LSU may have been eliminated from playoff contention, but it doesn't mean the season is over.
The Tigers are ranked No. 7 in the College Football Playoff poll and have a chance to close out the regular season with conference wins on the road against Arkansas (Nov. 10) and Texas A&M (Nov. 24) and a final home game against Rice (Nov. 17).
LSU coach Ed Orgeron said this when he has to do his best coaching job and get the team focused and ready for the next the game during his media luncheon on Monday. The Tigers are 5-1 with a 22-point margin of victory in six regular season games after losing to Alabama the previous two seasons.
“This team's got to be mentally tough,” Orgeron said. “We got a lot to play for, this is a big game for us in terms of where we want to go in terms of how strong we can finish and in terms of if we do finish strong where we can end up, the things that we can do, so there's a lot of great things, we're 7-2 now and we have a chance to have an excellent season and that's what we're going to look at and we're going to use that as a motivational tool.”
Recent projections by Jerry Palm of CBS Sports and Stewart Mandel of The Athletic both have LSU traveling out west to play UCF in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona.
It’d be the furthest west LSU has ever traveled for a bowl game since 1977 when the Tigers lost to Stanford in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, and the first major bowl game outside of the national title game since 2006 when a JaMarcus Russell-led team defeated Notre Dame 41-14 in the Sugar Bowl.
“I think it does kind of sit in the back of our mind, but if you focus on that then you lose track of the day to day and you don’t get better,” said junior quarterback Joe Burrow about the possibility of playing in a big-time bowl game. “You have to focus on the day to day, fundamentals, working hard every day to get better, and if we don’t get better we are going to lose a game. And you can’t do that.”
If LSU wins out in the regular season it’d be the first 10-win regular season since 2012. A 10-2 regular season is a far cry from original projections which had the Tigers going 7-5 at best.
“If we had told you guys we were going to be 10-2 at the end of the season you guys would’ve told us we were crazy going into that Miami game,” said Burrow, who felt he began to get deflated when it became apparent the Tigers weren’t going to be able to beat Alabama. “We still have a very successful season potentially ahead of us and that’s what we are going to be playing for.”
First one the docket for LSU and Burrow are the Arkansas Razorbacks. In the last visit to Louisiana’s northern neighbor, the Tigers throttled the Hogs 38-10 behind a record-breaking performance from running back Derrius Guice (2015-2017). Guice ran for 252 yards, which was second most ever for an LSU running back at the time, and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
It’s unlikely senior running back Nick Brossette or his sophomore counterpart Clyde Edwards-Helaire replicate that, but both will have chances against a 2-7 Arkansas team that gives up almost 34 points and 413 yards per game.