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Big Things in Baton Rouge

A few weeks ago, DIG called 2015 the “Year of the Championship” for Baton Rouge sports. What will 2016 end up being known for when it’s all said and done? A year of redemption? A year of celebration? A return to glory for the area teams that didn’t win it all in 2015?

The DIG Sports staff has compiled our predictions for the upcoming year in Baton Rouge sports (and one prediction right down the road). This one could be a doozy!

2016 is the year that LSU finally beats Alabama in football – Casey Gisclair

The losing streak stops for the LSU football team over Alabama in 2016, and the Tigers will finally trump their biggest rivals when they make the march from Tuscaloosa to Death Valley at the end of the season.

The 2016 Alabama football team will be coming off its second-straight SEC Championship, and the team will lack the hunger that it will need to stay the biggest fish in the highly competitive pond that’s loaded with annual contenders.

Alabama is losing its Heisman Trophy running back, its veteran quarterback and a slew of guys on defense. They will be ripe for the picking in 2016 – as ripe for the picking as any Crimson Tide team will ever be, at least.

On the flip-side, LSU is going to remain intact in 2016 – the first time in quite a while that the Tigers aren’t decimated by the NFL Draft.

With Brandon Harris, Leonard Fournette, Malachi Dupre and a handful of linemen back, the Tigers figure to be a high-powered offensive group. Defensively, LSU may have a new coordinator, but they have a lot of the same faces – a good sign considering how well the team played late in the year.

Give me LSU over the Tide. The streak has to stop someday, so why not now? If it doesn’t, Les Miles may not be able to save himself again from the Alleva Monster.

LSU Basketball will make the NCAA Tournament, but lose early – Andrew Alexander

LSU hoops has put together a roller coaster season to this point. Wins over Kentucky and at Vanderbilt are offset with non-conference losses to Houston and Charleston. Led by freshman superstar Ben Simmons, LSU is loaded with its most talented squad in recent memory. The losses have been head-scratching, but the Tigers have shown flashes of the brilliance many fans and pundits predicted in the preseason.

Ben Simmons LSU MD
The “Ben Simmons Effect” will help LSU make the NCAA Tournament as a bubble team. Photo by Briannna Paciorka

Each of coach Johnny Jones’ seasons have been slightly more successful than the previous, starting with his 19 win, no postseason debut season in 2012-2013, 20 wins and a NIT appearance in year two and finally a 22 win season that culminated in a trip to the NCAA Tournament in year three. LSU lost a 66-65 heartbreaker to North Carolina State in its first game of the 2015 Big Dance.

Despite a disappointing start in non-conference play, the Tigers will be the sexiest bubble team this March. The NCAA Tournament is a television event that needs stars, and LSU has one of the brightest stars in college basketball. The Ben Simmons effect will help LSU go dancing in March Madness for the second straight year.

Johnny Jones will get his first NCAA Tournament win as the LSU head coach, but his team will not advance beyond the first weekend of play.

Leonard Fournette will win the Heisman Trophy in 2016 – Wesley Wright

Leonard Fournette finished fifth in Heisman voting in 2015. So what will propel him to the top spot in 2016? First of all the schedule is in his favor. Having the first game of last season cancelled didn’t help, so having a full twelve game schedule should help Leonard’s cause.

Having a home game versus Alabama should also get his mouth watering. Twelve games, a home game against Alabama, and if the cards are played right an SEC championship should give Leonard plenty of opportunities to show the voters what he’s made of.

Leonard Fournette will be a Heisman Trophy frontrunner entering his junior season in 2016.
Leonard Fournette will be a Heisman Trophy frontrunner entering his junior season in 2016.

The second thing Leonard has going for him is his competition. Derrick Henry will be in the NFL in 2016. Christian McCaffery and Deshaun Watson (who finished second and third in the voting) are both having the season of their lives. Fournette didn’t have a great season despite setting records and putting up great numbers. It is unlikely that McCaffery and Watson will repeat the performances they had in 2015.

Fournette has shown this season not only that he is one of the most talented players in college football, but also that he has also still has room for improvement. That is why Leonard Fournette will take home the Heisman Trophy in 2016.

The LHSAA will alter or change its public-private split rules – Casey Gisclair

I sure wouldn’t want to be an athletic administrator with the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.

We are at a period in Louisiana prep athletic history where literally everyone is upset and disgruntled. And it’s all because of the public-private split, which occurs in football, but may soon expand and/or be dissolved – depending on how principals vote in the coming months.

I’m not sure how the votes will go because opinions are so polarized on either side, but I can predict with 100 percent confidence that we will see change.

The New Orleans Saints will play in Super Bowl 51 – Andrew Mongrue

Mark my words, Drew Brees and Sean Payton will make it to the NFL playoffs again as a dynamic duo. The playoff drought will come to an end, but the Carolina Panthers will win the NFC South for the fourth straight year.

A huge issue is the massive salary Brees demands and the NFL record $30 million salary cap hit due for next year (if he refuses to restructure). Brees’ massive contract has been detrimental to the Saints being able to keep players such as Malcolm Jenkins, Darren Sproles, Kenny Stills and other veterans that have been cut or traded through out the past few years. However, without all the salary cap issues the Saints played a much improved last six games of the season on both sides of the ball.

SaintsThe offense also started clicking on all cylinders with young wide receivers and Brees finally starting to be the high powered offense Saints fans have fallen in love with over the past 10 years. A healthy Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson should only help the running back options.

The Saints aren’t deep enough to win the division just yet, but I truly believe they can lock up a Wild Card spot next year and find their way to a third NFC Championship game in 11 years.

Hopefully, they can land the top Wild Card seed and become road warriors. Ideally another NFC Championship could happen in the Mercedes Benz Superdome if the fifth seeded Saints hosted the sixth seeded team next year.

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