Les Miles has averaged 10 wins per season in his 11 years at the helm at LSU, though he has failed to reach that level the last two years, with eight wins two years back followed by nine last year. Expectations are very high this year, and if he wants to comfortably be able to coach this team until he decides he is done then he'll be very interested in getting back to that 10-win level - and hopefully beyond it. The team is only four seasons removed from their last national title game appearance, but they have looked a bit like a tiger missing a tooth or two and a couple of claws since then.
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So, is this the year that the Tigers get their roar back? Or will we be greeted with another offseason of Les Miles speculation again - remember, it seemed very likely that Miles was about to be fired heading into the regular-season finale last year?
Miles certainly doesn't have a lot of excuses heading into this season. Running back Leonard Fournette is the third choice in early Heisman betting at BetOnline at +1000. Brandon Harris is a seasoned quarterback, albeit a frustrating one. They return 10 starters on defense and have no shortage of talent anywhere. This is a team that should, at the very least, be a real threat to Alabama in the division.
Key Additions and Departures
On offense the team has to overcome the loss of two linemen, though neither are earth-shaking losses, and the talent is in place to make the transition relatively seamless. Other than that it is mostly the same unit we saw last year, though we should see Cam Cameron on the sidelines and being more active as offensive coordinator this year, and there were tweaks among the assistants. The offense showed some signs of life outside of Fournette only rarely last year, though their bowl game was strong.
Defensively, there is little change - 10 starters are back, and the depth is solid everywhere but at linebacker, and it's truly exceptional in the secondary. The biggest change is one the team is sadly used to by now - Dave Aranda is the third defensive coordinator to lead this unit in three seasons. Aranda, most recently at Wisconsin, is a truly outstanding coordinator, and given what he has to work with here in terms of talent and experience he should be able to come out of the gates running. He has been particularly successful molding linebackers, so the lack of depth there shouldn't be as much of a concern as it otherwise could be. Aranda is as important an addition as any team made this offseason.
LSU Tigers Schedule Analysis
The Tigers play in the SEC, so the schedule obviously isn't really easy. In terms of real challenges, though, it boils down to three games - at Florida and at home against Ole Miss and Alabama. They will win at least eight and quite possibly nine of the remaining nine games, so the season and the fate of Miles comes down to those three games. If Aranda fires this defense up and Harris finds his game then you could make an argument that they could win any of those games. You could just as easily make an argument that they could lose all three. At least one win seems likely, but every win beyond that means a difference between a solid season and a special one. Outside of those three monster matchups, the most interesting is probably the neutral-site opener against Wisconsin, though that is more interesting for Aranda than the rest of the team, I'm sure.
2016-17 LSU Betting Odds and Trends
Bovada has LSU at +1200 to win the national title, which ties them with Oklahoma and Florida State as the fifth choice behind Alabama, Clemson and big ten foes Michigan and Ohio State. That feels a little optimistic to me. They are tied with Tennessee as the second choice to win the SEC at +350, well behind Alabama at +175. They are the second choice to win the SEC West at +225, though Alabama is miles (pun intended) ahead at -130. BetOnline has the season win total set at 9.5, with the "over" heavily favored at -165.
Last year this team was as frustrating to bet on as their offense often was to watch. They were just 6-6 ATS and went over the total in seven of 12 games.
2016-17 LSU Predictions and College Football Picks
I like this team better than I did last year. That's not saying much, though. I am very high on the addition of Aranda and expect big things from the defense. Ultimately, though, this feels like a 10-win team to me in the regular season, and that's not good enough to get anywhere other than a nice consolation bowl. I don't see them beating Alabama, and ultimately that's likely fatal for their hopes regardless of what else they do.
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