Joe Burrow’s victory cigar in New Orleans after defeating Clemson for a national championship feels like ages ago.
The high-flying, unstoppable, cinderella story LSU team was one of the greatest stories in the history of the sport. A new king of college football was being crowned and a new page was being written in the history books.
Less than two years later, reality is crashing back down in Baton Rouge.
Before even mentioning the football side, the off-the-field issues are a huge cloud hanging over the program. Ed Orgeron is in the middle of some Title IX lawsuits, dating back to when he became head coach in 2017. While these issues are certainly part of the problem, we’ll stay focused on the field.
Wins have been hard to come by for LSU since Jan. 13, 2020. In fact, take out the famous season and Orgeron’s record as a head coach is just six games over .500. To be fair, we can get rid of a 3-9 season in Oxford as Ole Miss’ head coach, putting him at a career win percentage of .560. Since when has that kind of career record been acceptable at LSU?
The 2019 championship was the exception, not the rule.
Let’s not fool ourselves here. Orgeron caught lightning in a bottle by ordering some crawfish at a crawfish-less Mike Anderson’s. Burrow was the perfect quarterback to run the show. Then, based on the recommendation of Steve Ensminger, Joe Brady, who was the brains behind the entire offensive operation, was hired. Everything fell into place for the Tigers to have a successful year.
An all-time classic in Tuscaloosa brought a sense of destiny to LSU’s team as well. All or nothing was the mindset from that point on.
From there, I’m willing to bet if you asked any LSU fan, winning the national championship, in New Orleans, and with Burrow, would be worth whatever the next four to five seasons bring. The story was too good to pass on and stars were aligning.
But nobody imagined anything this bad.
Social media’s recent comparison has been Auburn’s Gene Chizik from 2010-2012. After Cam Newton singlehandedly won the national championship, the Tigers went 8-5 and 3-9. Chizik was fired and replaced by Gus Malzhan for the unmentionable 2013 season.
Orgeron could be heading down a similar path, at least record-wise.
2020 was followed up by a 5-5 season with losses to Auburn, Alabama, Mississippi State, Missouri, and Texas A&M. Subtract a shoe throw against Florida and it could have easily been 4-6 with three big losses to LSU’s three main rivals.
Something as bad as 3-9 may not be in store for this season, but finding wins on the schedule is getting tough.
Losing to UCLA at the Rose Bowl was the first in nonconference since the infamous Troy game in 2017. Bo Nix’s magic proved to be Auburn’s first win at Death Valley since 1999. I can quite literally say LSU had never lost to Auburn at home in my lifetime.
A porous 3-2 record is where the Tigers stand.
Look at the next five games — No. 16 Kentucky, No. 20 Florida, No. 17 Ole Miss, No. 1 Alabama, and No. 13 Arkansas (all rankings prior to Week 6). It’s safe to say LSU will be favored in none of those. Losing all five is not completely off the docket.
Bryant Denny Stadium on Nov. 6 could be the last time Nick Saban and Orgeron meet at midfield to exchange pleasantries as head coaches. Les Miles’ firing proved LSU has no issue getting rid of coaches at the snap of a finger. A big loss in Tuscaloosa could be the final straw.
Success at LSU is also measured by comparing themselves to the Crimson Tide. Whether it’s fair or not, there’s a reason the first weekend of November is always a big deal. Losing four of five against your main rival gets a lot of people fired other places.
Boosters, fans, and to an extent, the players will be fed up by then. The first LSU losing record since 1999 would wrap up an abysmal two years.
Orgeron’s full body of work will end up getting him fired in the end. But Alabama has the chance to put the final nail in the coffin. Another LSU beat down by the Crimson Tide and the head coaching search could begin by the month’s end.
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