I said something in the preseason that was irked some LSU fans. Even non-LSU fans pushed back on it.

That is, LSU would lose 2 games in September.

It wasn’t just some preseason swerve. I thought many were ignoring how tricky of a start the Tigers had, beyond just the “neutral-site” opener against Florida State. Four of those 5 September games were against Power 5 teams with a winning record last year, and all of them returned their starting quarterbacks, which wasn’t ideal for a team with questions in the secondary. Oh, and 3 of those games were away from Death Valley.

I also thought many overlooked how even amid LSU’s midseason turnaround, it still suffered that ugly loss on the road against a 4-7 Texas A&M team when it had everything to play for.

And so now, an LSU team that is 7-5 against Power 5 competition under Brian Kelly, is trying to avoid that all-important second loss.

If the Tigers lack that sense of urgency on Saturday at Mississippi State, that second loss will hit sooner than even I predicted.

To be clear, my preseason prediction was that LSU would fall against Florida State in the opener (but in a down-to-the-wire game) and then on the road at Ole Miss. I do believe the Tigers will win Saturday in Starkville. Against a Mississippi State team that’s still searching for its passing game identity in the new Kevin Barbay-led offense, I expect LSU to make enough plays defensively to pull out a hard-fought game in a hostile atmosphere.

But even as an 8.5-point favorite, let’s acknowledge that LSU has a floor low enough to leave Starkville with loss No. 2.

Last season, we saw some of LSU’s floor moments in winning efforts. Look no further than the Mississippi State game. At home, LSU was down entering the 4th quarter and then it scored 21 consecutive points. Zach Arnett’s defense held that group in check in Death Valley for the majority of that game, and then Jayden Daniels stopped trying to do it all with his legs.

As much as we talked about Daniels’ improvement in that area and how much he developed faith in the system, are we sure that he’s turned the page? Some of the decisions that he made against Florida State suggested otherwise:

LSU goes as Daniels goes. Hence, it’s been a bit unpredictable. Game to game, quarter to quarter, it’s hard to know what to expect.

Once upon a time, Mississippi State went as Will Rogers went. That’s natural for the quarterback in the Mike Leach Air Raid system. But now, Rogers has almost fallen into a game manager role. Arnett admitted that the game plan late against Arizona was too conservative, and that he should’ve pushed for a more aggressive approach. What’s clear is that Rogers won’t start throwing it 50 times per game like he did under Leach. He never attempted fewer than 30 pass attempts in 32 starts under Leach and in his first 2 starts under Barbay, he attempted 29 passes in the opener and 17 in an overtime win against Arizona.

What’s also true is that nobody in SEC history has completed more passes than Rogers. That’s a troubling thought for an LSU secondary that’s still a question mark.

It’s also still a question mark how Harold Perkins will be used as he continues his transition to an off-ball linebacker position. According to PFF, he rushed the passer just 7 times in the season-opening loss to Florida State and 10 times in a lopsided win against Grambling. Will DC Matt House drop Perkins into coverage against an offense that’s been far more run-heavy? It’s worth noting that PFF graded Perkins even worse as a run defender (43.5) than in coverage (54.4) through 2 games (he graded 86.5 as a pass-rusher). That indicates one obvious thing — Perkins has been far better at pinning his ears back than reacting.

If the Tigers are staring at a touchdown deficit, one would think that sense of urgency has to kick in and the preseason All-American will get more opportunities to rush the passer. LSU’s chances of winning in Starkville won’t fall just on the shoulders of Perkins, but it does feel like if the Tigers pull out a victory, the preseason All-American will have a major say in it.

The same goes for Maason Smith. The last time we saw the LSU defensive tackle play against FBS competition for more than a series was against Kansas State in the Texas Bowl at the end of the 2021 season. That was 20 months ago. LSU coach Brian Kelly admitted that Smith had some “rust” in his 2023 debut, wherein he played 35 snaps. Can Smith be the game-wrecking pass-rusher up front that LSU has been desperately lacking? Or better yet, can Smith help out a run defense that ranks No. 112 in FBS with 4.7 yards/carry allowed?

And no, that wasn’t just garbage time stuff. LSU ranks No. 128 in FBS and dead last in Power 5 with 6.6 yards/rush allowed in the first half. That’s music to the ears of Mississippi State’s Jo’Quavious “Woody” Marks, who is PFF’s highest-graded running back in FBS through Week 2.

A “rusty” Smith and a quiet Perkins would be the worst combination for LSU. If the Tigers want to keep that Playoff dream alive — no team has made the 4-team field after losing in Week 1 — they need their superstars to look the part. That didn’t happen against Florida State. Is Mississippi State on that level? It doesn’t look like it, but it’s still a team that earned 3 victories against LSU in the Playoff era. Believe it or not, LSU is only +17 during those 9 matchups.

If LSU thinks it can put it on cruise control, it’s in for a rude awakening. Kelly said after the opener his squad “certainly wasn’t the team I thought we were.” Who is LSU then?

We’re about to find out.