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Jim Fuller’s Top 25 Teams To Watch: No. 5 Louisiana State Tigers

LSU Looks to Improve on an 8-6 ATS Mark in '23

There were more than a few eyebrows raised when Brian Kelly opted to leave Notre Dame to take over at Louisiana State. However, with LSU very much in the national championship picture, maybe it wasn’t just a crazy decision after all when looking at the NCAA football predictions for the upcoming season.

LSU topped Alabama on the way to a spot in the 2022 SEC title game in Kelly’s first season in Baton Rouge. With the return of quarterback Jayden Daniels and multiple All-American candidates on defense, LSU is eyeing a spot in the College Football Playoff field.

Jim Fuller's Top 25 Teams To Watch: No. 5 Louisiana State Tigers
Head Coach Brian Kelly of the LSU Tigers - vWesley Hitt/Getty Images/afp

The Tigers placed a premium of building from the inside out with offensive linemen Lance Heard and DJ Chester joining defensive lineman Da’Shawn Womack as the top-rated players on a top-10 rated incoming recruiting class.

LSU trailed only Colorado among the top-rated incoming transfer classes according to the 247sports.com database.

LSU used the transfer portal to boost the defense. Texas A&M cornerback Denver Harris (14 tackles, three pass breakups as a freshman), Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Zy Alexander, Oregon State linebacker Omar Speights (83 tackles, eight tackles for losses), Texas edge rusher Ovie Oghoufo, West Virginia defensive lineman Jordan Jefferson (31 tackles, 9½ tackles for loss), Syracuse cornerback Duce Chestnut (40 tackles), Ohio State cornerback JK Johnson, Arizona defensive lineman Paris Shand (23 tackles, 2½ sacks), Oregon edge rusher Bradyn Swinson and Florida defensive lineman Jalen Lee joined the Tigers.

Notre Dame running back Logan Diggs (822 rushing yards in 2022), Alabama receiver Aaron Anderson, and Maryland offensive tackle Mason Lunsford are the top transfers on offense.

Quarterback Walker Howard, linebackers Antoine Sampah, Phillip Webb, Zavier Carter, and DeMarlo Tolan, safety Jordan Toles, offensive linemen Xavier Hill, Cameron Wire, and Kardell Thomas, running back Derrick Davis, cornerbacks Raydarious Jones and Damarius McGhee as well as tight end Jack Bech lead the list of outgoing transfers.

According to college football odds, Louisiana State (+1200) is fifth in the odds to win the national title. The Tigers are ranked fifth in both the Associated Press and coaches’ polls, trailing SEC rivals Georgia and Alabama in both polls.

LSU finished second behind Alabama in the SEC West Division preseason poll. LSU (+200) trailed only Alabama in the odds to win the division title.

Louisiana State Tigers

  • 2022 record: 10-4
  • 2022 SEC record: 6-2
  • Head coach: Brian Kelly
  • Odds to win conference title: +450

Daniels returns after completing 69% of his passes for 2,913 yards with 17 touchdown passes and three interceptions. He averaged 34.5 passes in the four losses compared to 25 in the 10 wins. Will more be asked of him in 2023?

Daniels ended up with 885 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns so he can impact the game in multiple ways. Daniels (+1200) is tied for second in the Heisman Trophy odds according to the sportsbook.

It would be beneficial if somebody other than Daniels led the Tigers in rushing yards in 2023.

Josh Williams, Noah Cain, John Emery, and Armoni Goodwin all return after combining for 1,563 yards and 27 touchdowns. However, Diggs could be the back to keep an eye on.

There are plenty of options when it comes to the pass catchers, led by Malik Nabers, who went from 28 catches in 2021 to 72 grabs for 1,017 yards a season ago. Adding Alabama transfer Anderson could be huge while tight end Mason Taylor is worth watching after having 38 receptions as a freshman.

All five starting offensive linemen are back, led by Will Campbell and Emery Jones.

Defensive linemen Mekhi Wingo and Maason Smith and linebacker Harold Perkins were named to the preseason All-SEC first team while defensive back Major Burns was a third-team selection.

Leading tackler Micah Baskerville is now with the NFL’s Chicago Bears while defensive end BJ Ojulari, defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy as well as cornerbacks Jarrick Bernard-Converse and MekhiGarner also headed off to the NFL. Greg Penn is the top returning tackler while Perkins had 8½ sacks as a freshman.

Four cornerbacks were added from the transfer portal led by Harris, rated as the No. 2 transfer nationally.

Those who bet online might want to keep in mind that Louisiana State covered only two of the last five games during the 2022 season. The Tigers failed to cover in each of their four losses last season.

After five of the first six games played by LSU finished under the college football betting line total, the Tigers saw their final four games and seven of the last eight contests go over the total.

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Outlook

The talent level on both sides of the ball is obvious when looking at this LSU roster. Daniels is being touted as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate as he looks to lead the Tigers to their first national title since Joe Burrow was the quarterback at LSU.

The Tigers finished with less than 400 yards of total offense in three of the four losses. The three conference defeats came by 27, 15, and 20 points so there is still plenty of work yet to be done.

The secondary will look a bit different thanks to the arrival of some high-profile transfers. Perhaps that will help the Tigers after they finished eighth in the SEC in defensive pass efficiency a season ago. Louisiana State also finished eighth in sacks and tackles for loss and more will be needed from the pass rush in 2023.

It won’t take long to figure out where this LSU team ranks thanks to a season-opening game against Florida State, a team some believe will dethrone defending ACC champion Clemson.

The college football spreads list the Tigers as the 2½-point favorite against Florida State in the season opener.

SEC West Division play heats up with back-to-back games against Arkansas and Ole Miss. More than a few eyes will be on the Nov. 4 clash at Alabama and that is followed by a home date with Florida. The bye week comes before the Alabama clash and that is smart scheduling.

The regular season comes to an end at home versus Texas A&M, the team picked to finish third in the SEC West.

The last time LSU posted back-to-back seasons with at least 10 wins came when the Tigers won the national title in 2019. The price is set at -125 for LSU to go over 9.5 wins during the regular season compared to -105 odds to finish under that total.

Those numbers could be impacted by the fact that LSU doesn’t face two-time defending national champion Georgia in the regular season.

2023 Schedule

  • Sept. 3 vs Florida State (at Orlando)
  • Sept. 9 vs Grambling
  • Sept. 16 at Mississippi State
  • Sept. 23 vs Arkansas
  • Sept. 30 at Ole Miss
  • Oct. 7 at Missouri
  • Oct. 14 vs Auburn
  • Oct. 21 vs Army
  • Nov. 4 at Alabama
  • Nov. 11 vs Florida
  • Nov. 18 vs Georgia State
  • Nov. 25 vs Texas A&M

 

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