And just like that, the LSU Tigers are tied for a share of the lead in the SEC West.
Whether Ole Miss ever deserved to be ranked No. 7 in the nation is debatable. There were stat-padding wins against Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech on the road, along with some close calls to Auburn and Kentucky at home, that propelled them to a 7-0 start.
What’s not debatable, however, was the dominance that LSU (6-2, 4-1) displayed in notching the first Top 10 triumph of the Brian Kelly Era.
The Tigers were good. Really good. And they were good on a Saturday afternoon, a time slot that most LSU fans dread. There’s simply not enough time in the day to properly tailgate with a 2:30 kickoff.
But the fans still showed up, all 100,000 and change. And the students stormed the field after.
There will be a faction of sticks, buried deep in the mud, that will harp on the student section for storming the field after Saturday’s win. They’ll say the kids cost LSU (but really the Tiger Athletic Foundation) an SEC fine of $250,000 for the stunt. They’ll bring up the fact that LSU has beaten Ole Miss seven straight times at home, dating back to 2008. They’ll urge people to save the celebrations for a more deserving opponent. They’ll cite Tennessee’s victory over Alabama, when Rocky Top dismantled the goal posts, hauled them out of the stadium, carried them through campus before tossing them in the Tennessee River, as an example of an appropriate milestone win.
What if this is the pinnacle of LSU’s season? Expectations weren’t exactly lofty entering the season. After the blowout home loss to Tennessee, a Top-10 victory that earns you a share of the lead in the SEC West should be all the rage in Baton Rouge.
It was idealistic to take a gander at LSU’s schedule before the season and reckon that the Tigers could go 7-4 or 8-3. With each win, that wishful thinking becomes more and more realistic. LSU has four games remaining on its schedule — road bouts with Texas A&M and Arkansas, and home games with Alabama and UAB.
A&M’s dropped under .500, losing four games already, including a head-scratching 17-14 homefield gaffe to Appalachian State. LSU is the only Power 5 team on UAB’s schedule. That leaves Alabama, which is likely to be the third loss on LSU’s ledger, and Arkansas, which is the last wild card on the Tigers’ slate.
Kelly’s already locked in to a winning season, and a $500,000 bowl-eligible bonus, in his first year at LSU, and the Tigers have roared back into the AP Top 25 at No.18. Barring some catastrophic meltdown that sees LSU drop its final four games, there’s a strong chance the Tigers will finish among the 15 best teams in the nation. That’s a far cry from Week 1, which left fans fearful that the worst was yet to come.
That chaotic loss to Florida State seems like a lifetime ago. Special teams have cleaned up their act. Jayden Daniels has established himself as one of the better quarterbacks in the SEC. Kayshon Boutte, after being a complete non-factor in the first half of the season, is slowly returning to being the superstar receiver Daniels has needed. The defense continues to get better, this time with the addition of disruptive true freshman Harold Perkins.
So celebrate, Baton Rouge. All is well.
Just don’t take the goal posts with you.
Contact Ryne at firstname.lastname@example.org