Time is now, Tigers

LSU is stacked, but can they capitalize on their potential?

Can the Tigers change their stripes? Can they finally maximize their potential? Will there be any hangover from last year, when the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat were on stark display with LSU’s football team last season?     

LSU is facing several questions as it enters the 2016 season.

With running back Leonard Fournette, the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, leaving opposing defenses in his dust, the Tigers reeled off seven straight victories through October and climbed all the way to No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

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But things turned scary after a Halloween bye. LSU lost three straight games to division rivals Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, and tumbled out of contention for the SEC title, much less a national championship, and all hell broke loose.

Citing the collapse and the Tigers’ five-year losing streak to the Crimson Tide, a weeks-long mutiny arose. With seemingly hourly updates on Les Miles’ demise, it appeared the head coach was shown the door. However, in one of the strangest turns in college football history, during the last game of the season, a 19-7 win over Texas A&M, LSU ensured Miles was secure in his job. The team went on to beat Texas Tech 56-27 in the Texas Bowl, giving Tiger fans a positive feeling going forward.  

In the offseason, Miles extended offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s contract and added Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda in the same position at LSU. Former Auburn QB Dameyune Craig and Jabbar Juluke were added to coach receivers and running backs, respectively. Ed Orgeron was also promoted to recruiting coordinator.

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The Tigers have a roster full of blue-chip recruits and pro-level talent, as well as the expectations that go along with it. They will be led on offense by Fournette, quarterback Brandon Harris and receiver Malachi Dupre. Linebacker Kendell Beckwith will lead the defense, along with linemen Christian LaCouture and Lewis Neal, cornerback Tre’Davious White and safety Jamal Adams.

In what is expected to be his last year at LSU before going pro, Fournette will once again be the star of the team, but can he carry it? Alabama’s Nick Saban proved why he’s a defensive guru when the Crimson Tide shut down the Tigers’ ground attack last year and LSU folded. If Fournette and LSU can juke Saban’s mojo, good things may be in store. LSU, of course, will need Harris, a true junior, to show an improved grasp and mastery of the offensive scheme.

Although they say they take one game at a time, the Tigers will be out for retribution and looking to wipe clear memories of last year’s debacle with a three-game slate of Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas to end October and begin November. Other key games will be the season opener, Sept. 3, against Wisconsin at historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and at Florida on Oct. 8.

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The true test for LSU will be how it responds in the face of adversity. They’ve already got pressure due to ever-increasing expectations, and it will only increase if things don’t go well. LSU hasn’t beaten Alabama in five years, and is 1-5 against Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas over the last two seasons.

There is no doubt that Miles is on the hot seat, so if the Tigers slip, what will be the reaction of the fan base and administration? Chances are there will be reminders that LSU has lost three or more games a season and haven’t seemed to have the eye of the tiger since getting waxed, 21-0, by Alabama in the national title game following the 2011 season.

But with experience, so much talent on their side, and ‘Bama and Ole Miss coming to Tiger Stadium this year, on paper, LSU should win double-digit games, Fournette should be invited to the Downtown Athletic Club in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, and the Tigers may well find themselves as finalists for the playoffs.

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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