Ninety nine percent of the Bayou Bengal Nation, me included, were probably somewhat slack-jawed last week after LSU reached 5-0 in perhaps the most ugly fashion in the history of college football. They were winning, but at the same time frustrating all who bleed purple and gold.
Following the bizarre finish to the Tennessee game, orchestrated by Les Miles’ “Clock Mismanagement 2.0” lesson, as an undefeated team five weeks into the season, we were not garnering respect, but rather ridicule and jokes.
There are no jokes or ridicule this week following the Tiger’s domination in the Swamp. That was a “statement” game, loud and clear. Yes there were still mistakes that made it very interesting down the stretch, but there was also 60 minutes of incredibly hard play on both offense and defense, and some good old-fashioned coaching.
So are we to believe that the Tigers are fully on track, and all is well, or are we to assume that this is still a work in progress, with perhaps some bumps down the road? As is normally the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
This is a team that is growing up in front of our eyes, and all of the adversity which they have experienced in the process will only be beneficial for them when the going gets tough in future games.
The great thing about this season, thus far, is that despite all of the turmoil and just plain lack of respect, the Tigers are now 6-0, atop the SEC and fully control their own destiny.
Yes, LSU still has a tough row to hoe, with a second-half slate featuring Auburn, Alabama, and Arkansas (and, let's not forget, an improving Ole Miss team), but based on the level of play they demonstrated in Gainesville this past Saturday, they can beat any and all of these teams.
They first need to count their lucky stars for some good favor sent their way so far, and then focus on how to use their positive achievements to date as a base on which to build upon.
They need to use this win as a confidence-builder, proving to themselves that, yes, they are a good team, and yes, if they play hard and smart, they have the ability to win the remainder of their games down the stretch.
No one gave LSU much of a shot at the beginning of the season. In fact, they were picked to finish 4th in the SEC West by the coaches at the SEC preseason meeting. And here they are at the halfway mark, sitting atop the whole conference.
But that is the key. It is only halfway over. How many times have we seen a team dominate in the first half and then fall apart in the second? The same can happen in the scope of an entire season with a team losing their footing down the stretch.
The Tigers need to avoid complacency and maintain that edge, beginning with McNeese State this coming weekend. I am not so much worrying about them losing, but more so on how they play. Just as quickly as they gained that edge, they can lose some of it with sloppy and dumb play.
If they are able to maintain that mental toughness, and continue to build on the Florida game with hard play and smart decisions, while minimizing the mistakes, then they will have done their best, and can let the chips of fate fall where they may. What more can you ask for?