LSU Tigers = Real deal?
I wrote on this site at the end of last season that Head Coach Ed Orgeron, would find himself under pressure early in the new campaign.
LSU is just one of those teams where the fervent fan base has high expectations. Some say these expectations are unrealistic.
But are they? Baton Rouge has been a fortress for decades and the fans there make it as difficult a place to play as almost anywhere in College Ball. And under previous Head Coach “Madhatter” Les MIles, the Tigers scaled the dizzy heights of a National Championship in 2007.
But last seasons end was difficult for the Tigers faithful to swallow, ending the season 9-4 overall and 6-2 in conference, leaving them third in the SEC West. This sounds a reasonable season for a new Head Coach, but it masks defeats to Troy and Mississippi State which had the Tigers fan base incandescent with rage. They are easy riled down South. The season ended disappointingly with a narrow defeat in the Citrus Bowl to Notre Dame.
Coach O, so often mimicked and ridiculed, is an easy target when things aren’t going well. Gruff, intolerant and well, frankly incoherent most of the time, Ed Orgeron is a players coach. His players respond to him and that is starting to shine through in the Bayou. In the same way as it did at USC where Coach O was unceremoniously dumped despite rescuing an abysmal USC season. Leaving California, he came home to Baton Rouge and was greeted with open arms.
So expectations were mixed down South pre-season. While hopes started high, there remained feelings of caution.
That with a poor start, the season could spiral out of control.
That maybe Coach O wasn’t the man to take them forward.
That recruiting hadn’t gone so well.
And then their first fixture. Against heavily fancied Miami. A team resurrected under Mark Richt. The Canes were being touted as National Champions before a ball had been tossed in anger.
LSE 33 : Miami 17
Let the National Championship celebrations begin.
Since then the Tigers have defeated SE LA & LA Tech – cupcake games which do the reputation of college ball no good. BUT, do not underestimate the financial benefit the larger teams can inject back into neighbouring schools and communities playing these games. Especially in Louisiana which has one of the highest rates of poverty in the US. This is often overlooked and something other sports leagues both in the US and outside could sit up and take note of.
But I digress. The defeat of Ole Miss was impressive, although we now know that Ole Miss are still in recovery mode.
It was the defeat of Auburn that made people sit up and take notice and ask the question. Are LSU for real?
LSU are 5-0. This week LSU are ranked number 5.
What’s made this surprising is that LSU’s O line has had a different starting combination in every game. Yes, every game.
And QB Joe Burrows (a transfer from Ohio State) has a completion percentage of 50%.
But that masks somewhat unfairly that Burrows has passed for more than 1,000 yards (only Tua Tagovailoa at Bama and Brett Rypien at Boise have matched this), but importantly Burrows has yet to throw an interception.
We will find out shortly what LSU’s credentials are. The SEC stands still for no Tiger.
LSU’s next four games….
vs Mississippi State
Saturday’s trip to Gainesville and the Swamp is an important barometer for LSU’s season. A win in the Swamp will set the Tigers up for the Georgia game. LSU are tenacious against the SEC heavyweights and have a strong track record against Georgia and Bama, particularly at a Tiger Stadium. So it makes for interesting viewing.
However a defeat to Florida makes Gators Head Coach, Dan Mullen’s first season acceptable and heaps the pressure back on Coach O.
But who knows – a winning season for the Tigers and Coach O will be crowned the Mardi Gras King of the Bayou.
photo credit : cbssports