2011 Football Predictions: LSU

Can the LSU Tigers win a national title with Jordan Jefferson under center?

Can the LSU Tigers win a national title with Jordan Jefferson under center?

For the 45th year in a row, Athlon Sports will release its in-depth preseason preview annual complete with coaching changes, behind the scenes features, scouting reports from within the locker room, pages of recruiting rankings, and most importantly, in-depth predictions and previews.

Each year, we order some pizza and lock ourselves in a room until all 120 teams have been hammered into place. And every year, there are some seriously heated discussions that result in not-so-cordial commentary.

The 2011 preseason top-25 countdown will begin with No. 25 on Monday May 2. But every day until then, we will offer the college football fan a peek behind the curtain at some of the most heated debates that we the editors at Athlon had to work through.

Check out all the debates linked below.

The Debate: Can LSU win a National Championship with Jordan Jefferson under center?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I don't think so. There is a lot to like about this LSU team, but I think it will be very difficult for the Tigers to win it all with Jefferson as the starting quarterback. He has played well at times — especially the end of last season — but we haven't seen enough consistency out of him during his time as the starter to suggest he is capable of playing well enough throughout the entire season to lead a team to the national title. Zach Mettenberger is unproven, but in the long run he might be the better option at quarterback for Les Miles' club.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Absolutely — if Nick Saban was still the head coach in Baton Rouge. In all seriousness, there are at most three or four rosters in the nation better than the Bayou Bengals. And Jefferson did finally show some improvement at the end of 2010 as a passer. Yet, he will have to continue to make strides just to keep the starting job, much less win any sort of championship. He is very effective in the power running game, which should be excellent this season with Spencer Ware and Michael Ford. But can he rally his team down 14 in the fourth quarter? Can he convert on a key 3rd and 15 when his team desperately needs him to make a big play? The answer is no — especially with the grass-eating man in charge.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
LSU's Jordan Jefferson did have a subpar year in 2010, but he was a solid signal-caller in 2009 with 17 touchdowns against seven interceptions. The Tigers' formula for winning tends to be a quality running game and tough defense, and they went 11–2 last year even with Jefferson struggling. Les Miles' bunch has the talent to win the national title in 2011, but their schedule looks too difficult to take the crown. Besides having to navigate through the toughest division and conference in college football, LSU also plays Oregon, the likely Pac-12 champion, and travels to West Virginia — the likely Big East champion. Even if Jefferson plays better under new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe, I just don't see them going through the SEC West, Florida and the non-conference slate without a couple of losses.

Nathan Rush
I love Les Miles, but unless an opposing rookie coach sends 13 men onto the field with the game on the line, or LSU can convert fake field goals off the bounce pass, there will be no BCS national title run to New Orleans. It’s an oxymoron — the Bayou Bengals are loaded with talent but lack star power, and the leadership that comes with it. Entering the season, there are no obvious Glenn Dorseys (although true freshman Anthony “Freak” Johnson is scary) or JaMarcus Russells (although Georgia reject and JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger weighs in at 6’5”, 250) or Patrick Petersons (although the secondary is stacked with Mo Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu). Unfortunately, the burden falls on the inconsistent Jordan Jefferson — who went from throwing 17 TDs and seven INTs in 2009, to just seven TDs and 10 INTs in ’10. I think LSU overachieved last season and lacks the mature talent to win it all this year. I’m picking Oregon in the opener at Cowboys Stadium on Sept. 3.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Anything is possible. LSU did win the national championship with two losses and pulled out some crazy victories last year. However, I’m going to say LSU won’t win the national championship with Jordan Jefferson under center next season. Jefferson did play better in the final weeks of last year, but quarterback isn’t LSU’s only concern. The Tigers need to replace Drake Nevis at tackle and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. Kicker Josh Jasper is a huge loss too, considering how many close games LSU will be involved in. I know Les Miles has recruited well, so there’s plenty of talent waiting in the wings, but the concerns about Jefferson and road dates at West Virginia, Alabama and Mississippi State won’t be easy to overcome. Even if the Tigers miss out on the national title, they still have to be a strong candidate for one of the at-large BCS spots.

Debate: Who is the top challenger Oklahoma in the Big 12? 

Debate: What will Nebraska's conference record be in the Big Ten?

Debate: Will the Oregon Ducks repeat as Pac-12 Champions?

Debate: Who will win the SEC East in 2011?

Debate: Who is the top challenger to West Virginia in the Big East?

Debate: What is Ohio State's record after five games in 2011?

Debate: Who is the first-team All-Big 12 quarterback this year?

Debate: Who will finish second in the ACC Atlantic?

Debate: How far will Auburn fall in 2011?

Pre-order your team’s Athlon Sports cover here (athlonsports.com/store) and find out where Athlon has your team picked when the 2011 Top 25 countdown begins on Monday, May 2.

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