Schedule analysis: LSU

It certainly is a tough road to Atlanta for the Tigers this fall.

Nonconference opponents (with 2012 records)

Aug. 31: vs. TCU (7-6), in Arlington, Texas

Sept. 7: UAB (3-9)

Sept. 14: Kent State (11-3)

Oct. 26: Furman (3-8)

SEC home games

Sept. 21: Auburn

Oct. 12: Florida

Nov. 23: Texas A&M

Nov. 29: Arkansas

SEC road games

Sept. 28: at Georgia

Oct. 5: at Mississippi State

Oct. 19: at Ole Miss

Nov. 9: at Alabama

Gut-check time: Yes, the Tigers have to play Texas A&M and go on the road to play Alabama this fall, but the real gut-check moment is in late September when LSU travels to Athens to take on Georgia. This is the first time since 2009 that these two have met during the regular season, and this is a chance to get that offense going early against a talented defense. Plus, you don't want to fall behind in the SEC West race.

Trap game: Making that trip to Starkville won't be easy, especially with the game sandwiched between the Georgia and Florida games. No one quite knows what to expect from Mississippi State this year, but the Tigers can't get caught looking ahead to Florida, which will likely be a top-10 team by the time these two meet. Walking into Davis Wade Stadium arrogantly will be a mistake.

Snoozer: Two weeks before LSU takes travels to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9 to take on Alabama, the Tigers make a pitstop at home to mangle what should be a very, very overmatched Furman team.

Telltale stretch: The end of the season is pretty tough for LSU, but the middle of the season is essentially nothing but a road trip. From Sept. 28 to Oct. 19, LSU will be on the road for three of its four games. LSU starts at Georgia before heading to Starkville. The Tigers then come home to play Florida before facing Ole Miss in Oxford. Getting through this stretch unscathed won't be easy, but it will go a long way toward getting it back to Atlanta for the SEC championship game.

Final analysis: Just like the Tigers want things to be, they start the season with a tough out-of-conference opponent in TCU. It might be at a neutral site, but this will very much be a home game for the Horned Frogs. After that, the Tigers' schedule is relatively light until late September. That's when the real fun begins with that road trip. Even if LSU gets through the first part of SEC play relatively unharmed, the Tigers still have to play at Alabama before taking on Texas A&M and Arkansas in consecutive weeks. That's rough, but the good news is that both of those games are in Death Valley. In the end, it's going to be a tough road to Atlanta for LSU.