In the era of the College Football Playoff, one loss won’t ruin your season.
But go on a bad run and you’re done.
With that in mind, we’re examining the most challenging stretches of games for all 14 teams in the SEC.
Next up in our series: the LSU Tigers.
Toughest stretch: Oct. 7-Nov. 25
It probably seems crazy to list the final seven games as LSU’s toughest stretch, but just take a look at that brutal docket. All seven are SEC games, four of which (Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Tennessee) come on the road. The Tigers could have gotten a tiny bit of relief if the Oct. 7 Florida game was still at Tiger Stadium, but that game shifted to Gainesville as part of the resolution of last season’s LSU-UF rescheduling ordeal following Hurricane Matthew.
So here new Tigers coach Ed Orgeron sits, preparing to be in charge for his first full season with these two grueling final months ahead of him. Good luck with that.
The stretch starts with the annual cross-divisional game against Florida, where some bitterness probably still lingers over the rescheduling fiasco, as well as the way LSU choked away a win on the final play as the Gators claimed their second straight SEC East title.
Auburn, which also defeated LSU on a crazy final play last season, will visit on Oct. 14, and then LSU heads to Ole Miss on Oct. 21. That leads to an open date ahead of the biggest game on the Tigers’ schedule: Alabama.
LSU will visit Tuscaloosa on Nov. 4, with both teams coming off their customary off week ahead of their annual slugfest. These two programs once ran a neck-and-neck as contenders to be called the SEC’s preeminent program, but Alabama has since started to lap the field -- as evidenced by its six consecutive wins over LSU. Then-interim coach Orgeron’s club gave the Crimson Tide all it could handle in last year’s 10-0 loss at Tiger Stadium, but yet another impotent offensive performance against Alabama proved to be LSU’s undoing. Now the Tigers must attempt to halt their series losing streak at Bryant-Denny Stadium, where they have not won since the 2011 overtime thriller that helped LSU claim that season’s SEC title before falling to Alabama in the BCS title game, launching the current losing streak.
Whew. So we’re past Alabama. Now it’s on to Arkansas, which has occupied a convenient spot on LSU’s schedule the week after the Alabama game since 2014. Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema lived it up for the first two years as his team dominated LSU both times, but the Tigers ended that slide by manhandling the Hogs with 390 rushing yards last year. Will they be able to hold onto the Golden Boot trophy when the Hogs visit on Nov. 11?
The Tigers are nearing the finish line by this point, but they still have to make another challenging road trip: Nov. 18 to Tennessee, where LSU has won its last two games to bring its overall record at Neyland Stadium to 3-11-1. LSU has taken the upper hand in this series since emerging as a national player in the 2000s -- including a pair of wins in the SEC championship game during that time period -- but this is hardly a trip the Tigers will look forward to make after being put through the SEC meat grinder for the previous several weeks.
Finally, we reach the end, and Texas A&M fans are probably excited about the Aggies’ position on LSU’s schedule. Since joining the SEC in 2012, A&M has beaten each SEC West opponent at least twice except Alabama, which it has defeated once, and LSU, which it has not defeated since 1995. The Aggies’ losses to LSU in each of the last six years are almost as big of an annoyance to their fan base as LSU’s recent futility against Alabama is on the bayou. But this will be a prime opportunity to catch a likely bruised and battered LSU team at the end of a long season and put an end to that skid.
LSU returns a talented roster and will probably once again be in the SEC West title conversation this summer, but the second half of this schedule might be too tough to keep the Tigers in contention by mid-November. But if they’re somehow still in the conversation when they make the trip to Tuscaloosa and can snap that streak against Nick Saban’s Tide, Orgeron should be a frontrunner for SEC Coach of the Year honors.