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Can Tigers avoid SEC upset?

Four weeks of preseason practice are in the books for the LSU football team.

Coach Ed Orgeron is less than seven days away from the start of his first season as the Tigers permanent head football coach.

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Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, Orgeron is getting a normal welcome in his first full season with the weather playing a major factor. Catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston (Tex.) is making it more and more probable that the LSU-BYU game will have to be moved in order for it to take place.

Orgeron knows all too well how Mother Nature can influence a season. Don’t forget the controversy regarding the postponement and rescheduling of the Tigers’ game against Florida due to Hurricane Matthew. In fact, the circumstances surrounding that game will have an impact on LSU’s 2017 season.

The Tigers’ 2017 campaign will have a new look as there is no Les Miles running the program at the start of the season. Orgeron, who guided LSU to a 6-2 record as interim coach in 2016, is now in charge. Orgeron will attempt to halt a Tigers slide which has seen them fall from elite status.

It has been six years since LSU won the Southeastern Conference championship or played in an upper-tier bowl game. It has been five years since the Tigers have not lost at least three SEC games. LSU is no longer nipping at Alabama’s heels in the West. The Tigers are in the same boat as other SEC West teams.

Orgeron’s task this year should not be focused primarily on toppling the Crimson Tide and winning the Western Division. Simply take a nice step of winning ten regular season games, including six against SEC opponents. A 10-2 record would probably put LSU in a New Year’s Six Bowl game.

The Tigers’ track record over the past five seasons shows what they must do to reach double figures in victories during the regular season. LSU must avoid getting upset by a SEC team.

At least once in each of the past five seasons, the Tigers lost to an underdog SEC team. That scenario played out twice last season – at Auburn and at home against Florida. A victory in just one of those two contests a year ago would have sent LSU to a Sugar Bowl matchup against Oklahoma.

The Tigers have been upset seven times in SEC games from 2012-16 – three times at home and four times on the road. Arkansas in 2015 and Mississippi State in 2014 joined Florida as visiting SEC teams who have pulled off upsets in Tiger Stadium.

Right now, it looks like LSU would be an underdog in two conference games – at Florida and at Alabama. So, here is the question. Can the Tigers not get picked off by one of the other six SEC teams on the schedule?

Auburn appears to be the team with the best opportunity of upsetting LSU. But, that game will be played in Tiger Stadium where Auburn has not won since 1999. None of LSU’s other five SEC opponents has equal talent. Therefore, LSU would simply need to play up to its potential to win those games.

The Tigers should get off to a good start in September with BYU and Mississippi State games being tricky. A 5-0 record would not be surprising. Unlike recent years, the month of October will determine the way the LSU season unfolds.

Back-to-back games against Florida and Auburn are critical to the Tigers’ hopes. Both of these games were supposed to be played in Tiger Stadium. But, the rescheduling of last year’s Florida contest in Baton Rouge means LSU must go to The Swamp this October.

The Tigers have an excellent chance to escape this two-week stretch with a split. Even if LSU fails to win at Alabama, it will be in position to win ten games and earn a New Year’s Six Bowl game berth.

So, the Tigers must sweep Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M to finish at 10-2 – assuming a split with Florida and Auburn and a defeat at Alabama. Games with Ole Miss and Tennessee will be on the road. Arkansas and Texas A&M, which seem to be the better teams, visit Tiger Stadium.

The health of this LSU team will really affect the season. There are areas with questionable depth – quarterback, tight end, offensive tackle, defensive line. If Derrius Guice misses any appreciable time because of an injury, the running game will suffer. True freshmen will have to play a role in 2017.

Considering the lack of depth at a few important positions and LSU’s recent trend of getting upset by a SEC team, the call here is the Tigers come up short of a ten-win season in Orgeron’s first year. It will be a 9-3 record for LSU – no worse than recent seasons, but not at an elite standard.


Here are the SEC games in which LSU has lost as a favorite from 2012-16.

2012

at Florida – LSU was a 3-point favorite. The Gators won 14-6.

2013

at Ole Miss – LSU was a 10-point favorite. The Rebels won 27-24.

2014

Mississippi State at Tiger Stadium – LSU was a 9-point favorite. The Bulldogs won 34-29.

at Arkansas – LSU was a 1-point favorite. The Razorbacks won 17-0.

2015

Arkansas at Tiger Stadium – LSU was a 6-point favorite. The Razorbacks won 31-14.

2016

at Auburn – LSU was a 3-point favorite. Auburn won 18-13.

Florida at Tiger Stadium – LSU was a 14-point favorite. The Gators won 16-10.