LSU’s schedule is loaded and this is supposed to be an above-average year for SEC quarterbacks.

In other words, Dave Aranda and his Tigers defense are going to be challenged significantly by the quarterbacks they play this season.

Of course some are better than others, and nearly half of LSU’s opponents are in the middle of a quarterback competition. LSU also should have a really good defense, so the signal-callers will be challenged as well.

Here’s a power ranking of the quarterbacks the Tigers are expected to face this season:

12. Jackson Tyner, Rice

LSU gave up just 11 TD passes in 2017, second-fewest in the SEC and tied for No. 5 nationally.

Last year’s starter, Miklo Smalls, transferred, further complicating the Rice QB situation. Jackson Tyner appears to be the favorite, but it’s still early. The Owls don’t face the Tigers until the second-to-last game of the season, so whoever wins the job will have the benefit of some experience. Nonetheless that won’t be adequate preparation for what he’ll face in Tiger Stadium.

11. Lorenzo Nunez/Chason Virgil, Southeastern Louisiana

Nunez is the incumbent but faces stiff competition from Virgil, who transferred from Fresno State in January. Whoever starts will benefit from new Lions head coach Frank Scelfo’s ability to train quarterbacks to excel in the passing game, but this will be a tough task in the second game of the new era.

10. J’Mar Smith, Louisiana Tech

Smith is entering his fourth season in coach Skip Holtz’s offense and he showed good judgment last season when he threw just 5 interceptions. Perhaps playing LSU a week after its SEC opener at Auburn means Smith and the Bulldogs won’t take the Tigers’ best shot.

9. Cole Kelley/Ty Storey, Arkansas

By the time LSU rolls into Fayetteville, the Razorbacks will have played nine games under new head coach Chad Morris. His ability to develop offenses should have started to take hold and it will be interesting to see if the quarterback who starts against the Tigers is the same one who started the season opener against Eastern Illinois.

8. Nick Starkel/Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

Much like Morris, new Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher is an offensive guru whose first quarterback isn’t someone he recruited to run his offense. And, like Morris, Fisher will have had nearly an entire season to develop his game as A&M hosts the Tigers in the regular-season finale.

7. Feleipe Franks/Kyle Trask/Emory Jones, Florida

Franks, who was benched three times last season, is still a slight favorite to hold off Trask and start the season while Jones gets up to speed as a freshman. But LSU doesn’t go to Gainesville until Oct. 6, so there’s time for new Florida coach Dan Mullen to get comfortable enough with Jones to give him a shot if he isn’t satisfied with what he has seen from the other two.

6. Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss

Ta’amu was thrust into the lineup against the Tigers when Shea Patterson was hurt last season. He couldn’t save the day or the season, but he showed enough in the last five games (1,682 yards, 11 touchdowns, 4 interceptions) to suggest his mobility and strong arm will be a boost to the Rebels’ offense.

Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

5. Malik Rosier, Miami

Rosier was inconsistent last season and his late-season drop-off mirrored that of the Hurricanes. Nonetheless, he passed for more than 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns and ran for another 400-plus and 5 touchdowns. But his 54 percent completion rate and ACC-worst 14 interceptions are a concern going against the Tigers in the season opener after Aranda has had the whole offseason to game-plan for him.

4. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

He’s back from ankle surgery and ready for a senior season in which he’ll be asked to throw the ball more often and more aggressively. New head coach Joe Moorhead’s scheme emphasizes the pass, especially the downfield pass, more than Mullen’s did, which might be a better fit for Fitzgerald after the gruesome injury in the Egg Bowl.

3. Tua Tagovailoa/Jalen Hurts, Alabama

It’s a long way to November and this soap opera could have a few more plot twists between now and then. But whichever one leads the Crimson Tide into Tiger Stadium will be battled tested and operating secure in the knowledge that he has a national championship-caliber cast around him on both sides of the ball.

2. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

The former Baylor quarterback nearly broke the school for passing yards in a season last year and he should be even more effective in his second season. It wouldn’t be surprising if Gus Malzahn leans on Stidham a little more this season. We should get a good indication of whether that’s his plan when these sets of Tigers meet on the Plains to start SEC play.

1. Jake Fromm/Justin Fields, Georgia

Fromm had a remarkable freshman season last year, helping to guide the Bulldogs to an SEC championship and the cusp of a national championship. There’s every reason to believe he’ll be even better as a sophomore. The fact that Fields is even competing for this job as a freshman shows just how high the expectations are for him.

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