There's been a bit of dark cloud hanging over the LSU program for about a year now. We all know when it started, but it's just been a general malaise that has carried over through the summer and into the season.
Well, malaise over.
Look, I'm still not happy we lost to Alabama last week and as great as an Alabama loss is this week, it just highlights the fact LSU should have won. We should be making plans for Atlanta instead of trying to figure out if there is any conceivable chance Auburn can upset Alabama.*
*No. No, they can't.
However, one positive about the Alabama game is that this looks a new LSU team. This was not a one-off good week with the team amped up to play a big rival. This looks like a completely different team than the one that largely slept through the first two-thirds of the season. LSU didn't just beat Mississippi State, LSU asserted its will.
Now, it wasn't perfect. The offense still continues to sputter any time it crosses the 20 yard line. The less said about the punt return game, the better. And the defense once again almost let a team off the mat with a poor effort on a desperation drive... well, until Craig Loston did something awesome.
But what is back is a bit of the swagger of a team, and a program, that simply knows it is one of the very best teams in the country. Not belief. Knowledge. LSU fell behind early and showed precisely no panic as it slowly came back and took a 10-point lead into the half. No rush, no hurry. Just slowly strangling the life out of the other team.
To bury the lede, Zach Mettenberger has arrived. Paul said it on twitter perfectly. The light is on. Mettenberger had back-to-back 200 yard passing games, the first time for an LSU quarterback since 2008. He was knocking on the door of a 300 yard passing game. He made good decisions and even better throws throughout. But more than that, he looked like the team leader. Hell, he is the team leader.
The receivers made big catches, the depth at running back reared its ugly head, and the offensive line has finally gelled into an excellent unit. This is what a good offense looks like. It's been so long, I think we all kind of forgot.
The defense is still this team's calling card. They made big plays all night and controlled Mississippi State's offense throughout. It's a great unit full of great players, and it played like it.
Heck, even last year's Brad Wing showed up.
Sure, it's just State. Even Curley Hallman could beat State. LSU has now won 20 of the last 21 meetings, and the one loss was on a disputed call. Let 'em have one. But more importantly LSU looked like the LSU of last year. This looked like a team that didn't just believe, it knew.
It knows if it wins two more games, it will be playing in a BCS Bowl. Maybe not the one we wanted when the season started, but given what this team has gone through and the personnel losses we've suffered, I will take it.