On the bright side, LSU (9-3, 5-3) has a chance to win its 10th game for the fourth time in five seasons under Les Miles if the Tigers can take care of Penn State in the Capital One Bowl.
But this is a season that’s probably going to be remembered best on the Bayou for two things: The horrible clock management at the end of the Ole Miss loss and an offense that never found any kind of rhythm and failed the Tigers in key games.
After all, LSU lost 13-3 at home to Florida and then dropped a 24-15 decision to Alabama. It’s hard to sniff an SEC championship when you don’t score more than 15 points in your two biggest games of the season.
Sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson struggled with his overall awareness in his first season as a starter, and the Tigers were 11th in the season in rushing offense (129.6 yards per game). They were also 11th in total offense, and their average of 309.7 yards per game was "good enough" to rank them 108th nationally.
Even more telling, that's 130 yards less per game than they averaged in 2007 when they won the national championship.
Defensively, the Tigers played well enough in John Chavis’ first year as coordinator to win against both Alabama and Florida. Julio Jones’ 73-yard touchdown on a quick screen pass, and with star cornerback Patrick Peterson on the field battling cramps, will haunt the Tigers all offseason.
Offensive MVP: Brandon LaFell, WR. For LaFell to catch 10 touchdown passes this season with all the struggles LSU had on offense is about as productive as it gets for a receiver. He was also second in the SEC with 52 catches.
Defensive MVP: Patrick Peterson, CB. He was the best overall cornerback in the SEC this season, which is saying something when you consider Joe Haden and Javier Arenas are also in this league. He was third in the league with 15 passes defended and tackles as well as he covers.
Turning point: The Tigers still controlled their own destiny in the West going into the Alabama game on Nov. 7, but their 24-15 loss eliminated them from the race. They also lost two weeks later to Ole Miss in the ill-fated clock management game.
What’s next: The 33-30 overtime win over Arkansas in the regular-season finale helped ease the sting of the Ole Miss loss, but the Tigers need to finish strongly against Penn State in the bowl game. How much Jefferson improves and how much better the Tigers get in the offensive line after a disappointing season up front will go a long way toward determining whether they’re a factor in the SEC championship race next season.