It’s Week 4 of the Ed Orgeron era at LSU. Let the audition begin.

Yeah, it’s been going on for a few weeks now since he was named interim head coach for the fired Les Miles, but save for what would have been if the washed-out Florida game had been played, it’s all been preliminary stuff.

Missouri? An SEC team, sure, but one that was blown out by Florida the game after Orgeron made his debut with a 42-7 pounding of the Tigers.

Southern Miss? Sure, the Golden Eagles are a bowl team, but they were also a team that gave up 55 points in a loss to Texas-San Antonio the week before LSU pummeled them, 45-10.

So forget the 87-17 combined score for those two games. The barometer by which Orgeron will be judged will be based on this stretch run: Ole Miss, Alabama, at Arkansas, Florida and at Texas A&M.

These are the programs, along with Auburn, that LSU coaches currently get judged by.

Here’s what I mean by that — and let’s start by forgetting Alabama, the million-pound elephant in the room.

The general perception by the powers that be in Baton Rouge is LSU belongs at a level where it competes with Alabama and only Alabama for SEC West supremacy.

Let that sink in.

Ole Miss? Too small of a recruiting base. Arkansas? No recruiting base and must import players from other states to compete. Texas A&M? Great recruiting base, but it will always have to compete with Texas, even if it’s no longer in the same conference. And that’s not even bringing up Baylor and the rest of the Big 12.

And let’s talk Auburn. That’s a program that, in LSU’s eyes, shoud only be as good as LSU when it has one of those bell cow players. A Cam Newton. A Bo Jackson.

It’s not necessarily true to say the final straw in the Les Miles tenure was that he lost to Auburn. But losing to an Auburn team that was far from vintage with an LSU team that’s supposed to be good? Most people have no idea how damning that is in the eyes of LSU folks.

Is that an arrogant stance? Certainly. But it’s not just stuff that’s pulled out of fantasy land.

LSU has that famously rich recruiting base. And it’s not overrated because LSU puts more players on NFL rosters than any other program in college football. So these aren’t pie-in-the-sky expectations. They are at least based on something tangible, and while it pays no respect to how difficult it is to mold talent into a championship team, it has this sort of bottom-line reply to all that:

“That’s why we pay the big bucks.”


The general perception on Miles was that he was still great at pulling in talent. He was still fantastic at developing that talent into players the NFL wants. What he ceased to be was a coach that could develop that talent into something that mattered in the big picture of college football on the field.

My theory is it dates back to the great 2011 team — the one that went undefeated, then laid the egg in the 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. That team put so many underclassmen in the NFL, it set a precedent that I think hurt LSU’s team development going forward.

Miles’ teams were never again mature enough to be elite. His teams were perpetually young. Part of what made this year’s 2-2 start so disappointing was that this is a team that had seniors who stuck around and it still lost.

And as a result of this lack of team development, what has happened?

Ole Miss has been a little bit better lately.

Arkansas? It has a winning streak against LSU.

Auburn? It just beat LSU in a rebuilding year.

And LSU has not beaten Alabama since the regular season meeting in 2011.

So you see what Orgeron’s challenge is? The perception is that LSU has the players to be better than Ole Miss. The perception is that Orgeron is capable of, nay, proven to be able to continue to recruit the same level of player as Miles.

Can he coach them up to be better than Ole Miss? Let’s see.

Can he coach them up to go to Fayetteville and beat a team that does not have as many future NFL players on its roster as LSU? That’s what they are looking for.

Can he coach them up to go toe-to-toe with Nick Saban and Alabama? The joke is, if he beats Alabama, LSU might sign him to the contract before he makes it back to the locker room.

This is where the test is for Orgeron. Being able to land the players to put together consistent top five classes nationally should be no problem for the next coach because Louisiana will provide the players to rival any recruiting class around. The school is going to provide resources to sell those players on coming to Baton Rouge.

Can y0u coach them up to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat and compete with the teams you are supposed to compete with?

That’s what Miles stopped doing after 2011. And that’s what we’re about to find out about Orgeron.