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LSU Football: Ranking the Toughest Games on the Tigers' Schedule

LSU Football: Ranking the Toughest Games on the Tigers' Schedule

LSU Football: Ranking the Toughest Games on the Tigers' Schedule

The LSU Tigers made history during the 2019 season, assembling one of the most prolific offenses college football has ever seen. The 15-0, 8-0 SEC, romp was not without some tight games and amazing crunch-time performances that drew fans to the edge of their seat on a thrilling season-long ride. For all to come together for LSU to make history again, becoming the first FBS squad in the College Football Playoff era to go back-to-back, the young Tigers team will have to come together quickly, and they will need a little regular season help just to make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

As always, the SEC presents a set of daunting challenges, but the layout and strength of the schedule provide pockets of growth for the team, which should be ramping up for a late-season run.

12. Oct. 3 vs. Nicholls

Stocked full of Louisiana high school football talent, as one might guess, the Colonels are a really tough FCS team. Nicholls posted a 9-5 season a year ago, going 7-2 against Southland Conference foes and making a run to the second round of the FCS playoffs before succumbing to powerhouse North Dakota State. This one is for the in-state Nicholls kids who always wanted to play in Death Valley.

11. Sept. 5 vs. UTSA

After four years under head coach Frank Wilson, the Roadrunners are in transition with former Arkansas running backs coach Jeff Traylor now calling the shots. Traylor has assistants with SEC experience at the coordinator positions in offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. (Arkansas) and defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix (Ole Miss/Texas A&M). After this season opener for UTSA, the rest of their season will begin looking to reverse the fortunes of a 4-8 (3-5 Conference USA) 2019 season.

10. Sept. 19 at Rice (NRG Stadium)

Another Conference USA opponent for LSU. Mike Bloomgren heads into his third season with the Owls looking for his first winning campaign. Rice made a one-game improvement in the win column a year ago finishing 3-9 (3-5). The Owls may have a little momentum heading into the 2020 season: They lost their first nine games but ended on a three-game winning streak.

9. Sept. 26 vs. Ole Miss

The college football coaching carousel ran through the SEC in the offseason, seeing Matt Luke lose his spot at the end of his third season in favor of a promised wide-open offense under Lane Kiffin. Kiffin heads to Oxford knowing he turned around a defunct FAU team by giving the program its only two 11-win seasons (2017, '19) since the school started playing at the FBS level in 2004. A quick turnaround at Mississippi would catch the conference by surprise.

8. Oct. 17 at Arkansas

After back-to-back two-win seasons, the Hogs have put their faith in former Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman to bring the victories back to Fayetteville. Pittman has an exciting OC in Kendal Briles (FSU) and an experienced DC in Barry Odom (Missouri), but the roster may lack the talent and depth to challenge deep into the SEC schedule.

7. Nov. 14 vs. South Carolina

The 2020 schedule has a make-or-break feel for South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp. The Gamecocks looked to be turning the corner in 2017 with a 9-4 run but slumped to a 4-8 (3-5 SEC) finish last year. Both teams may enter this one battered and bruised. The Gamecocks travel to Baton Rouge after hosting Georgia, and LSU will have said goodbye to the visiting Alabama Crimson Tide.

6. Oct. 24 vs. Mississippi State

Mississippi State's arrival signals the start of a much needed three-game homestand late in the season for LSU. And the Tigers get a bye week after facing the Bulldogs just to prepare for Alabama. With spring practices canceled, Mike Leach's Air Raid offense may have trouble taking hold this year, especially before the last month of the year. If the Bulldogs are not clicking the first four games into the season, playing A&M, Alabama, and LSU in consecutive outings midseason will not help the jelling process.

5. Sept. 12 vs. Texas

If Tom Herman cannot be at Ohio State as the head coach, he is bringing the Buckeyes to him in Austin. After a disappointing 8-5 2019 season, Herman revamped his staff bringing Ohio State quarterback coach Mike Yurcich on as offensive coordinator and former Buckeyes-DC-turned-Rutgers-head-coach Chris Ash as the new co-defensive coordinator. Texas gets a warm-up game at home against South Florida before heading to Baton Rouge. The Longhorns went toe-to-toe with the eventual national champs in Texas Memorial Stadium last season before falling 45-38. This one could be another thriller.

4. Nov. 21 at Auburn

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn produced another "shoulda, coulda, woulda" season in 2019. The Tigers went 9-4 (5-3 SEC), but three of those losses came by a score or less, including a 23-20 battle with LSU in Tiger Stadium. The 2020 Auburn squad is depleted of the grizzled veterans on defense and along the offensive line, which makes this squad full of inexperienced potential. Malzahn scheduled a "breather" game with UMass ahead of LSU, with the Iron Bowl to follow.

3. Nov. 7 vs. Alabama

Given head coach Nick Saban's competitive spirit, seeing his eight-game winning streak against LSU end at home last season (46-41) still has to wake him up in the middle of the night. For a second consecutive season, the Crimson Tide's starting roster is being overhauled after an influx of talent heading off to the NFL. Alabama always has talent, but this squad will sort itself out as a contender or pretender by how quickly they adjust to SEC competition and develop the needed chemistry on both sides of the ball.

2. Oct. 10 at Florida

Dan Mullen may not yet be known as one of the SEC's elite coaches, but that day is coming. After 13 wins in Jim McElwain's last two seasons in Gainesville, Mullen has produced 21 in his first two and appears to have his quarterback in Kyle Trask. Trask finished a distant second to Joe Burrow for the conference's pass lead (2,941) but did so by completing 67 percent of his attempts with a 25-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. When LSU last visited The Swamp, it was ranked No. 5 in the nation, looking like a contender, but left with a 27-19 loss on its record.

1. Nov. 28 at Texas A&M

By the time Texas A&M made it to Baton Rouge in 2019, LSU was an unstoppable force and steamrolled the Aggies 50-7. Now A&M has the veteran squad and home-field advantage, and a point to prove against LSU. Much like a season ago, the Aggies have a "gut check" game before seeing the Tigers. In 2019, they had a road game to No. 4 Georgia, and this year they return home to face LSU after visiting an Alabama team that should be a top-10 squad. These late-season matchups are what make college football great.

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.