Florida State will show if Brian Kelly's LSU football prediction was accurate

Brian Kelly caught the attention of Louisiana talk radio this summer with his response to my question about when the Tigers would be ready to seriously contend for a national championship.
The LSU coach pointed to 2024.
“We need another year of recruiting,” Kelly told me in June. “One more really good year on both sides of the ball, I think, puts us in a position where, I think Year 3, the consistency piece, the depth of our program, the messaging, all the things we do on a day-to-day basis, puts us in a position to compete for a championship.”
Kelly’s answer became the subject of debate, and many LSU fans didn’t know exactly how to interpret his response.
Most coaches would dodge such a question, dance around specifics and refuse to offer a national championship timeline. Kelly engaged with the question while looking to the future.
Was he attempting to dial down pressure on this 2023 team? Trying to keep egos in check? Was this Kelly angling for an ounce of patience? An attempt to motivate his team through the media?
I took his comments at face value. Often, there’s a baked-in angle to a coach's media remarks, but I didn't see that in this situation. I interpreted this as a coach who likes his team but questions whether the product is complete.
Also, I didn't ask whether LSU could contend for a College Football Playoff spot. Kelly's answer might have been different if that had been the question. Rather, I specifically asked about a national championship, and although LSU's roster is plenty strong — stronger than last year, when it won the SEC West — Kelly had some potential soft spots on his mind when we spoke.
Kirby Smart has spent years turning Georgia into a recruiting and development dynamo, so I see why Kelly believes he needs another recruiting cycle to play catchup with the two-time defending national champion.
Yet Kelly’s tap on the brakes didn't slow down the preseason hype. LSU is ranked preseason No. 5 by both the AP and the USA TODAY Sports AFCA football coaches’ polls.
The Tigers will command the spotlight in Week 1 against No. 8 Florida State (6:30 p.m. Central time, ABC).
Week 1 games are ripe for overreaction, so expect sweeping judgments to emerge from this opener between two teams that each won 10 games last season. The winner will be viewed as a legitimate CFP contender, while the loser might be dubbed overrated.
In truth, this game is not a playoff eliminator, but it will leave the loser little wiggle room. No two-loss team has ever qualified for the CFP.
If FSU loses, it could rebound into playoff contention, depending on the result of its Sept. 23 game at Clemson.
For LSU, the bridge would become incredibly narrow. It would have to navigate past Alabama on the road, and likely Georgia in the SEC Championship.
And if LSU beats FSU? Already, the Tigers are viewed as neck and neck with Alabama as the cream of the SEC West. No one will be thinking about Kelly’s reality-check quote from June if the Tigers thump the Seminoles while playing without suspended defensive lineman Maason Smith, a potential star.
A resounding LSU victory will make a national championship appear in play this year.
FSU's soaring expectations are warranted. LSU returns a lot of production from last season. The Seminoles return even more, including quarterback Jordan Travis, who amassed more than 290 yards of offense against LSU last season in the Seminoles' 24-23 victory.
LSU’s vulnerability resides in its secondary.
SEC opponents exploited the Tigers’ pass coverage throughout last season, and Kelly highlighted the secondary as the No. 1 area LSU needs to improve through recruiting and development.
“We’ve taken the first step, but that will be the next big step in our program,” he said.
That’s what makes this opener especially interesting. A talented quarterback will poke at a potential soft spot. LSU will rely on transfers like cornerbacks Duce Chestnut from Syracuse and Zy Alexander from Southeastern Louisiana and safety Andre’ Sam of Marshall to fortify the defensive backfield.
If Travis torches them, that doesn’t bode well for LSU’s playoff prospects, let alone any long shot national championship hopes.
If the secondary holds up against one of the nation’s best quarterbacks, there will be no stopping the hype for LSU.
Was Kelly right when he said the Tigers are a year from seriously contending for a national championship? The Florida State game will provide clarity.

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