It has been almost 10 months since LSU accepted the national championship trophy after blasting Clemson in a Mercedes-Benz Superdome confetti shower.
Heisman Trophy quarterback Joe Burrow smoked a post-game victory cigar and gave one to backup QB Myles Brennan for a future celebration.
First-year passing game coordinator Joe Brady was celebrated as an offensive wunderkind. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, finishing his fourth season, wore a mission accomplished smile.
Former LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., ignoring NCAA rules and common sense, roamed the field like a portable ATM giving $2,000 worth of $100 handshakes to players.
In retrospect, it seems like 10 years ago. Since then, it hasn’t been “and everyone lived happily ever after.”
LSU had a record 14 players chosen in the NFL Draft including five in the first round led by No. 1 overall pick Burrow taken by hapless Cincinnati Bengals. He’s having a tremendous rookie season but is absorbing a frightful physical beating weekly playing behind a porous offensive line.
Brady left the Tigers to become offensive coordinator of the currently 3-5 Carolina Panthers and Aranda exited to become head coach of currently 1-4 Baylor.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NCAA to cancel all college sports in mid-March for the rest of the semester after LSU had just three spring practices.
Once back at school, the Black Lives Matter movement took centerstage in early August. something college coaches acknowledged and made a priority with their teams.
Then, four starters opted out (one returned) of the season, including LSU’s best playmaker (receiver Ja’Marr Chase) and best run stopper (defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin).
And here we are, five games into a re-arranged 10-game conference matchups only season and LSU is 2-3 trying to save face after embarrassing defensive performances, self-imposed NCAA sanctions (including banning Beckham from LSU facilities for two years), COVID outbreaks, a postponed game, four hurricanes and counting and Brennan being sidelined with an abdomen tear following three straight 300-yard plus passing performances.
Other than all that, it’s been rather quiet.
When this 2020 season is finally in the books, it will be regarded as a long, strange trip, an ever-changing schedule that began 21 days later than intended and played in three-fourths empty stadium with socially distanced crowds because of CDC coronavirus mandates.
As much as last year’s Tigers bought fully into Orgeron’s “one team, one heartbeat” mantra, mostly because it had a senior and junior dominated starting lineup who believed in a new offensive system it had practiced in the spring and had faith in a defensive coordinator starting season four, the 2020 Tigers have been disjointed and distracted from the jump.
Some of it was uncertainty produced by the coronavirus pandemic.
And part of it may have to do with race and politics bleeding over from the most volatile U.S. president election in history.
A portion of the Tigers’ African American upperclassmen weren’t particularly pleased with Orgeron’s appearance on Fox News on Aug. 11 when he said, “I love President Trump. . .I think he’s doing a fantastic job.”
Whether Orgeron truly feels that way or not, it was something he didn’t need to share publicly. Though he’s never given any of his players any reason to believe he has a prejudiced bone in his body, it was the wrong statement at the wrong time for a coach of a team with a predominately African American roster.
On the field, there was new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini trying to install a 4-3 defense on a team with four returning starters and a load of backups raised in previous defensive coordinator Aranda’s 3-4 scheme.
The Tigers looked foolish in Pelini’s defense in a shocking 44-34 season opening loss to Mississippi State, which has scored a combined 54 points in the five games following the win in Tiger Stadium.
LSU’s defense was embarrassed in a 45-41 loss at Missouri, a team that hasn’t scored more than 20 points in any of its other four games. The Tigers `D’ faded in a 48-11 road beatdown by Auburn as AU easily scored a season high point total.
Three losses, all to offenses that gained 500 or more yards.
If LSU had played its usual 12-game schedule with some non-conference gimme wins, the defense could have worked out its problems while winning games to boost confidence and mood.
But since Brennan tore an abdomen muscle in the Missouri loss, LSU’s offense has gone basic to accommodate what true freshman quarterbacks TJ Finley and Max Johnson can safely handle – handoffs and short, quick throws.
Every week, Orgeron and staff have tried to correct problems, but the same mistakes are being committed, especially on a defense allowing 7.19 yards per play.
“Some of the plays that Auburn scored on us, we ran the same exact plays in practice with the same exact people,” Orgeron said. “Some of the stuff was new. The stuff that’s new, we’ve got to make better adjustments on it. It’s a combination of everything. Yes, it’s been a common factor in every game.”
Judging from the fact almost all five of LSU’s remaining opponents have improved greatly from the start of the season – and the Tigers have been jogging in mud – prospective wins are hard to find for Orgeron.
There wouldn’t be the feeling this season is a wash for LSU had it won games it was favored by double digits. Victories over Mississippi State and Missouri would have put LSU at 4-1 heading into the Alabama game.
There would have been storylines that the Tide-Tigers tussle would have conference and national implications as it usually does, that the winner of the game usually delivers the team having a shot at the SEC title and a berth in the playoffs.
Instead, the only thing that may be delivered is an eulogy for LSU’s slowly dying season.
If Brennan would be healthy enough to face Alabama, the Tigers might make the game interesting for possibly a quarter and a half. But without him and likely using a pair of freshmen QBs, Alabama will load the defensive box as it did against LSU running back Leonard Fournette in 2015 and 2016 and force the Tigers to throw.
And like LSU last year, Alabama has an offense that can score as many points as needed or as many as it feels like.
Considering an excited Orgeron screamed “Roll Tide, F-You” in the Tigers’ dressing room after last year’s victory in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide will likely show no mercy.
To save you time researching, the most points scored by Alabama vs. LSU and largest victory margin occurred in the same year, a 47-3 Tide win in 1922.
By the way, LSU finished that season 3-7. Could happen again.