No. 5 LSU

Rankman had LSU at preseason No.1 in some early TMG countdown projections but, ultimately, could not put his full faith and trust behind Brandon Harris at quarterback.

But enough about football for a minute. The recent flooding in Baton Rouge has changed the context of the season and the capsule summaries filed for early print deadlines. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

You just don’t know how a real tragedy will impact a town and its team. It was impressive that LSU players and staffers rushed to help their community in the aftermath of horrific rains that ruined homes, displaced thousands and dumped, in one week, 6.9 trillion gallons of water.

New Orleans, after Katrina, certainly rallied to the cause and it seemed to inspire the Saints.

There’s just no telling yet what kind of emotional toll recent events in Baton Rouge will have on the team, so we’ve placed the Tigers just outside the playoff window with an obvious path to get in. Unless you’re silly enough to think that Alabama isn’t going to crack Rankman’s top four.

LSU could be this year’s beast on the loose, with 18 starters returning from a team that was 7-0 last year until losses to SEC West foes Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss ridiculously put Les Miles’ job in jeopardy.

There are so many motivational reasons for these Tigers to be as good as any Miles has fielded. Even live mascot “Mike the Tiger,” is battling cancer.

Starting Leonard Fournette at tailback almost guarantees LSU can bull-doze its way to 10 wins. We don’t expect the Tigers to struggle in the opener against Wisconsin, at venerable Lambeau Field. LSU gets Alabama and Ole Miss at home this year.

Watch out for second-week letdown against Jacksonville State, which took Auburn to overtime last year.

Alabama has proven four times since 2008 you only need steady play, a great tailback and defense to win the national title. So LSU needs steady play from Harris right out of the box or else it might need to turn to Purdue transfer Danny Etling.

The backdrop is set for an emotional, exciting season. So sit back and watch Fournette run over linebackers on his way to a possible Heisman. And you never know what Les Miles, in any given moment, is going to pull out of his…hat.

Rankman's countdown so far:No. 16 Boise State, No. 15 Washington,No. 14USC, No. 13UCLA, No. 12Stanford, No. 11 Oregon, No. 10 Ohio State, No. 9 Michigan State, No. 8 Tennessee, No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 6 Florida State. [/membership]

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