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2016 SEC Preview: LSU has strong College Football Playoff aspirations

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It’s a well-known fact that LSU has been a perennial contender for the past decade. With a Heisman hopeful at running back, an extremely loaded defense, and an improving passing game, what can we expect from the Tigers this season?

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

No matter whether you love or hate the LSU Tigers, you have to respect what Les Miles has done there. They are a perennial contender, and bring in Top-10 recruiting classes each season, setting them up for success in SEC play. This season is a pivotal one, as it likely marks the man-beast Leonard Fournette’s final season in Baton Rouge. This team is one of the most-talented in the country, and if the cards fall the right way, could easily see itself in the Playoff come January. So what should we expect from LSU this season?

Defense

LSU has always been known for its ferocious defense, and that shouldn’t change this season. With a dominant front seven, they should have no problem getting to the quarterback. Pass-rushers Arden Key and Lewis Neal both will look to build on solid seasons last year as they combined for 13 sacks. Davon Godchaux will provide some key interior pressure from the defensive tackle position, and is a dominant run stopper. Moving on to the linebackers, Kendall Beckwith is the heart and soul of the defense, and is one of the best middle-linebackers in the country. Their secondary is loaded with NFL talent, as both former five-star cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Kevin Tolliver II will likely make the All-American list. Safety Jamal Adams is another star player on the defense, and is already projected to be a 1st-round pick come next May. Altogether, this defense will likely be a Top-10 unit in the FBS and will be what powers this team through to the postseason.

Offense

The success of the offense hinges on the development of Brandon Harris. Leonard Fournette (if he's healthy!) will remain the focal point of the offense, and will likely eclipse the 2,000 yard mark, but in order to really take the team to the next level, Harris will have to be significantly better than last season. Harris must work on his decision making and timing in order to be more effective, and if he does, LSU could be a juggernaut offensively. The offensive line lost two key starters last season in Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins, but the offensive line is still a very talented unit, and should pave the way for offensive success. At tailback, Fournette is one of the premier players in the nation, but his backup should make more of a name for himself as LSU goes with more of a committee approach in the backfield. Derrius Guice is one of the most underrated backs in the country, mostly due to the fact that he is in Fournette’s shadow. But let’s not forget, he still showed some serious flashes of talent last season. At wide receiver, Brandon Harris has some true weapons in Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural. That one-two punch certainly ranks as one of the best in the nation, and provides a matchup nightmare for any unsuspecting secondary. If Harris continues his development, this offense will light up the scoreboard and be extremely entertaining to watch.

Expectations

If Brandon Harris continues his improvement and shows that he can be an above-average quarterback, this team will be in the playoff hunt all season, dominating the competition. If he plays like he did last season, nine or ten wins should be expected. Although that is a fantastic season for most, with the expectations placed on LSU - along with the departure of many star players after the season, that would be a disappointment for the passionate fans of the Tigers. This team has talent, but it’s up to the veterans to lead them back to the championship game.