Smiley: LSU Tigers get mean in 2016
It’s August, and time for the Fearless Football Forecast, where an uninformed LSU fan (me) tries to figure out the Tigers’ 2016 season. This is the same type of useless speculation you can get in any bar where LSU fans gather, but here you don’t have to spring for the booze.
The lads from Baton Rouge open the season in the Frozen Nawth, at historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Baton Rouge hometown hero Jim Taylor once ran over people for the Packers.
This is billed as a meeting between two Big Ten teams — although one plays in the SEC.
The Wisconsin Badgers represent the kind of Big Ten football Les Miles loves: big linemen clashing and big backs running. It’s a relatively low-scoring game, but Leonard Fournette leads LSU to its first victory of the season.
Plucking the birds
The Jacksonville State Gamecocks come into Tiger Stadium as something of a mystery. Isn’t Jacksonville supposed to be in Florida, not Alabama? And aren’t Gamecocks supposed to be in South Carolina?
No matter; the visitors put up a game (no pun intended) fight for a quarter before things settle down and the lads go back to Alabama with an “L” on their record but a big deposit in their athletic budget.
Dogging the Dogs
The next home game is a bit more of a problem for the boys in purple and gold. The Mississippi State Bulldogs, beset by off-the-field issues, are still finding their way when they hit the unfriendly confines of Tiger Stadium. LSU’s win is hard-earned, but it’s still a win.
The other Tigers
It’s back on the road for the LSU bunch, this time to Auburn, Alabama, to take on the struggling Auburn Tigers. The two Tigers have had some memorable games in the past, but this one is something of a yawner, with the Baton Rouge Tigers getting ahead early and keeping the lead throughout the contest.
The other other Tigers
The Missouri Tigers come to Tiger Stadium as another mystery team, representing the SEC East (go figure) and primed for an upset, But the Tigers who make Tiger Stadium their home wind up victorious, although in a game much closer than anyone figured.
Chomped in the Swamp
Gainesville, Florida, has often been a tough place for LSU, and this meeting with the Florida Gators is no exception. The Gators bottle up Fournette, and a shaky aerial game dooms the visitors. It’s LSU’s first loss of the season, but Les promises great things just ahead.
Taking on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, the second of three Mississippi teams the Tigers face this season, proves to be just the tonic to cure the wounds inflicted in Gainesville. LSU romps to a relatively easy victory, as Les uses many of his lower-tier players toward the game’s end.
Like Mississippi State, Ole Miss is plagued by off-the-field issues, and hopes to get on track with a victory over the Tigers in Tiger Stadium. Easier said than done. Although the Rebs lead at halftime, the brutal LSU ground game finally wears the lads from Oxford down, resulting in a seventh victory for LSU.
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Alabama rolls into Tiger Stadium with one loss and a bad attitude to face the 7-1 Tigers. Nick Saban’s troops have been struggling a bit this season, but are still favored to best the Tigers. The LSU defense plays its best game of the season, Fournette has a solid performance and the visitors leave with their SEC championship hopes badly tarnished.
Playing the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville is never easy for the Tigers, especially after an emotional win over arch-rival Bama. The guys from Baton Rouge just can’t get it together, and the Razorbacks get to keep that godawful gold boot for another year — the only good thing about the loss for LSU fans.
The South Alabama Jaguars are the third team from that state to play the Tigers this season, but they ain’t the Crimson Tide. Heck, they ain’t even Auburn. The Jags manage one score late in the game, against the Tigers’ second and third stringers, but that’s it. The starters mostly rest up for a trip to Aggieland that will gain the SEC West championship if they win.
Hail the champs!
Les Miles’ teams always seem to play well against Texas A&M, even when the Aggies had Johnny Football (remember him?). The Aggies don’t have anybody like that this year, and a Tigers’ victory not only locks up the SEC West but also leads to a coaching change at College Station.
No chomp this time
The Tigers show up in Atlanta for the SEC championship game with a 7-2 record and a large chip on their collective shoulders. For their foe is the Florida Gators, the SEC East champs and the team that beat them in October. But it’s different in December, and LSU shows Florida how difficult it is to beat an SEC team twice in one year, rolling to victory by a touchdown. Leonard Fournette has a great game, and it’s agreed that he and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson are leading the Heisman Trophy race.
Deja vu, boo hoo
Speaking of the Clemson Tigers, that’s who LSU faces in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. You might recall that in 2012 Clemson defeated LSU in Atlanta in the Chicken Sandwich Bowl. This time the bowl is a peachy semifinal game leading to the national championship contest, and promoted as a showdown between Heisman Trophy hopefuls Fournette and Watson. Alas, this time the quarterback has a better game than the running back, and the wrong Tigers (from LSU’s standpoint) go on to the national championship game (beating Michigan, if you must know).
Even with the loss to Clemson, LSU fans can bask in the glow of another SEC title — but mostly in the glow of a victory over the boys from Tuscaloosa.