Golden's 2016 College Football Predictions

LSU Prediction for 2016
First, here's the factors that give me CONFIDENCE heading into LSU's 2016 season.
  • The defense under new coordinator Dave Aranda. It has the potential to be at the level of the 2011 unit that sparked the 13-0 regular season.
  • The running game with a solid offensive line, the one and only Leonard Four­nette, an excellent backup in Derrius Guice and several other runners who are no slouches: Darrel Williams and Nick Brossette.
  • The addition of Aranda and also Dameyune Craig from Auburn, who is officially the receivers coach but should also provide Cam Cameron with help with the passing game. CRAIG DIDN'T HELP AND ORGERON GOT RID OF HIM AT THE END OF THE SEASON.
  • The fact that QB Brandon Harris enters his third season with a full season of starting under his belt. His poor performance at the tail end of last season is in part explained by his sports hernia. I expect the Harris of the Florida game - LSU's best offensive performance of the 2015 regular season - to be present from the beginning of the season. HARRIS DIDN'T LAST SIX QUARTERS AS THE STARTER.
  • The fact that Les Miles is coaching for his job. He knows he was as good as gone at the end of last season until the Chancellor got cold feet. Any compla­cency Les may have fallen into has been shaken out of him. MILES DIDN'T DELIVER ON HIS PROMISE TO UPDATE THE OFFENSE. AFTER GOING 2-2 IN THE FIRST FOUR GAMES, ALLEVA FINALLY PULLED THE TRIGGER.

These factors cause CONCERN.

  • Brandon Harris. Yes, I'm listing him here too. Until he proves he can play consistently well throughout the season, he is a question mark that could cost the Tigers a game or two.
  • Is Miles really committed to improving the passing game? Or are his off-season avowals just saying what he feels everyone wants to hear?
  • Special teams. Trent Domingue did all the FG kicking last year, making 13-of-17. But he left in a huff this summer when Miles pulled his scholarship (although Les said it was only a temporary move as he intended to restore the scholarship later). So FG kicking falls into the lap of Colby Delahoussaye, who made 11-of-15 FGs in 2014.
    LSU had these rankings in the SEC in 2015:
    Kickoff return average - 9th
    Punt return average - 9th
    Opponent kickoff return average - 9th
    Opponent punt return average - 14th
    These MUST improve for LSU to have an outstanding 2016 season.
  • The usual difficult schedule. The Tigers get Ole Miss and Alabama at home but must travel to Auburn, Florida, Arkansas, and Texas A&M. Of particular concern is the trip to Fayetteville the week after playing Alabama.

Putting all this together, I'll conservatively call for 10-2 in 2016.

College Football Predictions
Here are my annual college football predictions.

Don't be surprised if ...

  1. The winner of the LSU-Alabama game plays the winner of the Georgia-Tennessee contest in the SEC Championship Game. HALF RIGHT - ALABAMA PLAYED FLORIDA.

    Predicting the winner of the LSU-Alabama game to win the West is hardly a leap of faith. That has happened four of the last five years. And it took a miracle play in 2013 for Auburn to beat Bama.
    The only threat to the Bama-LSU dominance in the West is Texas A&M, which will start the QB who led Oklahoma to a smashing Sugar Bowl victory over Bama after the '13 season but fell out of favor in Norman and transferred. Trevor Knight may be tasked not only with improving A&M's offense but also with saving Kevin Sumlin's job. But, as the suspension of two assistant coaches for sexting this summer shows, the fifth-year coach's program has deficiencies that prevent it from maximizing the potential of its talent.
    In the East, Tennessee is almost everyone's pick. However, Butch Jones's team lacks something, whether it's due to coaching or lack of leadership. Thursday night against Appalachian State, the Vols had a TD pass nullified by replay and that seemed to put them into a funk. That's the kind of thinking that caused them to blow three double-digit leads last year. It's the same "here we go again" syndrome Nick Saban faced when he took over LSU in 1999. The team plays well until something bad happens. They lose confidence and make additional mistakes, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    Georgia has a new coach, Kirby Smart, fresh from a national championship with Alabama. He inherits good talent, especially two outstanding RBs in Nick Chubb (whose serious injury early last season probably prevented the Dogs from winning the East and cost Mark Richt his job) and Sony Michel. Smart is an outstanding defensive coordinator. So he will make sure his team is solid on that side of the ball. And, last but not necessarily least, Georgia hosts Tennessee October 1 in their annual early season clash.

  2. No SEC team goes unbeaten in conference play for the fifth year in a row. (The last team to go undefeated was LSU in 2011.) X THE TIDE DID IT.

    LSU has the best chance if Dave Aranda's defense dominates the way Jon Chavis's did in '11 and Brandon Harris develops the consistency to lead an effective passing game. But those are big if's (Harris more so than the defense), and key injuries can cost a team a game or two. On the SEC Network's LSU preview show recently, Marcus Spears and Booger McFarland, two former Tiger lineman, pegged LSU to go 11-1, the loss coming at Arkansas the week after LSU defeats Alabama.

    And it's even harder to believe that any Eastern team will run the table. Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida are too evenly matched for any one of them to defeat both the others as well as their West foes (Tennessee vs Texas A&M and Alabama, Florida vs LSU and Arkansas, Georgia vs Ole Miss and Auburn).

  3. After three new coaches take over this year (Kirby Smart at Georgia, Barry Odom at Missouri, and Will Muschamp at South Carolina), at least one more SEC coach will depart after the 2016 season.

    The most likely candidate is Gus Malzahn at Auburn. This is a do-or-die year for him. How can his head be on the chopping block just three seasons after the took the Tigers to the national title game, losing in the last seconds to Florida State? Consider Auburn's recent history.
    --1993: Terry Bowden went 11-0 in his first year (but the Tigers were not eligible for a bowl due to NCAA penalties). After 9-1-1, 8-4, 8-4, and 10-3 sea­sons, Bowden is fired midway through the '98 campaign.
    --2004: Tommy Tuberville, Bowden's replacement, leads AU to a 13-0 sea­son. Two years later, he finished 11-2. But after a 5-7 mark in '08, he was canned - a year later than Auburn wanted to oust him but they brought him back for '08 after an embarrassing incident in November '07 when they had Bobby Petrino all set to replace him but the scheme was leaked to the media.
    ---2010: Gene Chizik rode Cam Newton's coattails to the national title. But after 8-5 and 3-9 seasons, he was given the boot in favor of Malzahn.
    Just as Kevin Sumlin is relying on Trevor Knight at A&M, Malzahn is betting on sophomore Sean White to lead the troops in a challenging opener with Clemson. But Gus hedged his bets by saying that the three QBs who battled for the starting spot all spring and through August will probably play. That's not a good prospectus for a team coming off 8-5 and 7-6 seasons since playing in the last BCS national championship game.
    Tennessee must produce the big season that Butch Jones's recruiting classes portend or he may be done in Knoxville.
    And Les Miles barely escaped the guillotine last year. How many losses will it take for the long knives to come out again? As few as two?
  1. The following teams finish the season lower than the Composite Pre­season Rankings above put them.
    ---Tennessee - I won't believe in them until they actually have that outstand­ing year that's been predicted the past two seasons
    ---Ole Miss - terrific QB but weak running game and less imposing defense than last year
    ---Baylor - firing of Art Briles (after most of rankings above went to press) takes it toll
    ---USC - new coach; too tough a schedule (10 bowl teams) X

  2. The following teams finish the season higher than the Composite Pre­season Rankings above put them.
    ---TCU - After just missing the first CFP two years ago, the Frogs went 11-2 in '16, missing the CFP again because of late season losses at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. But they get those two teams at home this year. They have some key losses, but Gary Patterson has his program at the point where they're always reloading, not rebuilding. X
    ---Louisville - Bobby Petrino has the Cardinals ready to contend in the ACC. Two games will determine their fate - Florida State at home September 17 and Clemson on the road October 1. Their November 17 clash at Houston may determine which of the two finishes in the Top Ten.
    ---Iowa - no repeat of last year's 12-0 but a favorable schedule (Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Northwestern all at home). X
    ---Houston - The Cougars won't surprise anyone after their 12-1 record in '15. But they should dominate the American Conference again. They will have a hard time matching last year's Top Ten finish because of non-conference games against Oklahoma and Louisville. X


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