The Wisconsin Badgers will kick off their 2014 season on Aug. 30 against the LSU Tigers down in Houston, Texas, which is coming up sooner than you think.
To get a better idea of just what the Badgers should expect to see in Reliant Stadium, I went straight to the source: Bryan Lazare is the senior staff writer for TigerBait.com on the Rivals.com network, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the Tigers.
You can follow Bryan on Twitter at @bldore, and make sure to check out the rest of his coverage at TigerBait.com.
How would you sum up LSU's 2013 season? It seems like people can forget about the Tigers because their division is full of heavyweights, but would you define their season as being successful?
Bryan Lazare: LSU had a season which would have been expected considering the major losses on defense. The Tigers had another 10-win season after beating Iowa in the Outback Bowl. The losses at Georgia and at Alabama were expected. The upset loss at Ole Miss really took the shine off of what would have been a year which ended with a top-ten ranking. Still, considering the personnel losses, the 2013 season would have to be considered as successful.
Who are the key pieces the Tigers are bringing back this season on offense and defense?
BL: The key returnees on offense are limited to the offensive line/tight end positions. LSU brings back four offensive line starters -- left tackle La'El Collins, left guard Vadal Alexander, center Elliott Porter and right tackle Jerald Hawkins. Collins and Porter, two seniors, are probably the two best linemen. Collins and Alexander will be three-year starters. The Tigers also return all four tight ends who played last year -- blockers Dillon Gordon and Logan Stokes and receivers Travis Dickson and DeSean Smith. The key returnees on defense are ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter, linebackers D.J. Welter and Kwon Alexander and safety Jalen Mills, who is currently indefinitely suspended from the team.
It seems like their defense is expected to bring back more starting experience, but just what kind of talent do the Tigers have to work with to fill out their offensive depth chart?
BL: The skilled position areas on offense have many questions. Running back should be the strongest of the three if freshman Leonard Fournette is as good as he was in high school. Seniors Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard are two solid tailbacks. That trio could be formidable if all remain healthy. The quarterback situation is not as solid. There are just two scholarship quarterbacks -- Anthony Jennings, who has played five meaningful quarters, and freshman Brandon Harris. Jennings is not a great passer although he can do damage with his legs. Harris is probably the best all-around quarterback, but it is unknown how long it will take before he is ready to contribute. True freshmen must be ready to play right away at receiver. Travin Dural is the only proven wide receiver. Freshmen Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn will get every opportunity to be in the rotation.
Based on everything I've read it looks like the Tigers have a pretty open competition at quarterback. Who do you expect to emerge as the starter this fall, and why do you think so?
BL: Jennings will probably be the starter for the opener unless Harris has a spectacular August camp. However, I would expect Harris to take over the job at some time during the season. It may be midyear. It could be November. The time depends upon how rapidly Harris develops.
Taking in to account LSU's returning experience and their schedule as a whole, what's their season look like in a best-case and worst-case scenario? How many games do you think they end up winning?
BL: I would think this looks like a 9-3 team. If things do not go well om offense, LSU could go 8-4. The Wisconsin game is critical for the Tigers if they are going to have a nine-win or ten-win season. Losses to Auburn and Alabama are expected. LSU has some tricky games away from home - Wisconsin, Florida, Arkansas and Texas A&M. What LSU does in those four games will determine the season.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.