Key stretch: LSU

We look closer today at a stretch of games that may define this season for the LSU Tigers.

Key stretch: vs. Oregon in Arlington, Texas (Sept. 3), Northwestern State (Sept. 10), at Mississippi State (Sept. 15), at West Virginia (Sept. 24)

Breakdown: The Tigers don't have to wait long to hit the key stretch of their season. They hit it right out of the gate, and given everything they've been through this offseason, are probably ecstatic just to play a game. Three games away from home against three Top 25 opponents the first month of the season is never easy, but that's what the Tigers face in the month of September. The only home game during that stretch is Northwestern State, which is a built-in "W," but the Tigers probably deserve one. They face seven teams this season that were in The Associated Press' preseason Top 25 poll. So much is riding on that opener against Oregon. Win or lose, LSU will have its work cut less than two weeks later when it travels to Mississippi State for a Thursday night game and then visits West Virginia in Morgantown to close out the month.

Prediction: With Northwestern State coming to town the second week of the season, there's not much chance of the Tigers going 0-for-September. But they'll have to play well to win all three of the other games. LSU is the only team in the SEC that plays three of its four games in September away from home. The defense should be good enough to cover for the offense in most situations, if the Tigers get off to a bumpy start on offense. But you can't make a living doing that in the SEC. Beating Oregon would make a huge splash nationally for the Tigers, which is what I think will happen. But I see them stumbling against either Mississippi State or West Virginia on the road and getting out of that first month with a 3-1 record.

The rundown