The 10 biggest reasons LSU is in this mess
LSU didn’t expect to be 2-3.
It didn’t expect to have a historically bad defensive performance against Mississippi State or a historically large margin of defeat against Auburn.
Sometimes there is a fine line separating reasons from excuses. There’s no excusing the Tigers’ shortcomings as they enter an open date and begin preparing for their home game against No. 2 Alabama on Nov. 14.
But there are a lot of reasons the first half of LSU’s season has gone so poorly.
Here are the 10 biggest reasons LSU is in this mess:
1. All those guys who got drafted
LSU had 14 players drafted into the NFL in April. A few more signed with NFL teams after not being drafted.
The bottom line is a large majority of the starters from the national championship team last season were in the NFL when the Tigers started preparing for this season.
Every team loses key players every year. The really good underclassmen almost never become seniors. After winning a championship, underclassmen become especially antsy to turn pro.
Ed Orgeron knew this. He has signed a series of top 5 recruiting classes to mitigate the losses.
But the number of key players who departed was unprecedented. It made a big difference.
2. Changes to the coaching staff
Coaches also moved on after the championship.
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda became the head coach at Baylor and passing game coordinator Joe Brady became the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers.
Bo Pelini took over the defense and Scott Linehan took over the passing game.
An adjustment period was required. LSU has not transitioned well, especially on defense.
It’s still working on it.
3. Key opt-outs
LSU lost more key players in the summer.
We can’t lump Kary Vincent Jr., Tyler Shelvin and Ja’Marr Chase in with the NFL guys because it’s a different dynamic.
LSU was preparing for the NFL losses by the end of January.
The opt-outs were being counted on to be key players this season. They left as season preparations were beginning.
More lost talent, more lost leadership, more lost confidence, more transition.
4. Derek Stingley Jr. hasn’t been Superman
He’s the best player on the team – an All-America defensive back, a leader, a stud with swagger on a mostly swagger-less team.
But he’s only one player and his season got off to a rough start when he was hospitalized with an illness the night before the opener and missed the game.
He’s still very good, but he hasn’t had as much of an impact as LSU had hoped for and desperately needs.
Maybe his second half will be better.
5. Myles Brennan’s injury
The junior quarterback’s play is one of the few things that have gone well for the Tigers.
Joe Burrow’s successor played very well for 3 games, meeting if not exceeding realistic expectations for a player who had never started before this season.
Then he got hurt.
LSU didn’t need him to beat South Carolina, but it sure could have used him against Auburn.
It’s doubtful that any one player could have changed the outcome of a 48-11 game, but Brennan’s presence would have helped.
The offense would have been better, the game would have remained competitive longer and maybe it never would have gone off the rails the way it did.
LSU needs him back for Alabama and beyond.
6. An inconsistent offensive line
LSU lost 4 starters from last year’s offensive line.
Left tackle Dare Rosenthal has been suspended and might not return.
Players have been in and out of the lineup and pieces have been moved around.
There have been some good moments, especially against South Carolina, and some bad moments, especially against Auburn.
The line hasn’t been consistent, so the running game has been sub-par, the pass protection has been erratic and the offense as a whole has been inadequate for what this team has needed.
7. A lack of commitment to the running game
The line’s play is part of this, but it’s not all of it.
At times, LSU has been too slow to commit to the running game and at times it has been too quick to abandon it.
Other than the game against South Carolina, a consistently effective running game for 60 minutes just has not existed.
That creates a lot of issues.
8. The loss in the opener
This was a young team with high expectations but lacking in the confidence that comes from having experienced success.
It began the season eager to see how close it could come to the performance of last year’s champions.
It lost – at home.
It was defenseless – against a team that hasn’t won since.
It showed some toughness in fighting back, but it kept coming up short. It came from behind to take the lead three times and it scored to tie the score twice.
But the 44-34 loss to Mississippi State exposed the fact that this is not a very good team.
9. The goal-line failure at Missouri
The opener was followed by a bounce-back win against Vanderbilt and there was renewed hope that this team might still be good.
Then came the trip to Missouri.
The defense was terrible, but Brennan and the passing game were really good.
LSU got into a shootout that went back and forth. It had the lead 5 times but couldn’t hold it.
Still, Brennan had LSU marching at the end. First-and-goal at 1 in the final minute.
A last-minute or even last-second win would have meant a 2-1 record, a gutsy win on the road and the first sign of momentum in a young season.
But LSU failed to reach the end zone in 4 tries, it lost and Brennan hasn’t played since.
Another loss and another blow to an already bruised psyche.
10. The defense
Of all the problems this group has encountered, the defense is the biggest.
LSU is known for playing good defense, for being physical and tough.
This defense hasn’t been particularly physical or tough. It’s mostly confused and sloppy.
It can’t shut down offenses. It mostly can’t slow down offenses.
The Tigers offense can’t keep up with the pace that the defense is allowing opponents to set.
The defense is simply the messiest part of this whole mess.