I guess it’s only fitting. A few weeks ago I wrote a lengthy piece gushing over how awesome this LSU football team is, and now this is happening. The Tigers now sit at 4-2, getting completely manhandled in their first two SEC games against Mississippi State and Auburn, falling completely out of the AP top 25, and now have no chance at the College Football Playoff. And to make matters worse, it looks like they’ve got another quarterback controversy on their hands again. With their playoff hopes gone, LSU’s goal now will shift to developing their young talent and winning enough games to qualify for a high-profile non-playoff Bowl.
It would be easy to look at how LSU has struggled over the last few weeks and predict doom and gloom the rest of the way, and that could be right. I think they have a reasonably good chance of beating Florida and Kentucky in their next two games to reach six wins (and bowl eligibility), but it’s difficult to see where the wins will come afterward. Their remaining four games would be against Alabama and Ole Miss at home and at Arkansas and Texas A&M. Their win over Wisconsin in the season opener would have given me more confidence they could beat good teams, but now that doesn’t even look very impressive after the Badgers were blown up by Northwestern. But I’m not ready to resign myself to misery just yet.
LSU has the perfect opportunity to right the ship when they take on Florida in Gainesville Saturday. The Gators’ offense is reeling right now. They just benched the former starting quarterback Jeff Driskel after he struggled badly against Tennessee last week. However, Florida will have to go with Driskel against LSU because his replacement Treon Harris has since been suspended after sexual assault allegations. I’m not usually one to buy into psychological factors, but Driskel’s confidence has to be shot at this point, which should be a big advantage for the Tigers’ defense. Florida is supposed to have a strong defense, especially in the secondary, but I’m not worried about that after seeing Alabama’s receiver run roughshod all over them September 20th. Next up is Kentucky in Baton Rouge, and LSU’s decisive home filed advantage needs no explanation. The rest of the schedule may not look promising, but LSU has developed a habit under Les Miles of pulling out victories in games they seemingly had no business even competing in (Miami in 2005, Tennessee in 2006, Georgia in 2009, almost the entire 2010 season).
The make the turnaround LSU must improve their defensive play, especially against the run. The lack of depth in the middle of the defensive line was badly exposed by Mississippi State and Auburn. The simplest solution would be to put more men in the box. That would work against run heavy teams like Florida, but probably not against teams with more balanced offense like Alabama and Texas A&M. Those teams have too much talent at receiver for LSU’s defensive backs to match up one-on-one over a whole game. Defensive coordinator John Chavis will have to get creative for those games.
For the question mark at quarterback, it would be best to decide on one soon and stick with him the rest of the way. Brandon Harris probably gives LSU the best chance to win right now, and it only makes more sense to start him if the coaches really do believe he is the future of the program. His performance against Auburn may have been terrible, but it shouldn’t be very surprising, as freshman quarterbacks making their first career road starts often have rough experiences.
What at first appeared to be a promising season was quickly derailed, and looks bleak the rest of the way. But it’s not over yet. There is still time for LSU to fix things and set themselves up for future success.