The countdown of the top 50 college football teams in the country has reached the final 15. The SEC is back in the countdown with Louisiana State checking in after a high-profile coaching hire.
In an offseason with plenty of movement on the coaching carousel, one of the more stunning moves was longtime Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly taking over at LSU.
Kelly had Notre Dame in contention for the College Football Playoffs nearly every year although once the Fighting Irish got there, the results were not pretty. Perhaps being able to recruit in talent-laden Louisiana will help Kelly take the next step as a college coach.
Three of the seven losses a season ago were by six points or less, including a 20-14 loss to Alabama so perhaps LSU is not too far away from competing in the always competitive SEC. LSU gained and lost 15 players via transfer since the start of November. There were some key players both coming and going so it will be worth watching to see how much impact the transfers have during the upcoming season.
LSU (+6000) is tied for eighth in the odds to win the SEC championship. Those odds have moved from +6600 over the last couple of months. The Tigers (+3300) are fifth in the odds to the SEC West Division according to the college football lines.
Louisiana State (+8000) is tied for 13th in the NCAA football odds to win the national championship according to the sportsbook.
Louisiana State Tigers
- 2021 record: 6-7
- 2021 conference record: 3-5
- Head coach: Brian Kelly
- Odds to win conference title: +6600
LSU lost leading rusher Tyrion Davis-Price (1003 rushing yards, six touchdowns) to the NFL while second-leading rusher Corey Kiner transferred to Cincinnati. Josh Williams and Armoni Goodwin return after combining for 173 yards on 39 carries so there are obvious concerns at the running back position. Perhaps Noah Cain, the second-leading rusher at Penn State, will push for a starting job.
LSU added former Arizona State starting quarterback Jayden Daniels while last year’s starter Max Johnson headed to Texas A&M. Garrett Nussmeier got some work against Ole Miss and Arkansas as a freshman.
The top five receivers — Kayshon Boutte, Jaray Jenkins, Jack Bech, Malik Nabers, and Brian Thomas — arel back. Boutte was on pace for a huge season with 38 catches and nine touchdowns in the first six games of the season before missing the final seven games. LSU struggled to replace Boutte as he still finished with more receiving yards than any other LSU player.
With 13 of the 18 players with catches a season ago being either freshmen or sophomores, there will be plenty of options for whoever wins the quarterback job. Kyren Lacy (22 catches for 304 yards) transferring in from Louisiana.
LSU lost three starters on the offensive line including NFL draft pick Ed Ingram. Kardell Thomas and Garrett Dellinger are the two returning starters. The offensive line will be aided by the arrivals of transfers Miles Frazier and Tre’Mond Shorts from Florida International and Eastern Tennessee.
Second-leading tackle Micah Baskerville (83 tackles, nine tackles for loss) tops the list of returning players on defense. Defensive end BJ Ojulari (53 tackles, 11½ tackles for loss, seven sacks) is being touted as a potential first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft while safety Jay Ward (70 tackles, two interceptions) will be the player to watch in the secondary. Ojulari has been awarded the prestigious No. 18 at LSU.
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His teammates, coaches and the entire staff believe BJ Ojulari embodies what the number 18 represents. He carries our traits of excellence every day on and off the field. pic.twitter.com/mxywbR9P7w
— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) August 6, 2022
The transfer of cornerback Eli Ricks to Alabama is a tough blow. Fellow cornerback Dwight McGlothern is now at Arkansas as is defensive end Landon Jackson. Add in the loss of cornerback Cordale Flott to the NFL and there are some holes to fill in the secondary.
Linebacker Mike Jones and defensive lineman Jaquelin Roy are among a talented class of sophomores who were in the defensive rotation last season.
The key to the defense could be the incoming transfers.
Oklahoma State cornerback Jarrick Bernard (51 tackles, 11 pass breakups), Missouri defensive lineman Mekhi Wingo, Arkansas safety Joe Foucha (74 tackles), and Arkansas cornerback Greg Brooks (48 tackles, four pass breakups) are among the new additions.
Punter Avery Atkins is gone as is kicker Cade York (15 for 18 on field goals). Jay Bramblett (43.8 yards per punt in 2021) followed Kelly from Notre Dame to LSU. Trey Palmer was the top kickoff and punt returner although the Tigers ranked 10th and 13th in the SEC in those categories last season.
LSU is three years removed from an undefeated season and a national championship. Nobody is counting on that kind of season in Kelly’s first year in Baton Rouge.
LSU doesn’t have to leave the state of Louisiana until October so perhaps that will enable the Tigers to get off to a strong start. The season opener in New Orleans against Florida State could be an interesting opening act in the Brian Kelly era at LSU. The Tigers are currently a three-point favorite in that contest. A bye week in between the games against Ole Miss and Alabama could be good timing.
The previous coaching staff left plenty of talent to work with. According to the 247sports.com recruiting database, LSU had recruiting classes ranked fourth nationally in 2020 and third in 2021.
Expectations are somewhat underwhelming for the Tigers according to the college football odds who have -145 odds to go under seven regular-season wins in 2022.
Something for those who bet online, LSU failed to cover in consecutive contests over its final nine games during the 2021 season.
- Sept. 4 vs Florida State (at Caesars Superdome, New Orleans)
- Sept. 10 vs Southern
- Sept. 17 vs Mississippi State
- Sept. 24 vs New Mexico
- Oct. 1 at Auburn
- Oct. 8 vs Tennessee
- Oct. 15 at Florida
- Oct. 22 vs Ole Miss
- Nov. 5 vs Alabama
- Nov. 12 at Arkansas
- Nov. 19 vs UAB
- Nov. 26 at Texas A&M