LSU seems to be getting better.
Certainly, it has a long way to go before becoming a factor in the SEC West race.
But teams are supposed to improve from the week to week.
Overall, the Tigers have done that. But the improvement hasn’t been as dramatic as head coach Brian Kelly would prefer.
The Tigers began the season with a disappointing 24-23 loss to Florida State.
Then they whipped Southern 65-17, though it was difficult to discern if that represented meaningful progress or just superior talent producing a predictable result.
Then came the 31-16 home victory against Mississippi State last Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
It was a good start to the SEC season, though it was an incomplete performance.
Kelly talked on Monday about becoming more “consistent” and producing “a complete performance.”
LSU seems to be getting closer to those objectives as it prepares to host New Mexico in a nonconference game Saturday night.
But the Tigers have a ways to go if they’re going to have an impact in the SEC West once they return to conference play at Auburn next week.
Here are 5 questions they have raised that still need to be answered:
The Tigers have started 3 different units in 3 games. We’re not sure what the lineup will look like on Saturday.
The line struggled in the opener but played better as the game wore on. It played much better a week later, but that might have been merely a result of a weaker opponent.
It struggled again initially against Mississippi State, but again it got better as time wore on.
The offense isn’t going to be very successful unless it operates behind a line that plays up to SEC standards for 60 minutes week in and week out.
Can this group do that?
No one knows.
Not great. Not good. Just adequate.
First things first.
What we know is that they have clearly been inadequate to this point: muffed punts, poor decisions, poor coverage, etc.
If the special teams don’t improve dramatically, they will be exposed even worse during the heart of the SEC season than they already have been.
Improvement from the special teams is very much on Kelly’s radar, but after 3 games, it remains elusive.
If LSU is going to emerge as a factor in the SEC, the defense is going to have to be really good.
It might be.
It has been good already.
It had trouble stopping Florida State on 3rd downs, and it had a bad 1st series against Mississippi State.
Otherwise it has been very good.
It got better as the game against Florida State went along, and it disrupted a good Mississippi State offense after that 1st drive for a touchdown.
The defense is probably going to have to be really good while the offense figures some stuff out.
There are signs that it might be up to the challenge.
The most talented position on this team is the wide receivers.
If the Tigers are able to get the ball to their receivers with regularity, the offense can be really good.
But that requires adequate pass protection, good decision-making and accurate passing from the quarterback, and consistent route-running and pass catching by the receivers.
So far, all of that stuff has not happened in unison with any consistency. But the potential is there.
The emergence of the passing game is the factor that has the best opportunity to raise this team’s ceiling.
The brightest spot for the team thus far has been Daniels’ performance — his toughness, athleticism, decision-making and leadership.
But too often, those traits have been demonstrated while he has ad-libbed during plays that seemed doomed, that turned into positive plays only after he has taken off running and exposed himself to a lot of hits. Too many hits to be sustainable.
Sooner or later, LSU has to do a better job of protecting Daniels, even as he uses his gifts to elevate an otherwise limited offense.