I'm stepping onto a limb that is getting thinner and thinner. National prognosticators, local fans and casual college football fans alike believe the LSU Tigers are in for a less-than-championship caliber year.
Fear not, Tiger fans.... the Cam-a-holic is hear to explain just how LSU will blow past the 8-9 win plateau and into the 10, 11 or 12 win ionosphere.
First, a method to my madness, if you will. What is the biggest difference maker in creating a winning/playoff-caliber team in the NFL vs. a Conference contender in the College ranks?
In the NFL, most teams have a similarly skilled 53 man active roster. For my argument, let's consider most teams (Raiders excluded) at 8-8, or .500 level before training camp begins. What happens leading up to the season and throughout the 17-week test is determined greatly by coaching (and quarterback play). There is no better example than the 2012 New Orleans Saints season.
There are more restrictions on the ability of the aggregate roster in the NFL opposed to college. Plain and Simple.
- NFL Teams Choose From Pool Of Players With At Least 3 Years Of Experience Against Similarly-Skilled Players, Rarely Discovering The "Diamond In The Rough (i.e., Marques Colston)"
- NFL Teams Operate With A Salary Cap, In Theory, Preventing The Minority Of Teams Harboring The Majority Of Talent
- College Teams Choose From A Pool Of Players With Exceptional Skill, Perhaps Skewed By The Disparity Of the Level Of Competition In The High School Ranks
In College, Coaches have 85 scholarships to offer with additional roster spots reserved for "invited walk-ons" and other non-scholarship players. Powerful programs (i.e., Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Georgia) are able to "lock up" the bulk of the top-talent in football-rich states, leaving others to scramble for lower-skilled players. The Scales are tipped! Think it's a coincidence aforementioned schools are perennial Top-10 schools in the recruiting rankings? Of course not!
Coaching in the NFL is so much more of an exact science than in college. The number of successful college coaches who failed in the NFL is a Who's Who of College Football Greats: Saban, Spurrier, Petrino, (Lou) Holtz. Jim Harbaugh (Stanford, San Diego) and Pete Carroll (USC) are the exceptions to the rule---Carroll had a nice head-start at Southern Cal, thanks to some rule-bending recruiting. Harbaugh is the true anomaly in this scenario. He won with the Toreros and with the Cardinal, when others didn't prior to his arrival. Basically, Jim Harbaugh is one helluva coach, no matter the level of football.
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How does this translate into more LSU wins than the experts are forecasting? Simple---The Tigers have a game-changer running the show on offense.
Cam Cameron brings an NFL ability to an NCAA Coaches Box above Tiger Stadium. The former NFL offensive coordinator and quarterback guru is NOT on equal footing with the opposing coaching staff's on the Tigers schedule. Check the Phil Steele Player Ratings for TCU's defensive two-deep compared to LSU's offensive first and second teams. TCU is loaded with players who were ranked anywhere from the 100th best prospect at that position coming out of high school to the 250th best prospect at that position coming out of high school. LSU's offense? Top 25 prospects dot the backfield, wide receiver and offensive line positions as well as at quarterback. Steele uses an "aggregate" score from the High School Recruiting Services, so the accuracy and numbers assigned are much closer to an accurate assessment than just one service assigning "stars" to a recruits name.
In a nutshell Cam Cameron, a better coach on offense than any defensive coach on the Tigers' schedule, is working with more talented players than anyone LSU faces this season (with the exception of Alabama).
A + B = W's. And lot's of them.