Must-Win Games for the LSU Tigers in 2015

A breakdown of LSU’s football schedule this season

LSU enters the 2015 season ranked No. 15 in the nation by Athlon Sports with a lot of question marks on both sides of the ball. Beyond the amount of returning starters and gifted players stretched across the roster, LSU has a very favorable schedule all things considered, which could make them a contender to reach the College Football Playoff this season.


Related: Why LSU Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

The Tigers will take the field with one of the best running backs in the nation in sophomore Leonard Fournette. Three starting offensive linemen return along with a highly underrated receiving unit, which should help win tight games. On defense the Tigers are strong up the middle on the line and at linebacker, and also in the secondary, leaving just a couple of holes that need to be filled. If some consistency is found under center and at outside linebacker – watch out for the Tigers in 2015.

 

LSU will have to gel quickly after getting a warm-up game against McNeese State before traveling to Starkville to face a potentially dangerous Mississippi State team. Being just the second game of the season, head coach Les Miles must keep his team focused on the goal at hand and not allow the Tigers to overlook the Bulldogs with a Week 3 home date against Auburn looming.

 

The other Tigers in the SEC West will be no picnic but getting them early in the season helps. One negative against LSU in this matchup: Auburn opens against Louisville but then gets Jacksonville State in Week 2 to make any necessary adjustments before jumping into a conference play.

 

The next five games on LSU’s schedule are all winnable games; at Syracuse, vs. Eastern Michigan, at South Carolina, vs. Florida, and vs. Western Kentucky. Game 9 starts what could upend a 7-1 or 6-2 potential season in SEC play. The Tigers travel to Alabama, host Arkansas, travel to Ole Miss, and then return home to face Texas A&M.

 

Gearing up for Alabama has never been a problem for LSU, especially under Les Miles. What favors LSU in this matchup this time around is Bama’s schedule prior to facing LSU. Alabama’s schedule is brutal in October starting with a road trip to Georgia, and followed by games against Arkansas (home), Texas A&M (road), and Tennessee (home). The Crimson Tide could be a battered and worn out wave of exhausted players by Nov. 7.

 

Even if Arkansas has faltered and fallen below expectations by Nov. 14, the Hogs always play better in the second half of the season under head coach Bret Bielema. LSU will not take the Razorbacks lightly this season after being blanked 17-0 last year in Fayetteville.

 

Arkansas will be in the middle of a difficult month by the time the Razorbacks come to Baton Rouge. A date with Ole Miss precedes LSU, and is followed by back-to-back home games against Mississippi State and Missouri. The Tigers just might catch the Hogs at the right time.

Last season Ole Miss jumped out to a 7-0 record but then injuries and a lack of depth started to take their toll. LSU stopped the Rebels' winning streak at seven games in Death Valley. The Rebels will be out for revenge in 2015 but face a lot of questions on offense that will have to be answered before Nov. 21 if this team is to be taken seriously.

LSU gets lucky again, if possible, with the placement of the Ole Miss game. Game 3 of the Rebels’ season starts at Alabama, followed by Vanderbilt, at Florida, vs. New Mexico State, at Memphis, home against Texas A&M, at Auburn, host Arkansas, and then LSU. Ole Miss has a bye before facing LSU but that bye comes on the heels of an eight-game stretch, seven of which should be tough contests.

 

The final game of the regular season welcomes back the one-time beloved, but now surely to be hated, John Chavis. Chavis was in Baton Rouge for six seasons helping LSU get to the 2011 BCS National Championship Game as the team’s defensive coordinator.

 

If anyone knows how to defend a Les Miles team, other than Nick Saban, Chavis would be the man. The big question is how quickly will the Aggies defense respond to Chavis’ way of doing things on the field?

 

The Aggies have a great passing attack but then again LSU is “DBU.” A&M has trouble running the ball, which could play into the Tigers’ hands.

 

Of all the SEC West squads Texas A&M may have it the easiest with a very home-friendly schedule. The contest in Tiger Stadium on Nov. 28 will be just the third time the Aggies will have left the state of Texas in 2015. The one positive for LSU is this game is on the backside of a two-game road trip for the Aggies, with game one being at Vanderbilt.

 

The Strategy

If LSU can upset preseason ranked No. 4 Auburn, the other Tigers team will have a full head of steam entering their road contest against Alabama. Arkansas might be Miles and company's last tough game of the season depending on how Ole Miss shapes up on offense.

 

A 10-2 season could very easily be had, which could be good enough to tie for first place in the SEC West.

 

LSU gets South Carolina and Florida in crossover play, in what should be down years for both programs, and avoids preseason SEC East favorite Georgia and an upstart Tennessee team during the regular season. Georgia is a mirror image team of LSU with inexperience under center, a potential All-American at tailback, and an All-SEC-caliber offensive line. The other similarity is a great secondary.

 

Should the two teams get to square off in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game, talk about a matchup for the ages, getting to watch Nick Chubb and Leonard Fournette take turns working their magic.

 

The Outcome

Oddly, LSU is projected to go 4-4 in SEC play but only three teams are ranked ahead of them in the preseason poll. Swap Arkansas for Ole Miss, leaving the must-win games as the Alabama and Auburn matchups or at minimum a split for any shot at getting into the College Football Playoff.

 

This Tigers’ team could be 10-2 on the high end, 9-3 in the middle, or 8-4 as projected by season’s end. Everything depends on the play under center and how new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele works the outside of his front seven.

 

— 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. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

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