LSU played a game as a ranked team for the 1st time this season on Saturday.

It faced a ranked opponent for the 1st time this season.

It was ready for neither.

It didn’t play like a team deserving of a ranking, not even the bottom spot (No. 25) that it occupied.

And it was totally uncompetitive against No. 8 Tennessee in a 40-13 thrashing inside Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers were far inferior to the Volunteers on offense, defense and special teams.

LSU head coach Brian Kelly and his staff were badly outperformed by Tennessee coach Josh Heupel and his staff. Kelly said as much afterward.

The Tigers’ special teams have been their worst unit all season, and they demonstrated on the opening kickoff what kind of day it would be for the whole team — very bad.

Jack Bech allowed the football to bounce off his chest, and Tennessee recovered at the LSU 27. In less than 2 minutes, it was 7-0.

The Tigers, who overcame 13-0 and 17-0 deficits against Mississippi State and Auburn, respectively, to win their first 2 SEC games, raised the bar on themselves by falling behind 20-0 in this one.

Just a few minutes after Bech’s blunder, the punt team gave up a 58-yard return that led to a field goal.

The offense rushed for 55 yards on 28 carries. The passing game was erratic at best. Jayden Daniels’ statistics — 32-of-45 for 300 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception — weren’t as indicative of his productivity as the team’s point total was.

The defense started off better than the offense and the special teams — as has generally been the case this season — but eventually wilted in the heat.

It gave up 502 yards — 263 rushing and 239 passing. It allowed 7 of 16 3rd downs to be turned into 1st downs, and the 3 times that the Vols went for it on 4th down, those plays produced 1st downs as well.

LSU was penalized 9 times for 81 yards and turned the ball over twice (including Daniels’ 1st interception of the season) while failing to generate a takeaway.

Now to the coaching.

As the aforementioned deficits demonstrate, Kelly and his staff have not had the Tigers ready to compete at the start of any of their 3 SEC games.

One of the best things Kelly and his staff had done in the first 2 games was to keep the players from panicking, righting the ship and guiding the comebacks.

On Saturday, the coaching staff — especially Kelly — exacerbated the poor start.

It was still the 1st quarter. The margin was merely 10-0. LSU put together a really good drive on its 2nd possession.

It covered 70 yards in 10 plays, but the Tigers faced a 4th and 4 at the Vols 14. All they had to do was kick a 32-yard field goal and they would be within 10-3.

But Kelly decided to go for it. Daniels hit Kayshon Boutte with a short pass, but Boutte was tackled just short of the 1st down.

Perhaps that field goal could have been the start of another turnaround, or at least slowed the Tennessee momentum.

Instead, moments later, the Vols were kicking a field goal for a 13-0 lead. Still a 2-score game, early in the 2nd quarter.

On LSU’s next possession, Kelly went for it on 4th down again. This time Tigers needed only 1 yard, but they were on their own 46. Then the Vols were on the Tigers 45 after Josh Williams was stopped for a 1-yard loss.

Seven seconds later, it was 20-0.

But Kelly wasn’t done.

After an exchange of punts, LSU took over at its own 4, and Daniels directed a 96-yard touchdown drive. Halftime was nearing, and the Tigers were down just 13 points after being thoroughly outplayed and outcoached.

They even got a little luck — which also was in short supply for them Saturday — when Chase McGrath attempted a 50-yard field goal for Tennessee, and the ball bounced away from the crossbar after striking the right upright.

LSU had a chance to run out the clock and accept 13-point halftime deficit, but Kelly was aggressive from his 33 — which in itself was understandable. A quick completion to Jaray Jenkins moved the ball to the Vols 45.

But after 3 incompletions, Kelly decided to go for it on yet another 4th down. This time, Daniels was sacked. So Tennessee not only got the ball, it got it at the Tigers 47.

The Vols needed just 1 completion to set up McGrath’s 32-yard field goal, and a 13-point deficit became 16. More importantly, Tennessee felt better and LSU felt worse going into their locker rooms.

When the teams returned from the locker rooms, the Vols zipped to a touchdown, and it was over.

It was the Tigers’ most complete team effort of the season — the offense, defense, special teams and coaches all contributed significantly to a very bad loss.