A month ago, talk of LSU and bowls or titles in the same sentence seemed like some sort of cruel joke.
LSU had just had its helmet handed to it at Auburn 41-7, two games after a 34-29 blowout loss to now No. 1 Mississippi State that masqueraded as a close game. The Tigers looked like they would be lucky to be traveling anywhere for the holidays, much less for a game that had the letters C-F-P attached to it.
But three wins later, look at the Tigers now. In a butterfly-like transformation, LSU has parlayed a three-game winning streak into a surprising upwelling of growth and progress.
It may take an advanced math degree to figure it out, but the Tigers do have a legitimate, if long, shot to win the Southeastern Conference Western Division, or at least help tie the top of the standings in a sheepshank knot. It may look like a better investment to sink your money into a lottery ticket, but the Tigers’ chances of making it to a College Football Playoff semifinal or a CFP bowl is at least now a bet-worthy proposition.
Former LSU coach Gerry DiNardo, a fellow assistant at Colorado with Les Miles way back in the pre-every-game-is-on-TV days, used to be fond of saying your team always wants to be playing for something significant in November.
What happens here Saturday night qualifies as something significant.
And then some.
Alabama is up to usual Soviet Union-like plans for world domination. The Crimson Tide is on the outside of the CPF final four but just barely, positioned for a Red October run through a thicket of really tough games — LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn — before a likely SEC championship over whatever lemonade stand is left standing from the SEC East.
LSU can thwart those plans and insert its Tiger face into them with an upset victory Saturday night. Do that, and LSU could sow the seeds of a potential four- or five-way tie atop the final SEC West standings, one that it may take a team of lawyers and a cut man to untangle.
Chaos is Miles’ middle name and the Tigers, in theory, need a large dose of chaos to help them get to the SEC Championship Game. It isn’t likely but it is doable if the SEC West ends in a three-, four- or five-way tie.
If LSU wins out, it can win a three-way tie with Ole Miss and Alabama if the Rebels beat Arkansas and Mississippi State. But that would mean at the very least State would have to lose at Alabama and at home to Vanderbilt and the latter is lottery-winning unlikely.
In a four-way tie with State, Bama and Ole Miss or a five-way tie with those teams and Auburn, LSU would have a chance to win the tiebreaker way down the list which determines the SEC West champ based on the combined record of its SEC East opponents.
It sounds like some sort of half-baked plot from a made-for-ESPNU movie, and perhaps it is. But based on that tiebreaker as the standings currently sit, LSU’s SEC East opponents Florida and Kentucky are a combined 5-7 in conference play, putting LSU just a half-game back of Auburn at 6-7.
But let’s talk about something more real. The Tigers (7-2) are really going to a bowl game, somewhere. The question is if LSU makes it to 10-2 with a closing six-win kick would it be enough to get the Tigers into one of the four non-semifinal CFP bowls (Peach, Cotton, Orange or Fiesta)?
You’d have to think such a closing run with wins over then top-five Ole Miss and Alabama would elevate the Tigers into the top 10. But even though there are total of 12 CFP bowl slots available (including the two semifinal games in the Sugar and Rose bowls), nothing is guaranteed unless you’re a champion from one of the big five conferences or the highest-ranked champ from one of the remaining leagues. In other words, being ranked 10th in the final CFP rankings on Dec. 7 may leave you out of a CFP bowl if some other guaranteed teams below you are hogging some of the slots.
It’s all so much recycled paper if LSU doesn’t spring the upset Saturday, but at least the possibilities are hanging out there for the Tigers.
A month ago, how real did even dreams seem?
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.