LSU Will Knock Off Alabama And Auburn
LSU is going to win the SEC West and it is actually going to be relatively easy.
I have no idea why every "expert" is saying LSU will finish second or third. The general consensus: Alabama and Auburn will fight for the top spot and both could possibly reach the College Football Playoff. The thought is that LSU is inexperienced on offense and will only beat the mediocre and sub-par teams in the conference.
Let me be clear. Auburn is overrated and last year's Auburn team was the definition of a fluke. The Tigers pulled out two ridiculously fortunate victories against Georgia and Alabama with a mediocre quarterback that just happened to thrive in Gus Malzahn's system. Not only did they barely escape those two games, they also squeaked out victories against Washington State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
My point is that the Auburn team that made it to the national championship last season should not have been there in the first place. And the fact that people actually think they are going to reach that level of play again is mind-blowing. Auburn, at best, is a 10-2 team only if it happens to get lucky again. At worst, the Tigers finish 6-6.
Alabama, on the other hand, is a bit tricky. The situation in Tuscaloosa has a few factors that will greatly impact the outcome of their season. The first factor is Lane Kiffin.
Kiffin will try to make this offense click with a new face at quarterback, Jacob Coker. Word on the street is that Coker is a big-time player who was overshadowed by an even bigger player in Jameis Winston. Coker will have a ton of weapons surrounding him, which should make his transition to Alabama much easier. This should also make Kiffin's job easier, essentially giving him studs at almost every skill position. If Coker does not turn the ball over, Alabama could have a stellar offense.
Now For the kicker: Nick Saban's defense is going to be talented, but he must fill seven starting spots from a defense that only had a plus-two turnover margin in 2013. For the first time since coming to Tuscaloosa, we have to wonder: Will Alabama's defense be any good?
Alabama is going to end up in the exact situation LSU did last season: with a surprisingly superb offense and an equally surprising poor defense. Unless the offense puts up good numbers on a weekly basis, the Tied could struggle.
So how does LSU finish on top of the SEC? They put all this "inexperienced offense" garbage to bed and get back to their defensive ways.
The 2013 Tigers were a bit odd, showing a ton of prowess on offense and slacking on the defensive side. But in 2014 they bring back arguably the best cornerback tandem in the country in Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson, a deep linebacker corps and a great set of defensive ends in Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco. The biggest question mark on the defense will be at tackle, but Christian LaCouture will fill in nicely alongside Quentin Thomas.
The offensive side of the ball lost a lot of talent to the draft, but will still be a productive bunch with a lot of young talent. Brandon Harris should be the starting quarterback to begin the season and will prove to be a stud. I expect him to put impressive numbers.
His supporting cast will include a lot of names people may not know. Players like Malachi Dupre, Tony Upchurch, Trey Quinn, D.J. Chark, Leonard Fournette, Darrel Williams and Jacory Washingotn are all new faces that are expected to make an impact. The run game will be Harris' best friend with Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard pounding the rock.
But the most important factor for LSU is the offensive line. Four returning starters and some experienced reserve players fighting for the right guard spot (Fehoko Fanaika and Evan Washington) will anchor the front. With a strong core along the line, this bunch will allow LSU to run the ball efficiently and give Harris the time he needs in order to feel comfortable in the pocket.
LSU will come out strong in Week One against Wisconsin and feed off that momentum as the season continues. With relatively easy schedule, the Tigers will regain dominance in 2014 with some good old-fashioned LSU football and add another SEC Championship to the trophy case.