Way back in July, back when the love bugs were still quiet and football season seemed so far away, back before we got on the college football treadmill set to extreme speed, we had an easy task.
We had to pick a winner for the SEC divisions at the Media Days and Clambake in Atlanta.
Then we had to do the hard part.
Figuring out the rest.
And we ended up putting LSU in fifth place in the West. Not me. I was smarter than that.
I had the Bayou Bengals sixth.
So how could we have been so wrong about LSU?
The LSU team that comes to town Friday for a Saturday CBS game with the mighty Gators is ranked fifth in the country and is probably underrated. Let’s put it this way, if the selection committee had to vote today to decide the College Football Playoff and left LSU out, it would be a farce.
The Tigers have wins over teams currently ranked eighth (Auburn) and 17th (Miami) in the latest Associated Press poll (I happen to think both are overrated and had both lower on my ballot, but I digress).
Also, there’s this — LSU’s opponents have the best record of any team in the Top 10 at 16-8.
So we’ve made the point that LSU has fooled us all. Ed Orgeron was supposed to be on the coaching hot seat instead of pouring hot sauce on his victory jambalaya.
What happened? This wasn’t just a Southern thing. LSU was 25th in the first AP poll, which is where you stick the team most likely to drop off after opening day.
1. We didn’t trust Coach O
This is the same guy who lost to Troy last year and whose teams at LSU had been wildly erratic, dominant at times and ineffective at others.
There was that taste of Ole Miss (where Orgeron went 10-25) that the media couldn’t get out of our mouths. There was the cartoonish persona that we couldn’t believe could work.
And there was this feeling that he botched things so badly on offense that it would implode. Orgeron wanted Lane Kiffin two years ago, but Kiffin got the FAU job. He hired Matt Canada, then undercut the coordinator when they clashed. When he promoted Steve Ensminger (again), it gave nobody confidence in what was going on.
Orgeron has the ability to get his players to bust their tails for him and block out the noise that isn’t coming from his gargling throat. He’s learned a lot on his long journey and this year it seems to be paying off.
Let us not forget that since that loss to Troy, LSU is 11-2 and the only losses are at Alabama and Notre Dame in the bowl game.
2. Oh, that schedule
This was the biggest reason we all saw disaster headed LSU’s way.
You open with Miami. Two weeks later Auburn. By then, we figured, the seat would need ice cubes.
And if that wasn’t enough, October would clinch it. Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, then Alabama on Nov. 3. Tanks for nuttin’.
But that first game turned out to be a Miami nightmare. LSU put the game away early and even though Miami may have been playing the wrong quarterback, it was a tremendous confidence builder.
Then, of course, the clutch win over Auburn at the buzzer.
Suddenly, everyone was looking at LSU differently.
And we were all looking back at the July poll results.
South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi State and Missouri all got votes to win the conference.
LSU had zero. Just dummy.
3. Personnel department
When Alabama loses a hundred players to the NFL, the Tide is still voted No. 1 the following year. Nick Saban just keeps, well, we’ll stay away from his metaphor but he just keeps producing excellent players.
When LSU loses its stars, we assume there will be a downturn. That’s one reason there was an expectation for failure.
Who would play quarterback? We knew about transfer Joe Burrow, but there certainly was no guarantee he could handle the SEC.
Who would replace Derrius Guice? As if LSU doesn’t always have great backs.
The truth is that the offense — despite a stat-stuffer of a game against Ole Miss and it’s matador defense — hasn’t been that spectacular. Which is just fine with Orgeron because his defense has been so good (plus-seven in turnover margin).
Burrow ranks 10th in the league in pass efficiency. But he has yet to throw an interception this season. That’s exactly what LSU needs.
The Tigers are only ninth in total offense in the SEC, but when they have needed to do something, they have found a way.
The Orgeron Way.
How could we have been so wrong?
Well, college football is a weird sport. And let’s not forget we’re not even halfway through the season. October could still be the downfall for LSU.
And then we won’t know what to think.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.