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No. 6 LSU, coach suddenly adjusting to favored status

September 17, 2018
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LSU head coach Ed Orgeron hugs place kicker Cole Tracy (36) after he kicked the winning field goal to defeat Auburn 22-21 during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — As much as LSU coach Ed Orgeron urges his players to “block out the noise,” the reality is inescapable.

The Tigers have indeed used their underdog status as emotional fuel in a pair of upsets of top-10 teams in the first three weeks of the season. Now that they’re ranked sixth in the Top 25, they’ll have to get used to playing as favorites — this week against Louisiana Tech and perhaps until current No. 2 Georgia visits Death Valley on Oct. 13.

“All the negative stuff that was going on ... if it did affect us, it affected us in a positive way,” Orgeron said Monday, referring to LSU barely being ranked in the Top 25 to start the season and listed as a preseason underdog in a handful of games on its schedule — including against then-No. 8 Miami in its season opener and then-No. 7 Auburn this past Saturday.

“We’ve been playing with a chip on our shoulder.”

Several LSU players have acknowledged being motivated by college football analysts who almost unanimously predicted against them before their dramatic, 22-21 victory at Auburn on Saturday.

Going forward, Orgeron asserted, “We are going to stay humble. It’s going to start with me. We are not going to mention rankings. We are not going to mention anything but focusing in on the task at hand.”

Orgeron recalled that when he was an assistant to Pete Carroll on Southern California teams that contended for national titles, high rankings or anything else that promoted a sense of favored status were “never mentioned.”

As far as Orgeron is concerned, LSU players should look no further than their own experiences from this season for lessons about what it means to be highly ranked.

“We’ve played two top-10 teams so far. Being a top-10 team did not help them, so that’s not going to win a football game for us,” Orgeron asserted.

LSU entered the season confident in its defense, but unsure what to expect from an offense that would rely on a new quarterback, as well as largely unproven running backs and receivers. The suspension of starting offensive tackle Ed Ingram shortly before the season only cast further doubt on the unit’s potential.

LSU’s passing game has been by no means prolific, but quarterback Joe Burrow, a graduate transfer from Ohio State, has avoided turnovers and come through with clutch completions , such as on his fourth-and-7 completion on Saturday’s winning drive. Meanwhile, running back Nick Brossette has blossomed as a senior, averaging about 110 yards per game.

“It feels good. Credit to all the guys who just kind of trust the process,” said senior tight end Foster Moreau, a member of the team’s leadership council. “We understood what we were going to have to do and how we were going to have to beat teams that we weren’t expected to beat. But then again, it’s only three games in. We’re undefeated so far, but we’re far from perfect.”

Burrow moved his right hand upward and across his body while predicting the direction of LSU’s offense as the season progresses.

“Going into the first couple game, I hadn’t started a game in college until this year and I was kind of just feeling it out for a little bit, knowing that we have a really good running back, really good offensive line, really good defense,” Burrow said. “I think we’re about to take off as an offense now.

“Like coach ‘O’ always says, ‘We don’t blink,’” Burrow added. “We knew we had a really talented team going into this year, and if we played our cards right and executed the plays that we had, we were going to be really good.”

So far, defense and special teams have played leading roles in LSU’s success.

Kicker Cole Tracy, a transfer from Division II Assumption college, has made seven of eight kicks, including a game-winner from 41 yards as time expired at Auburn.

The defense has created seven turnovers on two fumbles and five interceptions to go with 10 sacks.

While Orgeron wants the offense to improve, he said the defense just needs to “keep on playing the way we’re playing.”

“I like the way we’re attacking up front. I love our linebacker play. I think our secondary is playing lights out,” he said.

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