LSU head coach Les Miles knew 13 seniors from the 2012 squad were gone after the bowl game, but there is no way he could have imagined that 11 underclassmen would also leave Baton Rouge by declaring for the NFL.
Even the Tigers' punter, Brad Wing, decided to forego his final season to head on to the NFL. LSU set a school record with nine players drafted.
At most schools, after losing so much talent the following year would be considered a rebuilding year. That's not the case at LSU, where they don't rebuild, they simply reload.
Going into 2013, the Tigers return only 10 starters from 2012, which includes only three on defense. The Tigers will need to depend on a cast of talented, but inexperienced players if they are going to compete in the SEC.
On offense the biggest question marks are around star sophomore running back Jeremy Hill and senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Hill is coming off a tremendous first year, but dealt with legal issues this offseason.
Only after a recent team vote was Hill able to rejoin the Tigers. Meanwhile, Mettenberger didn’t live up to expectations during his first season as the starter. With the addition of new offensive coordinator and quarterback guru, Cam Cameron, the Tigers are expecting Mettenberger to take that next step.
August 31 vs. TCU (at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas)
LSU typically plays at least one quality opponent outside of the SEC each year and this year that’s TCU. The Horned Frogs return nine starters from their 2012 defense that ranked in the top 20 in fewest yards allowed per game.
Much to the delight of TCU head coach Gary Patterson, the Horned Frogs do a pretty good job limiting LSU running back Jeremy Hill and the rest of the Tigers' offense. The problem for the Horned Frogs is on the offensive side of the ball where they can’t get much going against the new LSU defenders. LSU 21-10
September 7 vs. UAB
After struggling offensively against the Horned Frogs, the Tigers' offense responds in a big way against UAB. This is an easy matchup for the Tigers and they race out to a big lead and never look back. LSU 35-14
September 14 vs. Kent State
The Golden Flashes are outmatched from the opening kickoff. The Tigers cruise to an easy victory and remain undefeated heading into conference play. It’ll be interesting to see how Kent State’s dynamic playmaker, Dri Archer, is able to perform against the Tigers' defense. LSU 31-10
September 21 vs. Auburn
LSU begins its conference schedule by hosting a below average Auburn team. Auburn's new coach, Gus Malzahn, is a smart coach, but not smart enough to overcome the large talent gap seperating these two teams. LSU 35-10
September 28 at Georgia
The Bulldogs come into this game having already facing highly-ranked Clemson and South Carolina, meaning they could be anywhere from 3-0 to 1-2. Either way, the Bulldogs have too much offensive firepower for the Tigers to handle. If this game was in Baton Rougue it very easily could go the Tigers' way, but in Athens the Georgia is the pick here. Georgia 31-21
October 5 at Mississippi State
Back to back weeks the Tigers play on the road against a team with the Bulldog as their mascot. Fortunately, the matchup against Mississippi State is a lot easier than the one against Georgia. The Tigers bounce back from their first loss to secure another SEC victory. LSU 28-10
October 12 vs. Florida
Starting the season, LSU and Florida look to be very similar on paper. Both feature power running games, have talented, but unproven quarterbacks and each has a defense filled with potential stars. The Gators won a hard fought battle last season in Gainesville, 14-6, and make it two in a row over the Tigers in another low scoring close game. Florida 17-10
October 19 at Ole Miss
Ole Miss is a team on the rise, but they still aren’t at the point where they can compete with LSU for a full game. The Rebels keep it close through the first half, but the Tigers wear them down in the second half. LSU 24-10
October 26 vs. Furman
Furman serves as a final tune up game before the big matchup against Alabama. The Tigers dominate Furman from the opening whistle and are able to get the starters out of the game early in the second half. The goals for this one are to key the starters fresh and avoid any injuries LSU 45-3
November 9 at Alabama
At this point, Alabama will likely still to be the top team in the country giving the Tigers a chance to pull a major upset. Regardless of where either team is ranked, this is a huge rivalry game with a lot of bragging rights on the line. The Tigers are able to do a pretty good job moving the ball against a stout Crimson Tide defense. Unfortunately, the Alabama offense uses a well balanced attack to keep the LSU defense guessing and leading the Crimson Tide to a victory. Alabama 35-24
November 23 vs. Texas A&M
The Tigers get a much needed bye after suffering a tough loss at Alabama, giving them an extra week to prepare for Johnny Football (assuming he is eligible). LSU was able to contain Manziel last year and they do a pretty good job again this year. In the end, the difference is the Aggies' inability to stop the Tigers' rushing attack. With Jeremy Hill leading the way, the Tigers hold off the Aggies for a key conference victory. LSU 31-24
November 29 vs. Arkansas
The first LSU-Arkansas Thanksgiving weekend matchup for new Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema is one he'll want to quick forget. Bielema has tried to turn Arkansas into a power running team, much like LSU is, and although the Razorbacks improved throughout the season, they aren't good enough to be a real threat to LSU. LSU 35-7
Overall Prediction: 9-3 (5-3) third place in the SEC West