Schedule analysis: LSU

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records)

Sept 3: Oregon (12-1) (in Arlington, Texas)

Sept 10: Northwestern St. (5-6)

Sept. 24: at West Virginia (9-4)

Nov. 12: Western Kentucky (2-10)

SEC home games

Oct. 1: Kentucky

Oct. 8: Florida

Oct. 22: Auburn

Nov. 25: Arkansas

SEC road games

Sept. 15: at Mississippi State

Oct. 15: at Tennessee

Nov. 5: at Alabama

Nov. 19: at Ole Miss

Gut-check time: The opener against Oregon is on everyone’s mind at the moment, but an early-season loss won’t necessarily destroy LSU’s title hopes. When LSU travels to Alabama on Nov. 5, a chance to go to Atlanta will be on the line. The Tigers bested Alabama last season, but that was home. You’d better believe the Tide has this date circled on the calendar.

Trap game: The Tigers have lost two of their last three games to Ole Miss and the last time LSU was in Oxford, poor last-minute clock management cost the Tigers a chance at a win. LSU better not get caught looking ahead to Arkansas the following week.

Snoozer: You have to give credit to LSU for scheduling Oregon and West Virginia on the road, so we’ll cut the Tigers some slack for having a cupcake like Northwestern State on the schedule.

Telltale stretch: October will be a major test for LSU. The Tigers start with a home game against Florida and then play two of their next three games on the road. LSU squeezes a home game with Auburn in between trips to Tennessee and Alabama. All four of these games will challenge LSU’s run at both a SEC and national title.

Final analysis: Opening the season with Oregon in Cowboys Stadium will have most of America glued to TV sets. It’s not a must-win, but a loss means LSU would most likely need to go through SEC play unscathed to make it to the BCS title game. Don’t look past the game at West Virginia, either. The Mountaineers aren’t pushovers and LSU won’t have the luxury of playing at home. Getting through October will be key for the Tigers and there’s a chance the season finale against Arkansas could be for the SEC West.