LSU made good use of their first open date.

The Tigers’ second open date presented a bigger challenge.

LSU got an unexpected open date when their game at Florida was postponed from Oct. 17 to Dec. 12 because of positive COVID-19 tests within the Gators program.

The postponement came just 3 days before the game was scheduled to be played, but it still gave the Tigers an extra few days to focus on themselves and start preparing for their game against South Carolina.

That was helpful because LSU had a lot of stuff to fix in the immediate aftermath of a last-second loss at Missouri, and they had to prepare to play without injured quarterback Myles Brennan.

The Tigers put the loss to Missouri behind them and let TJ Finley and Max Johnson battle in practice to step in for Brennan. They crafted a game plan to give the inexperienced quarterbacks a chance to succeed.

When LSU returned to the field against the Gamecocks on Oct. 24, the results from the added preparation time showed.

Finley was named the starter, and he took virtually every meaningful snap because he played well from the beginning. Johnson got his feet wet, the defense was inconsistent but had more good moments than it had against Missouri, and LSU rolled to a 52-24 victory.

It was the high point of a disappointing first half for the 2-3 Tigers.

But this open date is different in some ways.

Brennan is still hurt, and it seems unlikely that he will play, though he still has a week to get better.

Finley followed up his performance against South Carolina with 3 turnovers and got benched in the third quarter of a 48-11 loss at Auburn last week. Johnson did some nice things in mop-up duty, but not enough to alter the depth chart immediately.

So the quarterback depth chart is fluid, to say the least.

The defense continued to play poorly in LSU’s most lopsided loss ever to Auburn and their most lopsided loss to anyone in more than 20 years.

This time, the Tigers have a full 2 weeks to focus on fixing stuff and preparing for their next game, because this was a regularly scheduled open date.

LSU will be back at Tiger Stadium on Saturday to face No. 2 Alabama.

Finley and Johnson have renewed their competition to start in case Brennan is unable to play.

The defense has had extra time to try to figure out how to contain Mac Jones and the Crimson Tide’s offense better than it was able to contain far inferior offenses from Mississippi State, Missouri and Auburn.

The aftermath of the Missouri loss included the shock of losing to a prohibitive underdog, and doing so by failing on 4 tries at a winning touchdown on the 1 on the game’s final plays.

This is different.

This open date came in the aftermath of an embarrassing performance, a lopsided defeat that was assured in the third quarter.

This came after a performance that raised questions about how bad this team might be, and how bad this season might get.

This came with a game against easily the most challenging opponent on the schedule looming.

The challenge this time isn’t about bouncing back from a disappointing ending to try to get back on track against a seemingly equal opponent.

This challenge is finding a running game that can keep the ball away from the Alabama offense and make things easier for whoever plays quarterback. It’s getting the defense straightened out enough to make the Tide earn everything they get.

This is about trying to avoid further and perhaps increased embarrassment. This is about competing well enough to prevent this season from careening off the rails in the second half.

Now it’s Alabama week