LSU football: 10 bold predictions for the 2020 season
No one predicted LSU would have the kind of season it had in 2019.
No one is expecting the Tigers to duplicate their undefeated national-championship season and record-shattering offensive performance in 2020.
But summer is the time to make predictions and here are 10 predictions about LSU’s 2020 season.
1. No hot seat for Orgeron
For the first time since he became head coach 4 games into the 2016 season, Ed Orgeron will go an entire season without being included on any list of college football coaches “on the hot seat.”
He won’t be there to start the season, he won’t be there when the Tigers lose a game, he won’t even be there if the Tigers lose multiple games and fall out of contention for the SEC championship.
As for 2021, well, that’s another story.
2. Brennan won’t be Burrow
Myles Brennan won’t come close to any of the records that Joe Burrow set last season.
OK, that’s a given, but the real prediction is that Brennan’s statistics won’t fall as far short of Burrow’s historic level as many observers might think. LSU is still going to throw the ball a lot, it still has really good receivers and on top of that, the Tigers will be playing catch-up more this season than last season and will be passing the ball accordingly.
Brennan isn’t all that well known outside of Louisiana and his native Mississippi, but he’s a talented player who’s well prepared for this opportunity and will put up big numbers – just not historic numbers.
3. Winning streak will end in The Swamp
The LSU winning streak will reach 21 games before the Tigers lose at Florida on Oct. 10 (based on the current schedule, anyway).
The Tigers haven’t lost since that epic 7-overtime defeat at Texas A&M in the 2018 regular-season finale. They beat Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl a few weeks later, then went 15-0 last season.
They will start this season with victories against UT San Antonio, Texas, Rice, Ole Miss and Nicholls before stumbling in The Swamp.
4. Gilbert will be in the record book
Freshman Arik Gilbert will set the school record for touchdown catches by a tight end with 6 – at least.
He’s the most highly-touted tight end recruit in school history and one of the most highly regarded tight end recruits in college football history.
Opponents will understandably devote a lot of resources to slowing down Ja’Marr Chase in the red zone and Gilbert will take advantage.
5. Stingley will be even more dynamic
Derek Stingley Jr. was pretty dynamic in being named Freshman All-America last season. He’ll be one of the most dynamic players in the country as a sophomore.
He is one of the best cover cornerbacks in the country and he has exceptional ball skills. He’s also an exceptional return specialist.
The expectation is that he’ll receive some snaps on offense as a junior, but it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he sneaks onto the offensive side of the ball in 2020.
6. Renewed appreciation for Ensminger
The Tigers’ historic offensive production last season understandably brought a lot of attention to passing game coordinator Joe Brady. The evolution of the passing game coincided with Brady’s arrival from the New Orleans Saints.
The production earned Brady the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in college football and a new gig as offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers.
But Steve Ensminger was Brady’s boss and he is the primary offensive constant between 2019 and 2020. The Tigers will be really good on offense again and somewhere along the line, people will be reminded that the offense has been really good throughout Ensminger’s tenure as coordinator.
7. The defense will create more takeaways
LSU created a total of 22 turnovers in 15 games last season.
Unless they make a return trip to the CFP Championship Game, the Tigers will play fewer games, but they will take the ball away more than 22 times.
Bo Pelini’s defense will be more aggressive than Dave Aranda’s defense was.
The Tigers will get into the backfield more, pressure opposing quarterbacks more and put more big hits on ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage.
8. York will be an important player
LSU scored points so fast and so easily last season that the kicker was usually an afterthought. Freshman Cade York was inconsistent while making 21-of-27 field goals over the course of the season.
He will be more consistent in his second season on the college level and that will be important. The Tigers won’t score as many touchdowns as they did last season and they will play more close games than they did last season.
So York will be called upon more frequently to kick goals and a higher percentage of those kicks will have a significant impact.
9. Marshall will have a breakout season
Terrace Marshall Jr. was hanging with Chase and Justin Jefferson as a big-time receiver early last season before suffering a foot injury. He returned and was still effective, but he couldn’t keep up with Chase and Jefferson.
Now with Jefferson gone to the NFL, Marshall will have a bigger role and will be more than up to the task.
10. Linehan will be 1-and-done
Like the man he replaced (Brady), new passing game coordinator Scott Linehan came from the NFL to become the passing game coordinator at LSU.
Linehan and the passing game won’t match the season last year’s passing game had, but the Tigers will be very effective passing the football.
That – and Linehan’s track record as an NFL coach – will earn him an opportunity in the pros that will be too good to pass up, just as Brady’s one-year performance earned him a promotion back to the NFL.