'Tis the season for scary things with Halloween less than a week away (a Jack-o’-lantern carved in the likeness of Nick Saban’s face, anyone?).
Super appropriate, really, because things are scary good for LSU right now.
The Tigers are 7-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country. LSU is running the kind of overwhelming, cutting-edge offense Tigers fans once only heard about in legends told around tailgate parties, like people describing dragons or Red Grange or something. And whether they have met him personally or not, every LSU football fan has a crush on first-year passing game coordinator Joe Brady.
The other Joe, Joe Burrow (Jeaux Heisman to his many, many new Louisiana friends), goes into the weekend as the new odds-on Heisman Trophy favorite. Even a cringeworthy incident like Burrow getting his pants partially pulled down in the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s Mississippi State game may turn out to work in Joe’s favor with the Heisman voters. If they somehow didn’t know him before, they’ll never forget him now. No publicity, as the saying goes, is bad publicity.
More than halfway through the regular season, the race for college football's most prestigious award is taking shape. Here are the leading con…
Even LSU’s recruiting is benefiting from the newly flexed offensive muscles. Wednesday the Tigers got a commitment from Arik Gilbert of Marietta, Georgia, a five-star recruit rated by 247 Sports as their best tight end prospect ever. What’s more, 247 Sports recruiting analyst Steve Wiltfong called it the biggest recruiting win ever for LSU over Alabama for an out-of-state player.
One of Gilbert’s big reasons for choosing LSU? The offense that Brady hath brought to the Tigers and that offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger has implemented. By the way, LSU’s recruiting class is ranked No. 1 nationally by Rivals.
To be sure, recruiting victories can be hollow if said recruit later goes back on his pledge and signs with another school. But Gilbert’s commitment just adds to the bumper crop of good news for LSU this week. It came on the heels of coach Ed Orgeron’s news earlier this week that wide receiver Terrace Marshall, arguably the Tigers’ best route runner, will be returning to action after breaking his foot against Vanderbilt.
LSU received some big recruiting news ahead of its top 10 matchup against Auburn this weekend.
What else could Coach O hope to do, win the lottery? Oh, right, he’ll probably get to do that in the offseason with another contract deal.
Oh, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Because Orgeron would no doubt trade a bag of gold from his currently $4 million salary for a sure win over Auburn on Saturday, the next and one of the biggest challenges on the schedule.
If all of the 2019 slate is, as it often seems to be for LSU, a run up to the Alabama game, this collision with Auburn is the big, blocky steeplechase hurdle right in LSU’s path. And if the unbeaten LSU Tigers harbor championship aspirations the once-beaten Auburn Tigers (who lost 24-13 at Florida) dream just as big. Though numerically on the fringes of the College Football Playoff hunt right now, any team with LSU, Georgia and Alabama still on its schedule still controls its own CFP destiny, immensely difficult as that path may prove to be.
But back to LSU, whose only clouds on the horizon other than the rain clouds that moved into Baton Rouge on Friday are the, at times, creaky way the Tigers’ performed offensively in a 36-13 win at Mississippi State and the, at times, creaky ways freshman Cade York kicked the ball against the Bulldogs.
LSU’s next time failing to score in the red zone will be its first, but the Tigers did have to settle for field goals on their first three trips inside the 20 at State. One of those field goals even gonged off the left upright and went through for York, who later missed his second extra point of the season.
Not to single out York too much, but his recent struggles are thrown into sharp relief considering how a year ago his predecessor Cole Tracy drilled a 42-yard field goal as time expired to crown an eight-point fourth-quarter LSU comeback for a 22-21 win.
Cole Tracy will be back for the Auburn game.
The chances are pretty strong that LSU, whose closest margin of victory was in that early 45-38 win at Texas, will need York to come through with a winning kick at some point. That need could arise Saturday if Auburn’s defense can do a better job than anyone else to date of keeping Burrow and LSU’s offense out of the end zone.
Though this Auburn team boasts an all senior offensive line and what is regarded as one of the best defensive front sevens in college football, it doesn't entirely compute that it will come into Tiger Stadium with a freshman quarterback like Bo Nix and beat a fifth-year hammer like Burrow for the first time since before Nix was born. That said, control the lines and control the clock with that SEC-best rushing offense and Auburn is quite capable of springing the double-digit upset.
Auburn has not won in Tiger Stadium since that day in 1999 when its players smoked cigars on the eye of the tiger at midfield to celebrate a 41-7 triumph that effectively stubbed out the Gerry DiNardo era in an ashtray.
From the depths of that embarrassment LSU’s greatest football era took shape under Saban the following year. It continued on under Les Miles and now Orgeron, who amazingly goes hunting for his eighth win against a top-10 team since taking over as interim coach in 2016.
It’s all coming up jackpots and rainbows for LSU. It’s so good it's scary, which makes it a scary time to face a team as good as Auburn.