30 days, 30 topics inside the world of LSU football.
TSD is previewing and analyzing the 2014 edition of the Tigers from every angle, bringing you a daily dose of "Summer Session" each weekday through June 11, three days before the unofficial kickoff to football season at SEC Media Days.
Be sure to check the bottom of this post for links to last week's five stories.
TODAY'S SESSION: RANKING LSU'S OPPONENTS
To kick off week two of our Summer Sessions, TSD is putting LSU's opponents in 2014 under the microscope, ranking all 12 foes.
Now the list isn't just put together in order of best teams. Also taken into consideration are location of the game, where it falls on the Tigers' schedule and who LSU played the week prior. In other words it may be most appropriate to call this a ranking of the most lose-able games on the '14 slate, with one being the toughest test and 12 being the tamest.
1. Auburn (Oct. 4, Away) – In case the ‘Barners position atop this list doesn't spell it out clearly, I believe Gus Malzahn's men are the cream of the crop in the West this fall. And there's one game from 2013 you can guarantee the War Eagles would like back. That will be on their minds as LSU plays its first road game of the year on the Plains, taking on the defending SEC champs with a potent offense and prolific quarterback returning.
2. Alabama (Nov. 8, Home) – When you look at the schedule this is about as favorable of a condition as LSU could ask for to take on the Tide. Once again the showdown comes after a bye, and the Tigers won't have traveled away from Baton Rouge since Oct. 11. But it is ‘Bama, and even though Nick Saban is replacing a quarterback like many others in the conference, the talent level across the board is still ridiculous.
3. Wisconsin (Aug. 30, Neutral) – There are so many unknowns for LSU as it treks to Houston for the season opener Labor Day weekend. The biggest one is a green quarterback starting the game (quite possibly a true freshman), but the Badgers, 9-4 a year ago with a starting quarterback coming back, present a formidable challenge on their own merit. Something about these neutral site openers is always a little uneasy.
4. Florida (Oct. 11, Away) – I know, the bowl-less Gators were a joke last year and are equally as comical under center, but consider the setting surrounding this game. It will be the seventh straight week LSU has played to start the season, and the Tigers' trip to the Swamp comes a week after an always physical game at Auburn. Two straight weeks on the road for a young LSU team, especially on offense, spells trouble potentially.
5. Texas A&M (Nov. 27, Away) – Tiger Nation wanted Arkansas gone from that regular-season finale spot, and they've now got their wish. The alternative: playing the Aggies at Kyle Field on Thanksgiving night. LSU will have an open date leading up to the Thursday night game, giving Les Miles & Co. 12 days to rest and prepare, but this will be an interesting one in a hostile environment to close the regular season.
6. Arkansas (Nov. 15, Away) – The Hogs are still reloading under second-year coach Bret Bielema, but this game is particularly brutal for one reason and one reason only – it's the week after the Alabama game. Both LSU and the Crimson Tide always struggle in that spot, and for the Tigers that spot in '14 will come in frigid Fayetteville in the middle of November.
7. Ole Miss (Oct. 25, Home) – In a list based solely off talent and overall roster strength, the Rebels are better than the three teams ranked above them here and could be the third most-talented team the Tigers face after the two schools from Alabama. But LSU quite simply doesn't lose at home very often. It does merit mentioning that this will be the Tigers' ninth straight game leading into their first bye.
8. Mississippi State (Sept. 20, Home) – Yeah, yeah, Dan Mullen has got the Bulldogs pointed in the right direction and Dak Prescott's a good quarterback. All that's fine and well, but 14 straight. 14 straight! The last time the Cowbell Crew beat LSU, people were still shaking in their boots about Y2K. It's just hard to take MSU's chances in this series too seriously.
9. Kentucky (Oct. 18, Home) – Mark Stoops may pan out to be a good head coach, but UK's an extremely tough program to resurrect. The ‘Cats went 2-10 overall in 2013, winless in the SEC. After taking a trip to Athens last fall, LSU is rewarded with a home date against Big Blue in this year's rotating game.
10. UL-Monroe (Sept. 13, Home) – After Wisconsin, Todd Berry's troops are the best non-conference opponent LSU will face in 2014. (Yikes, season-ticket holders.) The Warhawks were 6-6 last year, even beating ULL at Cajun Field to close the season.
11. Sam Houston State (Sept. 6, Home) – The only FCS school on LSU's schedule this season, the Bearkats (yes, that's spelled correctly) come in at second to last on this list. SHS went 9-5 in 2013, losing twice at Southeastern Louisiana, including in the second round of the FCS playoffs. This is LSU's home opener.
12. New Mexico State (Sept. 27, Home) – The Aggies, an independent in the FBS, project as the worst team the Tigers will face this campaign. NMS suffered through a 2-10 run in 2013. They are an important tune-up contest for LSU, however, as the Bayou Bengals travel to Auburn the week after for a vital road opener.