Hell has frozen over, pigs are flying, and the LSU Tigers are running a spread offense.
Coach Ed Orgeron said the offense will retain some of its old-school, smashmouth elements under new passing game coordinator Joe Brady, but he assured skeptical reporters at SEC Media Days that the shift was indeed occurring.
“It’s in the playbook. I’ve seen the playbook,” Orgeron said. “So it’s not a threat.”
Unlike this time last year, senior quarterback Joe Burrow has the security of knowing the team is his. His improvement was clear over the course of last season, his first as a collegiate starter.
Over the Tigers’ first nine games he threw six touchdown passes and completed more than 57% of his passes just once. Over the final four games, though, he threw 10 touchdowns and topped 60% completion in all four.
He’s comfortable in the more modern offense, having run up-tempo, no-huddle schemes since high school, and has nearly the entire offense returning around him.
Much of the defense returns as well, though inside linebacker Devin White, the No. 5 overall pick in the NFL draft, will be difficult to replace. Senior Michael Divinity Jr. and juniors Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen have the unenviable task of trying.
Three of the starting five defensive backs remain in Baton Rouge, including unanimous All-American safety Grant Delpit. The group adds top-five overall recruit Derek Stingley Jr. and versatile chess piece JaCoby Stevens to create one of college football’s stingiest secondaries.
“I think this is the best group of defensive backs I’ve ever coached,” Orgeron said. “That’s 35 years of coaching.”
With a gritty senior quarterback in an offense that matches his skill set and features the same supporting cast as a year ago, and a defense that specializes in stopping the pass but is also stout in the box, murmurs have already begun that this is the LSU team to finally topple Alabama.
“We have a tough schedule this year, but we have a good football team,” Orgeron said. “We should be able to answer the bell.”
2018 record: 10-3 (5-3 SEC/finished T-2nd in SEC West)
All-time SEC championships: 11
All-time bowl appearances: 50 (26-23-1)
Sept. 2 Miami (FL)* W 33-17
Sept. 8 SE Louisiana W 31-0
Sept. 15 at Auburn W 22-21
Sept. 22 Louisiana Tech W 38-21
Sept. 29 Ole Miss W 45-16
Oct. 6 at Florida L 27-19
Oct. 13 Georgia W 36-16
Oct. 20 Mississippi State W 19-3
Nov. 3 Alabama L 29-0
Nov. 10 at Arkansas W 24-17
Nov. 17 Rice W 42-10
Nov. 24 at Texas A&M L 74-72 (7OT)
Jan. 1 Central Florida^ W 40-32
^PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
Starters returning: 17 Offense: 8 Defense: 8 Specialty: 1
Starters lost: 7 Offense: 3 Defense: 3 Specialty: 1
Returning offensive starters: Damien Lewis (OG, Sr.), Lloyd Cushenberry (C, Jr.), Austin Deculus (OT, Jr.), Saahdiq Charles (OT, Jr.), Joe Burrow (QB, Sr.), Ja’Marr Chase (WR, So.), Justin Jefferson (WR, Jr.), Derrick Dillon (WR, Sr.)
Returning defensive starters: Glen Logan (DL, Jr.), Breiden Fohoko (DL, Sr.), Rashard Lawrence (DL, Sr.), Jacob Phillips (LB, Jr.), Michael Divinity Jr. (LB, Sr.), Kristian Fulton (CB, Sr.), Kary Vincent Jr. (CB, Jr.), Grant Delpit (S, Jr.)
Returning statistical leaders
Rushing Att Yards Avg TD
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 146 658 4.5 7
Passing Att Yards Avg TD
Joe Burrow 379 2894 7.6 16
Receiving Att Yards Avg TD
Justin Jefferson 54 875 16.2 6
Tackles Total Int Sack TFL
Jacob Phillips 87 1 1.0 5.5
Aug. 31 Georgia Southern
Sept. 7 at Texas
Sept. 14 Northwestern State
Sept. 21 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 5 Utah State
Oct. 12 Florida
Oct. 19 at Mississippi State
Oct. 26 Auburn
Nov. 9 at Alabama
Nov. 16 at Ole Miss
Nov. 23 Arkansas
Nov. 30 Texas A&M