LSU Auburn Football

LSU wide receiver Koy Moore (5) catches a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Auburn on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

If LSU ever needed a win, Saturday morning at Arkansas would qualify.

It says something about how far LSU has fallen in a half-hearted defense of its national championship — yes, I checked, that was only a season ago — that the Tigers are relegated to the 11 a.m. kickoff for the November stretch. Or, as it works out in this bizarro season, the halfway point, with plenty of challenges still ahead.

But that’s not important now.

A win Saturday won’t make the controversy of the week’s bombshells go away.

Win, lose or get postponed again, LSU will still wake up Sunday with a lot of egg on its face after this week’s USA Today reports. The stories suggested LSU officials, even the campus police department, mishandled accusations of sexual misconduct by football players (and other nonstudent-athletes).

At best, it appears that proper school protocols for Title IX were not always followed.

At worst the allegations make it appear that school officials looked the other way and hoped a disturbing lack of transparency would make it all go away and keep wayward players suited up for Saturday.

If so, that was pretty naive in this day and time. It will play out and some higher-ups in the athletic department, maybe even head coach Ed Orgeron, will have to answer for it.

So, for now, the school is scrambling this way and that way, basically trying to spin it (per news release) that “We do not tolerate sexual violence of any form,” and promising that it will do better in the future.

Hiring a respected outside law firm to investigate the school’s policies and execution of them is a start.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have a football game to play, which would be a welcome relief even in a season gone awry on the odd weeks that it goes on at all.

Or the Tigers hope they have a game — suddenly, it’s not a given for a team that has played twice in five weeks.

Can’t blame the Tigers for this one.

This week it would be Arkansas walking the fine line of having the SEC-mandated 53 scholarship players available to tussle with.

“We want to play the game,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said Thursday.

Well, of course the Hogs do. Most of the teams that felt LSU’s wrath a year ago are gleefully begging for a do-over with this year’s version, especially the defense.

Presumably LSU wants to play, too. Orgeron says the Tigers do. But it’s kind of hard to tell sometimes.

Another telling reminder of how 2020 has gone for the Tigers is that, after last year being a 43-point favorite against Arkansas (and winning 56-20 with some late Razorbacks garbage points), LSU opened this week a two-point underdog.

That’s LSU’s problem.

Football’s problem this season — in all its 2020 glory — decrees that the Tigers might not know if the game will be played until their charter flight arrives in Fayetteville Friday afternoon.

“We’re going to play Saturday as of right now,” Pittman said Thursday. “We have (COVID-19) tests we took today that get back (Friday).”

Sounds like it might be a close call.

Regardless, Pittman said, “We are thin. If we have a good test, we’re going to play the game.”

LSU presumably passed all its tests this week after not having a quorum of the varsity available for Alabama last week.

These days around LSU a negative test passes for a rare positive.

Whether the Tigers pass the football test Saturday is another question, but either way they might learn something from the Razorbacks, one of the real inspirational stories of a whacked-out season.

Arkansas, which broke a 20-game SEC losing streak this year, still won’t bore you much with five-star talent on its best days.

But Pittman, who missed last week’s game at Florida after his own positive test, has the Razorbacks playing like wild hogs.

You have to appreciate the effort, the blind enthusiasm.

So, the irony: LSU fans, spoiled rotten by last year, are reaching for smelling salts with their Tigers at 2-3 for the season; at Arkansas, they’re in Hog Heaven over a 3-4 record.

Of course, anyone who saw the officiating fiasco at the end of Arkansas’ game at Auburn knows that the 3-4 Razorbacks were flat-out robbed that day and, in a fair and just world, would be 4-3.

Anyone who saw LSU at Auburn had to turn their heads, squint their eyes and wonder how the Tigers even beat Vanderbilt.

Maybe that’s how you promote an 11 a.m. game in November — one of the season’s biggest overachieving teams needing to dig deeper into a thin lineup against a team only recently used to dealing with such nuisances.

Could be interesting.

If it gets played.

But LSU could really, really use some good news.

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

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