Coach: Ed Orgeron, fourth season (41-36 overall, 25-9 at LSU).
Last season: 10-3 overall, 5-3 in the SEC (T-2nd in the West). Defeated Central Florida 40-32 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Last year’s game: Lamical Perine rushed for two touchdowns and the UF defense came up with three turnovers in the fourth quarter, including a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown by Brad Stewart with less than two minutes remaining, to lead the Gators to a 27-19 victory in The Swamp.
Starters returning: 16 (8 on offense, 8 on defense).
Strengths: The Tigers should have one of the SEC’s most potent offenses, one with great balance and playmaking ability. LSU seemed to solve its long standing problem at quarterback with the addition of Ohio State graduate transfer Joe Burrow last season. He improved over the course of the year and his arrow is clearly pointing up heading into 2019. Burrow will have an experienced line in front of him and lots of options in the passing game, with the top five wide receivers returning, led by Justin Jefferson (54 catches, 875 yards and six TDs in 2018). With eight starters returning, the LSU defense should be one of the strongest in the nation, led by perhaps the best secondary in the nation.
Possible problem areas: Nick Brossette, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, is gone and the Tigers entered the season without a proven and dominant running back. LSU also must replace two of its most dynamic defensive players — linebacker Devin White, a first-round draft pick, and cover cornerback Greedy Williams. Also, the kicking aspect of special teams is unproven.
The schedule: The talented Tigers will be tested early, traveling to Texas in the second week of the season. The SEC schedule is favorable, with Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M coming to Death Valley and Vanderbilt being the other East team coming on to the schedule. But getting over the Alabama hurdle is going to be tough because the Tigers have to go to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9.
Quotable: “Last year there was negativity. People didn’t know what type of football team we were going to have or were talking about this, talking about that. Now this year they say we’re going to have a really good football team, and I do believe we’re going to have a really good football team, but we have to get back to work. We have to get back to the true grit, the fundamentals it takes at camp and block out the noise. I know our team’s going do that with tremendous leadership.” — Ed Orgeron