Tell the Truth Monday: LSU might be best in sub-par SEC West
It’s 8 down and 4 to go for LSU.
The Tigers are two-thirds of the way through head coach Brian Kelly’s first season as they enter their open date.
They are 6-2 and 4-1 in the SEC.
They are 1 of 3 teams in the SEC West that have just 1 conference loss. One is Ole Miss, which will lose a head-to-head tie-breaker to LSU due to the 45-20 whipping the Tigers administered on Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
The other is Alabama, which will arrive in Tiger Stadium on Nov. 5.
It’s Tell the Truth Monday and the truth is that the Tigers might be as good as the SEC West has to offer.
It’s also true that the SEC West just isn’t as good this year as it has been in recent seasons – nor is it as good as it was expected to be entering this season.
That’s not meant to diminish what Kelly and the Tigers have accomplished in getting to this point.
It’s just the truth: LSU is better than expected and the SEC West as a whole is worse than expected.
The preseason AP poll featured 4 teams from the SEC West – No. 1 Alabama, No. 6 Texas A&M, No. 19 Arkansas and No. 21 Ole Miss.
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The Crimson Tide dropped to No. 2, returned to No. 1 and dropped to No. 3 – all before losing a game, demonstrating inconsistency that wasn’t consistent with the program’s recent history or its lofty ranking.
The loss to Tennessee dropped Bama to No. 6, but its 30-6 handling of Mississippi State on Saturday, though uninspiring, means the Tide likely will be no lower than No. 6 when they come off their bye week to face LSU.
A&M and Arkansas, the Tigers’ only remaining SEC opponents after Bama, have faded from the Top 25 as well as the SEC West race.
After a 3-week stay in the rankings, State plummeted in the wake of Saturday’s loss – a 2nd straight defeat.
As for Ole Miss, its home game against Bama a week after the Tide visits LSU has lost some luster. The Rebels rose to No. 7 in the rankings after going undefeated against a relatively weak schedule prior to facing the Tigers.
Oddsmakers – and the betting public – seemed far more skeptical of the unbeaten Rebels than pollsters were. The oddsmakers installed the No. 7 team in the country as merely a 2-point favorite over then-unranked LSU and bettors swarmed to the Tigers in a manner that quickly made LSU the favorite.
The Tigers’ performance rewarded the bettors’ faith in them.
So what are we to make of LSU’s prospects down the stretch?
The Tigers already have surpassed their number of SEC wins and matched their number of overall wins last season.
And they’re not done yet.
If they beat Bama – and that’s a far more realistic possibility than it seemed at the beginning of the season, or a month ago or right up until the beatdown of Ole Miss – they will be 2 SEC wins from winning the West.
They go to Arkansas the week after playing Alabama and the Razorbacks, who were once ranked as high as No. 10, are still looking for their 2nd SEC win.
After returning to Tiger Stadium for the nonconference and home finale (and presumably victory) against UAB, they will end the regular season at Texas A&M.
The one-time No. 6 (and presumed CFP contender in some circles) Aggies are still looking for their 2nd SEC win after losing at South Carolina on Saturday.
On this Tell the Truth Monday, LSU is ascending and Arkansas and Texas A&M are not.
Ole Miss couldn’t keep up with LSU and even Alabama is showing some blemishes.
The Tigers’ no-longer-fanciful chances of winning the SEC West may or may not survive the test against Bama.
But Jayden Daniels and the offense are rolling and the whole team has soaring confidence.
So until we’re shown otherwise, we have to consider the possibility that this flawed but improving LSU team is as good as the 2022 SEC West has to offer.