Buy or Sell: Is LSU an SEC Title Contender for 2013?

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LSU has three consecutive double-digit win seasons, but the Tigers were a bit of a mystery entering 2013.

With eight starters gone on defense, along with a new coordinator on offense, LSU was going to need some time to get all of the new faces acclimated to life in the SEC.

The Tigers have yet to play a conference game, but coach Les Miles’ team appears to be a threat to push Alabama for the SEC West title.

Quarterback Zach Mettenberger looks confident under new coordinator Cam Cameron, and the defense is allowing just 277.5 yards per game.

There’s a long ways to go in the 2013 season, but it’s never too early for Athlon’s staff to debate: Is LSU a SEC title contender?

Buy or Sell: Is LSU an SEC Title Contender for 2013?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’m buying this LSU team as a contender in the SEC. As mentioned throughout the preseason, the defense was going to be solid despite eight new starters. However, it was the offense that was a concern. So far, the hire of Cam Cameron as the coordinator has made a big difference. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger looks like a different and more confident player this year, throwing six touchdowns and completing 62.7 percent of his throws. The senior is also averaging 10.5 yards per attempt, which ranks 12th nationally among FBS quarterbacks. Sure, the schedule will get tougher, but once LSU’s defense has more time to jell, the front seven will be a tough matchup for Alabama’s offensive line, especially if that unit continues to struggle. It’s early and a lot can change. However, I would put LSU just behind Alabama – and ahead of Texas A&M – in the SEC West standings.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
LSU will always be considered an SEC contender but that is mostly because the word "contender" casts a wide net. At the start of the year, I counted six legitimate SEC contenders: Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and LSU. After two weeks of play, three of those six have a loss while the other three really haven't been tested. TCU and Virginia Tech are solid competition but are uninspiring teams that haven't really shown us what either the Crimson Tide or Bayou Bengals will be in the SEC this fall.

So the preseason breakdown on LSU still stands. The offense is loaded with talent at the skill positions and along the offensive line. The defense is still fairly young but also extremely talented. And the SEC schedule is might be the toughest in the conference. The remaining unknown piece to the puzzle is quarterback Zach Mettenberger and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Mettenberger was outstanding — against lowly UAB — but has yet to prove it against SEC competition (5 TD passes in 8 SEC games last year). Cameron looks like he is pushing the ball down the field, which is great, but still has yet to face an SEC defense. The Tigers look better than anticipated but nothing has changed dramatically after two weeks.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’m all in on LSU as an SEC and national championship contender, even after only two games. This is on two fronts: LSU looks like a new-and-improved version of itself and the SEC, for now, looks conquerable by a handful of teams. All the talk about NFL castoff Cam Cameron re-making Zach Mettenberger seems legitimate through two games. He’s averaging 10.5 yards per pass attempt so far. To put that in perspective: LSU hasn’t averaged better than eight yards per attempt since at least 2007. That 10 yards per pass rate will usually lead the country, so if Mettenberger is safely around eight yards per attempt with fewer turnovers, LSU’s offense will be formidable. The Tigers’ defense performed well against TCU to start, but considering all the new faces, I’ll take a defense that gave up only two sustained drives in the game. And then there’s the rest of the SEC. The East teams might beat themselves up all year, Texas A&M looks vulnerable on defense, and Alabama — at least against Virginia Tech — had its holes.

Nathan Rush
I'm buying the purple and gold SEC-title-contending stock. There's just enough Baton Rouge Celebration Grass for Les Miles to chew on LSU's schedule. The Tigers host Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas in Death Valley. There's at least a 50-50 chance the Bayou Bengals win all four of those contests. The Tigers will, however, almost certainly hit a pot hole (or two) on road trips to Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama. But LSU doesn't necessarily have to run the table to make it to the SEC title game, depending on how the other dominoes fall league-wide. If Zach Mettenberger can stay cool under fire and limit his mistakes in hostile environments, LSU's ground game, defense and special teams are capable of taking it to Atlanta. Stranger things have happened. Remember, Miles' Tigers won a longshot BCS crystal with two overtime losses.

Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
I’m going to have to be a hard sell on this one. It’s not so much a statement of the quality of LSU’s talent, but a testament to the difficulty of the Tigers schedule. LSU plays its normally tough SEC West schedule, but has the unenviable draw of cross-division games against East powerhouses Florida and Georgia. While the Tigers should get off to a 4-0 start, they endure two brutal stretches, including a trip to Alabama back-to-back with a home date against Texas A&M and three SEC road games within a four game span. The defense isn’t as good this year as it has been in the past, and I just can’t trust Zach Mettenberger and the offense to put up the kind of points LSU is going to need to keep up with Georgia, Alabama, or Texas A&M.

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