LSU must have given its fans a less-than-perfect performance at its recent spring scrimmage.
Or, maybe coach Les Miles hasn’t made enough public waves this spring to keep the Tigers at the discussion forefront, during college football’s narrow dead-time window.
Either way, it’s a little quirky that LSU has dropped to No. 2 behind Florida State in ESPN’s Football Power Index for 2016, without playing an official game or incurring a major personnel loss because of injury.
For its updated rankings (3.0 version), ESPN invokes four primary components into the tabulation process: 1) Projected Win-Loss Record, 2) Win Out Percentage, 3) Conference Title Percentage and 4) Remaining Strength Of Schedule.
There are also secondary assessments, according to ESPN.com, factoring in a) past efficiencies, b) returning starters, c) recruiting rankings and d) head coaching tenure.
Put it all together and LSU — which holds top-8 rankings for three categories (projected win-loss, win out percentage, strength of schedule and 13th nationally with conference title percentage — no longer commands the top spot because reserve wideouts John Diarse and Trey Quinn (combined tallies of 18 catches, zero TDs last year) have transferred from the program.
This piece wasn’t written to condemn the findings of ESPN’s Sports Analytics Group. It typically does great work.
That aside, there must be more tangible reasons for why LSU (five potential top-15 picks in next year’s draft) might not warrant the nation’s No. 1 ranking — outside of two replaceable assets at receiver gone astray. Especially with Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural primed for All-SEC campaigns.
Eminently valid points that computers or oddsmakers could rationalize, such as:
a) LSU has a daunting five-game stretch from Oct. 8 to Nov. 12, encountering Florida (road), Southern Miss (home), Ole Miss (home), Alabama (home) and Arkansas (road) over a span of six Saturdays.
b) The Tigers are again susceptible to back-to-back defeats in November, with Alabama (defending national champions) and Arkansas coming on consecutive Saturdays.
The 2016 Crimson Tide (a flood of returning starters) likely will garner The Associated Press No. 1 ranking come August, and the Razorbacks have upended LSU the last two seasons, boasting 17-point margins of victory in both games.
c) LSU may only have the SEC West’s third- or fourth-best quarterback in Brandon Harris, who tossed at least one interception (six total) in his final five games last season.
d) Dating back to the late 1970s — long before the prolific coaching eras of Miles (2005-present) and Nick Saban (2000-04) — LSU has not defeated Florida four consecutive times. (The Tigers will be chasing a fourth straight Gators takedown this fall.)
e) With national-title contenders like Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, the vaunted SEC West should rank as college football’s deepest division this fall.
f) Florida State, which returns a dynamic defense (seven outings of 17 points or fewer last year) and Heisman Trophy contender Dalvin Cook (1,691 rushing yards, 20 total TDs in 2015), only leaves the state of Florida three times; and the Seminoles should be prohibitive favorites for the out-of-state outings with Louisville, North Carolina State and Syracuse.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.