It's not too early for LSU to look ahead to its 2020 opponents
The seniors and early entrants into the NFL Draft from LSU’s national championship team have moved on. Many were in Indianapolis this past weekend getting measured and weighed and interviewed at the NFL Combine.
The players who will comprise the 2020 Tigers begin spring practice next weekend.
The opponents on LSU’s fall schedule also have turned the page from last season and positioned themselves to begin preparation for next season.
This is the time off year that head coaches look ahead to the schedule to find the most challenging teams, those with the least familiar schemes and those with new head coaches or coordinators.
That’s because now is the time that the coaching staff can get a head-start on fall opponents that might require additional preparation beyond what can be handled in a game week.
Here’s an early look at what awaits the defending national champions in the fall.
Sept. 5 vs. UTSA
LSU coach Ed Orgeron might have had a pretty good idea of what to expect from former Tigers assistant Frank Wilson, but he was fired as head coach in December after 4 seasons and replaced by Jeff Traylor.
It might be hard to anticipate what Traylor will run because he’s never been a college head coach before, but Orgeron and his staff aren’t going to spend any extra time on the Roadrunners.
Sept. 12 vs. Texas
Bo Pelini is beginning his 2nd stint as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator and he’s busy making the transition from Dave Aranda’s system to his own in time for the start of spring practice.
He’ll try to find time to also look at what the Longhorns did to Aranda’s defense last September – 530 total yards and 31 2nd-half points – and get a head-start on what his defense can do to slow down Sam Ehlinger and the Texas offense.
Sept. 19 at Rice
It’s rare that LSU plays a non-Power 5 opponent on the road, but Houston is a major stop on the recruiting trail for the Tigers.
If Orgeron and his staff spend any offseason time thinking about this game it will be to map out a game plan for recruits in the area.
Sept. 26 vs. Ole Miss
The Rebels have a new coach in Lane Kiffin, but Orgeron should have a pretty good handle on what to expect from him. Orgeron was an assistant under Kiffin at USC before Kiffin was fired and Orgeron was named interim head coach during the 2013 season.
Orgeron and Pelini should be relieved that they don’t have to prepare for another dose of former offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez’s offense after the Rebels gained 614 yards and put up 30 2nd-half points last season.
Oct. 3 vs. Nicholls
The Colonels have a very good FCS program, but coach Tim Rebowe’s team won’t be able to sneak up on the Tigers since their campus is a mere 70 miles south of LSU’s.
Oct. 10 at Florida
There shouldn’t be many unknowns with the Gators as head coach Dan Mullen enters his 3rd season. But Orgeron is just 1-1 against Mullen at Florida and 2-2 against the Gators overall.
Oct. 17 at Arkansas
The Razorbacks have a new head coach in former Georgia associate head coach Sam Pittman, so the Tigers can look at recent Bulldogs team for a hint of what to expect.
But until Pittman is able to string together some recruiting classes like the ones Kirby Smart has had at Georgia, Arkansas isn’t going to command much offseason attention.
Oct. 24 vs. Mississippi State
Orgeron knows what to expect from first-year head coach Mike Leach because Orgeron’s time at USC came during Leach’s tenure as head coach at Washington State.
Still the Tigers might want to brush up on Leach because he brings an approach different from what the Bulldogs have traditionally done.
Nov. 7 vs. Alabama
Everyone knows what to expect from Nick Saban’s team, which will be coming off a loss to LSU for the first time since the BCS Championship Game after the 2011 season.
Nov. 14 vs. South Carolina
The Gamecocks have a new offensive coordinator in former Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo.
Head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson are both entering their 5th seasons, but the Tigers haven’t played South Carolina since the season before they arrived (2015).
Nov. 21 at Auburn
The whole SEC is curious to see what head coach Gus Malzahn and new offensive coordinator Chad Morris come up with.
LSU will have lots of film to refer to during game week as it plays Auburn much later than normal, thanks to the SEC moving up the Georgia-Auburn game.
Nov. 28 at Texas A&M
Little has changed with the Aggies as Jimbo Fisher enters his 3rd season with the same coordinators (Darrell Dickey and Mike Elko) and quarterback (Kellen Mond) that he began his tenure with.