Note: This is part two of an ongoing series that will take you all the way up to the start of fall camp.
Shortly after LSU rolled over Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Tiger fans began to look ahead to the 2009 season.
An 8-5 finish was not up to LSU, or Les Miles’ standards, and 2009 was a chance to show the nation that LSU had not lost a step in the race for championships.
The Tigers first opportunity to show that last season was a fluke comes on Sept. 5 when they travel to Pac-10 country to face a Washington team that is also looking to make a statement.
Under first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian, the Huskies will try to put a halt to the school’s longest losing streak in history – 14 games. This will be the first time LSU and Washington have met on the gridiron since 1983 when the Tigers steamrolled their way to a 43-14 win over the ninth-ranked Huskies.
Sarkisian has something to work with as Washington returns 18 starters from last year. Former Huskies’ head coach Tyrone Willingham played 12 true freshmen – the most in school history – so Sarkisian inherits a UW team that has experience on both sides of the ball.
If that’s the positive then the negative has to be that Washington has played host to only three non-conference foes over the last five years, and the Huskies have lost all three by an average of 26 points.
The trip out to the West Coast pushed the home opener back a week and the opponent is not what LSU fans have grown accustomed to in home openers. Vanderbilt heads to Baton Rouge after opening the season at home against Western Carolina and the Commodores bring a lot of experience with them.
Vandy has eight starters back on offense, along with nine on defense, and is coming off its best season under the direction of Bobby Johnson, who has been at the helm for seven years.
The Commodores had their first winning season since 1982 and capped the year off with a win over Boston College in the Music City Bowl. Vanderbilt will be underdogs when they make their way to Baton Rouge, and they will also be looking for the first win over LSU since Todd Kinchen was called for pass interference on a last-second Hail Mary that would have given LSU a dramatic victory in 1990.
Following what should be a cake walk against ULL, LSU will travel to Mississippi State, a team that the Tigers have defeated 16 of the last 17 times they’ve met. Dan Mullen will have had three games under his belt as the Bulldogs’ headman, but he doesn’t have the horses that he needs to strike fear in opposing defenses like he did at Florida.
The State game will be the first of two straight road contests for the Tigers, with a date at Georgia looming the following week. Georgia has some holes to fill, but Mark Richt has recruited well in Athens and should feature the second best team on the Eastern side of the conference.
Regardless of what happens at Georgia, the stage will be set for a matchup of the last two BCS National Champions as Florida comes to town the next week.
To Tiger fans delight, the days of the Gators dominating the Tigers like they did under Steve Spurrier have come and passed. LSU had won four of the last six against the Gators prior to last season's loss, but a win in 2009 may take some of the same magic that LSU relied on in 2007 when the Tigers converted four fourth down opportunities and pulled out a thrilling, 28-24, victory.
LSU's only off-week of the season comes at the midway point and most predict a 4-2 record at that point. However, a few breaks and the Tigers could be looking at 5-1. A lot of breaks and 6-0 is not out the question, but Georgia and Florida back-to-back is a tough stretch for any team in the country.
After the bye week, Auburn will bring what should be some underdogs into Death Valley. However, anyone who has been around this series knows to expect the unexpected. One thing on LSU's side is that the visitor has been on the winning end only once in the last nine meetings, with the lone victory coming last season when LSU fought back for a 26-12 come-from-behind win.
Following what should be another rout of Tulane, LSU travels to Tuscaloosa for a rematch of the epic battle between the Tigers and Crimson Tide last season. LSU has won seven of the last nine meetings between the two rivals, including four in a row in Tuscaloosa.
LSU entertains Louisiana Tech in week 10 for homecoming, and entering this season the Tigers are 19-0 versus non-conference opponents under Miles. The Tigers have also won 14 in a row against the Bulldogs and are 17-1 all-time.
The marquee matchup on Nov. 21 could have serious implications on the SEC Western Division race, and revenge will also be on LSU's mind. Ole Miss handed the Tigers their worst loss at home under the direction of Miles, 31-13, and the score doesn’t begin to paint a picture of the beating that LSU received.
Ole Miss is the favorite to win the West according to most prognosticators and the Rebels get the Tigers at home. Houston Nutt has won two in a row against Miles and there’s no better time to end that streak than this year.
LSU closes out the regular season at home against Arkansas, a team they’ve lost to two consecutive years, by a margin of three points.
If you take the non-conference schedule out of the equation then LSU has what would easily be the toughest schedule in the conference, considering that they are the only team in the West that must face Georgia and Florida. Add in road games at Ole Miss and Alabama, and the road to Atlanta is one that is filled with several potholes for Miles and the Tigers.