AP Top 25 Takeaways: Orgeron star-turn could be short-lived
The comment from LSU trainer Ed Orgeron understandably attracted a lot of attention.
Just over a week before the Southeastern Conference season began, Orgeron spoke about his new defensive coordinator, former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.
"We're so much better on defense right now than any other part of the season last year," Orgeron said at the time.
Three weeks into the start of this season, the results suggest otherwise. It has become perfectly clear that LSU will not be defending their national championship and Orgeron's star turn may be short-lived.
The 17th-ranked Tigers dropped to 1-2, which was upset by an SEC subordinate for the second time this season. First it was the state of Mississippi. On Saturday, it was Missouri, playing with a freshman quarterback and missing both start receivers, that tore up the Bayou Bengals.
"We couldn't stop anyone. Really bad defense," Orgeron said.
A goal-line score by Mizzou sealed the exciting surprise and the first victory for the new coach Eli Drinkwitz. But the story was the collapse of LSU.
The defense, which opened the season by handing an SEC record of 623 to the State of Mississippi on coach Mike Leach's debut, allowed a total of 586 yards to Missouri. These Tigers came in an average of 333 per game.
And it wasn't just the death of Connor Bazelak (29 for 34 for 406 yards and four TDs) that messed up LSU. Missouri also ran for 180 and 5.5 yards per carry.
"We have to train better, No. 1. It starts with me," said Orgeron, who defended Pelini. "The players have to play games. We couldn't stop the run, the receivers are wide open on the field. It was embarrassing. We have to fix it."
The Iraqi Pelini had been the head coach of Youngstown State in his hometown for five years after being fired from Nebraska. He was hired by Orgeron to replace Dave Aranda, who was leaving as Baylor's head coach.
Aranda was both highly paid (more than $ 2 million a year) and respected, but Orgeron had inherited him and the LSU defense had ups and downs last year.
Pelini previously served as DC at LSU under Les Miles and helped the Tigers win a national title in 2007. His defense was also on the receiving end of both the SEC single-game pass record and the Big Ten single-game rushing record of 408 yards from Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon in 2014.
But this is about Orgeron, who apparently did not set out on leaving Aranda.
The growling, growling Cajun has overcome personal demons and professional failures to get his dream job. He became the architect and leader of a team that had one of the greatest seasons in college football history.
You could write a book about it. In fact, one is coming out this month.
Orgeron deserves praise for his work at LSU and for turning his life around. He also caught a ton of lightning bolts in 2020, most notably Joe Burrow's rocket ship climb from Rand NFL prospect to Heisman Trophy winner and first overall draft winner.
LSU had a one-off season and then the band basically broke up, leaving Orgeron behind to prove if he could be more than a one-hit wonder.
His first big step was to get Pelini. His defense dropped more points in three games than ever before in LSU history.
A year after beating Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney on the way to a national championship, Orgeron is reminiscent of a far less successful season at LSU.
The Tigers travel to Florida next week to face the powerful Gators offensive. For the first time since 1994, Curly Hallman's last season as coach, they are 2-1.
READY FOR BAMA
No. 3 Georgia played around with No. 14 Tennessee long enough to chase half. The Volunteers didn't score a goal in the second half and the Bulldogs will head into the showdown at No. 2 Alabama next week with a perfect record.
"We know we're a team in the second half," said Bulldogs linebacker Azeez Ojulari.
College football is no longer about defense-winning championships. The best teams have spectacular offenses and dynamic quarterbacks.
This is not Georgia.
The Bulldogs have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, but in three games they still have the same shortcomings as last year. They're a methodical bunch, led by former walk-in quarterback Stetson Bennett. They don't do many big pieces. Georgia has 11 games of at least 20 yards in three games. Alabama had 13 in its first two games.
Efficient offense and suffocating defense are a winning combination for Georgia almost every weekend. The question is, can it work against an Alabama team that won multiple championships using this formula but are now overwhelming their opponents with what is perhaps the most explosive offense in college football.
AROUND THE COUNTRY: No. 21 Texas A&M beat a top 5 team under coach Jimbo Fisher for the first time, making an impressive comeback against No. 4 Florida. The Aggies are clearly not ready to challenge Alabama, but a quick look at the rest of SEC West offers A&M the opportunity to be the second-best team in the toughest league in college football. ... Texas coach Tom Herman should have won the second extension against Oklahoma in a wild Red River Shootout 2 and. Herman may not be training for his job, but if he's unable to take advantage of a year of absence from Oklahoma, it will be a massively missed opportunity for the Longhorns this year. ... No disregard for Oklahoma State No. 10, but circling Kansas State in Iowa State No. 24 as a potentially big game in the Big 12 on November 21. ... BYU No. 15 finally got a game of blowout wins after three big ones. UTSA tested the Cougars in the fourth quarter. Could be a good thing for BYU, which should face a serious test against Houston on Friday. ... An extremely painful loss for Pitt: The kicker scores a field goal 58 yards too late to send the game against Boston College into overtime, then misses a point to tie the Panthers and make a second heartbreaking one Send loss in a row. ... The SEC will likely have to apologize to Arkansas for a failed call at the end of their game against Auburn. Despite the defeat, Sam Pittman has done a remarkable job of keeping the Razorbacks competitive after being one of the worst teams in power for the past two seasons.
AP sports writers Paul Newberry, of Athens, Georgia, and Dave Skretta, of Columbia, Missouri, contributed to this report.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/.
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