The Tigers hope to go back-to-back in 2020
LSU’s 2019 season is among the best one-year runs by a program in college football history. Thanks to the development of a high-powered offense behind quarterback Joe Burrow, the Tigers went 15-0, claimed the SEC title and knocked off Clemson to cap off a dominant postseason run with a national title. Coach Ed Orgeron pushed all of the right buttons to guide LSU to the title last year but enters 2020 with several question marks. Burrow is slated to be replaced by Myles Brennan, the offensive line has to be overhauled, and the defense is under the direction of new coordinator Bo Pelini. Repeating as SEC champs isn’t going to be easy with Alabama projected among the top teams in the nation for 2020, along with Auburn, Texas A&M, Florida, and Georgia each ranking in the top 10-15 of most early preseason polls.
Will LSU repeat as SEC champs in 2020? That was the question posed to Athlon editors and college football contributors.
LSU Football: Will the Tigers Repeat as SEC Champs in 2020?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
LSU’s 2019 season is arguably the best of any team in college football history. Needless to say, the bar is set high for 2020. But coach Ed Orgeron is going to have his hands full as the Tigers hope to repeat. A historic and prolific offense must replace quarterback Joe Burrow, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, receiver Justin Jefferson and four starters on the offensive line. New coordinator Bo Pelini inherits a strong foundation up front and in the secondary, but there are holes to fill at linebacker. LSU is never short on talent and should rank in the top 10 once again in 2020. However, a repeat of the SEC title and trip to the national championship might be a lot to ask. Even though Alabama comes to Baton Rouge, Orgeron’s team has to face Auburn, Texas A&M, and Florida on the road. New quarterback Myles Brennan has potential and will ensure the offense doesn’t face a drastic drop in production. I think LSU gets to 10-2 and plays in a New Year’s Six bowl, but the path to Atlanta and the SEC title isn’t going to be easy.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
LSU is not going to fall off of a cliff, but the Tigers aren't going to match last season's success either. That's what happens when you make history. Even when you have as much talent as Ed Orgeron does on his roster, you simply can't replace a record-setting quarterback like Joe Burrow, along with 13 other starters (and a couple of key coaches), and not expect any sort of drop-off. And in the rugged SEC, there's typically not a lot separating the top teams, especially when you are in the same division as Alabama. Auburn and Texas A&M also have to be dealt with along with LSU's annual cross-over game with Florida. One loss is all it takes for the Tigers to not get a chance at defending their conference crown and there are several teams hungry for some payback. LSU will still be very good, but their championship reign will last just one season.
Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
LSU had a historic season, and there's no way they're repeating that offensive success. In fact, I find it hard to believe they'll repeat as SEC champs, let alone national champs. It took a perfect storm of elite quarterback play and a transformed scheme to unlock the Tigers' offense. With Joe Burrow gone — not to mention Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Justin Jefferson, K'Lavon Chaisson, Patrick Queen, Grant Delpit, Kristian Fulton, and play-caller Joe Brady — there's too much talent that needs to be replaced with an abbreviated offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic. Maybe Myles Brennan will be the second coming, but it's way easier to bet on Alabama at this point.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
Replicating the success LSU experienced in 2019 is going to be a tall order. Ed Orgeron has lost his defensive coordinator to a head coaching job and one of his top offensive assistants to the NFL. On top of that, the Tigers just sent five players through the first round of the NFL draft, including Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow coming off a historic season. Then there is the challenge of taking down Alabama again in the SEC West. It has been a decade since LSU beat Alabama twice in a row. I'll roll the dice and suggest Alabama returns to the top of the division in 2020.
Ryan Wright (@RyanWrightRNG)
On paper, the Tigers lost too many starters from last season to repeat if for no other reason than lack of starting experience on both sides of the ball. But other factors could aid in the possibility of a run, their schedule plus a weak SEC West. A favorable schedule presents just two challenging road games, Florida and Texas A&M; the two teams that may also stand in their way of going to Atlanta and continuing onto the College Football Playoff. If new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini can revamp his unit and new passing game coordinator Scott Linehan can capture some of Joe Brady's play-calling magic, this squad has time to jell into a powerhouse if all the right pieces are on the roster.
Eric Sorenson (@Stitch_Head)
LSU winning the SEC in 2020? Mehhhhh, probably not, no. Too many difference-makers hit the bricks. Will they contend? Oh hell yeah, the Tigers ain't goin' anywhere anytime soon.
But the talent cupboard took too many shots in the offseason. The loss of nine underclassmen to the NFL and a senior class that featured some guy named Joe Burrow means there will be a ton of turnover.
And it’s not just Burrow here. RB Clyde Edward-Helaire, WR Justin Jefferson, and TE Thaddeus Moss had big-play ability. So did a number of defenders that are gone. Most importantly, I can’t imagine Myles Brennan is going to be able to play anywhere near the level Burrow did, especially with the patchwork that the O-line will require.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the losses of D-coordinator Dave Aranda and passing game coordinator Joe Brady, which will leave some continuity issues as well.
Nicholas Ian Allen (@NicholasIAllen)
LSU had an incredible 2019 season, but with so many of the players (and a high-profile assistant coach) responsible now in the NFL, and with conference rivals like Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Auburn all in the mix for a spot in the preseason top 10, an SEC repeat seems highly unlikely.
By my calculations, the Tigers return 5.86 percent of their passing yardage production, which ranks No. 109 nationally. LSU welcomes back 33.14 percent of its rushing attempts and 27.3 percent of its rushing yards, which ranks No. 117 and No. 118, respectively. Offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger must also replace 57.75 percent of last year's receptions — more than all but 14 other FBS teams — and 48.64 percent of last season's receiving yards, which ranks 93rd in the country.
Of the 15 LSU players drafted last month, six were defensive starters. The Tigers return 52.77 percent of last year's total tackles (104th) and 43.34 percent of their tackles for loss (117th). LSU still has one of the 10 strongest rosters in college football, but because of its youth and inexperience, I'd expect Alabama or Georgia to come out ahead in 2020.
Rob McVey (@Rob_UTVOLS)
It’s going to be next to impossible for LSU to duplicate last year’s unprecedented success on offense with so many key departures. Most notably, a generational talent at quarterback in Joe Burrow. Passing game coordinator Joe Brady’s departure probably doesn't help their cause either. The Tigers do have the potential to be better defensively. However, there are question marks on that side of the football as well. Even with the wealth of talent that returns to the LSU roster for 2020, perhaps as much as any team in the SEC, it’s going to be a serious challenge to return to championship form with so many new faces in the starting lineup. The Tigers' overall lack of experience will also be a liability in bigger matchups. For that reason, I can’t see LSU repeating as SEC champions, particularly with an equally talented and more experienced Alabama squad is standing in the way.
Juan Jose Rodriguez (@JuanJoseRG02)
In 2019-20, LSU became the second team in as many seasons to go 15-0 and win the national championship. The Tigers pulled out one-possession games over top-10 Texas, Auburn and Alabama, winning more decisively against Florida and Georgia before marching through the College Football Playoff.
Since 1999, only Alabama (2014-16) has repeated as SEC champions. Can LSU become the second in 2020? Hosting Alabama is a plus (as opposed to playing the Tide in Tuscaloosa), but that's where the benefits end for the Tigers. An Oct. 10 showdown in Gainesville against Florida will provide the first true indicator of how well this year's group stacks up against the SEC's top programs, and consecutive road trips to Auburn and Texas A&M to close the season could very well determine whether the Tigers even earn the chance to play for an SEC championship, let alone win it. While a 10-win season is surely within reach for LSU, repeating as SEC champions in 2020 just doesn't seem to be in the cards.
John La Fleur (@FBConnoisseur)
The return of Bo Pelini as defensive coordinator will offset Dave Aranda's departure. The defense must allow fewer points compared to last season because of a less proficient offense. Looking at the three most difficult SEC matchups, (Alabama at home, at Auburn, and at Florida), LSU faces notable historical obstacles. Although LSU has played at Auburn and Florida in a season 13 times, LSU has never won at both venues. However, the Tigers have split those road games nine times. Despite winning at least eight games per season in the past 20 years, LSU is only 4-6 against Alabama in Tiger Stadium, including losing the last four. Additionally, LSU has not won consecutive SEC titles since 1935 and '36. For the Tigers to repeat as champions, they must defeat Alabama and win at least one of those two road games. I would not bet on those happening.