It seems like 10-win seasons have become the norm for head coach Les Miles and the LSU Tigers. Following yet another double-digit win season, the Tigers lost some serious talent on both sides of the ball, but with this program, it’s always reloading, not rebuilding. Watch out for yet another dangerous LSU team in 2014.
Gary Andersen excelled in his first season as the head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, going 9-4 with a loss in the Capital One Bowl against a tough South Carolina team. Not many people expected Andersen to get nine wins out of a team that lost a lot of talent and a head coach who won them multiple Big Ten titles, but he did just that.
The Tigers’ offense in 2013 was much more electric than in previous years and that was all thanks to Zach Mettenberger stepping up and proving to everyone he could be an adequate QB. With Mettenberger gone, Anthony Jennings should be the favorite to start as he stepped in for the injured Mettenberger in the regular season finale and bowl game in 2013, engineering wins in both. However, Brandon Harris is a top 2014 recruit who enrolled early and impressed in the spring game, passing for three touchdowns and running for another. Losing Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry will definitely hurt the receiving corps, however. Terrance Magee and Kenny Hillard will help fill the void left by Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue. Don’t forget No. 1 overall running back recruit Leonard Fournette who is expected to produce early and often.
With the departure of run-minded head coach Bret Bielema and record-breaking running back Montee Ball from the 2012 team, nobody thought the rushing attack would hold up. However, Andersen knew what he had in his backfield and he wasn’t about to let the running back talent go to waste. Enter, Melvin Gordon. The junior running back was the most impressive Big Ten back last season, accounting for yards and touchdowns. His sidekick this season will be Corey Clement and it could prove to be the nation’s best running back tandem. Joel Stave and JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy are battling it out for a starting spot at quarterback for the Badgers. Although Stave has all the experience, McEvoy seems to have the mobility and arm strength combo that Andersen wants. Don’t be surprised to see McEvoy steal the show in 2014.
Defensively, the Badgers had one of the better units in the nation and a top-two defense in the Big Ten. Wisconsin ranked 16th in scoring defense last season as well as seventh in total yards allowed per game in the nation. The Badgers, however, return just three starters on that side of the ball. The Tigers seem to always have a solid defense and 2013 was no different. Miles’ squad ranked 21st in scoring defense as well as 15th in total yards allowed per contest. Seven returning LSU starters could spell trouble for Wisconsin’s offense.
Wisconsin will travel to Houston and NRG Stadium to take on the Tigers at 9 p.m. EST on Saturday, Aug. 30. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 27, LSU 30
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.