Bama’s simply that much better
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that LSU lost to Alabama again.
It made the papers, was all over social media. It was the eighth loss in a row to the Tide for the Tigers, and it wasn’t even that close, on the scoreboard, and certainly not in the trenches.
The least of teams can manage that.
Everybody loses to Alabama these days. Show up. Take your medicine. Move on.
Death, taxes, mid-term elections, losses to Alabama … they all seem inevitable.
Grading against that curve just isn’t fair.
But for the good teams these days, playing in Nick Saban’s universe, the key is they don’t let Alabama beat them twice.
It happens. Of the five previous SEC teams the Tide had played this year, four of them also lost their next conference game.
Some were legitimate, some were hangover-induced.
Ed Orgeron has pretty well handled the chore. He’s had the luxury of Arkansas in a downcycle following his first two Bama losses — and the Hogs are in an awkward retooling phase for this week — but handled both bounce-backs, 38-10 and 33-10.
Les Miles, who almost always at least got his teams to play hard, didn’t fare so well. In his last two seasons bad Arkansas teams beat him 31-14 in 2016 and 17-0 in 2015 (maybe the single-worst game of the Miles regime).
Orgeron hasn’t dropped back-to-back games anytime in his brief 30-game tenure.
But it’s always tricky right after lofty goals get downsized.
"I have to be my best today," Orgeron said Monday about picking up the pieces.
And his famed "To Tell the Truth Monday" practice could have been interesting.
A few weeks ago, on the same Saturday, there was a pretty good side-by-side comparison among first-year coaches and the art of being blunt.
Florida State’s Willie Taggert had just been creamed 59-10 by Clemson when he said postgame that his biggest disappointment was that a good ration of players had "quit on the team" during the game.
That same day, Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt didn’t wait until the game was over.
Trailing 42-14 at halftime to Alabama — it was 28-0 with 5 minutes to play in the first quarter — he told a sideline reporter on the way to regroup and lick intermission wounds that "We’re not gonna slow them down until we get another recruiting cycle, I can tell you that."
Taggert was taking some of the blame — if a team flat-out quits, that’s on the coach.
Pruitt seemed to be throwing up his hands — What am I supposed to do? — and blaming the motley Pop Warner collection of talent that everyone knows he inherited and with which he was expected to — what? — outmuscle the mighty Tide.
He did somehow manage to get a quorum of those nondescript Vols’ players to come out for the second half and take their eventual 58-21 beating anyway.
But how are they supposed to play for Pruitt when he basically said they aren’t worthy of the task, that they’re just orange fodder keeping spots warm until the big boys get out for recess?
Orgeron was somewhere in between.
Certainly, it wasn’t a lack of effort that kept the Tigers from ending their frustration against Bama.
So that didn’t come up.
But Orgeron did get back on a familiar rant on a recurring obsession.
"You have to look at personnel," he said after the annual Alabama reality check. "I don’t think it was scheme at all. Alabama overpowered us."
Nothing he said wasn’t true.
And one of Orgeron’s best Cajun qualities is that he’s usually dead-square honest, sometimes (for a coach) brutally blunt.
Hope he never changes.
But he’s treading on a slippery slope there.
LSU matches up physically against Alabama better than most — still not that close, but better than most.
Orgeron will spend the next two months hoping a good ration of them don’t leave early for the NFL draft.
A good share of them were recruited on his head coaching watch, and he was on staff to have a hand in most of the others becoming Tigers.
So he wasn’t passing the buck like Pruitt.
Still, his obsession since becoming LSU’s head coach was to recruit a team that can physically match up with Alabama.
It’s probably a pipe dream, and it’s not what the current players need to hear with a really good season still within reach.
Orgeron did tap the brakes on blaming it all on personnel.
He was already making up by the time his Monday news conference rolled around.
"Scheme could have been better," he admitted, and the talent gap conundrum had been upgraded to building more depth, increasing the number of quality players that we already have."
Alabama should be forgotten for this year. A really good season is still very much within reach.
With good enough players to do it.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU
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