Make no mistake, the defending champions are going to be very good in 2020. Will they make a historically dominant run to a 15-0 record (or whatever the equivalent is in the abbreviated season)? Probably not. But the Tigers aren’t going away just because Joe Burrow is gone. There are questions to be answered, but I expect LSU to be challenging for the SEC crown once more.
Top Returners: Ja’Marr Chase, Derek Stingley
Maybe you thought my introduction was bold for a team that lost a legendary quarterback, one of their top receivers, and their running back, not to mention the passing coordinator that revolutionized their offense. But if you want two reasons for why I’m still high on the Tigers, look at the two names above. Both Chase and Stingley may be the best players in the country at their position. Chase is coming off an 84-reception, 20-touchdown season in which he became LSU’s #1 receiver over first-round draft pick Justin Jefferson. Mentioned earlier this year as a darkhorse Heisman candidate (as good a chance as any receiver will ever get), Chase is most definitely among the elite players in the country, if not the flat-out best receiver to grace the gridiron this fall.
Meanwhile, Stingley is a clear contender to be the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. There’s been talk about the rising sophomore playing both ways in his junior season, although that timeline may be fast tracked if there’s a 2020 season. With quarantine rules in effect, having two-way players may be a game-changing asset on rosters. Stingley notched 38 tackles and 6 interceptions in his true freshman season, breaking up 15 passes and recovering a fumble as well. He was quite possibly the best player on a championship defense that included first-round pick Patrick Queen and second-round pick Grant Delpit. As a freshman. If I’m an LSU fan, I’m really excited about getting two more years of Derek Stingley.
Biggest Concerns: Replacing the Big Guns
This one is clear enough. Joe Burrow is gone. Clyde Edwards-Hillaire is gone. Justin Jefferson is gone. On the defense, Delpit, Queen, Kristian Fulton, and K’Lavon Chaison are all gone. That’s seven players that went in the top two rounds, and it’s no doubt a lot of talent for LSU to replace. They’ve got returners and new guys ready to step up, but that’s quite the gut-punch to recover from.
X-Factors: Myles Brennan
This season comes down to Brennan. He’s the man in Baton Rouge after backing up Joe Burrow the past two seasons. Can the understudy step up and earn a standing ovation? Brennan is 42-70 for 600 yards over his three years a backup, tossing two touchdowns and three interceptions. Under head coach Ed Orgeron, throwing to Ja’Marr Chase, and operating within LSU’s new spread offense, Brennan will have every opportunity to make good on the potential and talent that enticed LSU to offer the Mississippi product. Whether he does may determine LSU’s ceiling in 2020. \
SEC Record Prediction: 7-1
This record prediction came before the recent schedule adjustments, but ultimately, I believe LSU is on the shortlist of SEC contenders in 2020. My preview of Texas A&M already mentioned this so I’ll go ahead and anger any LSU fans who didn’t see it. I’ve got LSU taking down Alabama at home, but a bid at a second consecutive undefeated season falls short at Kyle Allen Field in their clash with the Aggies. After a 7-overtime loss to Texas A&M in their last road game clash with the Aggies, LSU dominated the match-up at Death Valley last year. Can the Aggies run it back on their home field? I’m giving it a tentative yes. LSU still finishes 7-1, still very much in contention for the CFP and New Year’s 6.