With one month of college football behind us, has the LSU team met or failed expectations thus far?
At [5-0], 1-0 in SEC play, LSU is right where it was expected to be, but it hasn't always been a smooth ride. A narrow two-point win at struggling Auburn revealed some vulnerability in the Bayou Bengals, something America didn't see in LSU a year ago until the team's 14th game of the season. Toss in a number of key injuries and academic casualties, and there are plenty of future questions about the Tigers. For now, though, LSU has stayed on track to achieve its end-of-season goals.
What one player has been the key factor in the first 3-4 games?
As usual on the Bayou, LSU is winning games with defense. It would be a crime then to go with anyone outside of John Chavis' starting eleven. I'll take defensive end Sam Montgomery in a close race over middle linebacker Kevin Minter, who's led a linebacker resurgence for LSU through four games. But Sonic Sam has been on another level. Six of his 11 tackles have come behind the line of scrimmage, including a safety he helped cause at Auburn. Montgomery also has two sacks to his name. He's a big part of the reason the Tigers are the SEC's top run defense and own more tackles for loss than the rest of the conference.
What are the key improvements that need to be made in order to ensure a successful season?
Pass protection. That's item one, two and three on the short list of key improvements for LSU. Losing starting left tackle Chris Faulk after one week was a massive blow, and the coaching staff has turned to a sixth-year senior with knee surgeries in his past, Josh Dworaczyk, to man Zach Mettenberger's blindside. Josh D. struggled mightily against Corey Lemonier and the Auburn front, forcing LSU to bring tight ends and running backs over to assist. That threw LSU's offensive rhythm out of whack. The Tigers simply must address this issue soon with front sevens of Florida, South Carolina and Alabama coming up in the next six weeks.
How would your team define "success" this season?
Considering LSU is fresh off a 13-1 season, with the only loss coming in the BCS title game, fans entered the 2012 campaign seeing only one possible version of success: crystal in Miami. Now, after Tyrann Mathieu got the boot and no less than three additional starters have been ruled out for various reasons, there might be some recalibrating going on. LSU fans still want perfection, but I think a loss or two this regular season is becoming more and more expected. One thing's for sure; should the Tigers exact revenge on Alabama November 3rd, most wearing purple and gold will feel "successful" about 2012.
What is the most dominant headline the remainder of the season?
If you're looking at this team in a vacuum, as I often try to, it's the offensive line and how that group will respond in the face of injuries and position changes. But in the grand scheme of things, that's not how college football is viewed. It's seen more often in a scope of hype, and the big-time matchups draw the most attention. That's why the dominant headline is: How will SEC World War VII end between Miles and Saban? They're 3-3 against one another. Not only will November 3rd serve as a tie-breaker, but it might just decide who gets to go to the ‘ship…again.
Thanks to Tiger Sports Digest's Ben Love for his in-depth contribution to this report.