Ranking the top 10 topics facing LSU football with less than two weeks to go before the Tigers’ season opener:
1. THE POLLS: LSU opens at No. 13 in both the USA Today coaches’ and now The Associated Press preseason polls, the latter being released Sunday. That’s one notch higher than where the Tigers finished in January after a 10-3 campaign. Considering what LSU lost from last year’s team — a 3,000-yard passing quarterback, two 1,000-yard receivers, a 1,000-yard rusher and four of its top six tacklers — it’s a considerable sign of respect. It indicates the voters are saying, “No matter what the challenges, Les Miles and his crew are going to get it done,” at least to a respectable level.
2. CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS: LSU has five AP ranked opponents on its schedule: No. 14 Wisconsin, No. 6 Auburn, No. 18 Ole Miss, No. 2 Alabama and No. 21 Texas A&M. SaturdayDownSouth.com says Auburn and Arkansas have the most ranked foes with seven, followed by Florida, Tennessee and A&M with six each. Only five other Southeastern Conference teams even face a ranked nonconference opponent: Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. It’s the kind of schedule that’s tough enough to get LSU in contention for a CFP berth (if LSU can win enough) but not an out-and-out meatgrinder. Alabama, by the way, plays four ranked teams, all from the SEC West.
3. QUENTIN THOMAS: After reportedly being out for the season with a torn biceps the first week of camp, Miles now says the defensive tackle could be back in action Tuesday for LSU’s next big scrimmage. Apparently, Thomas is going to try to play through the pain, though Tuesday could prove telling.
4. BUGA NATION’S LEADER(S): Leonard Fournette supposedly had another strong scrimmage Saturday with some long runs, though exactly how long Miles wasn’t saying. If the coach truly wants to keep things close to the vest, he’ll exclude big boosters as well as the media from scrimmages.
5. THE QUARTERBACKS: There is still no end in sight in the Anthony Jennings/Brandon Harris derby, and Miles was predictably tight-lipped on details Saturday. There is speculation that Harris definitely has closed the gap in terms of the experience factor Jennings had on his side, but I expect no official pronouncement will be coming until right close to kickoff for Wisconsin, maybe the day of the game.
6. THE MIGHTY QUINN: Freshman Malachi Dupre sat out Saturday’s scrimmage, and there are some reports veteran Travin Dural did as well. That allowed freshman Trey Quinn to get some valuable reps. Out of necessity and production, it appears increasingly obvious Quinn will play a major role despite his inexperience.
7. THE TIGHT ENDS: Tight ends caught all of 12 passes last season, but given the dearth of experience at receiver, it appears logical that LSU will throw more passes their way, especially for Dillon Gordon and DeSean Smith.
8. THE KEY TO THE Vs: You haven’t heard a lot about LSU’s offensive line in terms of the nicked or the disciplined or anything like that. That’s very good news for the Tigers, as this unit will be THE key to victory this season, both in having to open holes for the running backs and hold off always dangerous SEC pass rushers. The key among the keys is left tackle La’El Collins as both a player and a leader. Given Collins was the man to pour ice water on Miles in his recent ALS ice bucket challenge (after Danielle Hunter poured grass clippings on Miles), Collins no doubt stands in quite well with The Hat.
9. CAMP RANDALL?: The Tigers have put training camp behind them and are now more in preparation for Wisconsin (which plays at Camp Randall Stadium). In fact, Miles referred to Tuesday’s scrimmage as the Wisconsin scrimmage. Miles has his detractors, but LSU’s long-term preparation has been impressive. The Tigers are 6-3 in bowls under Miles and 9-0 in season openers.
10. MR. BLACKWELL’S RANKINGS: Proving once again you can find anything on the internet, a website called Uniwatch.com has ranked the top 25 college football uniforms going into the 2014 season. LSU comes in a respectable No. 7 behind Auburn, Oregon State, Navy’s alternates (anchors everywhere), Alabama, Texas, and Florida. “The LSU Tigers are always a great looking team,” Clint Richardson writes. “Heck, they do UCLA stripes better than UCLA does.” Speaking of uniforms, is it just me or would you ever like to LSU wear a black jersey just once?
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.