2010 record: 11-2, 6-2 (T-2nd SEC West)
2010 bowl: 41-24 win over Texas A&M
2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 8th/8th
Coach: Les Miles, seventh year; 62-17 overall, 32-15
Offensive coordinator: Greg Studrawa, first year
2010 offensive rankings: 45th, scoring offense (29.7 ppg); 86th, total offense (341.3 ypg); 28th, rushing offense (185.7 ypg); 107th, passing offense (155.6 ypg)
Defensive coordinator: John Chavis, third year
2010 defensive rankings: 11th, scoring defense (18.2 ppg); 12th, total defense (307.2 ypg); 42nd, rushing defense (137.3 ypg); 10th, passing defense (169.9 ypg)
Returning offensive starters: 8
Returning defensive starters: 7
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Stadium: Tiger Stadium (grass; 92,400)
Last league title: 2007
2011 schedule: [view]
2011 roster: [view]
2010 statistics: [view]
Snapshot: There is one reason and one reason only why the Bayou Bengals are sitting outside of the Top 5 of this poll, and it rhymes with “Schmordan Schmefferson”.
LSU will return a sizable starting chunk of a defense — the loss of cornerback Patrick Peterson being the most glaring loss — that finished just outside of the Top 10 nationally in points allowed and total yards given up. Sophomore Spencer Ware has more than enough talent to replace the production in the backfield lost by Stevan Ridley’s departure. The offensive line will return four starters from a year ago. The receiving corp is deep in talent and experience, although the potential Russell Shepard NCAA “situation” could dampen the enthusiasm over this unit pending a resolution, one way or the other, before the start of the season.
Thus, and as unfair as it may be or seem, how far LSU goes in 2011 will likely fall on the right throwing shoulder of Jordan Jefferson and, in part, new offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa (Steve Kragthorpe stepped down on Aug. 4 after revealing he has Parkinson’s disease). To say that Jefferson was uneven during the 2010 season would be both kind and a massive understatement; Jefferson tossed more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (7), and his passing efficiency rating was 96th — there are 120 Div. 1-A (FCS) schools; he was third-worst among BcS conference QBs — in the country. One way or the other, and much, much sooner rather than later, Les Miles & Company need to figure out whether last season was an abysmal aberration for Jefferson or if that was simply the first significant data point on a downward-heading career arc. A lot of people, including the program, are drinking the improved Jefferson Kool-Aid this offseason; I’m not. At least not yet.
(NOTE: Jefferson was suspended indefinitely following his Aug. 26 arrest for a second-degree battery charge for his alleged involvement in a bar fight.)
Of course, there’s also the chance that JUCO transfer and former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger will perform up to many expectations and rid the program of the Jefferson question marks at some point during summer camp or early in the season.
Either way, LSU needs to figure out the QB situation if they want to get to where their overall talent level suggests they very well should be: playing in the BcS championship game, in their own backyard of New Orleans.
Make-or-break game: Nov. 5 at Alabama
This is another absolute no-brainer. At least when it comes to the preseason projections, both teams will likely fall deep within the Top 5 in most if not all of the polls that actually matter. As long as they handle their business the first eight weeks of the season — Oregon in the opener will go a long way when it comes to LSU’s side of the business ledger — this could very well be a showdown of two undefeated teams, with the winner taking a major step toward a berth in the SEC championship game and, more than likely, a spot in the BcS title game. Playing the game in Tuscaloosa will be a huge advantage for the Tide, and could be enough to swing what on a neutral field would be a negligible talent advantage even more so in their favor.
Heisman hopeful: There is literally no one from the Tigers who could even remotely be considered a Heisman candidate at this time. Certainly Jefferson would be in the discussion if he wasn’t arrested and LSU was winning.
Postseason projection: Sugar Bowl