LSU gets to play its first top 25 opponent of the season in Death Valley this weekend, and it’s a bonus that the purple and gold also slipped into the rankings this week.
There’s plenty to be excited about as the Tigers have propelled themselves to four straight wins, including a 2-0 start in conference play. For Brian Kelly, there are anywhere from 25 to 35 teams who could be deserving of a top 25 ranking and it certainly doesn’t mean much if LSU comes out and plays poorly because they’ll drop right out again.
Kelly is excited about seeing where this team stacks up in the SEC over the next month.
“We feel like at this point the development of our football team will continue to take place through this month,” Kelly said. “I think the more germane question is, how do you get off to a better start against power 5 teams so you don’t have to rally in the second half?”
If LSU wants a shot at beating the No. 8 Volunteers, the absolute last thing this team can do is fall behind by three scores like it against Auburn. It took four Auburn turnovers to climb out of that hole and Tennessee is an offense that hasn’t made many mistakes this season with Hendon Hooker behind center.
This has been an LSU team that has survived on grit to this point. Many times in many games this group has survived while not playing its most consistent brand of football. That won’t work with the kind of teams it will face as the season progresses.
Kelly’s message to his team will be simple about the way the team must not only prepare but execute come Saturday morning.
“What I will make clear when I get a chance to talk to the team is, having heart and fighting the way we do, that’s not going to get it done against Tennessee,” Kelly said. “That’s not going to get it done against Florida at Florida or Mississippi or Alabama. We’re going to have to execute better. Our details are going to have to be better technically, tactically. We have to coach better.”
Offensively it starts with more aggression in the passing game and continuing to get consistent production from the running backs. Defensively, shoring up the communication errors in the secondary while remaining disciplined up front in slowing down the run are where this team has the best chance at keeping it close with Tennessee.
According to Kelly, the top 25 rankings can be used to show this team that it’s capable of much greater heights this season because everyone in the program knows that in the three power 5 games that have taken place to this point, LSU hasn’t scratched the surface of its potential for four quarters.
It’s been done in bursts against the high-caliber talent teams the Tigers have faced to this point but this Tennessee team is a different beast.
“So, hopefully what’s come out of this is that we’ve learned that our preparation is going to have to be so much better and then bring the heart, then bring that fight because you’re going to need that too,” Kelly said. “But you can’t just rely on that and play sloppy football and expect to win these games.”