LSU landed in the No. 5 spot in the AP Top 25 after a 35-28 win over Florida Saturday night in Death Valley.
Through six games, there’s no question LSU’s triumph over the Gators was the team’s most signature victory of the season.
With the win, LSU was bumped up from No. 6 to 5, and so long as the Tigers continue to roll they’ll likely find themselves in the mix for one of the four coveted spots in the College Football Playoff.
After passing arguably its biggest test of the year, LSU will receive a gimme in the form of Western Kentucky Saturday. LSU had better enjoy the unofficial week off from its SEC slate because a very difficult November lies ahead of the team.
Once LSU puts Western Kentucky in the rear-view mirror, it gets No. 8 Alabama, Arkansas, No. 24 Ole Miss and No. 15 Texas A&M to round out the regular season. Those November opponents have a combined record of 18-8, including an 8-5 mark in SEC play.
LSU leads the SEC West standings, but is closely followed by Alabama, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Arkansas.
More pressing, two of those SEC showdowns come on the road. LSU must travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Nov. 7 to play an Alabama team that is currently on a four-game win streak. The Tide have finally found a rhythm and are playing accordingly, coming off an impressive road win of their own in College Station, Texas to hand Texas A&M its first loss of the season.
The following week’s game against unranked Arkansas shouldn’t be taken lightly either. In fact, a very similar Arkansas team blanked LSU last season, 17-0, in Fayetteville, Ark. Over the past decade, LSU is 4-1 against Arkansas at home, but the average margin of victory in those five games has been seven points.
LSU will again have to hit the road when it takes on Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss. where the Rebels are 4-0 this season. In fact, the Rebels have won their last six home games dating back to last season, which includes a win over then-No. 4 Mississippi State in the regular-season finale. Ole Miss is 5-2 this season with losses to then-No. 25 Florida in The Swamp and an inexplicable folly against Memphis last week. But at their best, the Rebels defeated ‘Bama on the road and cannot not be overlooked.
Finally, if somehow, someway LSU can navigate through that three-game stretch unblemished, it’ll close out the year with Texas A&M in Death Valley. This game will have plenty at stake given the fact that Kevin Sumlin has recruited heavily in Louisiana over the past year or two, and that’s only been amped up since the arrival of defensive coordinator John Chavis, who was with LSU up until this season. Like Ole Miss, Texas A&M is coming off a loss, but is certainly a legitimate contender this season with its new and improved defense to match its always high-octane offense. Emotions will be at an all-time high when the Aggies visit Tiger Stadium with potentially a perfect season or, at the very least, a playoff spot hanging in the balance.
LSU’s win against Florida put the Tigers in the national spotlight, if the public hadn’t realized they were legitimate contenders already. Thus far, LSU has taken down ranked Mississippi State and Auburn teams, and with Florida, has passed every test with flying colors.
However, the schedule toughens drastically once the calendar flips to November. Whether it falls on Leonard Fournette to continue his dominance, a surprise game out of Brandon Harris or the defense, LSU will need to figure out how to somehow escape unscathed if it’s going to try and keep pace Ohio State, Baylor, Utah and TCU that stand in the way.
Of course, Alabama is in a similar position to LSU, and both Ole Miss and Texas A&M have outside shots at making a push, too. Each one of those showdowns has major ramifications for the postseason.
If LSU is going to take one of the top four spots in the nation, it will have to be earned by way of arguably the toughest November schedule left in college football. If successful, the Bayou Bengals will have no doubt earned their spot.
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