Throughout August, we will be counting down the top 25 teams (as listed here) going into the 2009 season. Today, we venture deep into the bayou, where beads are like currency, Nick Saban is the enemy, and purple and yellow is an acceptable color combination at social gatherings.

First Impressions

Les Miles is the kind of guy that doubles-down on every single hand of blackjack.  If he wins, he celebrates like a teenager after his first beer buzz.  If he loses, well, then you don’t want to be the dealer.

Miles has brought this mentality to Baton Rouge — a bold, crazy, unpredictable confidence that’d make you feel more comfortable staring face-to-face with a real, actual tiger.  LSU thrives on riskiness, which makes the Tigers incredibly exciting to watch.  Miles has balls the size of watermelons.

And he’ll need them in 2009, with the usual dosage of hard-nosed SEC football on LSU’s schedule.  But if anyone can find a way to scrap together a few improbable wins and make a darkhorse title run, it is Miles.

Last Year

LSU was plagued by injuries at quarterback.  Andrew Hatch gave way to the Jarrett Lee Experiment, which turned into a tire fire burning out of control.  Likewise, LSU’s defense struggled at times, particularly against passing offenses, which had Sam Bradford-like time to throw the football.  You can’t win like this in the SEC where a top flight defense is paramount to success.

All told, it was an off year for a perennial power, as the Tigers closed the year at 8-5 after a crushing bowl victory over Georgia Tech.  After starting 2008 with a 4-0 record, LSU succumbed to Florida, then to Georgia, then to Alabama (in a heartbreaking OT game), then to Ole Miss, then to Arkansas.  But young players gain important experience against a brutal SEC schedule, and it should serve the Tigers well in 2009.

People

Jarrett Lee might not be at the bottom of the Mississippi right now, but he sure as hell won’t be playing quarterback after last season.  This year, that title belongs to sophomore Jordan Jefferson, who was too green in ’08 to make any serious impact.  Jefferson has looked solid this spring and figures to give LSU much more stability at QB in ’09.  Or at least they’d hope–the passing game was LSU’s biggest problem on offense last season.

As usual, skill positions won’t be a problem.  Jefferson’s target will be talented WR Brandon LaFell, arguably the best receiver in the country who finished just shy of 1,000 yards in 2008, probably due to tenuous quarterbacking issues.  Charles Scott returns at RB fresh off an 1,123 yard campaign last season.  With monster linemen like Ciron Black leading the way, Scott should have an even better year in 2009.

Defensively, LSU is as stacked as ever with quick, solid defenders at just about every position.  Names like Perry Riley, Rahim Alem, Drake Nevis, Harry Coleman and Patrick Peterson are ones for which you should listen.  This unit has crippling potential, and should be a force all season long.

This Year

Though the Tigers play their normal brand of creampuffs throughout September, the schedule toughens up in a hurry with a trip to Georgia (a Solid Verbal sleeper) on October 3th and a major test against Florida a week later.  The Tigers must also travel to Tuscaloosa and Oxford before the year is through.  The SEC West looms large in the BCS Title hunt, and if LSU can emerge from this gruesome road schedule with two wins, it should feel good about its chances of playing for an SEC crown.

Conclusions

It feels like there are four potential losses on LSU’s 2009 schedule (all of which are mentioned above).  Figure on losses to three of those four teams, but all in all, a much improved team from last season.

Prediction

9-3

Highlights Set To NSFW Tupac Music:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8rqs88RucE

–Ty