If the result had held, you could’ve seen the tweets and memes coming.

After falling behind by 14 points at home to No. 7 Ole Miss on Saturday, you can bet the anti-Brian Kelly crowd was sharpening its knives and getting ready to attack the LSU coach. After all, he was the guy who danced too close to recruits and was a “bad culture fit” because of his horrendous attempt at a Southern accent. Surely the guy on the wrong side of 60 would be an internet punching bag as long as he was in Baton Rouge.

Yeah, about that.

Kelly reminded the college football world that he’s no punching bag, and the guy with 5 consecutive seasons of double-digit wins knows a thing or 2 about throwing haymakers.

After sprinting out to a 2-touchdown lead, Ole Miss took an uppercut to the jugular at the hands of LSU. A 42-3 run closed out a 45-20 victory for Kelly’s squad. Mind you, that was against a previously unbeaten Ole Miss team. As in, the Ole Miss team who was 20-0 with a halftime lead under Lane Kiffin. Unblemished, no more.

None of that mattered. Instead, what mattered was that once again, LSU shook off a horrendous start and roared back. It’s the theme of the Tigers in 2022 even dating back to that disastrous opener against Florida State. That is, get punched in the mouth, fall to the ground, get up and proceed to unload a series of body blows.

(Ok, no more boxing references. You get it.)

When the world was trying to dunk on Kelly for his team’s mistake-riddled start to the season, he looked like he was putting lipstick on a pig by saying that he had a team of fighters. Well, he was right.

And just like that, look who’ll go into November with control of its own SEC destiny. That’s right. LSU. As in, the team who couldn’t even field 40 scholarship players for a bowl game 10 months ago and had 10 players selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.

A 4-1 start to SEC play included wins over the likes of MSU, Auburn, Florida and most recently, Ole Miss. LSU trailed in the second half in 3 of those games with the lone exception being Florida. That was a rare instance of LSU’s offense looking alive from start to finish.

Yes, the lone SEC blemish so far was the drubbing at the hands of Tennessee. Like, the 7-0 team who many are arguing is worthy of the No. 1 ranking in America. It happens.

Even if you include that game, look at LSU’s second-half scoring advantage against Power 5 competition so far:

  • FSU: +3
  • MSU: +21
  • Auburn: +7
  • Tennessee: -11
  • Florida: +3
  • Ole Miss: +28
  • Total: +51

And to be fair, that’s not just Kelly. That’s also the defensive adjustments we’ve seen from Matt House. With new faces like freshman sensation Harold Perkins and key transfer portal additions Greg Brooks and Joe Foucha, the LSU defense has a knack for making the necessary in-game adjustments.

It was Foucha who continued a frustrating second half for Jaxson Dart, who was 8-for-18 for 80 yards in the second half. His interception in the end zone was the byproduct of a Micah Bakersfield pressure and a highlight reel 1-handed grab by Foucha.

In addition to taking over against the Ole Miss passing attack, LSU also held the nation’s top non-service academy rushing attack to 116 rushing yards on 3.1 yards per carry. That was easily its worst output of the season.

Yes, Ole Miss was without Zach Evans, who was a surprising “available but not really” because of a knee injury. It didn’t help Kiffin’s squad that arguably its top 2 defensive players, AJ Finley and Troy Brown, were both hurt and exited the game.

But this was going to be an uphill battle for Ole Miss even at full strength. Why? When Jayden Daniels plays at that level, LSU is a frightening team. And by “frightening,” I mean that in a good way.

A week after he had 6 total touchdowns in a win at Florida, Daniels followed that up with 248 passing yards, 121 rushing yards and 5 total touchdowns. After a slow start, he could do no wrong. Even a fluttering pass to Jaray Jenkins that was essentially up for grabs with 2 Ole Miss defenders resulted in the LSU receiver making an adjustment on the ball and waltzing in for 6.

Daniels has improved. He wouldn’t have had that opportunity had Kelly not stuck with him after the disastrous passing game against Auburn. Instead of moving on to Garrett Nussmeier, Kelly and Daniels discussed why he needed to put more trust in the LSU receivers and why he needed to trust himself.

So far, so good.

Go figure that Kelly is pretty well versed at righting the ship. The anti-Kelly crowd probably won’t make note of the fact that Kelly is now 10-7 vs. AP Top 25 teams since the start of 2018. The anti-Kelly crowd will instead pile on only when Kelly’s team stumbles out of the gate.

What’s becoming abundantly clear is that LSU is on the short list for “teams you don’t want to face in November.” What’s unclear is whether LSU can continue to disrupt the Playoff picture. A bye week is followed by a home game against Alabama. While the anti-Kelly crowd will point to Kelly’s Notre Dame teams struggling against Alabama as to why it’ll somehow matter with new surroundings, the rest of us can appreciate that LSU is hosting a pivotal SEC West game in November. That’s about as much as LSU fans could’ve hoped for in Year 1.

This could’ve easily gone sideways for Kelly in Year 1. He could’ve isolated himself from a whole bunch of players who were recruited by the previous regime, including Kayshon Boutte. The guy many considered to be LSU’s best player had a season with more downs than ups. There’s no denying that. But consider how bad it looked in the first couple weeks, it’s a win that even on a day in which he was held out of the end zone and he had 43 receiving yards, Daniels targeted him more than any other LSU player.

Things are trending in the right direction on all fronts. LSU is figuring out who it is. We’re figuring out who Kelly is. Or rather, we’re figuring out who Kelly is with his new surroundings.

He ain’t anybody’s punching bag.