LSU’s 2018 football schedule loaded with challenges
In between sips of your favorite libation while awaiting the parade to arrive, I bet you might have been a part of the talk along the parade route about how the LSU Tigers may fare for the upcoming football season.
My response to the question duplicates my mom’s answer to a question I may have had an a adolescent.
No one really knows since it’s too early in the process that is the offseason. Spring practice pads have not been sized up to fit just yet and the ink is hardly dry on scholarship papers signed by 2018 recruits.
Something is glaringly obvious though. On paper, the 2018 schedule for LSU is daunting to say the least. Upcoming opponents went 90-63 collectively last season.
First up, the Miami Hurricanes will take on the Tigers in Arlington, Texas. Mark Richt enters his third campaign at the helm of a team that returns most of a defense that helped the ‘Canes record a 10-3 mark. Senior quarterback Malik Rosier also comes back for the ‘Canes.
LSU then has the home opener against new head coach Frank Scelfo and the Southeastern Lions, an FCS squad in transition off of a 6-5 finish last fall.
A trip to the plains at Auburn follows for a tough SEC opener. Gus Malzahn will have a score to settle after completing the 2017 season at 10-4, but knowing that he let one slip away in Baton Rouge last year.
Junior quarterback Jarret Stidham is once again at the helm after ending up second in the SEC in passing with 3,158 yards, 18 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. The Auburn offense was rated second best in the SEC, producing 34 points and 454 yards per game. However, Kerryon Johnson and his nearly 1,400 yards rushing must be replaced.
Back-to-back weeks in Tiger Stadium include La. Tech under coach Skip Holtz and Ole Miss , 7-6 and 6-6 respectively last season. The Rebels will return shifty running back Jordan Wilkins with his 1,011 rushing yards (6.5 yards per tote) and nine scores. Ole Miss was potent on offense with 462 yards per game.
Florida will once again host the Tigers in The Swamp, but this time with a old face in a new place. The Gators are now led by Dan Mullen who put a whipping on LSU as head coach of Mississippi State last season. He has better players than he did in Starkville and the Gator fans are still stinging after a 4-7 finish under Jim McElwain. Last season, the Tigers won 17-16 in Gainesville.
The next three are at home. SEC champion Georgia (13-2 record), the aforementioned Mississippi State (9-4) and national champ Alabama (13-1) come to Baton Rouge in a row. Nick Saban will visit with another national title trophy on his mantle and perhaps a dynamic new starting quarterback, sophomore Tua Tagovailoa.
Georgia will have Jake Fromm at the throttle. As a true freshman, he showed lots of moxie by leading the Dawgs to the national title game, passing for 2,615 yards, 24 touchdowns and just seven picks. The Bulldogs managed just under 35 points and 433.6 yards each time out.
New head coach Joe Moorhead was offensive coordinator at Penn State. He will have plenty of talent to mold in Starkville.
Mississippi State returns an offense with some firepower. With Nick Fitzgerald’s return for his senior campaign, the Bulldogs will have a dynamic dual threat with experience. The 6-foot-5, 230 pounder can also hand off to the SEC’s second leading returning rusher, Aeris Williams, who tallied 1,019 yards and 5 scores.
A 2017 true freshman, Keytoan Thompson, is good insurance in case Fitzgerald does not bounce back fully from injury. The Landry-Walker High alum did an outstanding job in the bowl win with Fitzgerald out.
Defensive end Montez Sweat (6-6, 241) is a dangerous speed rusher who had 11 sacks last year.
Enough said about the Crimson Tide with 465 yards each game and 39 points to match their always stout defense. Besides the play at QB with Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts (they’ll sort that out), speed runner Damien Harris returns with his 906 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Tigers then travel to Arkansas where another new coach awaits. Chad Morris is now at the helm replacing Bret Bielema after posting a 4-8 mark preceded by 29-35 mark during the past five seasons.
Rice visits Tiger Stadium with 41-year old Mike Bloomgren as their new coach. He is coming from Stanford where he was the offensive coordinator the past four seasons. The Owls were 1-11 under Dave Bailiff last fall.
The season finale is a matchup with Jimbo Fisher and the Texas A&M Aggies. A 7-6 record last year got Kevin Sumlin fired.
A&M has senior edge rusher Landon Durham and his 11 sacks last season back but theur must improve dramatically on defense to better their record. Fisher will surely have the offense in good condition.
Before you say that I ruined your day with these facts, remember the unpredictability of college football. To illustrate the strange twists and topsey turns each week, who would have envisioned LSU’s win at Florida on the road last season with the anger and anticipation McElwain spewed out awaiting the stumbling Tigers’ arrival. And then LSU’s huge comeback to overtake Auburn was no easy task. Of course, no one thought the Tigers would lose to Troy and be manhandled by Mississippi State either.
To cite other examples, when Alabama and Florida State squared off in the season opener in Atlanta, many predicted that this game might be a forerunner to a college football playoff rematch. Well, the Seminoles went into a free fall after losing their sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois and limped to a 6-6 finish. If that does not happen, does Fisher end up in College Station?
No one could foresee UCF’s undefeated romp under second year coach Scott Frost. The Knights were 6-19 the previous two seasons.
Who could predict a couple of years ago that a former walk on QB would walk off the college football’s highest prize, the Heisman Trophy? Well, Baker Mayfield happened.
Yes, the 2018 schedule for LSU is challenging to say the least, but the individuals who will determine the College Football National polls are very aware of the Murderer’s Row schedule awaiting the Tigers. If they rack up the wins, the Purple and Gold will be recognized and rewarded for their efforts.
Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…