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2015 season preview: LSU Tigers

LSU will have to lean on breakout running back Leonard Fournette as it sorts through its quarterback situation. John Korduner/Icon Sportswire

Much like its cagey head coach, LSU might be one of the SEC's most unpredictable teams in 2015.

Will Les Miles' club return to the top of the SEC West standings and contend for a College Football Playoff spot? Or were last season's stumbles, expedited by a sluggish offense, signs of what to expect this fall?

The answers might hinge on quarterback play, as we'll discuss below:

2014 Record + bowl result: 8-5. Lost 31-28 to Notre Dame in Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

Most important player: Leonard Fournette. The sophomore running back came on in the second half of last season, finishing with a 146-yard outing against Texas A&M and a 143-yard effort against Notre Dame that also included a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown. Fournette would admit that he struggled a bit early as he adjusted to the college game, but he still set a new LSU freshman rushing record with 1,034 yards. He'll be a force from the start this year.

Breakout player. Jamal Adams. It's tempting to drop sophomore Brandon Harris' name here, but he still has to lock down the starting quarterback job. Instead, let's go with a much safer pick: Adams, who was a Freshman All-American last year and could establish himself as one of the SEC's top defensive backs as a sophomore. Although this will be his first season as a starter, teammates already view Adams as one of the leaders of a strong defense.

Most important game: Nov. 7 at Alabama. Every SEC West game will be huge -- particularly the tone-setting matchups with Mississippi State and Auburn in Weeks 2 and 3 -- but Alabama remains the biggest game on the schedule. The Crimson Tide have won four straight in the series, including last season when it forced overtime in the final minute and eventually won 20-13. If LSU is to make it back to the SEC championship game, it might have to win in Tuscaloosa.

Biggest question mark: quarterback. Let's go back to this position. It was the biggest question for LSU entering last season, and inconsistent quarterback play directly contributed to the Tigers' disappointing results. Harris, who struggled in his lone start against Auburn, and Anthony Jennings, who struggled in most of the other 12 starts, have to play better if LSU is to return to the top of the Western Division standings. The 2014 Tigers finished 114th nationally in passing offense with 162.9 yards per game.

Class of 2015 signee to watch: Despite LSU already having a talented and productive secondary, five-star cornerback recruit Kevin Toliver II has a chance to make an impact early on in his career in Baton Rouge. Toliver enrolled early and earned high praise with his performance during the spring. He’s also one of a select few freshmen who participated with the upperclassmen during the split portion of LSU’s practices to begin fall camp. At 6-foot-2, 193 pounds, he already has ideal size to play cornerback. Look for this talented freshman to see the field early and often. -- Derek Tyson

Class of 2016 storyline: LSU is off to one of its best recruiting starts in recent memory. The Tigers’ No. 2-ranked recruiting class totals 19 commitments, including 13 ranked in the 2016 ESPN 300. The class is led by 6-3, 320-pound Edwin Alexander, who is the No. 7-ranked defensive tackle in the ESPN 300. Cornerback commit Saivion Smith is one of the top playmakers in the country. As a junior he totaled 10 non-offensive touchdowns for IMG Academy in Florida. Strong-armed quarterback Feleipe' Franks is the top-ranked offensive commit for the Tigers. With two five-star in-state prospects -- offensive tackle Willie Allen and defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence -- still available, LSU certainly has a chance to finish with the top recruiting class in the country. -- Derek Tyson

Best-case scenario: Some critics act as if LSU doesn't have a talented quarterback on its roster. That's not the case. Harris simply wasn't ready for the job as a true freshman. If he shows some maturity and takes care of the ball, he has the skill set to lead LSU to a division title. Seriously, 11-1 or 10-2 is not unreasonable if the Tigers get dynamic play out of their quarterback. The overall lineup is solid.

Worst-case scenario: As in 2014, if quarterback remains an issue, the Tigers will struggle. After getting gashed a couple times early, LSU still led the SEC in total defense last season by allowing 316.8 yards per game. Nonetheless, the Tigers finished 4-4 in conference play largely because the offense wasn't pulling its weight. If that remains the case in 2015, LSU finishing 8-4 again or falling to 7-5 is possible.

2015 prediction: 9-3