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COLLEGE FOOTBALL | TOP 25 COUNTDOWN

No. 7 Louisiana State

(Rob Carr - AP)
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Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Basics

2007 record

12-2 (defeated Ohio State, 38-24, in the BCS Championship Game)

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Returning Starters

5 offense, 4 defense

Key Game

at Florida, Oct. 11

Player to Watch

Ricky Jean-Francois, junior defensive tackle

Jean-Francois played in just two games last season because of what school officials call an "off-the-field issue," but he was named most outstanding defensive player of the BCS title game with six tackles, 1.5 tackles for losses, and a blocked field goal attempt.

Why They're Worth Watching

Well, for starters, they're the defending national champions, so they deserve at least a little deference. And while they may have more than a few headaches to soothe on offense, the Tigers' defense should be solid once again. Just four starters return from last year's squad, but many of this year's starters gained plenty of experience during LSU's national title run. Defensive end Kirston Pittman led the team with 8.0 sacks in 2007 and will serve as a bookend on the front line, along with Tyson Jackson. Jean-Francois and senior Marlon Favorite will plug up the middle of the line. Middle linebacker Darry Beckwith played with an injured shoulder for part of last season and still finished with 65 tackles. The Tigers forced 36 turnovers a season ago -- third most in the nation -- and a repeat performance would go a long way toward masking the inexperience at a few key defensive positions.

Why They're Vulnerable

When Coach Les Miles kicked Southeastern Conference championship game most valuable player Ryan Perrilloux off the team in May for repeated violations of team rules, he also dismissed the only quarterback on his roster who had taken a snap of any significance for the Tigers. Freshman Jarrett Lee and junior Andrew Hatch are Miles's current most viable options. Hatch threw two passes last season, completing one for nine yards; Lee redshirted in 2007. Junior wide receiver Brandon LaFell caught 50 passes for 656 yards and four touchdowns. He will pair with senior wideout Demetrius Byrd, who recorded 621 receiving yards and seven touchdowns of his own last season. The offense will hinge on the development of whichever quarterback Miles chooses. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's offense is known for its complexity, which may pose a considerable obstacle for either Lee or Hatch.

-- Steve Yanda

Tomorrow

No. 6 Missouri.

Previously

No. 25 Arizona State, No. 24 Alabama, No. 23 Cal, No. 22 Penn State, No. 21 Wake Forest, No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 19 Tennessee, No. 18 Oregon, No. 17 Illinois,

No. 16 Kansas, No. 15 BYU, No. 14 Virginia Tech, No. 13 South Florida, No. 12 Texas Tech, No. 11 Texas, No. 10 Auburn, No. 9 Clemson, No. 8 West Virginia.


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