LSU football game-by-game predictions: Here's how Tigers will fare in 2021

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

BATON ROUGE — The No. 13 LSU football teams opens the 2021 season with a vengeance as it is out to improve on a disappointing 5-5 season that followed its greatest season - 15-0 with a Heisman Trophy and national title in 2019-20. 

Here are game-by-game predictions for the regular season, which begins Saturday at UCLA (7:30 p.m., FOX).

Sept. 4: at UCLA

Last season: Did not play. UCLA went 3-4.

The buzz: LSU plays UCLA and in Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, for the first time. The Tigers will also showcase two first-time major college coordinators in Daronte Jones on defense and Jake Peetz on offense, and a quarterback – sophomore Max Johnson – starting a season opener for the first time. LSU opens at an opponent's home stadium for the first time since Washington in 2009, a 31-23 victory.

The pick: LSU wins, 24-21.

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Sept. 11: vs. McNeese State

Last season: Did not play. McNeese State went 3-4.

The buzz: LSU coach Ed Orgeron will face off against his son, McNeese quarterback Cody Orgeron, who has been the starter since 2020. Cody Orgeron completed 119 of 194 passes for 1,560 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He is ninth in school history in career passing yards with 4,336 and sixth in touchdowns with 35. He has thrown 91 straight passes without an interception.

The pick: LSU wins, 48-13.

LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (24) returns a punt during the first quarter at Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.

Sept. 18: vs. Central Michigan

Last season: Did not play. Central Michigan went 3-3.

The buzz: The Tigers will play the Athletics for the first time and will have a final tune-up before opening SEC play. LSU will try to solidify its tailback position, which entered the season without a clear starter. Backup quarterback Garrett Nussmeier will likely get a chance to play a lot in relief of Johnson.

The pick: LSU wins, 37-10.

Sept. 25: at Mississippi State

Last season: Mississippi State won 44-34. Mississippi State went 4-7.

The buzz: The Tigers open SEC play against the team that started LSU's slide in 2020, particularly on defense. Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello threw for an SEC-record 623 yards and five touchdowns. LSU leads the series, 75-36-3, and 16-7-1 in Starkville. Costello finished his eligibility, and LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini was fired.

The pick: LSU wins, 24-17.

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Oct. 2: vs. Auburn

Last season: Auburn won 48-11. Auburn went 6-5.

The buzz: Auburn will be searching for its first win in Tiger Stadium since 1999, and new coach Bryan Harsin will make his LSU debut. The Tigers have won 10 straight at home over Auburn since a 41-7 loss in 1999. Four of those wins were by six points or less. LSU leads the series at home, 19-5-1 and 30-23-1 overall.

The pick: Auburn wins, 27-17.

Oct. 9: at Kentucky

Last season: Did not play. Kentucky went 5-6.

The buzz: Nussmeier continues to play well in relief appearances and naturally is the fan favorite to replace Johnson as the starter entering Kentucky week. But Johnson keeps the job. The Tigers play in Lexington for the first time since a 43-37 loss in triple overtime in 2007 when LSU was No. 1. 

The pick: LSU wins, 24-13.

Oct. 16: vs. Florida

Last season: LSU won, 37-34. Florida went 8-4.

The buzz: The Gators come to Baton Rouge full of revenge as LSU's upset of No. 6 Florida in 2020 ruined the Gators' playoff hopes. Johnson remains steady for the Tigers, and freshman Corey Kiner is rapidly becoming LSU's best tailback. Florida leads the best East-West series in the league, 33-31-3. Eight of the last 11 games have been decided by eight points or less.  

The pick: Florida wins, 31-28.

PROOF OF VACCINATION:LSU football fans must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test to attend games

Oct. 23: at Ole Miss

Last season: LSU won, 53-48. Ole Miss went 5-5.

The buzz: Orgeron returns to Ole Miss, where he coached from 2005-07, against his old friend, Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin. The Tigers (5-2) and Ole Miss (5-1) meet with both teams ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2016, when No. 25 LSU beat the No. 23 Rebels, 38-21, in Baton Rouge.  

The pick: LSU wins, 27-21.

Nov. 6: at Alabama

Last season: Alabama won, 55-17. Alabama went 13-0.

The buzz: After losing to Texas A&M two weeks previously for its first regular-season loss since falling to LSU in 2019, the Crimson Tide (7-1) still opens as a 14-point favorite over the Tigers LSU. Nussmeier came off the bench to throw two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win at Ole Miss, but Orgeron sticks with Johnson. 

The pick: Alabama wins, 34-10.

Nov. 13: vs. Arkansas

Last season: LSU won, 27-24. Arkansas went 3-7.

The buzz: Nussmeier is named starting quarterback after Johnson throws two interceptions in the Alabama loss. Arkansas is struggling again at 3-6. Quarterback Myles Brennan finally is ready to play after his broken arm before the season, but he does not play. LSU leads the series, 42-22-2, including 13-3-1 in Tiger Stadium.

The pick: LSU wins, 38-17.

Nov. 20: vs. Louisiana-Monroe

Last season: Did not play. ULM went 0-10.

The buzz: Nussmeier is the talk of Baton Rouge after completing 20 of 26 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns in win over Arkansas. LSU leads the series with ULM, 3-0.

The pick: LSU wins, 52-10.

Nov. 27: vs. Texas A&M

Last season: Texas A&M won, 20-7. Texas A&M went 9-1.

The buzz: The Aggies are 11-0 and No. 1 in the nation heading into the season finale at Tiger Stadium, where A&M has not won since 1995. Aggies' coach Jimbo Fisher, whom LSU could have hired after the 2016 and '17 seasons, is on the verge of becoming just the third coach to win national titles at two schools as he won one at Florida State. The others are Urban Meyer at Florida and Ohio State, and Nick Saban at LSU and Alabama. Orgeron, meanwhile, limps in at 8-3 and 13-8 over his previous two seasons.

The pick: Texas A&M wins, 38-27.