Big Meaux

As fall sports grow closer, excitement growing on local campuses

We’re entering the dog days of summer, and thoughts of fall, cooler weather, and college football are becoming evermore ubiquitous. After surprising seasons in New Orleans and Baton Rouge last year, excitement for the kickoff of the 2023 season is growing by the minute.

LSU head coach Brian Kelly overcame any doubts in his inaugural season, winning 10 games -— including Alabama — and claiming the SEC West title. With the talent the Tigers have on the roster and the addition of highly sought-after new recruits, there is talk that the Bayou Bengals are in line to not only defend their division crown but also contend for a position in the College Football Playoff. ESPN’s first football power index (FPI) college football ranking of the 2023 season had LSU at No. 4 in the country. That’s sure to make any Tiger stand up and roar.

LSU’s offense will again be led by junior quarterback Jayden Daniels, who last year completed 266 of 388 pass attempts (68.6%) for 2,913 yards (7.5 yards per pass), 17 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and a 144.5 quarterback rating. He also had 186 carries for 885 yards (4.8 yards per rush), and 11 TDs. If that wasn’t enough, he caught a 5-yard pass for a touchdown.

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Running backs Josh Williams, who missed three games with injuries, and Logan Diggs, who transferred from Notre Dame, will help Daniels in the rushing attack. Williams ran for 532 yards and six TDs last year, while Diggs scrambled for 822 yards and four TDs.

Veteran receivers Malik Nabers (1,017 yards, three TDs) and Brian Thomas Jr. (361 yards, five TDs) and tight end Mason Taylor (414 yards, three TDs in the last five games of last season) are expected to be Daniels’ top targets, along with newcomer Aaron Anderson, a New Orleans native who transferred from Alabama after not seeing action last season.

The skill players should get time and space to shine, as the Tigers return all five of their starting offensive linemen.

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On defense, LSU will be led by preseason All-American linebacker Harold Perkins and defensive tackles Maason Smith and Mekhi Wingo. As a freshman, Perkins made LSU football must-see TV. There were times he simply took over games. He finished the season with 72 tackles, including leading the team with 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. While Smith was lost for the 2022 season in the opener against Florida State, the six-foot, 5-inch, 300-pounder will be a beast when paired with the 6-foot, 295-pound Mekhi Wingo, who earned a 2022 All-America nod. If there are any question marks on LSU’s squad, it’s in the defensive secondary. The front seven should be able to provide enough pressure to impact opposing offenses, but the back end will have to shore up quickly to make LSU’s championship dreams come true.

Meanwhile, Tulane fans are still reveling in the Green Wave’s 12-win season, American Athletic Conference Championship, and last-minute Cotton Bowl victory over Southern California. Memorable seasons have been few and far between for the Olive & Blue, yet in 2022, everything seemed to come together perfectly.

The question now is how much of the magic does head coach Willie Fritz have left? Early projections look like he has enough to keep the Green Wave atop the ACC. The challenge will be a bit easier with Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston jumping to the Big 12. The conference is gaining Alabama – Birmingham, Florida Atlantic, North Carolina – Charlotte, North Texas, Rice, and Texas – San Antonio this year.

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Quarterback Michael Pratt returns to lead the Green Wave offense. Last season, Pratt completed 215 of his 338 pass attempts (63.6%) for 3,010 yards, 27 TDs, five picks and a 161.8 QB rating. He added 129 carries for 478 yards and 10 TDs. With star running back Tyjae Spears gone to the NFL, Pratt will look to Shaadie Clayton-Johnson and Iverson Celestine to keep Tulane’s ground game moving. The Wave have three of five offensive linemen returning and will have to replace solid receivers.

The defense will be led by its line. There are questions at linebacker and in the secondary, but this team has enough talent and belief to continue its winning ways. A second straight conference title is not out of the question, and a New Year’s Six bowl game might be in reach again, too.

Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football.


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