LSU won’t go undefeated.
But we pretty much knew it wouldn’t.
If LSU can beat No. 2 Georgia next Saturday, it’ll be right in the thick of the College Football Playoff race.
But we already knew that, too.
In fact, the No. 5 Tigers’ first loss of the season, a 27-19 setback at No. 22 Florida on Saturday, doesn’t change a whole lot other than costing the Tigers their mulligan. They just gave away the one loss they could afford to give away and still have a shot at the CFP.
As long as LSU stayed undefeated, a potential loss to Georgia wasn’t going to drop it very far from its No. 5 position. But the loss to the Gators could drop the Tigers a handful of spots, a descent that can largely be undone by an upset of Georgia.
So a victory against Georgia, a tall order indeed, would essentially negate the loss to the Gators.
But a loss to the Bulldogs on the heels of the loss to the Gators would likely place LSU among the final handful or so of teams in the Top 25 and drastically lessen their post-season prospects.
In other words, the loss, which came in LSU’s third game against a ranked team after it beat preseason No. 8 Miami in the season opener and then-No. 7 Auburn two weeks later, isn’t worth fretting about with regards to how it affects the Tigers’ ranking or ability to achieve their post-season goals.
Just as before, as long as LSU wins, everything will be fine, and an 11-1 record won’t be appreciably worse than a 12-0 record.
What is worth fretting about are the shortcomings that conspired to prevent the Tigers from moving to 6-0 in a game that was very winnable.
Were the Tigers’ Achilles heels exposed, or did they just come up a couple of plays short against a ranked team on the road?
LSU was essentially the same team it had been when it beat Miami and Auburn, as well as weaker opponents Southeastern Louisiana, Louisiana Tech and Ole Miss.
The Tigers still have a very good defense, but not one that is impenetrable and not one that’s going to hold good teams out of the end zone indefinitely until the offense comes around. The defense is going to give the Tigers a chance to win just about any game, but it alone isn’t going to win every game.
The offense is going to have to come up with more than 19 points to win SEC games, perhaps 30 or more to beat the better teams remaining on the schedule. The limitations of the offense were on display against a very good Gators defense in the hot and humid Swamp. The performance didn’t reveal any previously undiscovered shortcomings, but it didn’t demonstrate any appreciable growth, either.
The ever-changing offensive line had some outstanding moments, particularly in opening holes for Nick Brossette during a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that briefly produced a 19-14 lead. But it also had some terrible moments, most of which resulted in Joe Burrow being sacked, which he was five times.
Speaking of Burrow, he was overdue to throw his first interception, and he threw not just one but two. After Florida regained the lead 20-19 and used up much of the fourth-quarter clock, Burrow tried to bring the Tigers back.
His first interception came on a telegraphed throw read perfectly by Brad Stewart Jr., who sprinted 25 yards for a touchdown. It was still just a one-possession game, and there was still enough time for a touchdown drive.
The Tigers receivers’ difficulty in getting open, and catching the football when they did get open, didn’t help Burrow any. His second interception came on a desperate fourth-and-10 throw that was snared by Donovan Stiner.
As the final seconds ticked away on LSU’s hopes for an undefeated season, the clock didn’t strike midnight.
But to carry the metaphor a bit further, warning bells are ringing as the game against Georgia looms.
If the offense plays with the same lapses and the defense plays with the same inconsistency against the Bulldogs that they demonstrated against the Gators, LSU will play its way out of the CFP picture.
But if the Tigers play a more complete game and find a way to knock off Georgia, the loss to Florida will be all but forgotten.