With four different teams (Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Florida twice) winning national titles in the past five years plus three Heisman Trophy winners (Tim Tebow, Mark Ingram and Cam Newton), winning the SEC championship has become the single most important factor in determining leading candidates for college football's top team and individual honors.
The Scout.com SEC publishers have tabbed Alabama as the overall favorite to
win the league championship and make its way to another BCS title game. LSU drew
strong support both as the second choice in the SEC West and for the overall title with
South Carolina getting the nod over Georgia for the SEC East championship. All 12
teams will be previewed in their predicted order of finish over the next couple of weeks.
If the Tigers get to the game for the crystal ball, it's officially a trend.
Every four seasons, coincidentally each time in the New Orleans Superdome, the
Tigers find themselves playing for the National Championship.
In the 2003 season, Nick Saban led a one-loss LSU team into the Big Easy for a bout
with Oklahoma, which the Tigers took 21-14 for their first title of the new millennium.
In the 2007 campaign, Les Miles took a team with two losses – both in triple overtime –
to the same city and left with the same result, this time a 38-24 rout of Ohio State.
If Miles and Co. are going to continue the trend four years later, one thing is certain.
The offense, which finished this past fall among the least productive units in the NCAA,
will have to make big strides in the right direction – starting with the quarterback position.
If Jordan Jefferson stumbles, the onus of the blame falls on the senior's shoulders.
On the field, the supporting cast is in place, from a veteran offensive line (four returning
starters) to a stable of talented backs and receivers.
On the sidelines, Miles hired Steve Kragthorpe to replace Gary Crowton as offensive
coordinator, giving Jefferson a fresh mind and a quarterback coach for the first time in
his four seasons with the program.
After he tossed just four touchdowns to nine interceptions in the regular season, fans
grew weary of whether or not the rising senior could develop into the Jefferson the staff
expected. If he stumbled, another senior – Jarrett Lee – and a junior college transfer with
a big upside – Zach Mettenberger – were both in the picture, and armchair offensive
coordinators spent the entirety of the spring calling for the pair to see more reps.
Despite a lackluster spring game, Miles stood by his man, naming Jefferson the lead
horse headed into the summer months, meaning only injury would prevent the Destrehan
native from starting for the home team for the third season in a row.
As mentioned, support on the offensive side is there.
With four returning starters to the line, all eyes are on sophomore Chris Faulk, who is
set to replace Joseph Barksdale at left tackle. Three tight ends with experience –
Deangelo Peterson, Mitch Joseph, and Chase Clement – help round out a front that
should give Jefferson, and the run game, plenty of room to operate.
After a dynamic Cotton Bowl in which the freshman back ran wild on the Texas A&M
defense, Cincinnati native Spencer Ware heads into fall as the starting tailback. The
group behind him has yet to shake itself out into a pecking order, though Miles should
find that the combination of speed (Jakhari Gore) and power (Michael Ford and Alfred
Blue) prove too much to not use all together.
Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard highlight a receiving corps that has yet to find a
rhythm with the inconsistent play at quarterback, though Randle – one of the nation's top
prep prospects – has made his mark in spots, proving he is one of the nation's elite
wideouts when the ball finds his hands.
On the defensive side, health could become the biggest battle the unit fights.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis might have lost All-America cornerback Patrick
Peterson to the NFL Draft, but LSU's defensive backfield appears as strong as any in the
Though young and inexperienced in spots, the linebackers, led by Ryan Baker, are
aggressive and fast to the ball – just what Chavis is looking for from his 4-3 defense.
The question becomes the big men up front, who, because of injury, never lined up their
first and second team units at full strength during the spring.
Defensive tackle Mike Brockers has been the one constant inside, but the second
starting spot has yet to be filled. Will it belong to a junior like Josh Downs, or will a
younger body – like freshman Anthony Johnson – jump into the fold over the summer
and nab the job by September?
With speed to burn, defensive end isn't as big of a worry for assistant coach Brick
Sam Montgomery, who earned All-SEC honors in just four games last fall, will be
paired with senior Ken Adams as the starters, followed by more speed in KeKe Mingo.
Lavar Edwards and Chancey Aghayere will also take reps at the position, and 2011
signee Jermauria Rasco hopes his name is called after being on campus less than three
months before the opener.
For the Tigers, the path to New Orleans won't come without some curves along the
LSU opens the season in Dallas against Oregon, and early road trips pit the Tigers
against both West Virginia in Morgantown and Mississippi State in Starkville. Though
they welcome Florida, Auburn, and Arkansas, the Tigers go to Tennessee, Alabama, and
It won't be easy, but if the 2007 title run proved anything, it's that missteps are only
part of the process.
If quarterback play can improve and the Tigers take care of business away from home,
the fourth time could – once again – be the charm.
SEC PREVIEWS: LSU hoping it's a trend
Gamecock Anthem Top Stories
Updated Scout 300 Trend Meter For 2017The updated Scout 300 Trend Meter for the 2017 class takes a look at which schools are trending for each uncommitted member in the Scout 300.
Scout FootballYesterday at 11:15 AM
10 Schools Down But Recruiting WellA look at 10 programs recruiting well despite be down as a program.
These rival helmet color swaps are revoltingSwapping rival teams' helmet colors? It shouldn't have been done, but someone did it anyway.
Photos: Newest college football uniformsKeeping up with the constant evolution of college football uniforms in time for the 2016 season.