- Does LSU have a real shot at Alabama or a run at the playoff? Joe Burrow and the Tigers' offense must break through for that to happen.
Our college football 2019 season preview issue is here, which means we're checking in with all 25 teams from SI's official preseason Top 25 ranking. What do you need to know about each of this year's top contenders, from top-ranked Alabama down to Stanford? We'll be rolling out scouting reports for each team over the next two weeks, all of which are being collected here. Next up, it's No. 8 LSU.
THE BIG STORY
After putting up the school's first 10-win season since 2013, gaining a Fiesta Bowl victory over UCF and landing a top five recruiting class, expectations are sky-high in Baton Rouge. LSU has 16 starters returning, a stout defense and a potential star at QB in Joe Burrow directing a revamped offense that includes playmakers like receiver Justin Jefferson. There's one big obstacle: Alabama, of course. The Tigers haven't beaten the Tide in eight years and have lost by a combined 63–10 score the last three seasons.
At the Fiesta Bowl last December, a high school player stole the show during LSU's practices. Derek Stingley, the top-ranked corner nationally in the 2019 class and the No. 3 recruit overall, graduated high school early and participated in the Tigers' bowl prep, and with his freakish athleticism he went toe-to-toe with Tigers starters on the field. Stingley was ineligible to compete in the bowl, but he'll be front and center this season as a lockdown corner and electric return man.
The good news: LSU's offensive line returns four starters. The bad: That group allowed more sacks last season (35) than all but 24 CFB teams. Can the unit bounce back? They'll need better play on the line for the new LSU offense to fire on all cylinders.
LSU fans have long been waiting for the Tigers' offense to advance schematically past the Stone Age and join the spread movement. That moment appears to have arrived. Coach Ed Orgeron hired New Orleans Saints offensive assistant Joe Brady to overhaul an offense that under Les Miles and in Orgeron's first three seasons was one of the country's most archaic units. (No LSU passing offense has cracked the top 50 nationally in six years.) Behind closed doors at spring practice, the offense featured five-receiver sets, no-huddle looks and a frenzied pace. How smooth the transition is under QB Joe Burrow will determine if LSU can actually have a real shot at upending Bama.
OVER OR UNDER?
Over 8.5 wins. Except for the trip to Tuscaloosa, the Tigers will most likely be favorites every week. Expect double-digit wins in Baton Rouge.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Ed Orgeron's critics are a little quieter after last year's 10-win season. But this is LSU: 10 wins still isn't enough to placate the Tigers' fan base—or to catch Alabama.