- LSU's loss to Sun Belt team Troy in Baton Rouge on Saturday is the nadir of a season that had already taken a dire turn.
Ed Orgeron was under pressure at LSU long before the Tigers played their first snap this season. Athletic director Joe Alleva’s decision to hire Orgeron last November was met with skepticism after a well-publicized flirtation with then-Houston (and now Texas) head coach Tom Herman. LSU has the resources and pedigree to lure the biggest Group of Five names, and even many sitting Power 5 ones, yet it settled for an in-house option with a shoddy track record in the SEC.
Not even the hiring of coveted offensive coordinator Matt Canada from Pittsburgh, or the retention of coveted defensive coordinator Dave Aranda after a salary bump, appeased critics who felt LSU could have done better in its coaching search. The only way Orgeron could prove the Tigers had made the right choice was to elevate their on-field fortunes higher than they were during the latter part of Miles’s tenure, including in 2016, when Miles oversaw a 2–2 start before getting fired.
LSU posted a better record over its first four games this season (3–1) than last season, but that seems trivial considering what happened in Game 5. The Tigers lost 24–21 on Saturday in Baton Rouge to Troy, a Sun Belt program in Southeastern Alabama whose Football Bowl Subdivision membership spans less than two decades. The fact that description was necessary much sums up how dismal a result this is for LSU.
The Tigers committed four turnovers to the Trojans’ two, they went 0-for-8 on third down, took three sacks to the Trojans’ zero and held the ball 25:16 to the Trojans’ 34:44. The injury-related absence of star running back Derrius Guice is not a viable excuse, not against an opponent LSU reportedly paid $985,000 to visit Death Valley and that falls 110 spots lower than LSU in 247Sports's ranking of team talent.
As AL.com’s Creg Stephenson noted, the Tigers last dropped a nonconference game at home in September 2000, Nick Saban's first season as their head coach.
Saturday’s loss is the nadir of a season that already took a dire turn. Two weeks ago, the Tigers got run off the field in a 37–7 loss to Mississippi State, which followed its win up by getting blown out in consecutive weeks at Georgia and Auburn. A week after the bludgeoning in Starkville, the Tigers had to battle to put away Syracuse at home. It’s no wonder Orange coach Dino Babers said Saturday he thought NC State’s defense was better than LSU’s. Troy’s Jordan Chunn probably concurs: The senior tailback ran for a season-high 191 yards on 6.4 yards per carry against the Tigers.
If that series of results in the SEC didn’t underscore the Tigers’ lowly status in the conference, a home loss to a Group of Five opponent definitely did. LSU was a 20.5-point favorite against the Trojans, according to the Westgate Superbook, but the Tigers lacked initiative from the opening kick, fell behind by double digits before halftime and then neither possessed the resolve nor executed well enough to dig themselves out of a 17-point hole in the fourth quarter.
Year One of the Orgeron era will be branded a failure regardless of what the Tigers accomplish from here. In the preseason LSU was ranked in the top 15 of both major polls and pegged as a dark horse candidate to reach the College Football Playoff. At this rate, with upcoming games at SEC East challenger Florida and No. 13 Auburn, it might be a while before the Tigers record their first conference win. Competing with Alabama in the SEC West? Maybe LSU should aim for finishing above last place in the division.