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NCAA Football LSU Tigers

RantSports College Football Rankings: No. 10 LSU Tigers

Beth Hall, USA TODAY SPORTS

Beth Hall, USA TODAY SPORTS

The LSU Tigers have become one of college football’s elite teams over the past decade. Year in and year out, LSU is in contention in the Southeastern Conference, as well as the national scene.

Despite significant losses due to graduation and early entry into the NFL, the Tigers will be expected to be among the teams in the hunt for an SEC championship this season.

Head coach Les Miles is 95-24 at LSU and has won at least 10 games in each of the last four seasons.

The Tigers return six starters on offense, but will have to replace departed quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who threw for over 3,000 yards last season.

Offense

The biggest question in Baton Rouge this fall is, who will replace Mettenberger behind center. The race for the job is still ongoing, with sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris competing for the starting spot. Jennings saw playing time last season after Mettenberger was injured, but he was average during his stint behind center. Harris comes to LSU as one of the top-rated mobile quarterbacks in the country, and could push Jennings for the job. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has indicated that he could find room for both players in the offense this season.

A big advantage for the new quarterback will be the running backs, where LSU is once again loaded. Seniors Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard both return to bolster the backfield this season. Magee rushed 86 times for 626 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Hilliard carried 68 times for 310 yards and seven scores in 2013.

The biggest addition to the backfield may be true freshman Leonard Fournette. The five-star running back was the nation’s top-rated recruit, according to some services, and he should contribute immediately this fall.

At wide receiver, the Tigers must find replacements for Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr., who were both 1,000-yard receivers last season. The Tigers must fill in the holes with returnees such as Travin Dural, who caught seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns last season. Senior Quantavius Leslie also returns, and he was the only other receiver on the roster with a reception to his credit. Redshirt freshmen John Dierse, Avery Peterson and Kevin Spears will provide depth at the receiver position. True freshmen Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn come to campus with major expectations as well.

Four starters return on the offensive line for the Tigers. La’el Collins, an All-American offensive tackle, will anchor the line. Also returning are center Elliott Porter, left guard Vadal Alexander and right tackle Jerald Hawkins.

Defense

Miles has built his LSU teams on defense, especially since John Chavis took over as defensive coordinator. This year should be no different, as the Tigers return seven starters on that side of the ball.

Danielle Hunter appears to be poised for a breakout season at defensive end.  Jermauria Rasco will start at the other end, with Quentin Thomas and Christian LeCouture on the inside of the line.

Senior D.J. Welter will anchor the linebackers, along with Kwon Alexander, who could be poised to break out this season. Lamar Louis could be the third starter at linebacker, with Duke Riley also in line for playing time.

The defensive backfield should also be strong for LSU this season. Tre’Davious White and Rashard Robinson will give the Tigers one of the best cornerback pairs in the SEC this season. Jalen Collins should also see time at the corner spot.

Roland Martin will be the key cog at the safety position this season. Corey Thompson and Rickey Jefferson will also compete for playing time this fall.

Schedule

The Tigers’ 2014 schedule is formidable, as usual. LSU opens with a neutral site game against the Wisconsin Badgers in Houston.

LSU then hosts Sam Houston State and Louisiana-Monroe, before opening the SEC slate, at home, against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

A home game against New Mexico State follows, before the Tigers visit the Auburn Tigers and the Florida Gators in consecutive weeks.

LSU then returns home for three straight SEC games, against the Kentucky Wildcats, the Ole Miss Rebels and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Those final two games should determine whether LSU is in the SEC race or not.

The Tigers finish the season on the road, against the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Texas A&M Aggies.

The new quarterback will play a large role in the Tigers’ season. If they find the right player, this team could be in the mix for an SEC title.

Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.