Just like we all thought, the Florida game is the biggest game of the year for LSU, just not in the way we suspected. As bad as things are going for LSU right now, things look worse at Florida, which is caught in a morass of arrests, questionable coaching, terrible quarterback play, and generally awful football.
This is an absolute must-win game for Les Miles if he hopes to salvage this season. Florida has rarely looked this vulnerable and honestly, the schedule gets tougher from here. If LSU loses on Saturday, this season could spiral out of control. This is the team's last best chance to pull out of the spin and get back on course.
LSU has not started 0-2 in SEC play since 2001, a year in which LSU won the SEC title, incidentally. Now, the SEC title is a pipe dream at this point, but it's not impossible for a team to have a miserable start to the season and get things back on track. It happened right here in Baton Rouge the last time the team started this poorly.
Honestly, this start isn't all that different from 2001. LSU lost by eight to Tennessee in a deceivingly close score. Tennessee was up 26-7 in the fourth quarter before letting LSU make a late rally to make the game interesting, though LSU never really came close to winning the game. Then Florida came into town and beat the Tigers 44-15. Tennessee threw for over 300 yards while Florida amassed 632 yards of total offense.
LSU got blown the hell out. Then the team went 2-1 over its next three SEC games, losing another game to Ole Miss, before closing out the season with six straight wins, one of which was the SEC Championship Game and another was the Sugar Bowl. The team, after two games, looked flat out awful and unable to stop anyone. And then they won the SEC title, opening the era of the LSU Golden Age.
Now, history doesn't repeat itself, and it's unlikely that LSU will win the SEC this year, particularly with a 5-3 conference record like the 2001 team did.* However, it does show that a team can have a terrible start and still finish strong. The idea that LSU is doomed to lose every game for the rest of the season is precisely the kind of loser talk that dominated Baton Rouge before the Golden Era began.
*It also should be pointed out that our offense has looked nothing like the Rohan to Reed monster that was the 2001 team. Then again, neither did 2001 at this point. Davey went 7 for 17 for 154 yards against Florida with a pick. He was relieved by Mauck due to injury, and he promptly went 11 for 22 for 132 and 2 picks. Together, they were sacked 5 times. LSU's leading rusher against Florida was Devery Henderson. LaBrandon Toefield led the way for the running backs with 48 yards on 19 carries. Yeah, we got our asses thoroughly kicked.
When Nick Saban arrived in Baton Rouge, he stated that one of the biggest issues with the LSU program was the Catastrophe Syndrome which permeated throughout the program and the town. Every little setback, and the town freaked out as if there was no hope, or this was the first team to ever face adversity in the history of football. Now, I hate to credit Saban, but boy, did he nail that one.
LSU fans, after a decade and a half of dominant football, have seen their program grow from an SEC also-ran to one of the mightiest programs in the nation. Year-in, year-out, this team competes for conference and national titles, and pumps out 10-win seasons like clockwork. So you'd think after all of this success, the average LSU fan would have confidence in this program during its first 0-2 start in fourteen years, secure in the knowledge that this is a dominant, winning program.
And you'd be wrong.
LSU fans have responded to this bit of adversity by collectively flipping the hell out. The Tiger Rag is openly speculating about a winless SEC season. The Man from Gannett is writing Man from Gannett sort of things, which I'm not gonna link to. Everyone's favorite message board is in full metdown mode. Team Speed Kills is rightfully asking "what's wrong with LSU?"
Look, I'm not going to lie to y'all. LSU has played some awful football to start the SEC season. This is a fanbase that demands titles, and those demands are met by the program with frequency. Being, for all intents and purposes, eliminated from the SEC West race before we even bust out the Halloween decorations is unacceptable.
Now, I've got a decade and a half of consistent success that tells me that LSU is a better program than they are playing like right now. The staff and the players need to go back to the drawing board and do it. They are better than this, so go out and do better. I don't want excuses that the team is young or that the rest of the conference is really good. I don't want excuses, I want wins. Winning is really fun.
But the program doesn't get back to winning football by having a massive freak-out. Panic is almost always bad. At the end of the day, it's just two games. Now, they were two incredibly awful games, but still just two games. There's still six games left to play, six beautiful SEC games, and I plan on cheering my damn fool head off at every one of them. I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea of quitting.
However, it seems LSU fans are bailing on this season like it's the third quarter in Tiger Stadium. Hey, I know y'all have got to beat traffic, but maybe you might want to stick things out and see what happens.
Fifteen years of being one of the best programs in the nation, and the bulk of LSU fans are still acting like it is the Curley Hallman Era. Go retreat back to your stance of surrender and wave the white flag. Revert back to the Catastrophe Syndrome, as if the Golden Age of LSU Football never happened. Go off and panic at the first sign of adversity, the first bad start to a season that an incoming LSU freshman can even remember.
Or maybe have some faith that the staff knows what they are doing. Maybe we've got some pretty good players. That maybe, just maybe, LSU football is still a great football program and this is just two awful games and, yes, maybe an awful season. It happens, even at great programs. Auburn has never had back-to-back 10 win seasons in the program's history, and they seem to be doing all right.
But a bunch of whiners who have been sitting on an "I told you so" for a decade can go get bent. You don't get credit for your prediction of decline that you've been making every year since Saban left. You don't get to call yourself Nostradamus for the same conniption fit you've had after every LSU loss in history.
The sky is not falling. It's just a nut.