Even dozen: LSU finishes second season under Brian Kelly ranked No. 12 after reeling off four consecutive wins

LSU football coach Brian Kelly has directed the Tigers to a record of 20-7 and final national rankings of No. 16 and 12 in his two seasons. PHOTO BY: Jonathan Mailhes

A strong finish to the season that included four straight victories, highlighted by a triumph in its bowl game, helped LSU finish the 2023 season ranked No. 12.

The Tigers (10-3) of second-year coach Brian Kelly, who were No. 16 in his first season, garnered 853 points following a second consecutive 10-win season.

“I think it really stabilizes the program,” Kelly said of his team’s 35-31 win on Jan. 1 over Wisconsin in the ReliaQuest Bowl. “Stability within your program, stability within the ranks of your recruitment. For us, it’s been recruiting, development and retention. You do that, but you can’t do it when you’re really effectively, say, 3-9, 4-8. When you have to back-to-back 10-win seasons, and you’re doing it with bowl victories, as well, that builds on it going into the off-season, it certainly helps a lot.”

National champion Michigan (15-0) was voted No.1 in both The Associated Press and Coaches’ Top 25 final rankings.

The Wolverines were a unanimous selection for the top spot with 61 first-place votes and 1,525 points. Runner-up Washington was second followed by Texas, Georgia and Alabama.

The biggest leap of any school from the preseason poll was Arizona (10-3) which was No. 11 after beginning the season unranked. There were nine teams which began in the preseason Top 25, with USC being the highest at No. 6, that all finished unranked.

Texas started the season No. 10 and Washington was No. 12 in the preseason.

LSU’s three losses were to No. 5 Alabama, No. 7 Florida State and No. 9 Ole Miss.

The Southeastern Conference had a total of six teams in the final rankings with Missouri, a team LSU defeated 49-39 on Oct. 7, winding up No. 8.

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jayden Daniels led the nation’s No. 1 offense in scoring and total offense and LSU went 9-3 in the regular season.

With Daniels opting out of playing in the bowl game, the Tigers turned to redshirt sophomore Garrett Nussmeier to rally from a pair of 14-point deficits to defeat Wisconsin. He passed for a career-high 395 yards and three touchdowns – all in the second half.

LSU couldn’t complement Daniels with the type of defense that enabled the Tigers to maybe contend for SEC honors and beyond. The Tigers’ porous unit ranked among the worst in the conference and nationally – including a No. 105 ranking in total defense – that resulted in the firing of defensive coordinator Matt House after the bowl game.

LSU’s scheduled to return six starters on offense where Nussmeier appears to be the heir apparent to Daniels. The Tigers’ top two wide receivers, Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr., both entered the NFL Draft along with defensive tackles Mekhi Wingo, Jordan Jefferson and Andre Sam.

Kelly signed the No. 7 recruiting class in December according to On3 and has either signed or has commitments from five transfers in Vanderbilt quarterback AJ Swan, safeties Jardin Gilbert of Texas A&M and Austin Ausberry of Auburn, cornerback Jyaire Brown of Ohio State and wide receiver Zavion Thomas.

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William Weathers

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