Oct 23, 2021; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Garrett Nussmeier (5) during the second half against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

QB decisions remain as LSU, Kansas State meet in Texas Bowl

LSU is a program in transition as it prepares to face Kansas State in the Texas Bowl on Tuesday night at Houston.

The Tigers (6-6) have an interim head coach, and they’re still not sure who will play quarterback against the Wildcats (7-5) in the final bowl game of this season. After Tuesday, only the CFP National Championship Game remains.

LSU offensive line coach Brad Davis is serving as interim head coach, replacing Ed Orgeron, who was dismissed at the end of the regular season. New Tigers head coach Brian Kelly has been focused on hiring his staff, which will include Davis, as well as recruiting.

Starting quarterback Max Johnson has transferred to Texas A&M, and LSU has yet to reveal the NCAA’s ruling on the team’s appeal for freshman Garrett Nussmeier to not lose his redshirt season if he plays in the bowl game.

“In the midst of adversity or any uncertainty and things that have gone on this season around our program, our guys have stayed together,” Davis said. “They haven’t blinked. They simply go on to work. We won’t be a distracted football team.”

Nussmeier has played in four games in relief of Johnson, whose departure left the freshman as the Tigers’ only scholarship quarterback.

If the appeal is denied, Davis could turn to walk-on Matt O’Dowd and senior wide receiver Jontre Kirklin, who was a dual-threat quarterback in high school. They also have another walk-on freshman in Tavion Faulk.

“If (the appeal) were denied for whatever reason, we have some contingencies in place,” Davis said. “We will be able to move the football and execute our offense.”

LSU also will be without two of its top defensive players, who opted out to focus on the NFL draft — linebacker Damone Clark and defensive lineman Neil Farrell Jr.

The Wildcats have avoided any opt-outs as they try to hand third-year coach Chris Klieman his first bowl victory.

“I know a number of those seniors want that last opportunity to play together,” Klieman said. “This is a close-knit group of guys that cares a lot about each other and enjoys each other’s company.”

Several Kansas State players were just breaking into the program when the Wildcats lost to Navy in the 2019 Liberty Bowl. They didn’t go to a bowl after finishing 4-6 last season.

“There are probably a lot of guys bummed last season that we didn’t get to play in a bowl game,” Klieman said.

Wildcats All-America all-purpose back Deuce Vaughn is looking forward to the stage provided by being the last bowl game of the season.

“Everybody’s going to be watching,” he said.

Like LSU, Kansas State has uncertainty at quarterback and is going through a transition on the coaching staff.

Sixth-year senior quarterback Skylar Thompson came away with a lower-leg injury late in the season, but is “trending in the right direction” to appear in the game, Klieman said. If Thompson is unavailable, sophomore Will Howard likely will start.

Klieman recently dismissed offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Courtney Messingham and tight ends coach Jason Ray.

Former Wildcats quarterback and current quarterbacks coach Collin Klein will serve as offensive coordinator against LSU.

–Field Level Media

Oct 10, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Myles Brennan (15) throws a pass against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

QB Myles Brennan exits transfer portal, staying at LSU

LSU quarterback Myles Brennan will return to the Tigers in 2022 after withdrawing from the transfer portal.

“There’s no place like home. Let’s ride tiger nation!” Brennan tweeted on Thursday.

An LSU spokesman confirmed to ESPN that Brennan, who entered the portal Nov. 1 as a graduate transfer, will remain in Baton Rouge under new head coach Brian Kelly.

Brennan has been beset by injuries since starting the first three games of the 2020 season. He sustained a torn abdominal muscle that ended that season, then broke his non-throwing arm this summer and required surgery.

Brennan backed up Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow during the 2019 national championship season and has 1,712 career passing yards with 13 touchdowns against six interceptions with the Tigers.

Max Johnson, who replaced Brennan in 2020 and started all 12 games for LSU this season under former coach Ed Orgeron, entered the transfer portal earlier this month.

On Wednesday, the Tigers signed five-star quarterback Walker Howard from Lafayette, La. He was ranked as the No. 5 QB prospect and the No. 34 overall recruit in the Class of 2022 by the 247 Sports composite.

LSU (6-6) concludes its season against Kansas State (7-5) in the Jan. 4 Texas Bowl in Houston.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Max Johnson (14) throws a pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

LSU kicks off potential bowl push vs. UL Monroe

LSU is nearing the end of a very disappointing season.

The Tigers (4-6, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) were ranked No. 16 in the AP preseason poll, but they are finishing the year with head coach Ed Orgeron already having been bought out, effective at the end of the season.

Even so, LSU can still avoid a losing record, become bowl-eligible and extend Orgeron’s tenure by one game.

In order to do that, it must win its last two games, starting with a nonconference game against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.

“We play to win the game,” Orgeron said in describing what’s left for the Tigers to accomplish.

Orgeron said Max Johnson remains the team’s starting quarterback after Garrett Nussmeier relieved him after two series and finished a 16-13 overtime loss to Arkansas last week.

“I don’t think Garrett beat him out. I don’t think Max deserves to be benched,” Orgeron said. “Max is still our starter.”

LSU’s defense has played much better the past two games, starting with a 20-14 loss at No. 2 Alabama two weeks ago. The Tigers have been much more aggressive at the line of scrimmage in those contests.

Louisiana-Monroe is in its first season of rebuilding under Terry Bowden. The Warhawks (4-6, 2-5 Sun Belt Conference) are much improved after going 0-10 last season.

But they still have a lot of growing to do.

They could have gotten to .500 by winning their home finale last week, but Arkansas State, which entered the game winless in the Sun Belt, kicked a tiebreaking field goal with 1:17 left to beat ULM for a 12th consecutive time.

“This is what you get when you’re building a program,” Bowden said.

One of the keys to the project is junior quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, who returned from a six-game absence caused by a chest injury to start against Arkansas State.

“It was weird because my whole life I never missed a practice, I never missed a game or anything so it was tough to sit on the sidelines,” Rodriguez said.

He completed 12 of 29 for 160 yards, and Malik Jackson rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, his first career 100-yard game.

“I think moving forward we’re going to have a new focus,” Rodriguez said.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2021; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers running back Tyrion Davis-Price (3) runs the ball against Arkansas Razorbacks defensive back Joe Foucha (7) in the first half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 Arkansas takes down LSU in OT

Cam Little kicked three field goals, including a 37-yard game-winner in overtime, as No. 25 Arkansas defeated LSU 16-13 in an SEC game Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU had the first possession of overtime, but Garrett Nussmeier threw an interception in the end zone.

The Razorbacks (7-3, 3-3 SEC) ran three plays for six yards before Little’s game-winner.

Nussmeier, a freshman seeing his first significant time in pre-determined relief of Max Johnson, completed 18 of 31 for 179 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for the Tigers (4-6, 2-5)

Arkansas reached the LSU 38 on the first possession of the third quarter, but Jefferson was sacked by Damone Clark on fourth-and-4.

On the ensuing possession, the Tigers reached the Razorbacks 37 before stalling and Cade York missed a 55-yard field goal.

KJ Jefferson scrambled away from the pass rush and threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Dominique Johnson to tie the score at 10 midway through the quarter.

Little’s 27-yard field goal gave Arkansas a 13-10 lead at the end of the period, but York’s 45-yard field goal tied the score early in the fourth.

The Tigers reached the Razorbacks’ 38, but Nussmeier threw an incompletion on fourth-and-3.

LSU went three-and-out on the game’s first possession, and Arkansas needed to drive just 23 yards on the ensuing possession before Little kicked a 48-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Nussmeier entered the game on LSU’s third possession and both of his passes went incomplete, but the Tigers drove 28 yards and running plays and one Arkansas penalty. That led to York’s 34-yard field goal that tied the score at the end of the period.

On Nussmeier’s second possession, he threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jack Bech to give LSU a 10-3 halftime lead.

The Tigers’ last four possessions of the half ended with three punts and one lost fumble.

After getting the field goal on their first possession, the Razorbacks punted on six straight possessions before their final possession ended when time expired at the LSU 30.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks running back Dominique Johnson (20) celebrates with offensive lineman Dalton Wagner (78) and wide receiver Tyson Morris (19) after scoring a two point conversion in the fourth quarter against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas won 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas rides momentum into SEC matchup vs. injury-plagued LSU

Arkansas is bowl eligible for the first time since 2016.

And the Razorbacks (6-3, 2-3 SEC) hope to accomplish much more beginning with their conference matchup at LSU (4-5, 2-4) on Saturday night.

Second-year coach Sam Pittman said Arkansas’ 31-28 victory against ranked Mississippi State last Saturday felt like winning the Super Bowl.

“We’re both eligible and very, very, very excited to know that we’re going to play in December or January,” Pittman said.

The Razorbacks were highly rated after a 4-0 start that included wins against then-No. 15 Texas and then-No. 7 Texas A&M.

But a 37-0 loss at then-No. 2 Georgia started a three-game losing streak that pushed Arkansas off pollsters’ radar. But two straight wins, including last week’s victory against the Bulldogs, who were No. 17 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, have them just outside of the rankings.

“There’s no question in my mind we deserve to be in the Top 25,” Pittman said. “Now it’s hard to stay there and all those things, but we’ve beaten (Nos.) 7, 15 and 17 at the time.”

Running back Dominique Johnson, making his first start of the season last week, rushed 17 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning, 4-yard touchdown with 21 seconds left.

Pittman said Arkansas “probably” will give Johnson “a few more” carries than 17 in games going forward.

The Razorbacks were balanced as KJ Jefferson completed 19-of-23 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown.

“KJ, he really has gotten better,” Pittman said. “He’s poised. He’s a heck of a quarterback.”

One area where Pittman would like to see his team improve is penalties. The Razorbacks were penalized 11 times for 84 yards against the Bulldogs, and they rank in the bottom three in the SEC in penalties per game (8.6) and penalty yards per game (71.3).

LSU, on the other hand, averages the fewest penalty yards per game (31.4) in the country.

But the injury-plagued Tigers are struggling in a lot of areas, though their defense showed drastic improvement in a 20-14 loss at No. 2 Alabama last Saturday.

“Well, it was LSU-Alabama,” Tigers coach Ed Orgeron said. “We knew we had to play lights-out just to stick with ’em, and we were prepared to do that.”

LSU and Orgeron reached agreement last month on a buyout that will take place at the end of the season. The Tigers need two wins in their last three games to become bowl eligible and extend Orgeron’s tenure by one game.

“I told (the team) if they play like (they did against Alabama), we could win the rest of our games and get into a bowl,” Orgeron said. “They want to keep on playing. I think it would be good for the team.”

Orgeron said Max Johnson remains the team’s starting quarterback, but against Arkansas he’ll give freshman Garrett Nussmeier “significant snaps at the beginning of the game, and we’ll see how it goes.”

“If Max plays better than Garrett, he’s going to be the starter,” Orgeron said. “If Garrett plays better than Max, then he’s going to be the starter. We’re going to let them battle it out.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) crosses the goal line to score a touchdown against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Looking like powerhouse again, No. 3 Alabama faces LSU

Alabama is getting back on track as it prepares to host LSU on Saturday night.

The third-ranked Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) rolled past Mississippi State and Tennessee since Texas A&M knocked them from the top spot in the polls on Oct. 9.

Alabama is coming off a bye week, as are the Tigers (4-4, 2-3).

“We had a really good bye week,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. “I think we got some players rested up. We got some guys healed up. We also got three good workdays in where the players responded really well. I was pleased with the way last week really went.

“This year’s team has sort of steadily, I think, improved, improved their maturity, improved their consistency in performance, and that’s something that we still need to continue to work on so that we aren’t complacent about who we play, what we’re doing, how we’re improving.”

Saban said he has been pleased with the improvement shown by Bryce Young, his first-year starter at quarterback.

“I think his confidence and experience and playing with the new players that we have on offense, all of those things have contributed to that development,” Saban said. “I think one of the things that we have improved on is our ability to throw the deep ball, but I think it’s a work in progress that we need to continue to work on.”

Alabama is a four-touchdown favorite over LSU, which is just two years removed from a national championship. The Tigers previously reached an agreement on a buyout with head coach Ed Orgeron, effective at the end of the season.

The Tigers are missing several key players because of injuries, and Myles Brennan, the presumed starting quarterback before sustaining a broken arm before the start of preseason camp, is the latest player to enter the transfer portal.

LSU thought Brennan might be able to play in November, but his announcement this week that he’s leaving means Max Johnson remains the starter.

Johnson would benefit from a more consistent run game. LSU has had one of the least productive running games in the country for most of the season, though Tyrion Davis-Price ran for a school-record 287 yards and added three touchdowns in a 49-42 upset of then-No. 20 Florida three weeks ago.

Armoni Goodwin is healthy and should join fellow freshman Corey Kiner as complements to Davis-Price. Tre Bradford, who returned to LSU at the start of the season after transferring to Oklahoma in the offseason, has been cleared academically and has recovered from a hamstring injury.

“We’re going to need all four of them to play,” Orgeron said. “We need to rotate those guys, keep them fresh. We have to be 50-50. We can’t get one-dimensional with this team.”

Orgeron said the self-scouting that the coaching staff did during the bye week revealed that the Tigers have been too predictable on both sides of the ball.

“We need to have more variety,” he said. “Not much disguise. This part of the season, you can’t put much new in, but we have not been making good adjustments.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron looks on during the second quarter against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Embattled Ed Orgeron, LSU take on No. 12 Ole Miss

Following a weekend that featured two thrilling wins, LSU and No. 12 Ole Miss will search for normalcy when they square off in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday.

In retrospect, so much in the Louisiana bayou and northern Mississippi has changed over the past 10 months for the SEC West opponents.

Last Dec. 19, on the day Alabama beat Florida in Atlanta for the SEC championship, LSU led Ole Miss 34-21 at halftime and scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:34 left as the Tigers won 53-48 in miserably cold, rainy conditions in Baton Rouge.

But after numerous rumors this season, Tigers coach Ed Orgeron and the school went through a divorce of sorts on Sunday following LSU’s 49-42 home upset of then-No. 20 Florida.

While LSU (4-3, 2-2) should have been basking in the glory of Tyrion Davis-Price’s school-record 287 rushing yards and three touchdowns and the defense’s four-interception effort, Orgeron and the school parting ways led the news.

Just 21 months removed from a 15-0 national championship season anchored by Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and 13 other NFL-bound players, the university agreed to pay the remaining $16.95 million of the six-year coach’s contract and start anew in 2022.

“We’re going to finish,” said Orgeron, 60, who is 5-0 against Ole Miss but 9-8 since winning the 2019 season title. “We’re not going to blink. I’m going to be right there with them.”

After struggling all season to find its running game, LSU amassed 321 yards on the ground as a nearly two-touchdown home underdog against the Gators — averaging 7.1 yards per carry on its 45 rushes.

In the series, LSU has won five straight and six of the past seven against Ole Miss.

The Tigers are 64-41-4 in the 109 career meetings, including an 11-8-1 mark in Oxford.

Coach Lane Kiffin’s Rebels (5-1, 2-1) survived a crazy night in Knoxville — hanging on over six frantic plays at the end by Tennessee to beat the Volunteers 31-26.

Following a lengthy delay after an embarrassing trash-throwing episode by Tennessee fans — UT was fined $250,000 — the defense held on for Ole Miss’ victory.

But after finishing 4-5 in Kiffin’s inaugural campaign, Ole Miss has become one of college football’s best stories by working its way up the polls and standings behind QB Matt Corral — a front-running Heisman candidate — and an explosive offense that churns out 553 yards per game.

The Ventura, Calif., native was outstanding at Rocky Top, earning SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors after accounting for 426 yards — 195 rushing on 30 carries.

He became the first Ole Miss player with 30 carries since BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 33 in 2007.

“I’d like that to be a running back and not our 200-pound quarterback, so he’s not in very good shape. Hasn’t been for two days,” Kiffin said in Monday’s press conference.

Corral moved into third all-time in total offense and passing TDs at Ole Miss, and the junior has scoring throws in 18 straight games.

“He’s one of the top players in the country,” Orgeron said. “He’s very fast, can run the football, throw the football. You can see he plays with his heart and character.

“I’ve been looking at Matt Corral all morning. … Knowing Matt and knowing coach Kiffin, he’s kind of throwing me a smokescreen,” the lame-duck coach quipped of Kiffin’s injury assessment.

–Field Level Media

14. Mel Tucker, Michigan State: $5,566,303

Syndication Lansing State Journal

LSU Next Coach Odds: Mel Tucker shoots past Lane Kiffin

Michigan State’s unexpected rise into the top 10 has led to Spartans coach Mel Tucker’s name being tied to the biggest coaching vacancy in the country.

Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin was installed as the +250 betting favorite by SportsBetting.ag to be the LSU Tigers’ next coach, but Tucker’s odds shortened from +1200 to +200 within hours.

Tucker has led the Spartans to a 7-0 record and Michigan State is ranked ninth in the country. He also has SEC ties, having worked under Alabama head coach Nick Saban with both the Crimson Tide (2015) and at LSU (2000).

Before arriving at Michigan State last year, Tucker spent a year as Colorado’s head coach following three as Georgia’s defensive coordinator.

Meanwhile, Kiffin’s odds lengthened to +500, ahead of Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell (+600), Penn State’s James Franklin (+650) and Louisiana coach Billy Napier (+750).

Kiffin’s Ole Miss team is 5-1 and ranked 12th in the country, with the Rebels’ only loss coming to Alabama. Kiffin also has one of the Heisman Trophy favorites in quarterback Matt Corral.

Still only 46 years old, Kiffin is already at the helm of his fourth college football program. After two years with the Oakland Raiders from 2007-08, he spent one ill-fated year as the head coach at Tennessee.

Kiffin then left for Southern Cal, where he had served as offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll. He was fired in 2013 and spent three years as Saban’s offensive coordinator before being hired as Florida Atlantic’s head coach in 2017.

After three years with the Owls, Kiffin returned to the SEC with Ole Miss in 2020.

His name has surfaced with several potential head coaching vacancies across the country, from USC to Miami, Fla. The big question is whether LSU athletic director Scott Woodward would be inclined to hire a coach with such a polarizing off-field image to compete in the SEC recruiting wars with the likes of Saban and Georgia’s Kirby Smart.

Fickell has Cincinnati (6-0) ranked No. 2 in the country for the first time in program history and the Bearcats are poised for a run at a spot in the College Football Playoff. Cincinnati is 34-6 over the past four seasons.

Like Tucker, Franklin’s odds shortened dramatically after SportsBetting.ag opened the market. He went from +950 to +650 to depart for Baton Rouge, although Franklin’s name has also surfaced in connection with the USC opening.

Napier does not have any ties to LSU specifically, but the 42-year-old has also spent five years over two stints on Saban’s staff. He spent a year as Arizona State’s offensive coordinator in 2017 before taking over at Louisiana.

Other names on the list include Texas A&M coach and former LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and former Houston Texans and Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien.

In the more entertaining category, SportsBetting.ag is also offering odds on current Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer (+1600) and former Raiders coach Jon Gruden (+10000).

LSU Next Head Coach Odds:
Mel Tucker (+200)
Lane Kiffin (+500)
Luke Fickell (+600)
James Franklin (+650)
Billy Napier (+750)
Jimbo Fisher (+750)
Billy O’Brien (+900)
Mark Stoops (+950)
Bob Stoops (+1200)
Joe Brady (+1200)
Dave Aranda (+1400)
Urban Meyer (+1600)
Jon Gruden (+10000)

–Field Level Media