s special teams to once again be solid, if not superb.

Improved QB play?

LSU’s struggles in the passing game over the last few years are well documented. LSU’s coaching staff did a great job of “coaching around” the lack of quality quarterback play, but that all came to a halt in the BCS Championship game.

In steps Zach Mettenberger…a guy who has the talented arm and moxie that has been missing from the quarterback position at LSU for many years. Mettenberger had big stats in juinor college and looked solid in LSU’s spring game.

But otherwise, LSU fans are expecting an improvement for the simple reason that “it can’t be any worse….right?”. The LSU fans are likely correct. Odds are that Mettenberger will be a marked improvement. And when opposing defenses stack the line of scrimmage to slow down the running game, he’s a guy that can make them pay for it. If that’s true, then LSU’s offense may actually achieve some balance. But until he shows he can do it on Saturdays, Mett remains an unknown.

Some defensive turnover 

LSU has a pair of new starters at linebacker; however, linebacker play was minimized in John Chavis’s defense last year. With so many talented defensive backs, Chavis prefers to stay in nickel and dime packages almost exclusively. And that leads to….

Cornerback. LSU suffered an abnormally high amount of attrition this spring from their secondary. Both the #4 and #5 cornerbacks left the team to pursue opportunities elsewhere. LSU likes to use three cornerbacks on the field most of the time putting the #3 guy on the outside while moving Tyrann Mathieu to nickel back where he can rush the passer and cause the mayhem that he is known for.

Therefore, that #3 cornerback is extremely important. Redshirt freshman Jalen Collins has that job this year and despite some positive reviews from his time on the practice field, it remains to be seen just how effective he’ll be. LSU also lacks depth here. One injury means that a true freshman will be on the field somewhere.

Schedule Analysis

LSU’s schedule shapes up pretty nicely for them with zero out of conference road games (they went on the road twice out of conference last year) and two of their toughest conference games at home in Alabama and South Carolina.

However, LSU’s road schedule is not easy as they face Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas away from Death Valley. A year ago, LSU beat Auburn by 35 points, Florida by 30 points and Arkansas by 27 points. I expect both Auburn and Florida to be better defensively but will it be enough to close the large gap from last year?

LSU’s 2012 College Football Win Totals

So looking at the schedule as a whole, I think the Alabama game could be considered a toss up, with LSU having a slight edge to the home field advantage. And I think the chances of losing one of the four road games is a toss up too. Combined, I’d put the O/U for wins between 10 and 11 (right at 10.5) this year.

LSU returns basically the same team, but they have a quarterback who can actually pass the ball now. They’re going to be even better. If you buy into that premise, then you’re talking about a ridiculously good football team. If you’re a little more “wait and see” with Mettenberger, then perhaps you have them losing twice.

Therefore, if you can find a book that has LSU’s season win total at 10, I’d take it and play the hell out of it. It’s REAL tough for me to see them losing more than two games, so it’s a safe bet in a sense that you’ll at least get a push.

I can’t say I disagree with that logic. This is a NC caliber team. Very tough to see LSU not winning at least 10 games in the regular season. How many games do you think the Tigers win this year? Thanks – Pez.

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