From a hot start to a hot mess.
From the roaring fire of a cochon de lait to cold couscous.
From delivering the goods to riding the dead man’s curve with no sign of pulling out of the nosedive.
Everyone knew LSU was facing a huge challenge with a backloaded November schedule of Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
Who knew LSU would completely fail to handle the task in the first half of that four-part test?
Who knew LSU would come home from a bashing at Alabama and get completely embarrassed by Arkansas?
The Alabama loss you can comprehend, at least in retrospect. The Tigers were overwhelmed in the trenches, on the road, by a focused, talented, well-coached team.
What transpired Saturday night against Arkansas should never happen, and yet it has. Again. After a 17-0 loss last year in Fayetteville, LSU fell 31-14 this year, making it the worst back-to-back losses against Arkansas since 1992-93.
When LSU starts being forced to compare lowlights to the Curley Hallman era, the ghosts of seasons past are more than frightful.
Yes, Arkansas came in playing very well, even though it was mighty lucky to have won in overtime last week at Ole Miss thanks to a blind lateral.
No blind luck involved in this Razorbacks victory, though. The Hogs came out and took it to LSU almost from the start, digging a 21-0 grave for the Tigers that they couldn’t climb out of. LSU bracketed the halftime festivities with touchdowns — one of them on a hockey-like redirect off Travin Dural’s right hand to Malachi Dupre — but that was about it. This against an Arkansas team that was last in the Southeastern Conference allowing nearly 30 points and 284 passing yards per game.
LSU passed for 271 mostly cosmetic yards, yards that were greatly offset by five sacks of Brandon Harris for 44 yards in losses that left LSU’s once-feared ground game with just 59 net rushing yards. Arkansas had just eight sacks in nine games coming in.
It’s hard to imagine, but less than two weeks ago LSU was No. 2 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings.
Hard to believe the august, well-informed body that is the CFP selection committee could have overestimated the Tigers that badly. Two losses later, LSU is looking much more like the team that went 8-5 last year and lost to Notre Dame in the postseason backwater that is the Music City Bowl than the team that was supposed to be a legitimate national championship contender.
Actually, it’s pretty easy to understand. LSU was 7-0, was led by an overwhelming Heisman Trophy favorite in Leonard Fournette and had building confidence in its offense, an offense that was covering up the sins of an un-LSU-like defense and special teams that haven’t lived up to sandlot standards.
Alabama stripped all that away with a 30-16 hammering that was much worse than the score indicated.
This was somehow worse than that. For the second straight year against Arkansas, the Tigers looked like they were dealing with some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Les Miles insisted his team suffered from no Alabama hangover, but he was hardly convincing. Mostly, he sounded like he was in a state of shock, unable to comprehend that his team was throttled by Arkansas yet again.
“We’re getting closer on defense and special teams but we’re further away on offense,” Miles said.
Would that be the defense that surrendered three huge touchdown plays of 80, 69 and 52 yards? Would that be the special teams that failed to seal off a 40-yard kickoff return that helped set up an Arkansas field goal early in the third quarter to squelch LSU’s comeback momentum? These are both issues that have tormented the Tigers in virtually every game, so much so that it’s hard to imagine what improvement Miles was seeing.
Add to these burdens a complete inability by the once-ballyhooed LSU offensive line to run block or pass block against a mediocre-at-best Arkansas defense. Harris was on the run all night long. Leonard Fournette had to drag defenders along to manage 91 Heisman candidacy-killing yards on 18 carries after slithering through the narrowest of openings.
LSU’s offensive line went into the open date looking like one of the nation’s best units and came back looking like a bunch of bloated beer-pongers from that fraternity that got kicked off campus.
Fournette was understandably frustrated and perhaps betrayed some of that frustration in LSU’s offensive philosophy.
“Defenses, they’re coming up to stop the run,” said Fournette, sounding more like a mortician than a future NFL millionaire. “They have nine, 10 people in the box. They’re ready for the run.”
After getting run out of Tiger Stadium, it’s appropriate that LSU is about to head back on the road to Ole Miss next week. In other words, it doesn’t get any easier. Not with a team that is this deficient in the trenches.
Despite all indications to the contrary just a few weeks ago, these past two losses are bringing back into question the state of Miles’ program and whether he can truly make the Tigers a national contender again.
Right now, the Tigers can’t contend with the best teams in the SEC West. And they get to play another one on the road next week in Oxford.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.