The Hatter Strikes Back

The Pick

Years and years from now we are all going to look at the Thanksgiving 2015 on the bayou with crossed eyes. It may be the damndest thing I’ve ever seen. A group of influential, i.e rich, boosters were getting ready to oust longtime coach Les Miles. These people saw their program as waning. Naturally, the fall guy was the head coach. They may have had just cause. After starting last year 7-0, LSU loses at Alabama then gets whacked at home by Arkansas. Then the Tigers go on the road to Oxford Mississippi and get slapped around. The powers that be in Baton Rouge saw their program becoming an afterthought in the ultra competitive SEC West. They took action. Backroom meetings were held, action was planned, but, oops, someone leaked this information. As the Tigers took the field against Texas A&M Thanksgiving weekend it was well known that this might be Les Miles’ last game. The Mad Hatter had something up his sleeve. By embracing the rumors it turned that game into a Les Miles love fest. The players carried Miles off the field amid chants of “Keep Les.” The groundswell of support was too much for the AD to ignore. After the game LSU AD Joe Alleva stated Miles would return. Typically where there is smoke there is fire. Had Miles not pulled an end around I believe he would be gone. How Miles worked the situation was sheer brilliance. This year LSU has a loaded team that I believe will make Joe Alleva look very smart and those boosters quite foolish.

This is the best team LSU has had since the 2011 bunch that destroyed the SEC before getting Sabaned by Alabama in the national title game. There are awesome players, with ample experience all over this roster. ¬†One player stands out above the rest. Leonard Fournette is every body’s All American. He is the closest thing I have seen to Adrian Peterson. He is big, physical and fast. He will have another monster season before invading, and destroying, the NFL. A chief beneficiary of Fournette’s greatness is QB Brandon Harris. I cant remember the last time LSU had a good QB. They are always a liability. Harris will not be. Aided by a ferocious ground game Harris will be free to throw darts to Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural. This offense will be very difficult to stop. But that is not why I am picking LSU. In the offseason, LSU aquired defensive coordinator Dave Aranda from Wisconsin. I’ve admired Aranda’s defenses up close for years and am happy to have him out of the Big 10. He is an outstanding tactician and will be a difference maker for LSU this fall. It doesn’t hurt that Aranda will have more athletes on hand than he could have ever dreamed of in Madison. LSU returns 10 of their top 11 tacklers from a year ago. I see Safety Jamal Adams and Cornerback Tre’Davious White becoming household names this fall as this unit ascends to the top of the college football’s defensive rankings. This team has it all, including a favorable schedule. Every schedule in this division has potholes, but the Tigers are fortunate to miss Tennessee and get Alabama and Mississippi in Death Valley. All of these factors make me a believer that this is the year LSU gets back atop the mountain in the SEC.

The Field

I really hate to bet against Nick Saban. He is the best coach of this generation, maybe ever. His Alabama program reloads like nobody else. However, he does lose defensive guru Kirby Smart this fall. I think that hurts Alabama just enough. The schedule isn’t favorable either. The Tide visit each of the other top 4 contenders in the league. There are plenty of opportunities for this team to fritter away any chance at a league title. Would it surprise me to see the Tide curb stomp the rest of this league? Not at all. Saban never surprises me.

I need to see Ole Miss win more than 10 games per year, or a division title, before I take them to win this league. Sure, Hugh Freeze’s club has plenty of talent. Chad Kelly is probably the best QB in the SEC, but they lose 4 of their top 6 tacklers from last year along with their top rusher and 2 top receivers. This program has promise, but I need to see more before I stick my neck out there for them.

The very same can be said about Tennessee. The Vols have become a very trendy pick to win the SEC and make the playoffs. There are a few good reasons for that. 17 returning starters is a good place to start. But I’m not convinced this group is ready for the bright lights just yet. Lets not forget the Vols have lost 11 straight to Florida and 9 straight to Alabama. There are also trips to Georgia and College Station on that schedule. Pump the brakes on this trendy pick. Im not buying it.