Not many football programs in the country can have a 10-3 season and have it be considered a disappointment, but one of those programs is the LSU Tigers.
Head coach Les Miles and his Tigers were a few scores away from possibly playing in the national championship game, but instead saw their season end with a loss to the Clemson Tigers on a last second field goal in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Regardless of how the team finished in the previous season or how many guys they lost to the NFL, there are three things you know will come from an LSU team coached by Miles: running the ball down your throat, insane defense and contending for a national championship.
Key Players: Zach Mettenberger, Odell Beckham Jr., Anthony Johnson, Craig Loston
The Tigers might not have posted the best offensive statistics last year, but when looking at their numbers you have to take into consideration their style of football. Their game plan is to run the ball first no matter what, keeping control of the tempo and establishing the line of scrimmage. They’ll sprinkle in quick hitters in the passing game, but their bread and butter is power running.
Still, in order to take some pressure off the defense, the Tigers need to look for more scoring in 2013. They finished eighth in the SEC in scoring offense last season, scoring 29.8 points per game on the year. They finished 10th in the conference in total offense, averaging 374.2 yards per game on the year.
The Tigers return seven starters on the offensive side of the ball, including polarizing quarterback Zach Mettenberger. At first glance with Mettenberger, you see a huge quarterback with a rocket arm and NFL potential, but he has a knack for making highly questionable throws in key situations. He threw for 2,609 yards and 12 touchdowns, but also seven interceptions. His play must improve if this team wants success.
The Tigers also return leading rusher Jeremy Hill, although his status for the beginning of the season is in question due to legal troubles. Leading receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry return, as well as three starters from the offensive line.
Year in and year out, this is where Les Miles and the Tigers make a name for themselves, on the defensive side of the ball. Their recognition is sometimes hampered by what Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide are doing, but this is consistently a top 10 defense.
Last season, the Tigers finished third in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 17.5 points per game on the season. They also finished third in total defense, giving up 307.6 yards per game on the year.
While the Tigers consistently put out a great defense, this year will be a bit of a tougher challenge as only four starters return due to many players jumping early to the NFL. On the defensive line, the focus will finally shift to tackle Anthony Johnson, who is a major NFL draft prospect and will be one of the best lineman in the country.
Do-it-all linebacker Kevin Minter is no longer in Baton Rouge, but outside linebackers Tahj Jones and Lamin Barrow return after starting last season. In the secondary, safety Craig Loston returns as well as corner Jalen Mills.
Most teams around the country and their fans would be terrified by a schedule as difficult as LSU’s for 2013, but for teams like the Tigers and the rest of the SEC, it’s just normal to play such high-profile games.
The Tigers start off with a very intriguing matchup against the TCU Horned Frogs in Dallas, which will really show how ready the new defenders are for the Tigers.
The Tigers play road games at Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama, while also hosting Florida and Texas A&M. That is a total of four preseason top 10 teams on their schedule, so the Tigers will certainly have their work cut out for them.
If the team can get consistent play out of Mettenberger and the defense reloads like it always does, the Tigers will be right back in contention for another conference championship as well as a BCS berth.