17 Duck re­vival:

❚ LSU pow­ers into Play­off pic­ture,

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Ge­orge Schroeder

Mario Cris­to­bal has built Ore­gon back into a na­tional con­tender.

BATON ROUGE, La. – Some­where in the mosh pit, some­one started the chant — be­cause it ap­pears to be a col­lege foot­ball re­quire­ment, some­one has to do it, and ev­ery­one else has to join in:

“We want ’Bama! We want ’Bama! We want ’Bama!”

Never mind that LSU’s date with the Alabama Crim­son Tide is a few weeks away. Or that it ap­pears no one re­ally wants ’Bama. In the mo­ment, it all seemed to make sense.

The Tigers had just mauled No. 2 Ge­or­gia 36-16 in what was eas­ily the pro­gram’s most im­pres­sive, and sig­nif­i­cant, vic­tory in years. Not long after­ward, Ed Org­eron summed up the re­sult, rum­bling as only “Coach O” can:

“Great LSU foot­ball — just the way it’s sup­posed to be.”

Maybe it’s a one-off. Given col­lege foot­ball’s topsy-turvy na­ture — on Oct. 13, or this sea­son or re­ally any sea­son — it cer­tainly could be just one more un­usual event. But ponder for a mo­ment what else the re­sult might mean:

What if LSU is back to play­ing great foot­ball, the way it’s sup­posed to be, and has just re­cal­i­brated the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence’s hi­er­ar­chy?

We have heard all along about Alabama and Ge­or­gia. But LSU has wedged its way im­prob­a­bly into the con­ver­sa­tion.

“Where this takes us, we don’t know,” said Org­eron, who like his play­ers em­pha­sized the ne­ces­sity of mov­ing on to Mis­sis­sippi State rather than mus­ing on the big pic­ture. “But hope­fully it gives us some con­fi­dence we can play with any­body in the coun­try. … (If) we play well and do the things we can, we can be in there with most teams in the coun­try.”

Does that in­clude Alabama? It seems more likely ev­ery week, as the Crim­son Tide take a wreck­ing ball to yet an­other over­matched op­po­nent, that we’ll even­tu­ally learn it’s ’Bama and then a drop to ev­ery­one else in the SEC, not to men­tion the rest of col­lege foot­ball. But for now, let’s rerank the league. Be­hind Alabama, it’s LSU. And then a gap from there. And on Nov. 3, LSU gets ’Bama in Tiger Sta­dium with a chance to earn an even more sig­nif­i­cant vic­tory.

Ge­or­gia, which en­tered the day squarely in the fi­nal four of ev­ery­one’s pro­jec­tions, still has ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity in play: the SEC East, an SEC cham­pi­onship, the Play­off. But there’s no mar­gin any­more for er­ror. More sig­nif­i­cant, there are plenty of er­rors to ad­dress.

The loss to LSU brought an im­por­tant rev­e­la­tion: This Ge­or­gia team is not that Ge­or­gia team.

Its No. 2 rank­ing was largely built on last year’s rep­u­ta­tion, but this ver­sion has some sig­nif­i­cant flaws. Es­pe­cially de­fen­sively. Es­pe­cially in the front seven. On the other side of the ball, an of­fen­sive line play­ing two fresh­men was over­matched. Sopho­more quar­ter­back Jake Fromm was not good Oct. 13, ei­ther. He threw two in­ter­cep­tions, and in the piv­otal first half he was 5 of 16 for only 47 yards.

“That’s not in­dica­tive of who we are,” Kirby Smart said after­ward, but it might be in­dica­tive of ex­actly who they are.

Never mind the Play­off. The Bull­dogs now find them­selves in a three-way tie in the loss col­umn in the SEC East. If you’re think­ing Ge­or­gia has to be bet­ter than Florida or Ken­tucky, you’re cling­ing to last week’s per­cep­tion. Or last year’s. The Bull­dogs might be the best in the East, but af­ter Satur­day, are you cer­tain?

Mean­while, it’s been hard to know what to make of LSU. The Tigers have built per­haps the best ré­sumé in col­lege foot­ball, but they’ve been in­con­sis­tent. The Tigers fired out to five con­sec­u­tive wins to start the sea­son, in­clud­ing wins against Miami (Fla.) and Auburn, both ranked in the top 10 at the time (the Auburn win, at least, does not look nearly as im­pres­sive now). But LSU’s clunky of­fense seemed like a lim­it­ing fac­tor, and when it sput­tered in a loss last week at Florida, it wasn’t es­pe­cially sur­pris­ing.

Org­eron and play­ers said their poor per­for­mance against the Ga­tors served as mo­ti­va­tion. They also heard plenty all week about Ge­or­gia’s “dy­nasty and all that stuff,” as Org­eron put it, adding, “Our guys were ready to go.” But Oct. 13 seemed like more than just emo­tion or a revved-up crowd of 100,000plus (which in­cluded a lot of Ge­or­gia red). The old for­mula seemed slightly tweaked but still looked very fa­mil­iar.

Sti­fling de­fense: Ge­or­gia man­aged 113 yards rush­ing and a sea­son low in to­tal yards (322) and points.

Phys­i­cal run­ning game: LSU rushed 51 times for 275 yards.

An ad­e­quate pass­ing game: Joe Bur­row won’t be mis­taken for dy­namic, but the quar­ter­back was ef­fi­cient and poised and re­sem­bled some of his LSU pre­de­ces­sors from the glory years.

Be­yond that, there was mind-set: LSU was all ag­gres­sion and guts. Org­eron went for it on fourth-and-short four times, con­vert­ing each time. The con­ver­sions helped LSU build the lead but also served as a state­ment.

“We were gonna be as ag­gres­sive as we can,” Org­eron said. “Take shots and go for it. Play to win the game the whole time.”

It added up to a dom­i­nant, im­pres­sive per­for­mance that seemed to open up all kinds of pos­si­bil­ity and po­ten­tial. Maybe we’ll look up in a few weeks and find that the SEC is Alabama and then ev­ery­body else. But for now at least, there’s rea­son for the Tigers and their fans to dream.

“It’s hard to tell,” Bur­row said when asked how good LSU is or can be. “We’ve still got a long sea­son ahead of us. I know we’re a re­ally good team, a re­ally tal­ented team.

“We still have a lot to fix, but we’re head­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

That “We want ’Bama” chant on the field didn’t last long. Af­ter a few lines, it was swal­lowed quickly by a louder chant of: “LSU! LSU! LSU!” — which, ask around, is prob­a­bly a smart move. Mis­sis­sippi State comes first. And though LSU’s per­for­mance vs. Ge­or­gia was splen­did, it’s hard to see any­one re­ally want­ing ’Bama.

But three weeks from now, the Tigers get their shot in Death Val­ley to play more great LSU foot­ball.


Tigers coach Ed Org­eron summed up the 36-16 rout of Ge­or­gia: “Great LSU foot­ball — just the way it’s sup­posed to be.”

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