One way that a team with some young players at key positions can grow is to have them play at home. In which case LSU's schedule is almost perfect for getting the Tigers' roster about as ready as they can be for their journey through the SEC: The tough conference road games don't start until October. But the back end is where Bayou Bengal fans will notice the most differences. The annual day-after-Thanksgiving game against Arkansas is gone, replaced with a match-up against Texas A&M on the holiday itself. But the Alabama game is still sitting there in November, waiting to decide the fortunes of the Bayou Bengals.
Home sweet home. The only time the Tigers leave Baton Rouge during the first month of the season is for the four-hour drive to Houston. In other words, LSU doesn't exactly have a taxing travel schedule in August and September. The football schedule is slightly more taxing -- slightly. Wisconsin is the runaway favorite to win the Big Ten West now that the Up North Conference has decided to embrace sanity with its divisional alignments and names. Mississippi State is the only team LSU will face this month that has ever beaten the Tigers -- and that hasn't happened since 1999, with most of the recent games in the series being LSU blowouts. Wisconsin and Louisiana-Monroe are each 0-2 against the Bayou Bengals, New Mexico State is 0-1 and Sam Houston State has never played LSU.
Rivals. Hey, a true road game. What do you know? It's been a few years since something truly bizarre has happened in the LSU-Auburn game, which either means that someone stopped breaking mirrors or we're about due for more craziness. Then comes the always-popular match-up with Florida, this time in the Swamp, followed by a home game with Kentucky. The Wildcats have actually been a bit more competitive in this series than you might think -- the Tigers "only" hold a 39-16-1 edge -- but unless Mark Stoops is a miracle-worker, Kentucky's not winning at Tiger Stadium this year. The Ole Miss game is homecoming for LSU; the Tigers will be looking for some payback after the Rebels upset them in Oxford last year.
Bye-a-palooza. LSU's bye weeks are back-loaded this season, and it's actually not a bad way for the season to end. There's the off week before the GAME OF THE CENTURY (TM) EPISODE IV, and then another before the short-week game at Texas A&M. As for the games themselves, there should be little need for introduction to any of these match-ups. We're all familiar with the always-high stakes of LSU-Alabama. The Arkansas series has seen just one game decided by more than a single score since 2004. (The other game, oddly enough, was in 2011 -- arguably Arkansas' best season over that stretch. LSU won 41-17.) The Thanksgiving game between A&M and LSU makes sense, given that the Aggies and the Tigers have played 52 times; if you're going to designate someone as A&M's holiday rival, LSU makes more sense than any other SEC team.