When the college football season began, the usual suspects led the top of the AP College Football rankings. Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Texas A&M, and more were seated in the top 10 spots. Meanwhile, the LSU Tigers weren't even in the top 25.
Fast forward to Week 11--the Crimson Tide are No. 10 and the Aggies aren't even ranked; Georgia and Ohio State are still in the top four, but that's expected. Now the Tigers aren't just in the top 25--they're No. 7 in the nation with a clear shot at taking the SEC West for the first time since the team's 2019 national championship season.
Tough Wins and Tougher Losses Give LSU "Dark Horse" Title
This isn't an overnight sensation story by any means. LSU didn't even crack the top 25 until Week 6 and dropped right back out for Week 7. However, a huge win against then-No. 7 Ole Miss brought the Tigers both back into the ranking at No. 15 and also, in questionable fashion, on the field as the fans rushed Death Valley.
Since then, LSU competed against Alabama in an overtime thriller (coincidentally, with the exact same play Texas A&M failed to execute) where they won 32-31. Two ranked wins back-to-back brought the Tigers right back into the top 10 for the first time this season. Now that the Crimson Tide is nearly out of the picture, the SEC West is a tossup with both Ole Miss and LSU being able to take the helm.
Taking the West Is No Walk in the Park
LSU beat Alabama, but winning the SEC West and earning a trip to the SEC Championship isn't guaranteed yet. The Tigers' first chance at clinching the division rests in Week 11's matchups with LSU vs. Arkansas and Ole Miss against Alabama. If LSU can get its business done against the Razorbacks, the team should be rooting for Alabama to take down Ole Miss later in the day. If the Rebels defeat Alabama, the Tigers are going to have to wait another week.
LSU has to be careful, as both the Tigers and Rebels have one conference loss each. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide has two SEC losses and if LSU goes against the odds and loses its last two conference matchups, Alabama could take over. If Ole Miss can win out and LSU somehow loses to Texas A&M, the Tigers will miss their first chance since 2019 at competing in the SEC Championship.
The Tigers have to use this momentum from the past few weeks to propel themselves to the top of one of the toughest conferences in the nation. LSU might still have to face powerhouse and most recent national champions Georgia, but if they advance to the SEC Championship, the Tigers have the ability to defy the odds and return back to the days of Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase and the rest of the 2019 squad.
Call Them What You Want
They can be called a phoenix rising from the ashes, an underdog, longshots, or a dark horse. These words could all be used to describe this season's squad representing the Purple and Gold. Despite being unrecognized at the beginning of the season, the Tigers have used to this to show the nation that they legitimate contenders and are not a team to be underestimated. Only time will tell if LSU can take its season to the next level during head coach Brian Kelly's first season.
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