LSU is no longer undefeated, and it is currently on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff.
For much of the season, there were questions hovering over LSU: Could Brandon Harris quarterback a team into the playoff discussion? Who would emerge as leaders on this young squad? And lastly, how would it fare once delving into its rigid November schedule?
We’ve already begun to figure out the answer to that last question. On Saturday night, in unquestionably the biggest game of the season to date for both teams, Alabama put on a clinic to hand LSU its first loss.
While the 30-16 win moves the Crimson Tide to 8-1 and 5-1 in the SEC and drops LSU to 7-1 and 4-1 in the conference, the timing of the Tigers’ blemish has proven to be much more costly than ‘Bama’s Sept. 20 loss.
LSU sits behind a handful of unbeatens and other one-loss teams for a chance to crack the College Football Playoff, while the Tide seem like the conference’s odds-on favorite to make the Playoff.
Returning to the top four will take a perfect end to the regular season for the Tigers, along with a little help from their friends. There are eight teams that stand in the way of LSU and the College Football Playoff: Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Stanford and Iowa.
Clemson looks poised to end the year 13-0 barring a monumental upset at the hands of in-state rival South Carolina in its regular-season finale or likely opponent North Carolina in the ACC Championship game.
The same can’t be said for Ohio State, which would have to take down Michigan State and Michigan in back-to-back weeks before a Big Ten Championship game against Iowa. Baylor and its true freshman quarterback would have to survive trips to Oklahoma State and TCU. Iowa also remains in the hunt as one of the five unbeatens.
In order to get back into the Playoff mix, LSU needs some of these other contenders to slip up along the way. If Ohio State can cruise through the rest of the way, that’ll essentially knock Iowa out of the picture. The same goes for Baylor and Oklahoma State, which will have to beat up on one another to get where they want.
For LSU, the task is bouncing back and staying the course, while also hoping Alabama finds trouble in trips to Mississippi State and Auburn.
LSU has a chance to enhance its resume with games against Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Taking care of business in those three tilts should give the Tigers a superior resume to that of Notre Dame or Stanford, two other one-loss teams jockeying for position.
Much has to go right for LSU in terms of wins and losses for the rest of the top teams in the country, but it isn’t impossible. In fact, far from it.
The way the schedule is set, LSU will have a clear shot to return into the College Football Playoff picture, so long that the Bayou Bengals can take care of its end over the final three games.
LSU not only sustained its first loss of the season, but played its worst game by far. Leonard Fournette found his Kryptonite. The LSU defense was exposed, and it felt like the Tigers forgot their identity.
LSU would be wise to remember how it climbed to 7-0 before it returns to action Saturday against Arkansas and begins playing for its postseason livelihood.