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The Biggest Game of the Year

And looking ahead to next year

LSU v Arkansas
Oh, it’s coming
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

A common refrain before every big game is that this is the biggest game of the season. And honestly, at the time, they are right, it’s just that the dynamic of the season keeps changing so each Next Big Game becomes The Big Game.

First, Miami was the biggest game of the year, as LSU needed to set the tone for the season and silence the critics against a top 15 team. Then, it was Auburn, a prohibitive favorite in the SEC West race. Then the Florida game was the biggest game of the year, a must win against a cross-division rival to keep the momentum going, followed by the then must-win against Georgia to salvage the swing through the Eastern division. Then Mississippi St was the low key biggest game because we weren’t beating Bama and needed to stake a claim to the top ten, only to have Bama be the biggest game because of course… we’re playing Bama.

But now, we mean it. The Texas A&M game really is the biggest game of the year. If LSU wins this game, the Tigers will return to ten regular season wins, but also finish 6-2 in the SEC and earn a New Years Six bowl bid, maybe even the Sugar Bowl if Bama blows out Georgia in two weeks. That would be a spectacular success for any LSU team, but especially one that came into the season with such valid question marks.

However, a loss changes the entire tenor of the season. LSU won’t finish two games ahead of the rest of the SEC West pack, it will instead finish 5-3, tied with Texas A&M. LSU will still have had a great year and greatly outperformed expectations, but the feel of it would be entirely different, and that New Years bid would likely evaporate into the ether.

With a loss, the talk isn’t of a remarkable season and the return to the land of ten wins. No, the offseason talk will be consumed by the dreadful offense and how nothing ever changes. Even if everything sort of did.

Whether Orgeron had to strip down the roster to its frame is an open question, but the fact is, that is what he did. Orgeron has spent the past two seasons tearing down the roster and remaking in its own image. And he’s done that while largely maintaining the program’s winning ways. That’s no easy feat.

It’s shocking just how young this team is. This was the transition year, but the transition happened so quickly that expectations never did. It’s still win or bust, even as he replaced pretty much the team’s entire offensive production and nearly all of its offensive line.

And Orgeron didn’t just plug holes with stop gaps. There’s a few JUCO’s and transfers dotting the two-deep, as well as the occasional program-loyal senior, but not many. LSU’s most recent depth chart lists 12 starters on offense, and just three are seniors. Only one senior is a primary backup on offense, and that’s at fullback, a position being phased out of the offense.

The defensive depth chart lists 11 positions and just one single senior anywhere on the two-deep depth chart, John Battle starting at safety. It also seems that LSU might not experience its usually glut of early entrants. OK, Greedy Williams is almost certainly gone, and while Devin White is teasing us with coming back, that is also unlikely. After that, who is going to leave early? Rashard Lawrence? Maybe?

After this season, it is Ed Orgeron’s team. In practice, it already is. The offensive line right now starts three underclassmen and a JUCO transfer. The backfield once Brossette graduates will be left to Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Troy Carter, both current sophomores, and two quarterbacks brought in by Orgeron. There will be a trio of senior receivers if they choose to return, but nearly all of them have been passed on the depth chart by underclassmen.

The defensive line could have three senior starters next year, though Fehoko is an Orgeron recruit via transfer. But the rest of the depth chart there is underclassmen and again, Lawrence might be off to the NFL, leaving just one Miles holdover in Ed Alexander.

The linebacking corps next year will be anchored by Orgeron players: Patrick Queen, Jacob Phillips, Micah Baskerville, and Andre Anthony are underclassmen returnees who will be joined by a healthy K’Lavon Chiasson. Divinity will be the lone Miles holdover unless Devin White also returns. The secondary is also nothing but underclassmen and new recruits.

The roster has been almost completely flipped. This team would feel poised for huge things coming into next year off of a ten-win season and a possible top five recruiting class to add talent to an already experienced and talented roster. It would feel like this team is confidently moving into the future, ready to compete for national titles.

But to get that feeling, you need to beat A&M. It all starts with taking care of the little things first. You need that foundation to build on. It starts with the Biggest Game of the Season, again.