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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The Countdown

No. 1: L.S.U.

History isn’t on L.S.U.’s side. Since the advent of the B.C.S. in 1998, only one runner-up has bounced back to win the national championship in the following season: Florida State, after losing to Tennessee in the inaugural B.C.S. title game, topped Virginia Tech a year later to cap its second – and last – national title. Since then, only Oklahoma and Ohio State have returned to the title game; both lost, to U.S.C. and Florida, respectively. Other teams haven’t even come close, like Nebraska in 2002, the injury-ravaged Sooners in 2009 and, most famously, the Texas team that went from meeting Alabama in early 2010 to seven losses less than a year later. So L.S.U. has history to contend with, not to mention one other hurdle no other team to come before it could have ever anticipated: Alabama. So why will the Tigers be the first since F.S.U. to buck the trend? Because what happened yesterday – what happened a sentence ago – has never mattered to L.S.U. and Les Miles; this is a program that has never worried for one second about perception or history. Alabama might have beaten L.S.U. down, but the Tigers weren’t broken. They’ll bounce back – just you wait.

Conference
SEC, West

Location
Baton Rouge, La.

Nickname
Tigers

Returning starters
11 (6 offense, 5 defense)

Last year’s ranking
No. 6

2011 record
(13-1, 8-0)

Last year’s
re-ranking

No. 2

2012 schedule

  • Sept. 1
    North Texas
  • Sept. 8
    Washington
  • Sept. 15
    Idaho
  • Sept. 22
    at Auburn
  • Sept. 29
    Towson
  • Oct. 6
    at Florida
  • Oct. 13
    South Carolina
  • Oct. 20
    at Texas A&M
  • Nov. 3
    Alabama
  • Nov. 10
    Mississippi St.
  • Nov. 17
    Mississippi
  • Nov. 23
    at Arkansas

Last year’s prediction

Today, about a month after Kragthorpe’s health issues caused him to relinquish his coordinator duties, after Jefferson made such a foolish error as to put his entire college career in doubt, the same old questions about the L.S.U. offense arise once again. It’s such a shame. The defense is national title-worthy: deep and talented up front, strong in the middle and among the best in the country in the secondary, the Tigers can stop any team in the country. I still think L.S.U. can take home the SEC and play for a title; I just think it’s a little less likely based on the developments over the last 30 days.

2011 recap

In a nutshell Let’s say that L.S.U. tops Alabama in January – a painful scenario for the L.S.U. fan base to consider, I know. If so, where do we put L.S.U.’s 2011 season in the annals of college football history? I can make the case with ease that L.S.U.’s regular season ranked among the most impressive in history: Oregon, Mississippi State, West Virginia, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia – all wins, only one that was close, and each against a team with a national ranking. Just an obscenely impressive regular season, in my estimation, and one that L.S.U. should have remained proud of despite the way last season ended. The truth about January’s rematch? The Tigers never had a chance. That’s unfortunate, but it shouldn’t detract from the fact that in a year loaded with as many great teams as ever, L.S.U. was the clear and undisputed second-best team in the country. And through 13 games, L.S.U. was as good as any team… ever.

High point Any number of wins. Oregon and West Virginia during non-conference play. The shellacking of Arkansas, the second-half surge against Georgia. The way the Tigers batted around Florida and Auburn. The win in Tuscaloosa, of course.

Low point The 21-0 loss to Alabama. For the Tide, it was the greatest big-game performance of the B.C.S. era. For L.S.U., it was a lost opportunity at greatness.

Tidbit Among last season’s program firsts: 12 wins by a double-digit margin, eight wins against nationally ranked opponents, eleven straight weeks ranked No. 1 in the polls, eight straight weeks ranked No. 1 in the B.C.S., five first-team all-Americans and nine 40-point games.

Tidbit (non-conference edition) L.S.U. enters the opener against North Texas having won 37 straight games during non-conference play – a stretch that dates back to a loss to Virginia Tech to open the 2002 season. The longest non-conference winning streak since 1978 belongs to Kansas State, which won 39 straight from 1993-2003. The Tigers can break that streak with wins over North Texas, Washington and Idaho. What’s one difference between L.S.U.’s winning streak and the one at Kansas State? Thanks to last year’s victories over Oregon and West Virginia, L.S.U.’s 37-game stretch includes six wins over ranked opponents; Kansas State’s entire streak included only one such win.

Tidbit (B.C.S. rematch edition) L.S.U. will meet its B.C.S. title game opponent in November, when Alabama takes a trip to Baton Rouge. Obviously, no other title game opponents have met during the following season. Several have met at some point since playing for the national championship, however. Since playing for the national title in early 2000, Virginia Tech and Florida State have met four times during A.C.C. play; before that, the two met in the 2002 Gator Bowl. Florida State did not beat Oklahoma in the 2001 B.C.S. title game, and the Sooners have continued to own the Seminoles during non-conference play in each of the last two years. Likewise with Miami (Fla.) and Ohio State, though the Hurricanes won last year’s meeting after the Buckeyes had their way in 2010. And Ohio State and Florida had their rematch during last winter’s Gator Bowl – once again, the Gators came out on top.

Former players in the N.F.L.

48 DE Kendrick Adams (Jacksonville), OT Joe Barksdale (Oakland), WR Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City), DT Michael Brockers (St. Louis), CB Ron Brooks (Buffalo), CB Morris Claiborne (Dallas), S Ryan Clark (Pittsburgh), LB Jacob Cutrera (Tampa Bay), CB Travis Daniels (Kansas City), DE Glenn Dorsey (Kansas City), WR Early Doucet (Arizona), DT Marlon Favorite (Washington), QB Matt Flynn (Seattle), CB Chris Hawkins (Tennessee), C T-Bob Hebert (St. Louis), WR Devery Henderson (New Orleans), FB Jacob Hester (San Diego), WR Trindon Holliday (Houston), DE Tyson Jackson (Kansas City), LB Bradie James (Houston), DT Ricky Jean Francois (San Francisco), FB Quinn Johnson (Tennessee), P Donnie Jones (Houston), WR Brandon LaFell (Carolina), S LaRon Landry (New York Jets), QB Jarrett Lee (San Diego), DE Lazarius Levingston (Seattle), OG Nate Livings (Dallas), RB Richard Murphy (Jacksonville), DT Drake Nevis (Indianapolis), OG Stephen Peterman (Detroit), CB Patrick Peterson (Arizona), TE Deangelo Peterson (St. Louis), WR Rueben Randle (New York Giants), RB Stevan Ridley (New England), LB Perry Riley (Washington), LB Kelvin Sheppard (Buffalo), DE Marcus Spears (Dallas), S Craig Steltz (Chicago), S Curtis Taylor (Oakland), S Brandon Taylor (San Diego), CB Corey Webster (New York Giants), OT Andrew Whitworth (Cincinnati), DT Kyle Williams (Buffalo), RB Keiland Williams (Detroit), DT Al Woods (Pittsburgh).

Arbitrary top five list

Teams I’d rank higher, given the chance
1. Fresno State.
2. Purdue.
3. Army.
4. Ball State.
5. Michigan.

Coaching

Les Miles (Michigan ’76), 75-18 after seven seasons in Baton Rouge. Miles led the Tigers to the national championship in 2007 despite a myriad of potentially season-wrecking distractions: expectations, for starters, but also the specter of Nick Saban at Alabama, Miles’ own dalliances with Michigan and two regular-season losses. His 34-6 record over his first three seasons stands as the finest three-year stretch in L.S.U. history, and the team’s three consecutive top five finishes also marked a program first. The Tigers took a step back over the ensuing two seasons, though it is always difficult for any team to maintain an extended high period of success when playing in the SEC. But the Tigers bounced back in 2010, which was great for Miles and the program, and compiled one of the most impressive regular seasons in college football history last fall – before losing to Alabama, round two, which was a bitter end to an otherwise perfect season. In all, however, Miles’ tenure has made him the most successful head coach in program history. Where have the Tigers been lacking? On offense, of course, and you can set your watch to the program’s annual concerns on this side of the ball. But the defense has been pitch-perfect nearly throughout – meaning that all L.S.U. needs to further cement this dynasty is better play on offense, especially at the quarterback position. Prior to coming to Baton Rouge, Miles spent four seasons as the coach at Oklahoma State (2001-4), where he led the Cowboys from a 4-7 mark in his debut season to three straight bowl appearances. The Cowboys beat rival Oklahoma twice over that span, the only team in the nation to do so. As an N.F.L. assistant, Miles served a three-year stint (1998-2000) as the tight ends coach with the Dallas Cowboys. On the college ranks, Miles spent five years at Colorado (1982-86) and 10 years at Michigan (1980-81, 1987-94); it was his time as a Michigan player and assistant that led to the rampant speculation that he was the favorite to take over for Lloyd Carr in Ann Arbor.

Players to watch

Last year’s team cruised through the SEC while landing a pittance from its quarterback position: Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee might have avoided turnovers, for the most part, but the Tigers’ continued issues with the position resurfaced for yet another year. How long as it been since L.S.U. landed anything close to adequate production from its quarterback? Perhaps since 2009, when Jefferson put together a promising sophomore campaign, but likely not since 2007, when Matt Flynn concluded his senior season with a four-touchdown performance against Ohio State. This will change in 2012, when former Georgia transfer – via one year on the JUCO ranks – Zach Mettenberger, a big, strong-armed junior, takes over under center.

Physically, Mettenberger is the real deal; of course, Jefferson had many faults, but he wasn’t lacking in athletic gifts. What Mettenberger has given this offense, however, is the sort of pass-first, pocket-throwing quarterback it has lacked since Flynn – unlike any of L.S.U.’s options over the last four years, Mettenberger has proved to this staff that he can make every throw asked of him in this offense. This has never been under debate: even last fall, when L.S.U. knew it was going to move ahead with Jefferson and Lee, it was clear that Mettenberger had both trumped as a passer. A season later, with a year’s worth of snaps in this system under his belt, Mettenberger is prepared to give L.S.U. some tremendous balance on offense.

What are the concerns? One is that Mettenberger isn’t overly experienced; he never played at Georgia before being dismissed from the program, and only made 11 attempts – all in garbage time, all in one game – as the Tigers’ third-string option a season ago. But don’t sleep on the idea that last season was more valuably spent on the bench, in the film room and with the scout team, than it was actually running plays with the first-team offense during game situations. With a polished and steady next-level thrower at the controls, there’s every reason to think that L.S.U.’s passing game is going to take a substantial step forward in 2012.

Are the expectations high for Mettenberger? Yes, and so are the stakes – the pressure is on. And no matter the physical tools, it’s just as much about a quarterback’s mentality when handed the keys to this sort of team: Mettenberger needs to take firm control of this offense as a leader, not just as its starting quarterback. I’m confident that he’ll deliver, and in doing so will make this offense far more dangerous than it was a season ago. His backup to start the year won’t be Penn State transfer Rob Bolden, who joined the program over the summer, but rather redshirt freshman Stephen Rivers. That’s a very good thing.

The battle for carries in L.S.U.’s backfield will be fierce, to put it lightly. And as was the case last fall, look for four or five backs to share the load fairly evenly, even if one or two stand above the rest. A year ago, the running game was led by juniors Spencer Ware (707 yards, 8 touchdowns) and Michael Ford (756 yards, 7 touchdowns); behind this pair, the Tigers had junior Alfred Blue (539 yards, 7 touchdowns) and sophomore Kenny Hilliard (336 yards, 8 touchdowns). Ironically, the Tigers will head into the opener with this rotation reversed: Blue and Hilliard are the co-starters, with Ware and Ford a hair behind. Again, the whole idea of a depth chart with this backfield is silly.

L.S.U. will just ride the hot hand. For most of last season, this meant riding Ford and Ware. But Hilliard made enough of a move late – a combined 174 yards and 3 scores against Arkansas and Georgia – and Blue played so well when called upon that this is, more so than any other backfield in the country, a four-headed monster. The Tigers could even use true freshman Jeremy Hill, a fifth big back with shifty moves, which would increase depth to another level. In all, L.S.U. can simply throw back after back after back – after back after back – at SEC defenses. Now, imagine how effective this running game can be once Mettenberger moves defensive backs out of the box.

This is an underrated offensive line, one that was lost in the shuffle last fall behind Jefferson’s sour play and, heading into September, the hubbub over Mettenberger’s move into the starting lineup. The only issue I have up front is depth inside, especially without T-Bob Hebert serving as a supremely valuable reserve at all three spots. This issue will be addressed once youngsters like Jonah Austin, Elliott Porter and Trai Turner prove themselves as the season wears on – for now, it’s a small but not overly troubling concern. Four starters return, if you count junior Josh Williford at right guard; he started most of the second half of last season. Williford is sandwiched between senior right tackle Alex Hurst, one of the best in the SEC, and senior center P.J. Lonergan, who is more physical than your typical man in the middle.

L.S.U. is at its best outside, where both Hurst and junior left tackle Chris Faulk are coming off of all-SEC seasons. With this pair in place, Mettenberger will be given the time he needs to deliver within the pocket – and that’s just one reason why the junior is going to be successful. And with Hurst, Williford and Lonergan anchoring the strong side, the Tigers’ interior running game will continue to roll. The lone new face up front is sophomore La’el Collins, who will get the call at left guard, ahead of senior Josh Dworaczyk. Outside of Faulk and Hurst, no one member of this line is going to land any acclaim. But it’s a very nice group – and a group that’s absolutely going to get the job done.

So why is the perceived upgrade at quarterback such a huge story? A better offense equals a better team, and not just at L.S.U. but elsewhere, as you know. But the entire story moves beyond just Mettenberger, though he’s key, and to the impact stronger quarterback play will have on this entire offense – better quarterback play equals more offensive balance, means more explosiveness all around, equals an even better running game. A better quarterbacks means that L.S.U.’s offense is better, and the only thing has separated L.S.U. from being absolutely, unequivocally elite over the last few years has been its offensive incompetence. Consider this one fact, and then I’m done: L.S.U. is 10-11 under Miles when gaining less than 300 yards of total offense. L.S.U.’s record when gaining more than 400 yards of offense? Try 31-3.

Try it… I dare you. No, I’m not talking to you, starting quarterback in the SEC, but to you, reader: Watch this defense and try not to fall in love with all L.S.U. has and all that L.S.U. can achieve. The front four is impossible to handle, even if the Tigers lost Kendrick Adams and would-be junior Michael Brockers, who left town far ahead of schedule. I believe that L.S.U. will get better play from its linebackers, even if last year’s group, while the weak link on this defense, was far from an actual weakness, if you know what I mean. The secondary remains loaded with next-level talent from aft to stern; while losing Tyrann Mathieu made headlines, his departure will be felt more so on special teams and in the slot, not as a true cornerback. What do I see when I look over this defense? I see a unit that, under John Chavis, has become the best in college football heading into the opener. The offense will be better; it’s still the defense that will lead L.S.U. to a national championship.

Linebacker play was last year’s lone defensive weakness, which goes to show that when it comes to L.S.U. and the rest of the country, all defensive weaknesses are not created equal. For most of last season, the Tigers flanked junior Kevin Minter (61 tackles) with a pair of converted safeties – Ryan Baker on the weak side and Stefoin Francois on the strong side. While having linebackers so well-versed in coverage responsibilities only enhanced the Tigers’ ability to defend the pass, it was obvious throughout the year that L.S.U.’s outstanding front four was masking L.S.U.’s second level. This year, the Tigers can tout the same level of speed and athleticism while adding more prototypical linebackers into the mix, which should lead to an improved performance.

And it’s not like the linebackers need to be game-changers, of course. All L.S.U. needs is steadier play, especially with largely the same cast clogging up lanes and occupying blockers up front. With Minter entrenched in the middle, the Tigers merely need true freshmen Ronnie Feist and Trey Granier to provide depth. On the weak side, the Tigers will turn to junior Lamin Barrow, who will in turn be backed up by another pair of rookies, Deion Jones and Lorenzo Phillips. Look for junior Luke Muncie to start on the strong side, but junior Tahj Jones (27 tackles) will see extensive time; outside of Minter, Jones is L.S.U.’s lone returning linebacker with extensive game experience. And when L.S.U. does add a fifth defensive back – which is very, very often – the strong side linebacker drops off the field.

Is this a great linebacker corps? No, not really. But it should be a better group, even if new starters like Barrow and Muncie still have to prove themselves in vastly increased roles. But consider another factor: L.S.U.’s linebackers are sandwiched between one of the nation’s best lines and one of its best defensive backfields. Just as the secondary will make this group look better in coverage, this line will make things very easy for these linebackers in run support. Just because the linebackers are the biggest question mark on this defense doesn’t make this group a question mark – not in the least.

Mathieu’s dismissal speeds up the clock at cornerback. But it’s important to remember the fact that redshirt freshman Jalen Collins and true freshmen Jalen Mills, Dwayne Thomas and Derrick Raymond were going to serve in huge roles for this secondary when L.S.U. added a fifth and sixth defensive back. Now, Mills and Collins will need to step up and help the Tigers replace Mathieu for all three downs, not just one – instead of stepping up on the outside when Mathieu moved into the slot on third down, this pair are viewed as the point men for the Tigers’ pass defense on an every-down basis. And you know what? These guys, along with Thomas and Raymond, are awesomely gifted. They can run with anyone, can bang with anyone, can play with anyone, based on the reports echoing out of fall camp. If L.S.U. has a concern, it’s only over how well these youngsters will react under the bright lights.

There are no physical question marks. Mentally, these young cornerbacks simply need to be ready to go come every snap; they can run with anyone, but they need to stay within the game and within this defense. In a way, having cornerbacks who will take fewer chances might be an even better thing for this defense – that’s a bit of a stretch, seeing that his gambling ways led Mathieu to be a game-changer, but with their talent, the youngsters can afford to stay back and play safe instead of taking chances. And you know one other thing: Tharold Simon (42 tackles, 2 interceptions), a junior who is only now getting his due acclaim, will be a household name by the time L.S.U. heads into December.

So who will be L.S.U.’s next all-American in the secondary? It might be Simon, whom everybody just loves, but it’ll more likely be junior free safety Eric Reid (76 tackles, 2 interceptions) – yet another defensive back who flew way too far under the radar behind Mathieu and Morris Claiborne. What can’t Reid do? He can do it all, combining next-level awareness – and showcasing the sort of sly, bait-and-switch tactics that few college safeties share – with next-level athleticism. There are a lot of good safeties out there, from Bacarri Rambo to T.J. McDonald to John Boyett; to me, Reid is the best safety in college football. Junior Craig Loston will make his much-awaited debut in the starting lineup at strong safety.

And so we come this defensive line. Is Florida State’s better, deeper, stronger, more proven, more productive? If I say yes, it’s only by the slimmest of slim margins – and unlike L.S.U., the Seminoles return every piece of their two-deep up front; the Tigers are replacing two key figures. No harm, no foul. The line is paced by two stars, both at end: juniors Barkevious Mingo (46 tackles, 15.0 for loss, 8.0 sacks) and Sam Montgomery (49 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 9.0 sacks). Enjoy them while you can – they’re not long for Baton Rouge. What can Mingo and Montgomery do for you? Try shatter every possible thing your offense wants to do on first down, second and third down; and if want to scheme to stop them, you’ll need to deal with interior linemen like senior Josh Downs, junior Bennie Logan (57 tackles, 6.5 for loss) and sophomores Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson.

The amount of talent up front is frightening. Behind Mingo and Montgomery, L.S.U. can throw out sophomores Jermauria Rasco and Jordan Allen and seniors Chancey Aghayere and Lavar Edwards (26 tackles, 4.5 for loss). At tackle, a future star like Johnson will come in off the bench, spelling Logan and giving L.S.U. all-SEC-level play from its interior reserves. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. There’s just no handling this line – unless you’re Alabama, which helps explain why that November date will again determine one of the two teams participating in the national title game. I count two all-Americans in Mingo and Montgomery, a third on his way, just not quite yet, in Johnson, and another linemen with all-SEC credentials in Logan. In one word: outstanding.

L.S.U. has the best punter in the country in sophomore Brad Wing. The Tigers also have a very consistent kicker in senior Drew Alleman and a strong leg on kickoffs in sophomore James Hairston. So what’s missing? To say that L.S.U. won’t miss Mathieu’s ability to change games in the return game would be ridiculous – his departure really sets L.S.U. back in this area. The new cast of return men, most of whom I’ll touch on below with the receivers, have a large set of shoes to fill. Remember that the Tigers don’t only need to find a new weapon on punt returns but also an answer on kick returns; Claiborne handled those duties a year ago.

Position battle(s) to watch

Wide receiver The receivers need to be ready: L.S.U. won’t turn into Oklahoma, but Mettenberger’s ability in the pocket will lead offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa and quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe to lean to the pass far more so than in the recent past. As an aside, moving Kragthorpe down to the field this fall – he was upstairs a year ago – will help Mettenberger deal with the down-to-down issues that all first-year starters must address; this, in turn, will have a strong impact on L.S.U.’s ability to move the football through the air. The biggest issue at receiver is finding a new lead target to replace Rueben Randle, who led this team in every meaningful receiving category a season ago. Without Randle, L.S.U. will need sophomore Odell Beckham Jr. (41 catches for 475 yards) and senior Russell Shepard (14 for 190) to step up into the void.

Beckham in particular is viewed as the program’s next lead receiver. He did a nice job last fall, especially early, but tailed off over the season’s final month; come September, L.S.U. will need an entire year’s worth of production from the sophomore. Shepard remains quite the enigma, but with his physical gifts – and the idea that time is running out – and Mettenberger’s abilities as a passer, Shepard should post a vastly improved performance in his final season. Rounding out the top group are juniors James Wright and Kadron Boone and sophomore Jarvis Landry, with the latter stepping into the mix when L.S.U. moves into multiple-receiver sets.

What’s the one thing immediately evident? Size. Next? Speed. Look for L.S.U. to go downfield far, far more often than in the past; this plays into Shepard’s strength as a receiver. At tight end, senior Chase Clement, who played quite a bit last fall, steps in for Deangelo Peterson. While somewhat inexperienced, the Tigers have the talent, speed and length to make things happen with Mettenberger in the passing game. And you’ll see this athleticism in the return game: Beckham and Landry will handle punts, while Shepard joins that pair on kickoff returns.

Game(s) to watch

Never say never – because no one thought it would happen in the first place – but I’d bet the house against another rematch between Alabama and L.S.U. in the B.C.S. title game. So unlike last year, though we didn’t know it at the time, the winner of this pair’s date in Baton Rouge will not only seal the SEC West but also the SEC, and not only the SEC but a berth in the national championship game. That’s one of three interesting home games, joining a non-conference affair against Washington and a date with Mississippi State a week after Alabama. L.S.U. also plays three noteworthy road games: Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas. While the Razorbacks aren’t a major threat, the Tigers would be wise not to take them lightly.

Season breakdown & prediction

In a nutshell L.S.U. is my pick to win the 2012 national championship. The reasons are simple: better offense, superb defense, great coaching, motivation. The latter is the only intangible of the bunch. How does a great team respond from adversity – and what if the adversity of one game is doubled by attrition, whether expected, in the form of early draft entrants, or unexpected, in Mathieu’s case? For me, there’s no doubt that L.S.U. will respond like all great teams respond: with an even stronger effort, with a rejuvenated mentality that adds even greater emphasis to every snap, every series, ever quarter, every game. L.S.U. will come out with all guns firing from the first snap against North Texas.

Now, the reason why L.S.U. can beat Alabama is because of an improved offense. The line is more experienced, though the Tigers do need to find depth inside. The backfield is one of the deepest in football. L.S.U. has enough weapons at receiver to stretch the field, though much is contingent on Beckham Jr. or Shepard replacing Randle as the Tigers’ lead target. Most of all, L.S.U. has found a quarterback who can finally, at long last, give this offense some much-needed balance – better yet, though he’ll need to show us in September, Mettenberger can carry this offense when called upon. Combine a stronger offense with this defenses and you have the best team in college football.

So it’s been a long summer. Together, we’ve looked at every team in the country. When weighing all that L.S.U. can achieve against the rest of the F.B.S., I think that the Tigers have what it takes to run through the regular season unscathed – beating Alabama in November – and earn another shot at the national title. When push comes to shove, the Tigers will need to beat the Tide, the SEC East winner and the second-ranked team in the country. Can this team do just that? I have little doubt. And as I write every summer: Regardless of whether I’m right or I’m wrong, college football is about to kick off.

Dream season Once again, L.S.U. tops everyone during the regular season and tops Georgia in the SEC title game. More of the same: Alabama awaits with another rematch for the national championship? It’s even the same score, 21-0, but with a twist: L.S.U. wins, not the Tide.

Nightmare season L.S.U.’s first regular season loss comes to Alabama. The Tigers then go on to lose to Arkansas, dropping out of at-large B.C.S. consideration.

In case you were wondering

Where do L.S.U. fans congregate? Begin your search at Tiger Droppings, and then move onto Tiger RoarTiger Bait and Tiger Sports Digest. For a blog’s take, check out And The Valley Shook and Bayou Bengals Blog. As always, if you feel there’s a site not mentioned that warrants inclusion, list it below. A reader did last summer: take a trip to Bayou Bengals Insider, if you would.

L.S.U.’s all-name nominee DE Barkevious Mingo.

Word Count

Through 124 teams 514,730.

Up Next

What’s next? An entire football season, from September through January.

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Comments

  1. Burnt Orange says:

    Very well done Paul. Thank you.

  2. Josh H. says:

    Applause* 514,730 words later and he can finally breath lol. Looking forward to a season of your write ups as ESPN is frustrating me with their uber lack of coverage of non-BCS teams. Great job again and remember to enjoy the season. :)

  3. Parker says:

    At 7 and 13, I think PreSnap Read may have overrated both Michigan State and Boise. An exciting but ugly game tonight.

  4. Bullfrog says:

    I’m pretty sure Oklahoma beat Florida State in that 2001 title game…

  5. Mark S says:

    Paul, thanks for the 2012 rundown. You did an exceptional job with each and every team. This was once again the highlight of my summer.

    Go Cats!

  6. charles says:

    Good heavens. Half a million words. And the gratitude of FSU fans everywhere for allowing them a win against Oklahoma in 2001, despite the 2-13 score.

  7. Nick says:

    Paul, thanks for another fantastic offseason of the most detailed CFB analysis on the Internet. Coming here is the highlight of my morning, and your work is one of the things that keeps me going through the long summer of baseball every year (ugh).

  8. dawgs1 says:

    Paul,

    Great job…as always. I am a bit confused regarding your statement that Brad Wing is the nation’s best punter. I don’t recall him winning the Ray Guy Award last year.

  9. mj says:

    A very long summer, yes, and lots of great reading! Many thanks –

  10. DotBone89 says:

    “from aft to stern”

    how about “bow to stern”

    Go Navy!

  11. Bill Condon says:

    Great, great job, Paul–inexplicable biases and all. Your profiles are impeccably done and incredibly enlightening, whether you have overrated a team (Michigan certainly, probably FSU, and even, to my dismay, my beloved Bulldogs) or not. This blog builds the excitement toward this weekend every year. All of us are grateful for every one of those half a million words.

  12. Noefli says:

    Thank you, Paul.

  13. Scott says:

    Great job on these from a lurker.

    When Alabama and LSU face off and Alabama has the ball, it will be:

    Kouandjio-Warmack-Jones-Steen-Fluker

    vs.

    Mingo-Logan-Downs-Montgomery.

    Wow. I hope people realize the level of talent that’s going to be banging heads all night in that game.

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