It seems like Les Miles has been on the hot seat in Baton Rouge for the last four years. In fact, Miles was very nearly fired towards the end of last season, but to the surprise of many he was allowed to stay (there are some that believe LSU had Jimbo Fisher lined up to be the next coach, but his contract plus the buyout of Miles would have cost the school way too much money). Miles enters 2016 with his seat as hot as it’s ever been. This year, anything short of an SEC and/or National Championship could finally cost Miles his job.
The player LSU fans will be counting on most this year is, of course, Leonard Fournette. Fournette entered last season widely regarded as the favorite for the Heisman Trophy after a stellar freshman year in 2014. Fournette backed up the hype for the first half of the season (including the highlight reel play where he flipped an Auburn player over him) but his production was sharply curtailed during the final five games of the season. He did, however, have a nice bounce back in the Texas Bowl against Texas Tech. For LSU to truly compete they need somebody to help Fournette carry the load. They need good quarterback play. They think they may have it in the form of Brandon Harris.
Harris was just a sophomore last year but he started all twelve of LSU’s games (it would have been 13 if the season opener against McNeese State had not been cancelled). Despite his inexperience he still managed to throw for 2,165 yards and 13 TDs. His accuracy and decision making were sometimes cause for concern as he only completed 54% of his passes and threw six interceptions. However, the LSU coaching staff is confident that, with a full year under his belt and all of the first team reps in the offseason, Harris can be an excellent complement to Fournette’s ability in the ground game.
LSU’s defense has long been its strength and this year looks to be no different. But they are now on their third defensive coordinator in three seasons. After John Chavis left for Texas A&M the Tigers hired Kevin Steele, but he is now the defensive coordinator at Auburn. Enter former Utah State and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Aranda arrives from Wisconsin having just coached the nation’s statistically second best defense last year. With this coaching acumen and the talent at his disposal, Aranda could be running the best defense in the country this season. The Tigers do lose safety Jalen Mills, but the secondary should be just fine with Jamal Adams and Tre’Davious White on the back end of the defense. Up front, guys like Lewis Neal, Davon Godchaux, and Tashawn Bower should be a stout front four while the linebacking corps of Donnie Alexander and Duke Ridley has to cope with the loss of Deion Jones to the NFL. However, Christian LaCouture could possibly be out for an extended time with a serious knee injury.
Looking at LSU’s schedule, an 11-win regular season is well within the realm of possibility. But many LSU fans feel that, with the talent they have, 11 or 12 wins should be within the realm of possibility every year. But since the National Championship loss to Alabama, LSU has not won 11 games in a season. There is a very large contingent of fans that feel Les Miles has vastly underachieved in the last four years. That’s why this year it’s championship or bust for LSU and Miles.
2016 LSU Schedule
9/3 – LSU vs. Wisconsin – Lambeau Field*
9/10 – LSU vs. Jacksonville State – Tiger Stadium
9/17 – LSU vs. Mississippi State – Tiger Stadium
9/24 – LSU @ Auburn – Jordan-Hare Stadium
10/1 – LSU vs. Missouri – Tiger Stadium
10/8 – LSU @ Florida – Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
10/15 – LSU vs. Southern Miss – Tiger Stadium
10/22 – LSU vs. Ole Miss – Tiger Stadium
11/5 – LSU vs. Alabama – Tiger Stadium
11/12 – LSU @ Arkansas – Donald W Reynolds Razorback Stadium
11/19 – LSU vs. South Alabama – Tiger Stadium
11/24 – LSU @ Texas A&M – Kyle Field
*denotes game being played at neutral site