WORSHAM: Orgeron’s SEC debut as head coach was the worst in LSU history

By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor

If LSU’s 37-7 loss to Mississippi State felt like some sort of unprecedented defeat in Tiger football history, well, that’s because it was.

Let’s put this defeat into historical context. Bear with me – this will take a while, and you probably won’t like where it ends.

Saturday’s loss was:

  • LSU’s worst defeat to Mississippi State – ever. The Bulldogs’ previous best effort over the Tigers was a 25-0 win in 1954, when Gaynell Tinsley was in his final year as head coach. Paul Dietzel had never coached a game for the Tigers, nor had Billy Cannon or Jimmy Taylor ever played a single down. Ed Orgeron would not be born for another seven years.
  • Mississippi State’s biggest win over a ranked opponent since defeating No. 12 Vanderbilt 33-0 on Oct. 17, 1942. Y.A. Tittle had just celebrated his 16th birthday. Jerry Stovall was still in diapers. The U.S. had not yet been in World War II for a year.
  • LSU’s worst loss to an unranked opponent since 1943. The year after State’s big win over Vandy, the Tigers would suffer a 42-7 loss to unranked Georgia Tech, which is the last time the Tigers lost to an unranked team by more than 30 points.
  • LSU’s worst offensive output in Starkville in SEC history. You’d have to go back to a 14-7 State win on December 1, 1923 – 65 years to the date before the birth of this writer, and 10 years before the advent of the Southeastern Conference – for an LSU offense to perform as poorly in Starkville as the Tigers’ did on Saturday.

Sick of the history yet? The math isn’t any better.

Add up every State win over LSU between 1984 and 2016 – all five of them ­– and you’d have a combined margin of victory of 29 points, one point fewer than the blowout handed to LSU on Saturday. Add up every LSU defeat in 2016, and you’d have to tack on another touchdown to the combined 23 points of last year’s losses to reach Saturday’s score.

As for Orgeron, it’s no prettier. His SEC debut for LSU – without the interim tag, of course – was the worst by a head coach in program history. LSU’s head coaches are now 6-5-2 in their first game in the SEC.

[table] Coach, Year, Opponent, Result, Final Record

Biff Jones, 1933, Vanderbilt, 7-7 tie, 7-0-3

Bernie Moore, 1935, @ Vanderbilt, 7-2 win, 9-2-0

Gaynell Tinsley, 1948, Georgia, 22-0 loss, 3-7

Paul Dietzel, 1955, Kentucky, 19-7 win, 3-5-2

Charles McClendon, 1962, @ Georgia Tech, 10-7 win, 9-1-1

Jerry Stovall, 1980, @ Florida, 24-7 win, 7-4

Bill Arnsparger, 1984, @ Florida, 21-21 tie, 8-3-1

Mike Archer, 1987, Florida, 13-10 win, 10-1-1

Curley Hallman, 1991, @ Georgia, 31-10 loss, 5-6

Gerry Dinardo, 1995, @ Mississippi State, 34-16 win, 7-4-1

Nick Saban, 2000, @ Auburn, 34-17 loss, 8-4

Les Miles, 2005, Tennessee, 30-27 OT loss, 11-2

Ed Orgeron, 2017, @ Mississippi State, 37-7 loss, TBD [/table]

The good news for Orgeron is that both Les Miles and Nick Saban lost their league openers, and both won national championships within the next three seasons.

Orgeron will not get the benefit of the doubt from a bulk of Tiger fans. Unlike his two prior predecessors, Orgeron doesn’t – when you subtract his 11-4 record as an interim coach – possess a resume his supporters can show his skeptics to ease their concern.

The latter will point to his career 13-26 record as a full-time head coach – including a 3-22 record in the SEC – as evidence that this is only a sign of more to come.

The former will rightly add that the sample size of 2017 is too small to make any definitive judgments from. Sixty minutes of bad football is insufficient evidence, no matter how bad the football actually was.

In the larger context of LSU’s football program, however, the trends are troubling. The Tigers are now 6-7 in their last 13 conference games, dating back to the end of the 2015 season.

[table] Team, Record in Last 13 SEC Games

Alabama, 13-0

Florida, 10-3

Tennessee, 8-5

Arkansas, 7-6

Georgia, 7-6

Texas A&M, 7-6

Auburn, 6-7

LSU, 6-7

Mississippi, 6-7

Mississippi State, 6-7

Kentucky, 5-8

Vanderbilt, 5-8

South Carolina, 4-9

Missouri, 2-11 [/table]

LSU, by the numbers, is no longer among the SEC’s elite. It’s firmly entrenched in the middle of the pack. And if Saturday’s result against Mississippi State is any indication, the road back to the top will not be easy.

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Cody Worsham

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