The LSU Tigers begin the journey which will define how their 2018 season is remembered. This team should go 10-2. It has the talent to go 10-2. It is playing three inferior opponents in the remainder of its season.
By Matt Zemek
A 10-2 record would be a terrific achievement and seal a New Year’s Six bowl bid. Coach Ed Orgeron would have every reason to claim that is program is on schedule, his tenure solid and stable, if he wins these next three games. Some people (I was one of them) thought LSU’s season could unravel into a 7-5 disaster. Miami, Georgia and Auburn all loomed as significant tests. LSU crushed two of those three teams and nipped Auburn at the wire. You can say all you want that LSU’s opponents have not measured up, but that isn’t the Tigers’ concern. They have been very good this season. Orgeron has triumphed over his critics. LSU can legitimately say it is the second-best team in the SEC, with Georgia getting a chance to change that assessment in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.
Why, then, is this final November stretch so important for the Tigers? If they stumble, much of what was written above goes away. Second-best team in the SEC? That will not remain true. New Year’s Six bowl? That might still happen, but the bid would be endangered. The program exists on very strong footing? A late-season loss would undercut that notion.
This month is about upholding the good work this team has done this season. This is about cementing LSU as the best non-Alabama team in the SEC. This is about establishing a level of performance worthy of a top-tier program.
1 – TURN THE PAGE
The experience of getting smoked by Alabama is something LSU shares with several other college football teams. Alabama is in a class of its own. The Crimson Tide are really good. There is no need to belabor the point, but neither is there a need to deny or ignore it. LSU must calmly accept that reality and move on. The Tigers can’t let the memory of last week linger into this game, because that is EXACTLY how they will get ambushed.
Clean slate, new day, fresh task. LSU must reset and play like a team focused on the present moment, not the recent past.
2 – DOWNFIELD DISCIPLINE
The Tigers’ secondary should be able to contain Arkansas’ passing game and limit the Razorbacks’ offense. In terms of matchups, athleticism and skill, LSU should dominate the Hogs. Yet, it remains that in their last three SEC games, the Razorbacks have scored at least 31 points. That’s something worth taking seriously. Yes, Arkansas scored 31 on Alabama after falling behind by a bunch of touchdowns, meaning that those scores were garbage-time touchdowns. Yes, the other two games were against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Nevertheless, those points were scored. LSU has to honor that level of capability on the Arkansas offense and display an appropriate level of urgency.
3 – THIRD AND FIVE
On an offense which has generally been good enough this season, but hardly great, LSU can expect to face some third-and-medium situations. Converting them with accurate passes should steer this team through any choppy waters which might emerge against Arkansas.