SEC West: LSU

The 2006 LSU Tigers have an interesting situation at quarterback. The guy who started most of last year's games (JaMarcus Russell) is back but the guy who led them to a smashing bowl victory (Matt Flynn) is seriously pushing for the first-team job.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. Tennessee faced the identical situation one year ago. Erik Ainge played the Russell role, starting most of the games in 2004. Rick Clausen played the Flynn role, leading the Vols to a smashing Cotton Bowl defeat of Texas A&M that thrust him into a virtual tie for the top spot.

The 2005 Vols never resolved their quarterback dilemma and wound up finishing 5-6. Perhaps Les Miles' Tigers will learn from Tennessee's mistake and avoid a similar mishap in 2006. You know the old saying: Those who don't learn from history are destined to repeat it.

Certainly, you can make a strong case for each of LSU's quarterback contenders. Russell completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 2,443 yards last fall. Flynn completed 56.2 percent for a mere 457 yards but posted a better passer-efficiency rating (180.18 to 136.56). He also threw one touchdown pass for every seven attempts (7 of 48), compared to Russell's one TD per 21 attempts (15 of 311). And Flynn was downright awesome in LSU's 40-3 Peach Bowl blowout of Miami.

If Les Miles' Tigers can settle on a quarterback plan that works they could challenge for the league championship. Despite the loss of first-round NFL Draft pick Joseph Addai, LSU has a nice 1-2 punch at tailback in Alley Broussard and Justin Vincent. Moreover, Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis and Early Doucet might be the SEC's best trio of receivers.

Defensively, LSU's front four was wiped out by the departure of standout tackles Claude Wroten and Kyle Williams, along with end Melvin Oliver. All are likely to be playing for NFL teams this fall.

Still, Miles' biggest concern may be a schedule that features Southeastern Conference road games at Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas. If the Tigers are good enough to win all four of those games, they should claim the national title.

TOMORROW: My take on Mike Shula's Alabama Crimson Tide.


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