Sometimes, before change can come, you have to hit rock bottom.
That appears to have been the case with LSU.
You can’t get much closer to the bottom than when you lose at home to Troy. After a defeat like that, the first reaction is always doom and gloom. It’s always the belief that the sky is falling.
It was one of the worst losses in LSU history, and the future looked bleak with a road trip to Florida and a home game against Auburn looming.
Looking at the schedule ahead and doing the math, there was the real possibility that the Tigers could finish with a losing record and miss a bowl game for the first time in nearly two decades.
At that moment, there’s no way you could have convinced me that LSU would have won their next three games and head to Tuscaloosa with a 6-2 record, but that’s exactly what has happened.
There are quite a few reasons, but the main one is fairly straight forward. The loss to Troy proved to be a blessing in disguise.
They needed that rock bottom. They needed to be embarrassed. They needed to have their heart and their manhood tested.
Ever since then, they have responded and shown what they’re truly made of, and now, we can finally say that this is LSU football.
During that week, leaders stepped up and challenged their teammates.
The Tigers gathered for the infamous “players-only meetings.” They began to watch more game film. They studied harder.
They practiced harder. They got in their teammates’ faces. They prepared with the kind of intensity that had been missing all season.
It all translated on the field. No longer did they put their heads down and their tails between their legs when things went sideways, like they did against Mississippi State and Troy.
No, this time, they pressed their backs firmly against the wall and fought with every ounce of fight they had pinned up inside of them.
When Florida scored 13 unanswered and took all the momentum, they stood firm and did just enough to escape The Swamp with a gritty 17-16 win.
When they were down 20-0 to Auburn, they could have easily quit. The team from two weeks earlier would have surely done so, but these Tigers were different.
They fought their butts off and outscored Auburn, 13-0, in the second half to pull off the upset.
Now, they have won three straight. The toughness is back. The swagger is back. They are playing like we all expected them to play before the season began.
Of course, it’s not just the change in attitude and preparation.
Players are finally getting healthy. That’s a huge factor.
Tackle Toby Weathersby is back after missing two games. Fullback J.D. Moore is back after missing the loss to Troy.
Derrius Guice is finally looking like Derrius Guice again after struggling with a knee injury all season. He was the healthiest he has been all year against Ole Miss as he rattled off 276 yards.
The ultra-thin defensive line is finally catching a few breaks.
Their best player, Rashard Lawrence—though still not 100 percent—has played the last three games, after missing both of their losses. His backup, Ed Alexander is back after missing three games.
Defensive end Frank Herron, who was ineligible for the first half of the season, is back.
Arden Key—who for a while, was overweight, out of shape and just plain rusty—is slowly but surely becoming the Arden Key of old.
He’s back down to about 250 pounds and he is finally back in game shape. The result: He had many QB pressures against Auburn and two sacks against Ole Miss.
The young linebackers and safeties are getting better with each game.
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda made the decision to move Donte Jackson to nickelback, which allows LSU to have him, Kevin Toliver and “Greedy” Williams all on the field at the same time.
As a result, they’re covering receivers like blankets. You’d be hard-pressed to find a trio of corners playing better right now.
Will this matter against Alabama?
On paper, it doesn’t look like it. The Tide is favored by more than 20 points.
Alabama has been destroying everyone in their path, and they’ll have big advantages over LSU in the trenches. That could be a serious problem for the Tigers.
Still, regardless of what happens in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night, LSU still has the chance to finish out a very good season, despite the horrible loss to Troy.
If they can play with the same heart and energy they’ve played with for the last three games for the rest of the year, there’s no reason why they couldn’t finish with nine wins.
Either way, things are looking up for the future.