There is a hungry fan base in Louisiana eagerly awaiting the 2018 college football season, ready to watch their beloved LSU Tigers get after it on the field. LSU ended the 2017 campaign 9-4, including a 6-2 mark in the SEC in head coach Ed Orgeron’s first full season. Following four consecutive seasons of no more than nine wins, fans are wondering if yet another change at offensive coordinator can help the Tigers make a run at a conference title. However, to get to Atlanta LSU will have to successfully navigate one of the toughest schedules in the country.
Under former offensive coordinator Matt Canada, the Tigers morphed from a road-grading, run-first attack to a finesse approach in 2017. The mixed results produced a balanced attack of 208 rushing yards per game and 204 passing, but failed to come up with the key plays in losses to Mississippi State, Troy and Notre Dame.
With Steve Ensminger now calling the plays, the offense promises greater variation with more passing but a return to controlling the line of scrimmage with the big guys up front as well as reintroducing a fullback into the game plan. The defense should be salty yet again led by Devin White, one of the nation’s best linebackers.
The teams on LSU’s schedule promise to challenge the Tigers, but the location and timing favors Orgeron and company. If double-digit wins are to be had, a six-game stretch from late September into late October that has LSU hitting the road just once cannot be squandered.
Bye: Week 9
Week 1 – Sept. 2 vs. Miami (AT&T Stadium - Arlington, Texas)
It’s safe to say Mark Richt has Miami back on track towards becoming a national powerhouse. The Hurricanes won their first 10 games in 2017 before stumbling over the final three against Pitt, then- No. 1 Clemson, and No. 6 Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl. From his years at Georgia, Richt knows what to expect from LSU and would love a feather-in-the-cap win to start the 2018 season. A win for LSU over the 2017 ACC Coastal Division champ should keep the boo-birds from sounding off on Orgeron.
This is the first meeting of the two programs since the 2005 Peach Bowl, a 40-3 win for LSU.
Week 2 – Sept. 8 vs. Southeastern Louisiana (Baton Rouge, La.)
The Lions from the FCS ranks were a middle-of-the-road Southland Conference team in 2017 posting a 6-5 record. Southeastern played Louisiana last season, giving the Ragin’ Cajuns a fight before eventually falling 51-48. Expect the same burst of enthusiasm from the in-state kids not offered by LSU, but also expect the Tigers to work on any part of the offense that was not gelling against Miami before facing Auburn.
Week 3 – Sept. 15 at Auburn (Auburn, Ala.)
The biggest win for LSU last season was a 27-23 takedown of then-No. 10 Auburn. Auburn would go on to win the SEC West, giving Orgeron a highlight victory in his first full season at the helm. Auburn will be ready for revenge. The last four games have been split with the winner being the home team.
Auburn starts the season in similar fashion as LSU. The Tigers take on Washington in Atlanta then return home for a tune-up game against FCS opponent Alabama State.
Week 4 – Sept. 22 vs. Louisiana Tech (Baton Rouge, La.)
Skip Holtz returns for his sixth season in Ruston ready to pull a “Troy” on the Tigers. The Bulldogs open with South Alabama and FCS opponent Southern before traveling to Death Valley. LSU knows full well to expect Louisiana Tech’s best shot.
In 2017, the Bulldogs were a tough team to figure out. They nearly knocked off South Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium (17-16) but then suffered losses to UAB, Southern Miss, North Texas and Florida Atlantic.
Week 5 – Sept. 29 vs. Ole Miss (Baton Rouge, La.)
The Rebels mark the start of a tough six-game run of conference matchups that the Tigers must navigate with a winning record. LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will be tested against an Ole Miss offense that could be one of the best in the nation. The Rebels get a breather after facing Alabama on Sept. 15 with a home game against Kent State before traveling to Tiger Stadium.
Since 2010, LSU has owned this series winning six of the eight meetings, including the last two by a combined 33 points. However, the Tigers should not take this Ole Miss offense for granted.
Week 6 – Oct. 6 at Florida (Gainesville, Fla.)
The Gators are another team LSU has enjoyed great success against in recent years, winning six of the last eight meetings. But, something is different in 2018. Florida has a new, yet familiar head coach in Dan Mullen. While LSU downed Florida 17-16 at home last season, the Tigers lost to Mullen and his Mississippi State Bulldogs 37-7 at Davis-Wade Stadium.
Mullen may be coming off an emotional game having faced MSU the week prior. This could be a letdown game for the Gators if they are not adequately prepared.
Week 7 – Oct. 13 vs. Georgia (Baton Rouge, La.)
LSU fans may want this one in theory, but be careful what you wish for. The Tigers roll off a downtrodden Tennessee team for one of the nation’s best in Georgia. After making the College Football Playoff in 2017, the Bulldogs are expected to win the SEC East again and contend for another shot at a national title.
Putting it lightly, Georgia’s 2018 schedule is easy with what might be entertaining early-season road games to South Carolina and Missouri. The game in Baton Rouge marks the Bulldogs’ toughest to this point and their first in front of a truly hostile crowd. A bye week for Georgia after facing LSU should keep the visitors focused.
Week 8 – Oct. 20 vs. Mississippi State (Baton Rouge, La.)
At this point in the season, new Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead may be questioning why he left a comfy position as Penn State’s offensive coordinator for the grueling task of being a SEC figure head. LSU catches MSU after the Bulldogs have faced Kentucky, Florida, and Auburn with Texas A&M waiting. By late October, the book should be out on Moorhead’s unknown offense giving Aranda’s defense an edge.
This is another must-win game for LSU, a revenge game at home, and a matchup that should secure a bowl berth if the Tigers haven’t picked up six victories already.
Week 10 – Nov. 3 vs. Alabama (Baton Rouge, La.)
This is the game LSU fans want to win every year and the matchup that will eventually define Orgeron’s success or failure in Baton Rouge. Although the series seems competitive, Alabama is in firm control of this rivalry, winning the past seven meetings including a 24-10 victory in Tuscaloosa last season.
Both squads will enter this one coming off of a bye week. Alabama will not be caught looking ahead with a return trip home the next week to face Mississippi State.
Week 11 – Nov. 10 at Arkansas (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Since 2007, the Battle for the Boot has been a back-and-forth affair with LSU holding a slim 6-5 edge thanks wins in each of the last two meetings. The difference this year, Arkansas has a new head coach in Chad Morris and a new defensive coordinator – former LSU DC John Chavis.
With this matchup capping a five-game homestand, the hope is that the Razorbacks will be bowl eligible at this point in the season. Regardless of the records, this is a gut-check, pride-on-the-line type of contest that could help produce a more appealing postseason destination for either team.
Week 12 – Nov. 17 vs. Rice (Baton Rouge, La.)
After eight challenging games, LSU finally gets a for-sure win game on the schedule. Rice struggled through a 1-11 year in 2017 with that lone victory coming against a winless UTEP squad.
Week 13 – Nov. 24 at Texas A&M (College Station, Texas)
The showdown against the Aggies could be one of the more intriguing games on LSU’s schedule. Kevin Sumlin is no longer on the A&M sidelines giving way to former Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher. LSU has a seven-game win streak against the Aggies, but Fisher could challenge that streak in 2018 with a pro-style look on offense and a new defensive coordinator in Mike Elko.
A&M hosts LSU for the regular-season finale at the end of a three-game homestand and after a breather against UAB.
— 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, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.