2016 season preview: No. 5 LSU Tigers

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No. 5: LSU

Last Season: 9-3 (5-3 SEC West)

It was a tale of two seasons for the 2015 LSU Tigers: a 7-0 start and a top-four rank, then three straight losses by a combined 52 points. This season, with 17 starters back and a new D-coordinator in Dave Aranda (No. 1 FBS defense the past three years at Wisconsin), LSU, on paper, should rebound. The Tigers have my No. 2-ranked D this year: my top D-backs (Tre'Davious White and Jamal Adams) and my eighth-ranked linebackers (Arden Key had nine QB hurries in '15). Putting up points isn't a problem either -- they averaged 32.8 per game last season and return Heisman front-running RB Leonard Fournette (1,953 yards), two NFL-caliber wideouts in 6-3 Malachi Dupree and 6-2 Travin Dural and my No. 5-rated O-line. I have LSU favored in 10 games, with just two toss-ups, vs. Alabama and at Arkansas.

IN IF...
It holds home field. The Tigers host Ole Miss and Alabama in Death Valley, so the SEC West will be theirs to lose. The West, by the way, has won seven straight SEC titles, a playoff-ticket puncher.

The D doesn't return to form. LSU allowed 24.3 ppg last year (10th in the SEC) -- the first time outside the SEC's top four since 2008.

LSU's chances to win each game
09.03 vs. Wisconsin (Lambeau Field): 84.5%
09.10 vs. Jacksonville State: 98.8%
09.17 vs. Mississippi State: 88.6%
09.24 @ Auburn: 71.2%
10.01 vs. Missouri: 94.3%
10.08 @ Florida: 72.4%
10.15 vs. Southern Mississippi: 98.2%
10.22 vs. Ole Miss: 73.5%
11.05 vs. Alabama: 65.7%
11.12 @ Arkansas: 77.2%
11.19 vs. South Alabama: 99.5%
11.24 @ Texas A&M: 67.4%

The Tigers might be the SEC's most talented team with the country's best player in Leonard Fournette, but with questions remaining in the passing game and the possibility of last year's late-season drama with Les Miles seeping into the season, LSU is headed for back-to-back 9-3 seasons. -- Edward Aschoff

The Tigers have a boatload of talent -- most notably the best running back in college football, Fournette -- and a revamped 3-4 defense led by new coordinator Dave Aranda. A 10-2 record is within reach, but the Tigers are aiming for a spot in the College Football Playoff -- and that's a reasonable goal with this roster. -- David Ching

The best player in college football is in the backfield, but can Brandon Harris complete enough passes to get them to the playoff? I think so. And I think the defense under Aranda's watch is going to be scaaaary as the Tigers go 11-1. -- Sam Khan Jr.

By most team's standards, 10-2 would be a terrific year. At LSU, it will likely be a disappointment as they come up just short to Alabama in the SEC West again. -- Greg Ostendorf

Harris will be better, but not by enough to make the offense what it needs to be to unseat Alabama. Fournette will earn a trip to the Heisman Trophy ceremony and LSU will finish 10-2. -- Alex Scarborough

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