In advance of the Tigers kicking off Fall Camp, TSD's Ben Love and Hunter Paniagua have answered a question a day this week on the 2013 squad.
Today's Question: Aside from Alabama, what's the biggest must-win game of 2013 for LSU?
BEN LOVE: I'll go with the Texas A&M tilt in Baton Rouge on November 23. But first a little process of elimination for two other games – at Georgia and versus Florida. It's always been difficult for me to consider a cross-division game as a "must-win" for LSU, if for no other reason than simply based off history. In 2003 LSU lost to Florida in the regular season and still ended up in the national championship game. Again in 2007 the Tigers' first loss came in Lexington to Eastern division foe Kentucky, but it didn't stop LSU from marching back to crystal. So, games against the Dawgs and Gators this year are very important, but they just don't and can't carry the same weight as a division game.
Winning a division game is akin to having two games in hand against that specific team, the same as losing to a division team sinks you in comparison to that team. That's why I believe the Aggies are the second-biggest game on the schedule for LSU in 2013. Coming with only two weeks remaining in the regular season, the A&M game is one that can either further bolster an LSU team that just beat ‘Bama two weeks prior (there's a bye week in between the two contests) or lift the Tigers back up on a conference and nation-wide stage after falling in Tuscaloosa. Either way, it's a game against a very talented team that will go a long way in sculpting where and when the Tigers go bowling.
HUNTER PANIAGUA: The answer to this question depends on your expectations for the 2013 season. If the Tigers are to have national championship aspirations, then Georgia becomes the most important game besides Alabama. LSU could potentially stomach a loss to either the Bulldogs or the Tide, but not both. But I'm entering this season with lower standards for this LSU team. A BCS bowl appearance would be a great result with the possibility they could back into the SEC Championship Game.
For that to happen, home games against Florida and Texas A&M are must wins. It's hard to say which one's more important at this time, as arguments could be made for both. LSU would love to avenge last year's loss to Florida, and if the Tigers drop that September 28 contest at Georgia, a win at home against the Gators would be necessary to prevent falling into an early two-loss hole.
If LSU can somehow pull off another win in Tuscaloosa on November 9, they'll need to rebound quickly for a home date the next week against the Aggies. At that point LSU's year-end result will be clearer, but depending on the Tigers' record by then, a win against A&M would be crucial if they're to have any hopes of representing the West in the SEC Championship.