For the love of Katy Perry, I’ve never understood why people say LSU fans smell like corndogs.
If there’s a smell synonymous with LSU football, it’s bourbon and sweat. Or bourbon and cigarettes, depending on whether it’s a warm-weather or cold-weather game.
But always bourbon. Definitely.
That’s the smell that stays with you the whole live long offseason, the football-less void when you busy yourself by making predictions for the season to come.
You print out the new schedule and start checking off the games: win, loss, win, win, win, tossup … nah, win.
If you’re right, you let everyone know.
If you’re wrong, take that schedule out to the paper shredder and turn it into confetti for letting you down.
The sure wins for LSU in 2014?
Sam Houston State — check.
UL-Monroe — check.
Mississippi State — always, check, but this time the Tigers stabbed themselves with the pencil.
New Mexico State — check.
Kentucky — che … not so fast, tailgate breath.
The Wildcats were typical bottom-feeding Mildcats in the East Division last season, going 2-10 overall and 0-8 in Southeastern Conference play, getting wiped out by the likes of Alabama (48-7), Missouri (48-17) and Georgia (59-17).
But you know what they say payback is. Kentucky has been helping itself to plenty of that so far this season, running to a 5-1 record that could easily have the Wildcats sauntering into Tiger Stadium 6-0 had they managed to hold on in triple overtime at Florida (a 36-30 loss).
Suddenly that sure win for LSU’s training wheel Tigers (maybe LSU smells like teen spirit), scuffling along at 5-2 overall and 1-2 in SEC play, is anything but.
We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: This was one bad year in the SEC for the Tigers to be rebuilding.
Every SEC game has been or will shape up to be a huge challenge. Mississippi State is No. 1 in the land, for goodness sake, Auburn is in the top 10 and was a bad matchup for LSU’s run-the-other-way rushing defense, and Florida last week was a 24-karat pitched battle that the Tigers finally pulled out by a 30-27 score.
The rest of the schedule offers no respite. After Kentucky, Ole Miss is likely to come to Tiger Stadium 7-0 next week after dispatching Tennessee on Saturday.
Alabama may not quite be the dreadnought it’s been in recent years but can still lob a championship broadside. Arkansas hasn’t won an SEC game in two years but like Auburn is a bad matchup for the Tigers with its armor-plated running game. And Texas A&M has been exposed as at least a minor fraud with back-to-back losses, but still can score points in avalanches that will bury your hopes in an instant.
Kentucky isn’t particularly great in any one area, just seems to be coming up with the big plays at the critical times save the end of the Florida game.
LSU simply looks like it’s coming. This team may never really be a finished work, but there appears to be progress afoot.
Anthony Jennings is poised to play the starring role of Game Manager with Brandon Harris the antsy understudy on the sideline. Leonard Fournette showed flashes of greatness against the Gators — moments of overpowering, spinning, confident brilliance — that was missing from his game the first half of the season.
The run defense was better, but that was mostly because Florida’s running game wasn’t great. The secondary surrendered big plays but the Tigers also came up with critical turnovers that set up LSU’s first touchdown and Colby Delahoussaye’s game-winning field goal. If the best this unit can be this year is opportunistic, that might be something the Tigers can work with.
This has morphed into a surprisingly critical game for both teams.
If Kentucky can win and Georgia falls victim to a sweaty-palmed upset at Arkansas, the Wildcats ladies and gentlemen will be your new SEC East leader.
If LSU can win, threading together some character-building momentum after burying the ashes of that 41-7 loss at Auburn, the Tigers can at least be a dangerous kingmaker in the SEC West race and believe it’s really going somewhere.
But hopes and dreams and memories of Bluegrass Miracles past don’t matter today.
LSU will have to dearly earn this one if it wants to add it to the win column.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.