Will Auburn repeat as SEC champions? What team will emerge as a division darkhorse no one’s talking about? It’s time for Year 2 of our two-week, daily ‘Crystal Ball’ series on how each of the SEC’s 14 teams will finish this fall.

We hit a couple big-time upsets last fall including Tennessee’s win over South Carolina, but didn’t expect 12 wins out of Mizzou, a BCS title-game run from Auburn or Florida’s faceplant in Will Muschamp’s third season.


2013 Crystal Ball Projection: 10-2, 6-2
2013 Actual: 10-3, 5-3


Aug. 30 vs. Wisconsin (Houston, W): There’s several media members projecting Wisconsin will give LSU all it can handle in this neutral site opener, but the Tigers have been in a showcase game against other Power 5 conference teams three of the last four seasons and have passed with flying colors. Leonard Fournette’s introduction to the college football world should be exciting, but not necessarily for the Badgers.

Sept. 6 vs. Sam Houston St. (W): Much has been made about the SEC’s cupcake non-conference slate this season, but LSU’s schedule is respectable. Sam Houston St. won nine games last fall, none against Top 25 teams. The first of three victories out of SEC play by at least three touchdowns, the Tigers score on defense to lead the rout.

Sept. 13 vs. Louisiana-Monroe (W): Night games in Death Valley create nightmares for opposing teams, especially programs that won’t be able to match LSU’s strength at the line of scrimmage.

Sept. 20 vs. Mississippi St. (W): Are the Bulldogs legit? We’ll know once this one’s over. LSU is 9-0 against Mississippi St. under Les Miles with the average margin of victory at Tiger Stadium being 20.8 points per game.

Sept. 27 vs. New Mexico St. (W): Tigers go vanilla on both sides of the ball and win in blowout fashion before a pivotal road trip to Gainesville.

Oct. 4 at Auburn (L): If there’s a defense that can contain Auburn’s speed in the backfield it’s LSU’s long and quick front seven, one of only two units to hold Gus Malzahn’s rushing attack under 220 yards last fall. Given the game’s at Jordan-Hare however, LSU loses its second straight game for the first time since 2008.

Oct. 11 at Florida (L): LSU’s youth finally shows a negative effect in the Tigers’ first true road game of the season. Down goes the 5-0 record and Top 10 ranking in a low-scoring battle similar to the hard-hitting 2012 affair.

Oct. 18 vs. Kentucky (W): This one’s getting ugly fast and could be the Wildcats’ worst defeat of the season.

Oct. 25 vs. Ole Miss (W): A fierce rivalry out West, Ole Miss derailed LSU’s 6-1 start last fall with an impressive game-winning drive that dethroned the Tigers in Oxford. Since 2000, the Magnolia Bowl’s been decided by a touchdown or less eight times and we expect no different this season.

Nov. 8 vs. Alabama (L): If the Tigers beat Auburn a few weeks prior, this one determines who is in the driver’s seat for a spot in Atlanta. The Western Division’s second-best rivalry comes down to crunch time and LSU’s inexperience at the skill positions on offense leads to a loss.

Nov. 15 at Arkansas (W): Anyone picking an easy win for LSU hasn’t been following this late-season tradition. Arkansas came into last year’s game winless in the SEC but managed a 27-24 lead with 3:04 left after pinning the Tigers inside their own 1-yard line. Anthony Jennings’ heroics spared the Tigers from a colossal upset.

Nov. 27 at Texas A&M (W): One of the toughest games to predict this season along with Tennessee’s season finale at Vanderbilt, LSU’s going to have its hands full in a rowdy environment at Kyle Field. Controlling the clock and forcing turnovers (plus 7!) has worked the last two meetings for the Tigers.

2014 PROJECTED FINISH: 9-3, 5-3

THE LOWDOWN: One of the more underrated SEC elites heading into Les Miles’ 10th season in Baton Rouge, never underestimate the power of returning talent on defense and coordinator John Chavis will certainly have an abundance this season. Potentially seven games against ranked teams — if A&M’s decent in late November — is a tremendous obstacle for an offense relying on a first-year quarterback, but leaning on a star-studded rushing attack and the other side of the football should work out nicely. An impressive fifth consecutive 10-win season is on the docket for the Tigers if they can win the bowl game.