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Ed Orgeron could still keep the LSU job, but beating Alabama sure would’ve helped

It’s a missed opportunity, but probably not a fatal blow on its own.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

A golden opportunity passed up LSU on Saturday, and it also passed up the Tigers’ interim head coach.

No. 1 Alabama beat the No. 13 Tigers in Baton Rouge, 10-0, in a defensive struggle that saw the Tide emerge in the second half. In the process, Alabama moved toward locking up the SEC West, and Ed Orgeron missed a chance to get closer to locking up LSU’s full-time head coaching job.

Beating Alabama would’ve left Orgeron in terrific shape to keep his dream job permanently. As New Orleans radio host T-Bob Hebert, a former LSU lineman, recently put it to SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey:

“I think he can win the job if he goes 7-1 and doesn’t beat Alabama. If he goes 7-1 with a Bama win, he’s a lock. 6-2 with an Alabama win, I’ll put him at 90 percent. But like 6-2 without Bama, and you’re dipping below 70 percent, probably. And 5-3, you can’t get the job unless there’s a Bama win. With a Bama win at 5-3, maybe you get it. Then it’s a coin flip.”

Beating Alabama would’ve had Orgeron at 4-0, and, in this telling, any kind of decent finish would’ve almost certainly kept Orgeron in Baton Rouge going forward.

Not beating Alabama makes things a bit murkier, but not impossible. Orgeron’s still 3-1 since taking over for the fired Les Miles, and the Tigers could still close the year strong. Their last three games are against Arkansas, Florida, and Texas A&M. There’s nothing even approximating a gimme there, but everything’s winnable.

One thing that won’t happen now, of course, is an SEC West title or College Football Playoff berth for 2016’s team. The Tigers now have two conference losses, and Orgeron’s still saddled by a 1-2 start when Miles was the head coach and Orgeron was just an assistant. It’s now inconceivable that the Tigers would catch Bama.

We shouldn’t expect Orgeron to fold. He’s a drastically different guy than he was when his Ole Miss tenure went sour in the 2000s. He’s got a bunch of elite talent to work with, and LSU could still have an excellent, if lower-upside, finish. Orgeron doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’s going to go into a tailspin at the first sign of trouble.

From an interview with Godfrey after his promotion:

“Without actually going out into the community and helping rebuild a house right now, my job is to get the Tigers to play. My job is to get the Tigers to win in Tiger Stadium. My job is to give the community a place and a time when they can put on the TV and feel good.”

Things are more complicated now, though. Beating Bama would’ve nearly made LSU athletic director Joe Alleva’s decision for him. Now, Alleva’s got more thinking to do.