In a span of seven weeks, LSU’s football season has had everything except aliens touching down at the 50-yard line in Tiger Stadium, announcing that they come in peace but demanding autographed pictures of Odell Beckham Jr.
There was the BYU game, shifted to New Orleans by a hurricane. There was the 30-point rout at Mississippi State, the most points (37) the Tigers ever allowed to the Bulldogs. There was the shocking loss two weeks later to Troy, a team so inspired by its landmark win it lost 19-8 at home to South Alabama next time out.
There were meetings galore at LSU, including a highly publicized one involving Ed Orgeron, his coordinators and athletic director Joe Alleva. There was an impassioned practice speech by former LSU linebacker Duke Riley. All of that had something to do with the Tigers’ gritty 17-16 win at Florida and their biggest-ever home comeback in a Southeastern Conference game last week to beat Auburn, 27-23.
Saturday’s trip to Ole Miss is a “must win” game for LSU as far as coach Ed Orgeron said.
“It was one for the books,” center Will Clapp said. “One I will always remember.”
If there is intelligent life out in outer space, they’ll be hard-pressed to figure out how LSU pulled that last one off once the signal beams their way.
LSU’s season has gone from “Can the Tigers even make a bowl?” to “Can this be the year they knock off Alabama?” Well, maybe it hasn’t gone that far, but after the past two weeks it’s a solid bet (pun intended) LSU will be favored in every game except its trip to Tuscaloosa in two weeks. If the Tigers can hold the Vegas line, they could wind up 9-3. That would have LSU at least in the hunt for making it into a non-CFP semifinal New Year’s Six Bowl like the Cotton or Orange, provided the rest of the season is pockmarked with the kind of surprising upsets that made this past weekend so memorable.
Even to write or talk about such things signifies a remarkable turnaround for the Tigers.
Still, it’s much too early and LSU’s team is much too flawed to assume the Tigers can cakewalk their way to that kind of a record. Confidence is good, but it can morph into overconfidence. A young LSU team that doesn’t take Ole Miss seriously on the road is begging to be the victim of the same upset it just sprung on Auburn.
Coach O said it took the embarrassment and crisis that stemmed from the Troy upset to spur the Tigers to do the things they needed to do to beat Florida and Auburn. It can also so easily come undone, though, like a loose thread on the seam of an LSU football jersey. Fortunately for the Tigers, they seem to have an improved sense of leadership and history, as well as an awareness that they can’t get complacent now.
“Everybody’s hungry,” said wide receiver/punt returner DJ Chark, star of the Auburn win. “Everybody wants to win. We understand we came off a win this week, but we know how it feels to lose to a team we might have overlooked.
“Coming into this game, we’re going to give it our all.”
LSU vs. Ole Miss: Two Matchups To Watch
That would be a refreshing change from the LSU perspective. As great as the Auburn win was, it was hardly a 60-minute all-out effort. It was more like 40, LSU having ceded the first 20 minutes or so to Auburn and its 20-0 opening lead.
A full game is apparently asking a lot from these Tigers, but it’s the hallmark of what helps Alabama win week after week. And if LSU is to challenge Bama’s SEC supremacy anytime soon, the Tigers are going to have to find a way to play with intensity and smarts from kick to final horn. And they had better start against a potent Ole Miss offense that features the SEC’s top passer in Shea Patterson and top receiver in A.J. Brown.
Winning this game is vital to Orgeron proving he isn’t the same coach who was dismissed at Ole Miss a decade ago. That he’s improved. That he’s changed. He spent this week mostly trying to downplay his role in the story of this game, but also told ESPN, “the whole time I was there I was wishing I was here.”
That sort of quote isn’t likely to go unnoticed in Oxford. Orgeron doesn’t miss Ole Miss, a place where he and his family never quite fit in with The Grove’s bowties and white linen tablecloths, and the feeling for him is certainly mutual among the pleated slacks and silverware tailgating crowd.
After it’s over, with an open date ahead, Coach O may finally admit how much this game meant to him. Of course, what might mean the most is having his Tigers truly play their best and most complete game to date.
Ed Orgeron will make a return trip to Oxford this weekend, facing his former team for the fi…