Things get easier for LSU now
BATON ROUGE - There are now seven straight losses to Alabama, but that's not the whole story. There is the epilogue.
LSU, which fell to the No. 2 Crimson Tide by 24-10 Saturday, lost the week after the Alabama game in 2014 and '15 to Arkansas in ugly and uninspired fashion, 17-0, and 31-14. In '15, the Tigers went into Alabama at 7-0 and No. 2 in the nation and lost two games after the 30-16 Alabama loss as an injury-riddled Ole Miss beat a dead on arrival LSU, 38-17, the week after the Arkansas loss. In just three weeks, the Tigers free fell from No. 2 to out of the polls as then tailback Leonard Fournette went from Heisman Trophy favorite to Heisman ceremony uninvited.
Coach Ed Orgeron, who was an assistant in 2015 and in the interim head coaching position at this time last year following a 10-0 loss to the Tide, reversed the mini curse with a dominating, 38-10 win over Arkansas in 2016 and posted a 3-1 record, slapping the Tigers out of the Post Bama Syndrome.
No. 25 LSU (6-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) hosts Arkansas (4-5, 1-4 SEC) at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN at Tiger Stadium. Orgeron sees his Tigers avoiding a post Alabama collapse for the second year in a row.
"We didn't make this last game all or nothing, although we know how big it is in the State of Louisiana," he said at his weekly press conference Monday. "So, I think we'll be able to bounce back well. We'll be able to bounce back with some confidence. We have to bring extra energy this week. But I think this year is a little bit different because our guys are feeling good about themselves right now, though they lost."
LSU out-gained Alabama, 306 yards to 299, held it to its lowest rushing yards of the season at 116, sacked quarterback Jalen Hurts a season-high four times, forced Alabama into a season-high eight punts and limited the Tide to its second lowest first down total of the season at 14.
"They're seeing we're building a championship team," Orgeron said. "I think they're hungry. I think they'll be hungry to go out to practice, and we're playing at home. We want to have a very good year."
LSU will also be finishing a season against its worst trio of SEC opponents since 1984. Arkansas (4-5, 1-4 SEC), Tennessee (4-5, 0-5) and Texas A&M (5-4, 3-3) have a combined record of 13-14 overall and 4-12 in the league. In '84, LSU finished against Ole Miss, Alabama and Mississippi State, which had a combined mark of 9-15-1 and 1-10 entering each team's game against LSU. The Tigers won the first two of those, 32-29 and 16-14, before losing the SEC title, 16-14, at State, which finished 4-7 and 1-5. The Tigers finished as 8-3-1 and 4-1-1 league runner-ups to Florida with a trip to the Sugar Bowl that season.
None of LSU's final three this season are ranked. The last time the Tigers closed against three unranked SEC teams was in 2004 when they beat Alabama, 26-10, Ole Miss, 27-24, and Arkansas, 43-14.
All three of LSU's remaining opponents have not just been losing. They've been losing badly, and each coach - Arkansas' Bret Bielema in his fifth season, Tennessee's Butch Jones in his fifth, and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin in his sixth - are amid various danger levels of getting fired.
The Razorbacks have four losses by an average of four touchdowns to TCU, 28-7, South Carolina, 48-22, Alabama, 41-9, and Auburn, 52-20. Tennessee has a 41-0 loss to Georgia and a 45-7 loss to Alabama. Texas A&M has lost over the last two weeks by 35-14 to Mississippi State and by 42-27 to Auburn - both at home.
All three future LSU foes populate the lower end of the major SEC statistical categories. Arkansas is No. 13 in the SEC in scoring defense, No. 12 in total defense, No. 11 in rush defense and No. 10 in pass defense. Tennessee is last of 14 in the SEC in total offense, No. 13 in scoring offense, No. 13 in pass offense and No. 13 in rush defense, And Texas A&M is No. 11 in pass defense and No. 10 in scoring defense.
This trio looks tantalizingly terrible when compared to the last team LSU played as Alabama is No. 1 in the SEC in scoring offense, scoring defense, rush defense, total defense and pass efficiency defense.
"I don't look at the other team's rankings or statistics," LSU senior nose tackle Greg Gilmore said Monday. "All I worry about is winning the next game. Alabama's the best team we've played, but other teams can beat us."
This has already happened as LSU has a loss to Troy and to Mississippi State.
"We're not going to have any layover," LSU senior defensive end Christian LaCouture said. "I remember in 2015 we lost two games in a row after we lost to Alabama. We're going to make sure that doesn't happen again."
Senior wide receiver D.J. Chark realizes LSU's remaining opponents are not as good as Alabama, but those teams can now locate the Tigers' weaknesses in a recent game in the loss to Alabama. The passing game, secondary and return game to name a few.
"They can feel like we're vulnerable," Chark said. "We've got to make sure there's no letdown no matter who we're playing. Arkansas beat us at home bad two years ago. They're not going to come in here and take it easy on us. We have to be up for the challenge."
ETLING REMAINS STARTER: With just three games remaining, Orgeron was asked on Monday about the possibility of letting backup true freshman quarterback Myles Brennan have a start over two-year senior starter Danny Etling.
"No, that's not fair," he said. "That's not fair at all. We're going to play Danny, but if Danny doesn't do the things we want him to do, we'll play Myles, just like in the last game."
Brennan replaced Etling late in the Tigers' loss to Alabama. "Danny wasn't playing that well at the end, and we wanted to give Myles a shot," Orgeron said.
LSU AT TENNESSEE AT NIGHT: The Tigers' game at Tennessee on Saturday, Nov. 18, will kick off at 6 p.m. on ESPN or ESPN2, the SEC announced on Monday.