BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU football team will open the 2017 season ranked 13th in the Associated Press preseason Top 25, which was released Monday.
The Tigers are ranked third among the six SEC teams in the preseason Top 25. Alabama leads the way among SEC teams — and everyone else — at No. 1 in the country. Auburn is rated just above LSU at 12th.
LSU is ranked in the Top 15 of both major polls. The Tigers begin the year at No. 12 in the Amway Coaches Poll.
Expectations are nothing new for LSU, but living up to them has been a challenge in the last decade. The Tigers have only improved their preseason ranking at the end of the year twice in the last nine seasons.
However, the Tigers are entering a new era in 2017. For the first time since 2004, LSU kicks off a season without Les Miles on the sidelines. Ed Orgeron begins his first year as LSU’s full-time head coach after earning the job with a 6-2 record in place of the fired Miles last season.
Part of the reason Orgeron won the gig was his promise to open up LSU’s buttoned-down offense. First-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada will attempt to find the antidote to that old problem. Canada’s offense at Pittsburgh ranked 10th in the country with 40.9 points per game in 2016.
On offense, LSU returns running back Derrius Guice, who led the SEC in rushing with 1,387 yards last year despite being a part-time starter in place of the injured Leonard Fournette. Senior quarterback Danny Etling is also back, as are three starting offensive linemen and wide receiver DJ Chark.
Defensively, the Tigers must find replacements for multiple stars on a unit that allowed the fewest touchdowns in the country last season. Cornerback Tre’Davious White and safety Jamal Adams were both first-round picks in the NFL Draft. Defensive end Davon Godchaux and linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley are also on NFL rosters this year.
LSU does bring back outside linebacker Arden Key, who has the potential to be the first defensive player off the board in next year’s NFL Draft. However, Key is unlikely to be on the field for LSU’s opener against BYU as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.