Scooter Hobbs column: Beware, Jim Mac is back

Published 10:33 am Friday, September 17, 2021

It’s kind of off the radar.

But LSU has what could be a very big football game on Saturday. Never mind that it’s an opponent, Central Michigan, that the Tigers have never ever played and, in truth, most fans have hardly heard of.

Certainly they couldn’t distinguish the, uh, Chippewas, I guess it is, from their cousins Eastern Michigan or Western Michigan.

It was news to me until this week — thanks, Google — that there is also a Northern Michigan and a Southwestern Michigan, both involved in higher education, but evidently not a part of the Mid-American Conference’s Michigan Directional Alliance.

Still, we are warned, as we often are this time of year, that this Central Michigan outfit just could be one of those sneaky good teams that the Tigers better pay attention to.

Based on LSU’s first two games, I’m not sure there are many schools out there that the Tigers need to be taking for granted, 191/2-point favorite or not.

The word on the Chippewas is that they could bring just the kind of offense that could give LSU fits, with head coach Jim McElwain pulling the levers and …

Wait!

What? Who?

Jim McElwain?

Didn’t you used to be …

Surely, not THAT Jim McElwain?

Small world, huh?

It’s LSU’s old friend from his Florida Gator days.

And weren’t those some fun skirmishes, as much off the field as on.

McElwain was better known in the SEC for something that he did NOT do, which was to (not) pose naked on top of a recently deceased shark during a spring fishing trip in 2017.

But Photoshop and the internet conspired to make a decently convincing case that it was a smiling McElwain atop the shark with bare buttocks showing.

Repeat: it wasn’t him.

But it created one of those internet trending sensations and it was at least convincing enough that McElwain had to clear up the matter at that year’s giggling SEC Media Days.

Everybody had a good time with it, except for McElwain, who didn’t think it was at all funny. That reaction was kind of odd because he always seemed a little on the delightfully goofy side to be a football coach.

The other hot topic that week, for instance, was Florida’s choice of LSU as the Gators’ homecoming opponent that year.

McElwain again pleaded innocence, with his alibi being — wait for it — that at the time he was busy ridding his Montana vacation lodge of pesky mountain lions.

None of them Photoshopped, as it were.

But if LSU is tangling with McElwain, you just know a hurricane will get involved somehow, someway.

Surely you recall the 2016 adventures when the approaching dud Hurricane Matthew eventually caused the LSU-Florida game in Gainesville to be postponed, possibly because the sunshine was too bright.

Both schools acted like bratty children long enough that the game was eventually played in Baton Rouge — with the Tigers then forced to play the next two years at The Swamp.

Ed Orgeron was LSU’s interim head coach at the time, and apparently lost a chance at the full-time gig when LSU, unexpectedly at home, totally outplayed McElwain but lost on a botched final play of the game.

McElwain’s postgame comment: “They got exactly what they deserved,” which was true.

But Coach O got LSU gig anyway. The next season LSU was having second thoughts about the hiring after Orgeron lost to Troy.

But the next week the return trips to Gainesville began. Florida outplayed LSU and this time the Tigers won anyway on a missed Gators’ extra point. All was suddenly right with Orgeron.

So, for this go-round with McElwain, LSU may be best known for something the Tigers did NOT do to the Chippewas.

Mainly, the Tigers did NOT cancel Central Michigan’s hotel rooms for Friday night.

They did get canceled, forcing the Chippewas to fly in the day of the game, but it was just a silly fraternity prank and …

No, no, no. Just kidding. It was an executive order from Gov. John Bel Edwards that authorized hotels to cancel any upcoming reservations to accommodate workers involved in the recovery from Hurricane Ida.

But stay turned.

Strange things tend to happen when LSU and Jim McElwain get together.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com