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LSU Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2014 Schedule

Carter BryantContributor IMarch 16, 2014

LSU Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2014 Schedule

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    John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

    LSU has yet another tough schedule in 2014. Les Miles will aim to make his first appearance to the SEC Championship Game since 2011. 

    Granted, every team in the SEC has to run through a gauntlet. But the Tigers will, on top of playing the six other SEC West schools, have to play Florida and one of the toughest nonconference opponents for any SEC school in Wisconsin. 

    LSU will need to be prepared for the wide variety of players and offenses it will face during the season. Injuries will happen, so developing depth will be critical for the Tigers.

    Ranking the toughest opponents on LSU's schedule is almost as difficult as the Tigers schedule itself. But here is a preview of the toughest teams Miles will play in 2014. 

6. Texas A&M (Nov. 27th)

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    Deion Jones attempts to tackle Johnny Manziel the last time the Tigers played in College Station.
    Deion Jones attempts to tackle Johnny Manziel the last time the Tigers played in College Station.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    LSU will play Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Day in 2014. The Tigers have normally played Arkansas on the Friday after Turkey Day, but the tradition has now shifted

    LSU will have to adjust to playing on Thanksgiving Day, which should not be that big of an issue. The Tigers will have a bye before playing the Aggies to avoid a short week of preparation.  

    Texas A&M will replace quarterback Johnny Manziel, left tackle Jake Matthews and wide receiver Mike Evans, all of which will probably be first-round NFL draft picks. The Aggies defense was last in total defense in 2013 in the SEC. 

    Head coach Kevin Sumlin could be looking at a rebuilding year next season. Yet Sumlin did bring an elite recruiting class filled with players ready to take the field now. 

    College Station is an eclectic environment and a tough place to play. The Tigers were victorious there in 2012. Les Miles will look to repeat that this season. 

5. Ole Miss (Oct. 25th)

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    LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White tackles receiver Laquon Treadwell. The sophomores will battle against each other again this year.
    LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White tackles receiver Laquon Treadwell. The sophomores will battle against each other again this year.Associated Press

    Ole Miss was missing six defensive starters and still beat LSU last season. The Tigers played flat in Oxford and were fortunate to only lose the game by only three. LSU underperformed the last time the Rebels visited Tiger Stadium in 2012, narrowly escaping with a 41-35 victory

    The Tigers will play Ole Miss again in Death Valley this season, with both teams having played three SEC opponents in the three weeks prior. Health and depth could play a massive factor. 

    LSU must be focused next season against a Rebels squad that returns plenty on talent.

    Quarterback Bo Wallace returns with arguably the best receiver in the conference in Laquon Treadwell. Defensively, Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche are bash brothers in the front seven. Safety Cody Prewitt led the SEC in interceptions in 2013. 

4. Wisconsin (Aug. 30th)

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    Running back Melvin Gordon will be a preseason Heisman contender for the Badgers.
    Running back Melvin Gordon will be a preseason Heisman contender for the Badgers.Matthew Holst/Getty Images

    LSU will play Wisconsin in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff for the Tigers' season opener. The game will be played in Reliant Stadium in Houston. It will be the first time the Tigers and Badgers face off since the early '70s, according to Wisconsin Sports Information

    Wisconsin will be an unfamiliar foe for the Tigers. But the Badgers play a traditional, pro-style offense, similar to Alabama and Florida. Miles prefers that style of football.

    LSU must be ready to stop running back Melvin Gordon and the massive Badger offensive line. The Tigers will be breaking in new starting defensive tackles and learning how to play without Lamin Barrow, their leading tackler from last season. If they don't slow Gordon down, it could be a long night for defensive coordinator John Chavis. 

    The Tigers also will have a new identity on offense next season. LSU is replacing its quarterback, running back and two best receivers this offseason. Finding a groove offensively in the season opener could be tricky. 

3. Florida (Oct. 11th)

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    "The Swamp" has not been kind to LSU. 

    Les Miles has only won once in four tries at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Even in that 2010 triumph, it took some of Miles' wizardry to win. 

    Florida was the biggest disappointment in the SEC in 2013, which included a 17-6 defeat to LSU in Tiger Stadium. The Gators could have another long season this year, but there is no denying the elite talent Will Muschamp puts on the field.

    Winning in Gainesville is tough—no matter who lines up for the Gators. LSU will have to do so a week after playing on the road against defending SEC champion Auburn.

    On a slightly different note, a schedule like this is why Miles complains about playing Florida every year as a permanent cross-divisional rival. He has a damn strong point too.  

2. Auburn (Oct. 4th)

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    Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall looks to pass as LSU defensive end Jermauria Rasco chases him. Both will return this season, this time facing each other in Jordan-Hare.
    Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall looks to pass as LSU defensive end Jermauria Rasco chases him. Both will return this season, this time facing each other in Jordan-Hare.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn will look for revenge on the only team that beat him in conference play. LSU defeated the Tigers, 35-21, in Baton Rouge last season. 

    LSU jumped out on Auburn early, largely in part to a magnificent performance from Jeremy Hill. If not for Hill, the game would have been much closer. 

    Auburn is one of the few SEC schools that returns its quarterback in Nick Marshall. The Tigers also bring back young talent at defensive line with Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson. There is little doubt Malzahn will field another strong team in 2014.

    LSU will travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium for its first road game of the season in early October. The Tigers better be ready for the fast-paced offense lead by Malzahn and Marshall. 

1. Alabama (Nov. 8th)

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    LSU receiver Travin Dural snatches a touchdown reception against Alabama last season. Dural is LSU's top returning wide receiver.
    LSU receiver Travin Dural snatches a touchdown reception against Alabama last season. Dural is LSU's top returning wide receiver.John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

    Alabama is the most talented team LSU will face next season. Luckily enough for the Tigers, the game will be played in Tiger Stadium in 2014. 

    Alabama will have a new quarterback, which is good news for the Tigers. AJ McCarron was magnificent in his final three games against LSU. Yet the Crimson Tide returns all of its talented running backs, including T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry. 

    Alabama will be deep and talented on defense. Landon Collins, Trey DePriest and A'Shawn Robinson are just a few experienced playmakers that return.

    Both the Tigers and the Crimson Tide will be coming off a bye for the fourth straight season. The Tigers will look to end its three-game losing streak against the Crimson Tide in early November. 

    Alabama has become the most anticipated game annually for LSU fans. That will not change next season as the Tigers and the Crimson Tide will have strong teams.  

     

    *Agree? Disagree? Let me know on Twitter @CarterthePower or in the comment section below. 

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