After Joe Burrow led the nation in nearly every notable passing statistic in 2019, Myles Brennan started LSU's first three games of 2020 before an upper-body injury in week 3 against Missouri promptly ended his season. Max Johnson saw time off the bench before taking over as the starter in week 9, and the then-true freshman closed the Tigers’ season with wins at Florida — for which he earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week — and at home against Ole Miss.
With Brennan suffering a foot injury this summer, Johnson will likely be called upon once again to lead the offense during Brennan’s likely lengthy absence. The athletic left-handed signal-caller enters his sophomore season hoping to pick up where he left off, and his late-season leadership will be key in guiding LSU’s offense in 2021, especially as the Tigers’ defense looks to rebound from a dismal 2020 season in which they allowed the most passing yards and fourth-most total yards per game in the FBS last season.
So how will LSU's 2021 season play out? Athlon Sports asked a couple of editors and one of its college football contributors to offer their takes.
LSU Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2021
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
LSU is the hardest team to figure out in the SEC for 2021. Talent certainly isn’t an issue in Baton Rouge, but the Tigers – thanks to a combination of bad assistant hires, roster question marks and injuries in spots – slumped to 5-5 after winning the national title in ’19. Coach Ed Orgeron used the offseason for a major overhaul of the staff, and the hires of Jake Peetz (offensive play-caller) and Daronte Jones (defense) seem to be a step in the right direction. But how far can this team mesh with the new assistants in one offseason? Quarterback Max Johnson and receiver Kayshon Boutte are breakout candidates, but the offensive line and rushing attack remain a concern. LSU’s defense simply has too much talent to be allowing 34.9 points a game, and the new staff, along with a wealth of talent on this side of the ball should help lead the way on a rebound. Throwing against this defense will be tough with the duo of Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks returning as the best cornerback tandem in college football, and there’s plenty of depth and talent in the trenches. Road treks to Alabama, Kentucky and Ole Miss will be tricky in league play, while home games against Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M loom large to the win total. Considering how volatile this team is, anything from 11-1 to 8-4 is possible for Orgeron’s squad.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
LSU is another hard team to get a handle on not only because of last season's up-and-down, at times mystifying, 5-5 campaign, but also the fact that quarterback Myles Brennan is out indefinitely with an arm injury. Max Johnson showed glimpses when given the opportunity to play in 2020 but the Tigers' plan was to start Brennan. There's also the matter of what kind of defense LSU will play with a new coordinator after such a poor performance last season. Once again, talent will not be an issue for Ed Orgeron and there's no doubt the 16 returning starters haven't forgotten what happened in 2020. Provided the Tigers take care of business out on the West Coast against UCLA in the opener, the key to their season will be how they handle the month of October and fare against Alabama on Nov. 6 in Tuscaloosa. LSU won't dethrone the Crimson Tide in the SEC West but the Tigers should get back to their winning ways while reminding people they were national champs not too long ago.
Juan Jose Rodriguez (@JuanJoseRG02)
Starting off the season on the road against UCLA should be a healthy barometer of whether LSU can rebound from its 5-5 season in 2020. All four of the Bruins’ losses last season came by six or fewer points, and a UCLA offense that averaged more than 35 points per game in 2020 ought to show whether or not the Tigers have patched up some of their holes defensively.
The conference schedule opens with a pair of reasonably winnable road games (at Mississippi State, at Kentucky) sandwiched around a tough return home against Auburn; the Tigers should be able to win two of the three, and wins in all three — which could move LSU to 6-0 — would set up a marquee matchup in Death Valley against Florida. Road contests at Ole Miss and Alabama follow the meeting with the Gators, with the Tigers’ trip to Tuscaloosa their last of the regular season as LSU closes the 2021 campaign hosting Arkansas, ULM and Texas A&M. While this year’s LSU team may not climb all the way back to its 2019 national championship success, it should present a return back to the Tigers’ customary spot among the SEC’s premier programs with some opportunities to make a resounding statement in the second half of the season.