Every aspect of LSU’s 3-2 start has been picked apart since Troy’s 24-21 upset in Death Valley on Saturday night. The world is ending in Baton Rouge because Ed Orgeron has allegedly reverted back to his disastrous Ole Miss ways.
There’s a GoFundMe to pay for Coach O’s $12 million buyout. Athletic director Joe Alleva is probably less popular than Orgeron, which is considerable when O, the quintessential native son of Louisiana, is having to justify his career to radio show callers.
Maybe it’s that bad. Or maybe Orgeron and his staff are five games into a rebuild more substantial than they or anyone in the media considered. As SB Nation’s Bud Elliott detailed this week, the deterioration of both lines is foremost an issue of talent, not coaching, at least relative to successful LSU teams in recent years.
Back in June, I asked Orgeron what worried him most in the offseason. He talked about chemistry within the new staff, conditioning, and the NFL draft.
And he made it a point to talk about the NFL draft.
“You know, you go to the draft, and you’re in the green room. It’s an amazing time to represent LSU. I’m so excited. ‘Hey, good job Leonard [Fournette, fourth overall pick]! Good job Jamal [Adams, sixth overall pick]! Good job Tre’Davious [White, 27th overall pick],” Orgeron said. “You got eight guys drafted. Eight! It’s all fine and dandy and we cheering, and then it stops, and I’m coming home thinking, ‘I gotta replace them all. Now.’”
Perhaps the 3-2 Tigers are doomed to spiral to an untenable 4-8 season, put Orgeron and Alleva out immediately, and somehow justify Miles. Or, maybe, 2017 LSU is a version of another program that replaced another tenured, consistent head coach who was often great but unable to surpass Alabama: Georgia and Kirby Smart.
The 3-2 2017 Tigers have been upset by Troy and blown out by an experienced Mississippi State in Starkville. Their wins are a neutral-site shutout of BYU and home wins over Chattanooga and Syracuse.
Here’s where we point out how the 2016 Bulldogs started their season:
- A 33-24, neutral-site win over North Carolina.
- A near-upset at the hand of FCS Nicholls State. And Nicholls wasn’t particularly good, finishing 5-6.
- A one-point win over Missouri in Columbia. The Tigers weren’t good either, finishing 4-8.
- Oh hey, a blowout loss to an experienced SEC team in Mississippi. The Dawgs were thumped 45-14 by Ole Miss in Oxford.
- That hail mary loss at home to Butch Jones and Tennessee.
Just how damning is LSU’s blowout road loss to Mississippi State, now that MSU’s since been blown out twice? It’s hard to tell, but 2016 UGA’s loss at Ole Miss is comparable; as 2016 wore on, UGA QB Jacob Eason became more comfortable, and the Rebels stumbled to a 5-7 finish.
Both 2016 Georgia and 2017 LSU have offensive line issues. Both have star running backs they’re leaning on heavily. Both had to replace large holes in leadership and depth on defense. And five games in, both show inconsistency on offense during a clear transition between systems. Both have serious concerns with QB play (2016 Georgia was worried about true freshman Eason’s experience; 2017 LSU is concerned senior Danny Etling isn’t an ideal fit for Matt Canada’s scheme).
But most notably, both LSU now and Georgia last year are programs whose power brokers unseated winning coaches to chase down Alabama, with expectations of near-immediate results.
And both were expected to be win-immediately jobs, by virtue of the fired coaches who were well-liked by the national media.
“I think it’s a valid enough comparison, because any first year at a top-level program like those is going to give you weird, unexpected swings,” an SEC offensive assistant coach told SB Nation.
“The difference is, Orgeron has had more time than Smart, with the interim year, and the big thing is that expectations were way out of line. O sold LSU on immediate consistency, not a rebuild. That’s where a lot of the anger is coming from. He’s got really good coaches. He’s going to recruit really well. His biggest mistake is hiding how much work their was. But maybe he thought he wouldn’t get hired for a rebuild.”
The good news for LSU is that if 2016 Georgia is a reasonable comparison, that would mean some similar version of 2017 Georgia awaits the Tigers next year.
The bad news is that 2016 Georgia lost three more games after their 3-2 mark. LSU’s environment grows increasingly intolerable by the loss.