“They silently whisper a prayer to the football gods…”

Lee here. I think LSU is looking at 10-2 at the best and likely worse. But Andrew Alexander of our staff is way more optimistic. Here’s his look at the Tigers before the first kickoff. Check back here Sunday for my take on the LSU-TCU game:

As LSU football fans far and wide pack up their tailgating supplies and make the trek to Arlington, Texas, this weekend, they silently whisper a prayer to the football gods:

“Please let the Tigers make it through this season without losing too many games. Help Mettenberger throw an abundance of touchdown passes. Please allow Jeremy Hill to rediscover his 2012 season form and run rampant over the competition. Most importantly football gods, please let the Tigers beat Bama! I can’t stomach the thought of a Crimson Tide three peat.”

Ok, maybe it’s just me.

Fear not LSU faithful because I bring predictions of great joy!

Despite a historically large number of early draft departures and a daunting schedule, the Tigers will prevail victorious over the SEC West.

The widely inaccurate myth surrounding the LSU defense this offseason is its perceived lack of depth and leadership. At first glance this would appear true. The Tigers lost defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, defensive tackles Bennie Logan and Josh Downs, linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid

But this is LSU, where the phrase “reload not rebuild” applies to leadership as well as talent.

Junior defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, along with senior safety Craig Loston and linebacker Lamin Borrow are expected to lead LSU’s young defensive unit this season. Sophomore cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins and linebacker Kwon Alexander will also be called upon to mature quickly and contribute in a big way.

Of course there are questions about defensive end, place-kicker and equipment manager, but if you scrutinize any team hard enough, fault can be found.

LSU is oozing with talent on both sides of the ball, and that includes many standout freshmen, especially on the defensive line. Do not be surprised if you see freshmen Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron, Christian LaCouture, Tashawn Bower or Maquedius Bain wreaking havoc in opponent’s backfield this season.

On offense, LSU should be one of the most talented and productive in recent memory. The Tigers have an arsenal of weapons at the skilled positions, led by junior wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and senior running back Alfred Blue. And then there’s the aforementioned Jeremy Hill and wide receivers Travin Dural and Quantavius Leslie.

Leading this formidable unit is senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Despite a rocky start last season, Mettenberger finished with 12 touchdowns, seven interceptions and 2,609 passing yards, the fifth-highest single-season total in school history. He was the first quarterback since Tommy Hodson in 1989 to throw for 250 yards or more against three straight SEC opponents, and had the best game of his career on the biggest stage of the season against Alabama with 298 yards and 24 completions.

The Tigers have the pieces to be a championship contender, and while much has been made about the difficulty of their upcoming schedule this season, I firmly believe the Tigers can survive with a single blemish.

Forget Texas A&M, Ole Miss, TCU and Florida. The Tigers should be worried about Georgia and Alabama.

LSU must face both Georgia and Alabama on the road, and things can get rowdy in both Sanford and Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide and Bulldogs are led by talented senior quarterbacks and loaded with plenty of future NFL draft picks.

My prediction is the Tigers fall to the Bulldogs between the hedges because it is LSU’s first big test of the season (no I’m not counting TCU as a test).

After a disappointing outing in Athens, I believe the Tigers can navigate the rest of their treacherous SEC schedule this season, finish 11-1 and represent the SEC West in Atlanta.