The latest post in our series taking a look at our 2012 opponents brings us to what is almost certain to be the toughest game of the season, our trip to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers. The Tigers were recently tabbed by the coaches as the preseason number one, and with good reason. After a year that may very well have gone down as the best single season in the history of college football if not for that pesky loss in a rematch against Alabama, the Tigers appear unlikely to miss a beat. Indeed, they may even be better. The Tigers do lose a key player or two here and there, such as Thorpe winner Morris Claiborne, but there's no shortage of talent to replace those players. Perhaps most importantly, former UGA QB Zach Mettenberger should be able to solve the one problem LSU suffered from last year, the lack of a passing game with Jordan Jefferson under center. One might wonder why Mettenberger never got a look last year, but really, how much does he have to do to be better than Jefferson? As long as he provides some semblance of a downfield passing game without turning the ball over too frequently, he'll make the Tigers' offense leaps and bounds better than it was last year. That, combined with the typically awesome defense and special teams, is what makes this team a good pick for best in the country.
What would USC need to do to win this game? Keep tough on offense. Our defense is good enough to hang with LSU's offense, even if Mettenberger is playing well. The Tigers' physical running game will be a challenge for our defensive front, but if we're half as good as we're supposed to be in that regard, we should be good enough to go toe to toe with these guys--but only if our offense doesn't put our defense in bad situations. The problem is that LSU's beastly defense looks like a mismatch for our offense on paper. The chances of Connor Shaw not having to run for his life against LSU's ungodly ends look pretty slim, even if we're able to generate some kind of running game. However, if we're able to keep up some offense throughout the game, we may be OK. LSU thrived last year on starting slow and using its defense to wear teams out late, when it often piled on multiple TDs to its leads. If our offense can keep our defense off the field, we may have a chance to negate that strategy.
At the end of the day, though, you have to feel like that's an unlikely chance, especially in Tiger Stadium. I wouldn't be surprised if we play a competitive game against LSU, but win? I'll believe it when I see it. We've gotten better of late, but we've probably still got work to do to be on the level of a favorite for the national title.