Dig Baton Rouge

Season Stack-Up: Meet the Tigers’ September rivals

Rejoice, LSU fans. Football season is finally here.

The Tigers have been working throughout August to polish their crafts before the start of the 2016 season.

It’s a year LSU fans around Louisiana have looked forward to for months, as the Tigers return more starters than any other team in the Southeastern Conference, which has many thinking this will be the year the Tigers make the College Football Playoff.

But before the Tigers conquer January, they must first get past September–one loaded with four stiff challenges.

Wisconsin
Where: Lambeau Field
When: Sept. 3, 2:30 p.m. CST
TV: ABC
LSU will open the season against Wisconsin – the always-stout power from the Big 10 Conference. This will be the second meeting in a North/South, two-game contract between the Tigers and Badgers – the second meeting in three seasons for the teams. LSU beat Wisconsin 28-24 to open 2014 in a game that was close until the final seconds. That game, coincidentally enough, was Leonard Fournette’s first at the college level. He was a non-factor, rushing for just 18 yards on eight carries. Rushing yards may be tough to come by for Fournette again against the Badgers in 2016, as Wisconsin returns most of its front seven from a unit that was pretty stingy in 2015 under former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda (who is now in the same position at LSU). The big question for Wisconsin in 2016 is similar to LSU’s – it revolves around the quarterback position where the Badgers are expected to try out several players at the position.
Dig’s Quick Pick: LSU 31, Wisconsin 17

Jacksonville State
Where: Tiger Stadium
When: Sept. 10, 6:30 p.m. CST
TV: ESPNU
After battling the Badgers, LSU will take on a Jacksonville State team that may seem puny in recognizable name value, but which has a history of beating the Goliaths in the SEC. In 2010, the Gamecocks shocked the world when they scored a 49-48 victory over Ole Miss to open the season. Last year, lightning almost struck twice when Jacksonville State took Auburn to overtime, then lost a tough decision. This year’s Gamecocks squad is expected to be tough – a group picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference in the preseason. Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins is tough and is likely one of the best the Tigers will see. Gamecocks defensive end Darius Jackson is tough, too, and will likely play in the NFL. Nothing about this game should be taken lightly by LSU. They’ll roll if they’re ready. They’ll struggle if they’re not.
Dig’s Quick Pick: LSU 41, Jacksonville State 14

Mississippi State
Where: Tiger Stadium
When: Sept. 17, 6 p.m. CST
TV: ESPN/ESPN2
The Tigers will open SEC play against Mississippi State – a program that is in a bit of transition under longtime coach Dan Mullen. This will be the first year in nearly a half-decade where the Bulldogs enter a season without quarterback Dak Prescott – a Louisiana native who ascended to become one of the best players in the history of Mississippi State football. But the Bulldogs also lost key starters throughout the rest of their depth chart, as well, giving them one of the least experienced teams in the SEC for the upcoming season. Combine that inexperience with an unsteady quarterback situation which may feature as many as four players and many think the Bulldogs will be down in 2016, compared to the rest of the SEC. It’s hard to disagree.
Dig’s Quick Pick: LSU 28, Mississippi State 10

Auburn
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium
When: Sept. 24, Time TBA
TV: TBA
Auburn had a disastrous season in 2015, finishing just 6-6 in the regular season. Those results were a bit surprising because the Plainsmen were actually pretty senior-laden. This year, they’re not, fielding the least-experienced team in the entire SEC – a group which returns just nine starters total for the entire football team. Those youthful roster has many thinking Auburn will be last place in the SEC West, but something about this game has me a little on edge. Gus Malzahn is coaching for his job in 2016, and this would be a signature win he could point to when negotiating his future. The LSU/Auburn rivalry is one in which crazy things tend to happen. I’m not sure the predictable LSU blowout happens in this game. In fact, it may end up being one of the Tigers’ toughest games of the season.
Dig’s Quick Pick: LSU 31, Auburn 28

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