The SDS Crystal Ball: Predicting every game for LSU football in 2022

Editor’s note: Saturday Down South’s annual Crystal Ball series continues today with LSU. We’ll stay with the SEC West all week. Next week, we’ll predict every game for every SEC East team.

If you called the way LSU’s 2021 season would play out, congrats. Go buy a Power Ball ticket while you’re at it.

I’d call it a mess, but that seems too kind. “Disastrous” seems too harsh considering that LSU still reached a bowl game. Texas and USC reminded us that bowl games aren’t a given, no matter how much talent is on the roster.

Ed Orgeron’s midseason firing became obvious after the Kentucky loss. Strange, however, was Scott Woodward waiting until LSU responded with a bounce-back win against Florida to announce the move. Orgeron collected a whopping $18 million to walk away 2 years after winning a national title for the ages.

In stepped Brian Kelly, just as nobody predicted.

A 9-figure deal, a couple of viral dancing videos and one bad attempt at a Southern accent later, Kelly settled into Baton Rouge. He went heavy on the transfer portal after losing 10 players to the NFL Draft. What that means for 2022 remains to be seen.

As it stands, LSU is coming off its 2 worst seasons of the 21st century. The Tigers were unranked in the preseason AP Top 25 for the first time since 2000. Meanwhile, 4 other SEC West teams earned a spot in the preseason AP Top 25.

What’s next? I’d be lying if I said I know exactly the way 2022 will play out.

And if I nail it, well, time to go buy that Power Ball ticket.

LSU’s quarterback options are surprisingly plentiful even without Myles Brennan

We got news in the middle of fall camp that instead of Year 6, Brennan’s football days are over. Of course, it’s worth noting that Brennan’s announcement came on the heels of reports out of camp that he was clearly behind Garrett Nussmeier and Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels. Brennan’s retirement certainly hurt from a depth standpoint, which seems important with LSU’s questions on the offensive line.

But the good news is that Brennan bummer aside, Kelly has 3 potential options. Daniels is a multi-year Power 5 starter, Nussmeier is entering Year 2 and Walker Howard is a blue-chip true freshman. Ideally, Howard redshirts in 2022 and never serves as the primary backup. In Kelly’s perfect scenario, either Daniels or Nussmeier starts every game. The latter earned rave reviews throughout the entire offseason, so even if Daniels starts and can’t hold onto the job, there’s a place for Kelly to turn that isn’t a true freshman.

Kelly’s move to add Daniels proved to be a smart one. The counterpoint to that would be, well, did Brennan retire as a result of Daniels’ emergence and being third-string? That’s possible, too. But Kelly made sure that he’d have at least 2 SEC-ready options available with a true freshman in a redshirt year. There was no guarantee that Nussmeier or Brennan were gonna stay on board, and Kelly’s first viral dancing video was confirming Howard’s commitment.

Life at quarterback could be a whole lot worse behind center.

Is it too much to ask for a full season of peak-Kayshon Boutte?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. All I know is that I’m worried about getting a full season of the stud LSU receiver.

Why?

Let’s recap. Since Boutte last played in a game, he:

  • A) Had 2 ankle surgeries
  • B) Nearly entered the transfer portal until an NIL deal kept him at LSU
  • C) Had his new coach say in spring that he “learned his last name”
  • D) Lost the quarterback who force-fed him targets
  • E) All the above

It’s “E.” It’s always “E.”

It’s fitting that LSU’s best returning player has so many question marks. Boutte is getting 1st round NFL Draft love in the way-too-early mocks, and with good reason. He’s that good. In his past 9 games, Boutte racked up 65 catches, 1,036 yards and 13 touchdowns. He can dominate 1-on-1 matchups all over the field, and he’s elusive enough to make people miss in space.

There’s no denying that if he’s on the field, he’s got all the potential to be the best receiver in the sport. I just worry about those potential landmines that could blow up Boutte’s pre-draft season.

The transfer portal overhaul will yield ___________.

“A higher floor than it would’ve previously been.”

Is that a lukewarm take? Yeah. Big time. It’s also the only outcome I feel strongly about. It’s strange that we’re entering a world in which a new coach can bring in 10 transfers from the Power 5 level. That’s what Kelly did. That’s what he had to do if he wanted any chance of keeping his head above water against the toughest division in the sport.

What remains to be seen is how well that’ll translate. Will a defensive backfield loaded with new Power 5 pieces gel? Will someone like Noah Cain, who struggled to take off in Penn State’s offense, become a star in his new surroundings? And of course, Daniels is the biggest unknown. Talk to 10 people about him and you might get 10 different answers. We don’t know how much Daniels will have a say in LSU’s 2022 campaign.

But even with all of those unknowns, being active in the portal was an obvious move for Kelly, who will run a program differently than the previous regime. There was no guarantee that underclassmen who stayed would be fully on board at the midseason point. There’s at least a higher chance that Kelly’s hand-picked transfers are sold on his vision.

Kelly needs veterans like BJ Ojulari and Garrett Dellinger to be the steadying presence in a group that’s full of moving pieces. If not, the margin for error in the SEC West has never been slimmer.

Game-by-game predictions

Week 1: vs. Florida State in New Orleans (W)

Ugly. Look beyond the names on the front of the jersey. We’ve got a pair of teams that just wrapped up losing seasons. One has a coach trying to show he’s the long-term guy while the other has a first-year coach trying to figure out his own roster. I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of points (FSU ranks No. 2 nationally in percentage of returning defensive production). But I can’t close my eyes and picture LSU losing in New Orleans. A late field goal gives LSU a 17-14 victory to start the Kelly era.

Week 2: vs. Southern (W)

The over/under is 2.5 LSU quarterbacks we’ll see in this one. I’ll take the “over.” After an offensive line in flux endures a humbling Week 1 against FSU, a bounce-back week is in order. Cain and John Emery Jr. both spend some time in the end zone in a blowout win.

Week 3: vs. Mississippi State (L)

On one hand, LSU’s first SEC game of the Kelly era should yield a raucous atmosphere. Ojulari and Ali Gaye should have a nice advantage off the edge, too. But Will Rogers, similar to his showing at Auburn last year, puts on his cape and leads MSU back after a slow start. MSU’s stuffs LSU’s ground game, forcing a slew of 3-and-outs late. A 2-touchdown LSU lead turns into a frustrating reminder for the home crowd that it’ll take 60 minutes to win any SEC West game in 2022.

Week 4: vs. New Mexico (W)

It’s strange that it fell on the schedule this way, but a week after facing Zach Arnett’s defense, LSU will face his mentor, Rocky Long. He runs New Mexico’s defense with that base 3-3-5. In other words, LSU should be seeing a less talented version of the defensive scheme it faced a week prior. That leads to a comfortable bounce-back win.

Week 5: at Auburn (W)

I’m old enough to remember when the road team never won the Tiger Bowl. Then 2018 happened. Then 2021 happened. Now, I can’t use that as my basis for predicting this game. I’ll instead say that against a team with a quarterback who can evade pressure, Auburn’s secondary struggles for the first time all year. Auburn’s attempt to match up Derick Hall on true freshman left tackle Will Campbell doesn’t work out the way Auburn DC Jeff Schmedding hopes and LSU avenges last year’s Tiger Bowl collapse.

Week 6: vs. Tennessee (W)

Will we get a showdown like their 2005 game? It’s certainly possible, though I wouldn’t bank on it being a matchup of top-10 teams. But 2 teams fresh off emotional victories over rivals both look sloppy. Both quarterbacks get picked off early and turn to their legs to get their respective offenses going. What’s the difference? Or rather, who’s the difference? Boutte. Tennessee can’t stay with him in the second half. He explodes for a 200-yard game and LSU squeaks out a wild 35-31 victory.

Week 7: at Florida (L)

If this game were in Week 2, I’d be tempted to say that LSU’s edge rushers would force Anthony Richardson into some bad decisions, similar to what we saw last year. But by late-October, I expect to see a more developed version of Richardson. LSU struggles to get off the field against Montrell Johnson and the Florida rushing attack. Playing behind forces the LSU offense out of the balanced game plan it prefers, which leads to a pair of costly second-half turnovers. LSU continues its theme of losing immediately after entering the Top 25.

Week 8: vs. Ole Miss (L)

A brutal 4-week stretch for LSU’s run defense ends with a date against Zach Evans, Ulysses Bentley and that prolific Ole Miss ground game. The depth in the front 7 is tested, and Lane Kiffin recognizes that his experienced offensive line has the advantage up front. Ole Miss follows the game plan Florida executed the previous week against LSU. The state of Mississippi hands Kelly a Baton Rouge sweep in Year 1.

Week 9: Bye

Week 10: vs. Alabama (L)

After the way last year played out, there’s part of me that wants to throw logic out the window with this matchup. On paper, both teams are going to have an extremely difficult time protecting their quarterbacks with how well they rush the passer. The problem is that one team has Bryce Young, and one team doesn’t. Bama’s Heisman QB is going to pick apart a secondary with transfer portal additions galore. This ends up being Jermaine Burton’s best game at Alabama. It also ends up stinging a bit more when an LSU comeback bid is halted by an Eli Ricks pick-6.

Week 11: at Arkansas (L)

What will LSU look like by the time November rolls around? Will it have the same starting quarterback? Will Boutte still be making plays? Will a new-look defense with multiple Arkansas transfers have its footing? I can’t answer these questions. I can, however, put some faith in KJ Jefferson to test that secondary over the top with Xavier Thompson and Matt Landers. It won’t turn into a 40-pass day against LSU’s impressive edge duo, but the splash plays will fuel Arkansas and keep those New Year’s 6 bowl hopes alive while LSU clinches a losing record in SEC play.

Week 12: vs. UAB (W)

Six weeks removed from its last victory, LSU finally gets back into the win column in a big way. Brian Thomas and Jack Bech both go off in a much-needed blowout victory to clinch bowl eligibility.

Week 13: at Texas A&M (W)

I get the feeling that an LSU team with nothing to lose will play with its hair on fire in College Station. I don’t know who’ll be starting at quarterback for either side. But this is a game where LSU’s pass-catchers shine. Malik Nabers and Thomas put pressure on the A&M secondary, which doesn’t get a whole lot of help from its young defensive line. Instead of the Aggies winning and having a chance at a New Year’s 6 bowl, LSU pulls off the upset for the second consecutive year.

2022 projection: 7-5 (3-5), 6th in SEC West

#GeauxTigers

If you have a take about Kelly, chances are, you’ll have a chance to be proven right. An up and down Year 1 could still provide more entertainment and optimism that we’ve seen in Baton Rouge since that 2019 squad stepped off the field. That’s the good news.

Finishing with a losing record in SEC play and being all the way down at No. 6 in the West by virtue of tiebreakers looks worse than it is. If LSU beat the likes of Tennessee, A&M, Florida State and Auburn, there would be plenty of bright moments in 2022. It’s just so hard to forecast how this team will grow.

I have concerns about an LSU defense dealing with its 4th defensive coordinator in as many years. I worry about what the secondary will look like when that the front 7 can’t get pressure on the quarterback. I have doubts about an offensive line that, as some have noted, seems to have questions at every position outside of left tackle, which will be occupied by a true freshman. And with a Year 1 coach like Kelly, I believe it’s fair to wonder how guys will respond if LSU falls out of the West race in October.

There’s no more unpredictable team in college football than the one in Baton Rouge. For all I know, they’re on their way to making this prediction look foolish and Kelly will lead a talented team to a New Year’s 6 Bowl. Alternatively, it could be more of the same with a roster that still looks like it has major issues in the trenches.

My guess? LSU’s post-2019 whirlwind hasn’t stopped spinning just yet.

View Comments

  • If they lose 4 in a row at any point, they'll be burning effigies of Kelly on the streets in Redstick.

    • I think it's extremely possible. However, they might beat Ole Miss so maybe they don't lose all 4 in a row. But 7-5 is what I predict too. They're either losing to Ole Miss or TAMU.

      • I believe Ole Miss and Texas A&M will beat LSU. The Florida game is where I see a win. I am confused why Texas A&M which is ranked very high and would take a loss. On the other hand, Florida which isn't ranked very high would get a win. LSU has to go to Texas A&M and Florida. Is Florida special and Texas A&M isn't?

  • lsu and a&m may be the two hardest teams to call, but i'll take 9-3. losses to aub, uf and bama. the magnolia state has been playing some good ball, but i can't get behind a sweep....especially with both games in br.

    • What I'm starting to see, especially with SDS, is Florida is getting treated like Tennessee now with expectations and predictions.

      Lots of media outlets of been boasting Tennessee is back every year since 2008. Regardless of the previous season; they will get the benefit of the doubt on the pure hope that they are back to their 'normal' selves.

      Florida is getting dangerously close to falling into the Tennessee hype train that's been going on since 2008.

      Florida has now had 3 losing seasons since 2013.
      Tennessee has now had 6 losing seasons since 2008.

      Predicting Florida to beat a team that had their first losing season since 1999 is extremely presumptuous and feels very like they are starting to get on the same hype train Tennessee has been on since 2008. "This year they are back to normal".

      I'll trust history a lot more and there's absolutely no chance they only go 7-5.

      • There’s no hype for Florida. We are unranked, predicted to win only 6 or 7 games.
        But this prediction of LSU losing in the Swamp is spot on

      • Insanity post. lol The reason they are saying TN is back is the offensive stats. TN never had stats that good and considering it's under the coaching of a recognized offensive guru. Something TN never had before.. TN's offense is here to stay, accept it.. As of now, UF has no offense even in the same realm as TN. Huge difference.

        • "UF has no offense even in the same realm as TN. Huge difference."

          Well you either go by last years results where our O scored at will and boat raced you.
          Or you go with hope and prayer that this year is different.
          Hope and prayer for you

        • Gwhite...

          psst, your boy has 1 year under his belt. We weren't good last year and it was not close. What was the score in 2020? Was our offense good then?

        • LOL....where are these guys coming from? I hear 7-5 and this 4th place SEC. That guy Red and Garnett from South Cacky says last place in the East.

          Lots of receipts on SDS posted...we will see.

      • Vehemon...you know we are picked 4th in the East, right? Also check out our record with 1st year coaches in that same period...after losing seasons.

        • I'm waiting to see what SDS says for season with their Florida breakdown. Just thought it funny how they described how LSU was going to lose to Florida

      • Notice the hype rain is the media,, I as a lifelong Vol know we are a long ways off.. Defense still wins and until we improve dramatically,, out scoring teams will be the order!!! A hurry up offense that doesn’t click places further stress!! I want to see better click management,, hurry up is hard to defend ,, but presents other problems too

      • There is a key difference between Tennessee and Florida during this time. Following a bad year/coaching change there is an immediate uptick in performance and wins. McElwain teams lacked scheme and Strength and conditioning, Mullen fixed that but then lost discipline and did improve recruiting. Led to NY6 bowl. To this point it appears Napier has made improvements on discipline and recruiting. If he has any maintains a schematic advantage and those improvements are true then there's reason for optimism for a 8+ win season.

        • Wasn’t the biggest knock on Mullen that he couldn’t recruit. It would stand to reason if this is true that UF will need a few years to build the talent level back up. I think there is too much emphasis on Richardsons potential and not much on the talent around him.

        • The talent level went up with Mullen. The issue was the type of players we recruited on defense. A lot of Tweener types that were just athletes with no clear position.

        • Not saying there's a huge comparison between the two. But it seems Florida is getting close to the dangerous bad coaching hires like Tennessee.

      • You should have said "since 2008" a few more times in the same post. Goodness. Regarding TN, it's hard to agree they are over hyped when they are not ranked. A team that is over hyped is Tex AM. They finished last year unranked and lost several key players from that team. Yes, they recruited well this past year, but that's irrelevant regarding rankings for this pre-season. Absolutely no way they should be in the top 10, maybe even the top 15. That's overhyped.

  • lol.. Connor is back on A&M losing every game.

    I mean come on, you don't break a 4 game SEC losing streak by traveling to Kyle Field.

    I think LSU beats Arkansas and Miss State, but they lose in Kyle field. The rest of what Connor put I can see, but there might be a lot riding on the week 1 game.

    • Coincidentally LSU lost 5 of the last 6 SEC games before beating ATM last year. Not sure that it being at Kyle Field will make that much of a difference this year. But you should feel good that the Aggies will be trying (and failing) again to break that 8-win regular season ceiling that has lingered over your heads since 2013.

        • Nobody disregards 2020. It was a rough go for most teams. But 2020 has been the ceiling, and still getting nowhere.
          2023 playoff bid may come down to the Aggies and LSU.

        • 2020 still fits that stat. Even with you guys being highly ranked in a season peppered with asterisks and opt-outs.

        • It's still a wildly misleading statistic. 8-1 in an all SEC schedule is an 89% winning percentage. 8-4 in a regular season is a 67% winning percentage. Don't try to justify your misleading BS.

        • By now you knowSome of that uga gang are special...look at the posts. We get it, they won the chip.

          2020 was not eons ago...and you brought in a new QB and figured things out last year, with a Dub over Bama.

          Good luck on your season.

  • Is there any logic to his picks or is it a flip of the coin on each one? Beat A&M but lose to the Mississippi schools makes no sense. I think LSU is going to be much better than most people think this year. Wouldn't surprise me if they ended up second in the west. It also wouldn't surprise me if they finished 5th either.

    • That is the problem with trying to forecast this team. It would surprise few people if they finished 2nd in the west. It would also surprise few people if they finished 6th in the west. There are just too many IFs involved. The season will go on whether the IFs work out or not.

  • LSU heads into the Auburn game 4-0. What happens after that? Boutte or however you spell it should be fun to watch this year.

  • I don’t see a single game that is a definite loss except Bama. Every other team they play have major question marks also. The prediction is that LSU will have the same SEC record as last year when the team was decimated by injuries, had an OC and DC that had never called plays, and a lame duck HC. I’m predicting they will be much better.

    • "The prediction is that LSU will have the same SEC record as last year when the team was decimated by injuries, had an OC and DC that had never called plays, and a lame duck HC."

      Makes sense!

      • But everyone else aren't going to improve. Only LSU will improve, and others will be the same or worse.

        • Like I said almost everyone on their schedule have big question marks. Teams over perform, under perform, or perform at their talent level. LSU grossly under performed relative to their talent level. We can expect as compared to last year that some teams will be better, some worse, and some about the same. So the schedule difficulty should be about the same. Given the perfect storm of bad happened to LSU last year I would expect them to be better than last year. They still have more talent than almost everyone on their schedule.

  • This prediction is why I'm excited about this season getting started. I can't remember the last year that started with so many teams being so unpredictable.

    • MAN! Don't you know it. There are so many teams that it is tough to get a handle on in the SEC this year. I sure would not put any preseason bets on any team but UGA and Bama.

    • The LSU-UF game is often a question mark, but for totally different reasons this time around. How long has it been since these two teams met when BOTH were coming off losing seasons?

      • Not sure about that, but I read that this is the first time neither team was rank in the AP preseason poll since 1974. I believe they said. Man! I was a freshman in high school the last time that happened.

    • Absolutely agree.

      Is Bennett the guy from the SEC or national championship game?

      Does Florida have enough depth to tread water?

      Is Kentucky peaking or continuing to build?

      Is Tennessee back? Again? Or do they bust again?

      Does Rattler impact USCe to a solid team?

      Can Kelly survive without his ND OC and DC?

      Has aTm peaked or are they rising still?

      What is Ole Miss post Matt Corral?

      How many upsets does Leach have in him?

      • I don’t think framing Stet’s games against just Bama is a fair way to ask who he is as a QB. There was a fair sampling size in all his other games, and he passed every test - often with flying colors. You wouldn’t frame the same question about Bryce Young the same way, but it could be argued similarly.

        The college QB’s job is to run the offense and score points. A tiny handful of QBs in the country matched Stet’s ability to do that for their team. When you’re constantly looking at an FBS QB’s production through the lens of NFL potential, you’re missing much of the story.

  • I will predict LSU will be 7-1 or 8-0 by the bye week. I think if there's a loss it will be to Florida.
    I think they go 2-2 on the back end losing to Bama and Arkansas.
    9-3 or 10-2 is a great first season and a potential NY6 bowl.
    2023 could be a huge season and national title hopes.

  • I can see 7-5, but can also see 6-6 if they don’t handle business with FSU which won’t be a pushover game.

        • I can't see LSU putting the offense together by game six to score the necessary 40 to beat TN, especially if TN's D has the added bodies that was the primary cause for the D issues later in the season. The one issues that caused all the issues last season with not enough players for proper rotation. Sixty-eight isn't enough scholarship players to move that needle late in games. So far, they've added a ton and plan on flooding the secondary with proper rotation utilizing added depth. Don't bank on TN having a bad D, so they look night and day compared to last season at this time.

        • You act like 40 is automatic for your Offense. It isn't. Even discounting the first 4 games when the Vols were finding their footing, there were multiple games you failed to score 40 in. I am not convincet the Vols can do that against any team that plays any defense at all. LSU certainly has some talent on that side of the ball. Teams with defenses haven't needed to score 40 to beat the Vols. More like 25

      • @Braves You could be right but I wouldn't bank on Tennessee suddenly learning to play defense this year.

        • 303, I don't think the D will be bad this year. I see a first year coaching staff at LSU who still don't know who their QB will be. A great QB can cover up a lot of deficiencies, like as you point out in D. I see UT pulling this one out.

      • Braves...

        I doubt Tennessee pulls it off in Tiger Stadium.
        You forget that Matt House has been a successful DC, and all signs point the same at LSU.
        Your team may improve on D, but so is LSU. Tigers get the W in probably the loudest stadium the Vols will play in this season.

        • Am I missing something on Matt House I hear how good he is but he never spent more than 1 year as DC and that was three different places. If he is so good why was he not a DC somewhere before LSU?

        • 1hogg...I am sure House was just fine coaching LBs for the Chiefs.
          2018 Kentucky had a very good defense under House.

        • You can always hope but no stat is telling me LSU will win it. You don't have enough depth to deal uptempo Imo, nor to sure up the secondary and maybe not the line to stop the run game. It will be a fun game to watch, still think TN takes LSU to the woodshed at the HS field. lol

        • Gwhite, Looks like I’m going to the hs field for this game. I’ve talked to Mike the Tiger and he said if y’all want to send that old fleabag coonhound Smokey down for that weekend he is more than welcome to bunk over at Mike’s house.
          Just bein friendly.

        • I hate to burst your bubble, GWhite, but LSU does have the depth on defense to run with your offense. I have no idea where they will finish in the division, but they have a lot of talent on the backend and the dline. You'll see.

    • Well....FSU did play well game 1 against Notre Dame, then the bottom fell out. They were not a good team though...we won the game far easier than the score, and we were not a good team, and turned the ball over like it was molten lava.

    • Kelly has said he's not as worried about winning the opener, as he is about the team playing hard and with the right attitude. I'm trusting his process.

Published by
Connor O'Gara

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