No. 1: The LSU Tigers have a lot of potential to succeed in 2023
The defending SEC West champions take the crown of having the best offense Mississippi State will face in 2023. Despite some shaky moments, Brian Kelly’s debut season was a sign that LSU is getting back to being a force in the SEC. OC Mike Denbrock put together a strong offense that averaged 34.5 points per game and ranked 23rd in Offensive SP+ on the way to a 10-win season.
Arizona State transfer QB Jayden Daniels solidified himself as one of the SEC’s best last season, throwing for 2913 yards with 17 TDs and just three INTs while completing nearly 69% of his passes. He also led the Tigers in rushing with 885 yards and 11 TDs, making defenses that locked in on LSU’s WRs pay by scrambling for yardage. The Tigers have depth at the position too, as backup Garrett Nussmeier is more than capable of effectively filling in at QB.
Despite the losses of starting WRs Kayshon Boutte and Jaray Jenkins, LSU still boasts one of the SEC’s best WR rooms. Malik Nabers is back after leading LSU with 1017 yards last season, as is Brian Thomas who hauled in five TD catches. Alabama transfer Aaron Anderson is another name to watch for at WR. TE Mason Taylor is also back after finishing as LSU’s 3rd leading receiver in 2022.
LSU was long known for churning out 1000-yard, bell-cow RBs, but last season they fully embraced the “RB by committee” approach. And it worked pretty darn well. Four tailbacks – Josh Williams, Noah Cain, John Emery Jr., and Armoni Goodwin – combined for 1583 yards and 27 TDs. Factor in Daniels abilities as a runner, and you’ve got a formidable ground game.
All four of those backs return, and then LSU went and added Notre Dame transfer Logan Diggs, who rushed for 820 yards last season. How Kelly and Denbrock will go about spreading the wealth in the backfield is beyond me, but they’ve given themselves plenty of talented options to tote the rock. Having fresh legs shouldn’t be an issue.
All five starting offensive lineman return this year. What was a young group in 2022 now has a year of experience together and will look to solidify themselves as strong unit. By some advanced metrics, the LSU OL was one of the country’s best at run blocking. But on the flipside, the were amongst the worst nationally in terms of sack rate allowed, and that was with a QB more than capable of escaping the pass rush.
LSU’s potency on offense will come down to whether or not pass protection has improved. The Tigers won’t face too many great pass rushers, but in the games that will likely decide their season – Florida State and Alabama – that will be a big factor. Mississippi State is also in that group of teams with strong talent up front on defense. The Bulldog defense held the Tigers for three quarters last season in Death Valley before the dam burst. They’ll need a four quarter effort to spring the upset in Starkville this September.