2007 RECORD: 12-2; SEC: 6-2
Won BCS Championship Game vs. Ohio St. 38-24
LOCATION: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
STADIUM: Tiger Stadium (92,400)
HEAD COACH: Les Miles
OVERALL: 62-27 (7 seasons)
AT LSU: 34-6 (3 seasons)
Oh those Tigers! The Bayou Bengals broke through last season under Les Miles and captured their second national title in five years. They did so by taking on eight ranked opponents, overcoming a pair of heartbreaking triple overtime losses, and refusing to be distracted by the Les Miles-to-Michigan rumors. Offensively, they were not as explosive in the passing game without JaMarcus Russell, who skipped his senior season to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Also falling off a bit was the defense, which was not as dominant as at was a year earlier (19.9 PPG in ’07; 12.6 PPG in ‘06). However, Tiger fans don’t care a lick--the only thing that matters in Cajun Country is that Les Miles and his team are national champs.
WHEN THE BAYOU BENGALS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Gary Crowton (2nd Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 5
KEY LOSSES: Jacob Hester, Matt Flynn, Early Doucet, Carnell Stewart, Ryan Perrilloux (Dismissed from Team)
It appears that former Harvard junior varsity signal caller Andrew Hatch will be the starting quarterback in game one. Who will be under center when they travel east to take on Auburn in week four is anyone’s guess. The original plan was to have duel threat phenom Ryan Perrilloux take over, but he crossed the line one too many times, leaving Hatch and red-shirt freshman Jarrett Lee to battle for the starting role. Whoever leads the huddle will be well protected. Three likely All-SEC performers man the offensive line, with junior OT Ciron Black and senior OG Herman Johnson providing over 700 pounds of protection and C Brett Helms solid in the middle. Figuring out who will get the most carries is as difficult to decipher as the quarterback situation. In Keiland Williams, Charles Scott and Richard Murphy the Tigers possess three starting-caliber SEC backs, with Murphy providing the most speed. Throw in little man Trindon Holliday, a sprinter, and they have four backs that averaged between 6.6 and 7.2 yards per carry a year ago. They also are stocked at wide receiver. Demetrius Byrd could be the top senior receiver in the nation, Brandon LaFell is a burner, and true sophomore Terrance Toliver may be their most talented offensive player. TE Richard Dickson also has some ability.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) WR Demetrius Byrd (SR), 2) OG Herman Johnson (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
CO-DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Doug Mallory (1st Season/4th at LSU)
CO-DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Bradley Dale Peveto (1st Season/4th at LSU)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 5
KEY LOSSES: Glenn Dorsey, Ali Highsmith, Craig Steltz, Jonathan Zenon, Chevis Jackson
The Tigers lose the nation’s top defensive lineman with Glenn Dorsey moving on to the league where they play for pay…but would you believe they won’t miss a beat? Just because Dorsey is no longer a Tiger does not mean those scouts have stopped coming to the Bayou. LSU is eight deep in legitimate pro prospects along the line with Bowl MVP Ricky Jean-Francois leading the way. Francois did not play until the SEC Championship game last season, so he is almost like a new addition. On the outside, Kirston Pittman was their top pass rusher a year ago and Tyson Jackson is an excellent two-way player. Junior DT Al Woods may have the most potential of all, but will have to earn his playing time. Darry Beckwith is back at the MIKE and will have two new starters flanking him, but most of their worries surround how they will replace both starting corners. True freshman Patrick Peterson (formerly Johnson) is the player creating the most buzz. They are stacked at safety with a quartet of playmakers led by FS Curtis Taylor, who brings size and speed to the defensive backfield.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) DL Ricky Jean-Francois (JR), 2) LB Darry Beckwith (SR)
You remember that team from the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) that went into the Big House and upset the Michigan Wolverines a year ago? Well Appalachian St. looks to knock off a top 10 FBS team for the second straight season when they take on the Tigers. An upset is unlikely, but they could be LSU’s toughest out of conference test. The SEC opener could decide the West Division, as the Tigers visit Auburn. That contest is the biggest on the LSU schedule and kicks off a difficult five-game stretch where the Bengals play at Florida, at South Carolina, and host the Georgia Bulldogs. Three top tens teams over six weeks is a tough stretch for any team and will show what these Tigers are made of.
Quarterback: The Tigers should be as good, if not better, at every position on the offensive side of the ball other than the most critical spot—quarterback. Their offensive line is among the best in the nation, their backfield as deep as any and they have more than enough playmakers in the passing game. But will it matter? That is the pressure that is on Hatch to start the season. If Ryan Perrilloux, the expected heir apparent, had stayed out of trouble off the field the Tigers could very well be the No. 1 team in the country with eyes on a repeat. But Perrilloux is not here and now, all eyes will be on the new quarterback in Baton Rouge. The Bayou Bengals will go as far as their quarterback takes them.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
The Tigers were the most talented team in America not only last season, but two years ago as well, and they very well may be this season as well. However, they have some questions they need to answer this year before they can be elevated to that status. Quarterback is the biggest one, but they are also breaking in several new starters on the defensive side of the ball, including a pair of unproven corners. Because of this upheaval, the Bayou Bengals will probably not repeat, but could be the most dangerous team in the nation by season’s end.
Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media
Monday, August 25, 2008
2007 RECORD: 12-2; SEC: 6-2