LSU’s Les Miles survived a coup d’état in 2015, as a three-game losing streak led to panic in Baton Rouge.

Alabama has now defeated the Tigers five straight, although, to be fair, the Crimson Tide have been ranked in the Top 5 each time. ‘Bama is a high hurdle to jump, but Miles and Co. simply must clear it this year.

On offense, it’s largely the same cast of characters. Leonard Fournette is a man among boys running the ball. We know that. But Brandon Harris and the passing game need to step it up. Defensively, the Bayou Bengals are oozing with talent. New coordinator Dave Aranda was an excellent hire.

As was the case a season ago, the campaign likely comes down to that battle of West heavyweights. Beat the Tide, win the division. However, another loss and subsequent tailspin just might close the book on Miles.

Based on what he’s done at LSU, both on the field and recruiting, Miles should be safe. He’s not, though.


SDS 2015 projection: 9-3 (5-3)
Actual record: 8-3* (5-3)

* doesn’t include postseason

Predicting every LSU game:

Sept. 3 vs. Wisconsin* (W): The crowd for this “neutral” site at Lambeau Field will certainly slant in the direction of the Badgers, but no cold weather means the Tigers roll.

Sept. 10 vs. Jacksonville State (W): The Gamecocks scared the bejesus out of Auburn a year ago, so LSU will pay extra attention to that game film.

Sept. 17 vs. Mississippi State (W): Whether it’s Nick Fitzgerald or Elijah Staley at the controls for the Bulldogs, Death Valley and that defense will be too much to overcome.

Sept. 24 at Auburn (W): Fournette delivered one of his signature performances of 2015 against the Tigers, and he’s itching for a Heisman-caliber encore.

Oct. 1 vs. Missouri (W): Mizzou can play defense, particularly up front. Scoring points, however, is a problem. The Bayou Benglas won’t need many to walk out victorious.

Oct. 8 at Florida (W): One of the more highly anticipated cross-division contests, UF lost a lot of NFL talent off a defense that still surrendered 180 yards to Fournette last year.

Oct. 15 vs. Southern Miss (W): The Golden Eagles have resurrected what was essentially a dead program not too long ago, but not enough to sniff an upset in Baton Rouge.

Oct. 22 at Ole Miss (W): LSU’s defense was more vulnerable in the passing game a year ago than most fans probably remember, so the pass rush better get after Chad Kelly in a big way.

Nov. 5 vs. Alabama (L): The Tigers have just as many four- and five-star kids at every position up and down the depth chart, but the Crimson Tide own the mental age over LSU at this point.

Nov. 12 at Arkansas (W): The last time LSU went to Fayetteville, the Hogs pitched a 17-0 shutout. However, Austin Allen is still just Brandon Allen’s kid brother until he shows otherwise.

Nov. 19 vs. South Alabama (W): Cupcake City, as Dick Vitale might say. If Fournette gets so much as one carry in the second half, then the Bayou Bengals didn’t play well enough.

Nov. 24 at Texas A&M (L): The Aggies are my sneaky team in the West for 2016, so they deliver a shocker in front of a national-TV audience on Thanksgiving Day.

* in Green Bay, Wis.

SDS 2016 projection: 10-2 (6-2)
SEC race: 2nd in the West

The Skinny: Like last year, LSU will be undefeated and near the top of the polls before the Alabama game. Like last year, the Tigers won’t be able to get by the resident bully of the division. A loss in the season finale takes the Bayou Bengals out of contention for the College Football Playoff, too.

John Crist is the senior writer for Saturday Down South, a member of the FWAA and a voter for the Heisman Trophy. Send him an e-mail, like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.