Schedule analysis: LSU

LSU's 2012 schedule isn't the monster last season's was:

Nonconference opponents (with 2011 records)

Sept. 1: North Texas (5-7)

Sept. 8: Washington (7-6)

Sept. 15: Idaho (2-10)

Sept. 29: Towson (9-3)

SEC home games

Oct. 13: South Carolina

Nov. 3: Alabama

Nov. 10: Mississippi State

Nov. 17: Ole Miss

SEC road games

Sept. 22: at Auburn

Oct. 6: at Florida

Oct. 20: at Texas A&M

Nov. 23: at Arkansas

Gut-check time: You just know the Nov. 3 date has been circled on LSU's calendar since January. The 21-0 beatdown at the hands of Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game remains a sore subject on the Bayou. The players insist that loss has driven them even harder, particularly the fact that LSU picked that game to lay its only egg of the season. One of these two teams has won three of the last five national titles. Alabama proved last season that losing the regular-season matchup doesn't necessarily end your national championship hopes. The chances of that happening again are remote, though, which only raises the stakes this coming season when Alabama and LSU clash in Tiger Stadium.

Trap game: The trip to Florida on Oct. 6 comes right before South Carolina comes to town, and the Tigers will likely be 5-0 at that point. The Gators could also be unbeaten and playing with a lot of confidence at home. Moreover, they'll be coming off of a bye week.

Snoozer: The Idaho game on Sept. 15 is the third of three straight home nonconference games for the Tigers, and something says there will be more LSU fans out in the parking lots tailgating in the second half than actually watching the game.

Telltale stretch: LSU's quest to get back to the BCS National Championship Game will start in earnest against Florida on the road the first weekend of October. Key tests await the Tigers each of the next three games. They come back home to face South Carolina on Oct. 13, then travel to Texas A&M on Oct. 20 and get a week off before taking on Alabama at home on Nov. 3. The Tigers will need to play their best football to make it through that stretch unscathed.

Final analysis: LSU has traded the toughest schedule in college football a year ago for a much more manageable one in 2012. The Tigers tackled both Oregon and West Virginia away from home last season. Their toughest nonconference test this season is Washington at home. They don't play back-to-back road games all season. It's also a big advantage for LSU to have a bye the week before the Alabama game, especially with the Crimson Tide playing the week before against Mississippi State and then having to travel to Baton Rouge. LSU will get Alabama at night, too, and the Tigers take it to another level on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. Something else that sticks out is that LSU doesn't play its first home SEC game until South Carolina on Oct. 13. That's a long wait if the Tigers should happen to lose early. The finale against Arkansas will be in Fayetteville this season, which is a change from past years. Playing the game in Little Rock essentially meant that both teams had to travel. But this season, LSU is the only one of the two that has to travel and does so on a short week.