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LSU cannot afford to look ahead

The 44-41 loss to Georgia was a tough pill to swallow for LSU fans.

The Tigers surrendered the lead last weekend in Athens with less than two minutes remaining in play. An Aaron Murray 25-yard touchdown pass to Justin Scott-Wesley proved the difference as Georgia came out on top, giving LSU its first loss on the season.

Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger, much maligned last season, showed why it apparently only took some better quarterback coaching and a more “open” offense to realize his potential. Mettenberger was strong in defeat, going 23 for 37 for 372 yards, three touchdowns and — just as importantly — no interceptions.

LSU is exactly what I thought it would be before the season began: A team with an improved offense but a defense that isn’t quite as good as it has been in years past. That the offense seems to be clicking is no surprise, as I felt new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would bring much improvement to that side of the ball. The defense’s struggles last week wasn’t surprising either — you simply don’t lose as many players as LSU lost to the draft without there being some kind of dropoff.

As frustrating as the loss may have been, LSU still controls its own destiny. Win out, and the Tigers will be in Atlanta, and it would be no surprise if they ended up having a rematch with Georgia to determine the SEC championship.

LSU likely has one game on it’s scheduled highlighted, circled and starred: It’s Nov. 9 matchup with Alabama on the road. For many LSU fans, this is the game of the season every year. And the Tigers players always seem to be at their best when facing the Tide.

But LSU cannot afford to look ahead just yet. Yes, the SEC West likely goes through Alabama at this point, but there are still a couple of key matchups for LSU. Saturday’s game against Florida and the Oct. 19 game at Ole Miss should both be taken with the same fervor as the Alabama game.

Florida’s struggles offensively are well-known, but with the Gators boasting one of the top defenses in the country, anything can happen if the game remains close late. Ole Miss, by contrast, brings a strong offense to the table that will be looking to make a statement against a top team after it’s 25-0 loss to Alabama Sept. 28.

Oh, and by the way, the week after the Alabama game, LSU gets to host Texas A&M, which I hear has a pretty good player at quarterback. Johnny something, I think is his name.

Coming into this season, LSU’s schedule was seen as one of the toughest in the country. That’s proven to be true, especially with the emergency of Ole Miss as an improved team. If the Tigers make it to the SEC title game, they will have earned it, to say the least — and they should be much better than they are now, given how battle-tested the schedule will make LSU.

With the way the schedule is set up, LSU can’t treat Alabama as the single most important game left. Every game is important, because all it takes is one slip up for the Tigers to be on the outside looking in.