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LSU Football and the Curse of the Even-Numbered Season


Starting with the 1992 season, due to a reformatting of the Southeastern Conference schedule, LSU has had to play Arkansas, Auburn and Florida on the road in even-numbered years. The Tigers have never defeated all three of those opponents during those seasons. In fact, LSU's dismal record at both Gainesville and at Auburn stands at 4-8. The Bayou Bengals haven’t fared much better against Arkansas either, whether at Fayetteville (1-2) or at Little Rock (4-5).

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Why has LSU failed to win at all three opponents' stadiums in the same season? It is not as though the Tigers cannot beat those teams during the same year. They have swept this trio in Baton Rouge in 2005, ‘11 and ‘13.

Wackiness on the Plains

The series between Auburn and LSU has featured multiple games with unique names based on an incident that occurred during the matches. There has been a crowd eruption registering as an earthquake, a campus building on fire, players smoking cigars during a game and others. The Extra Point Do-Over and the Overturned Pass Interference games both happened in Auburn.

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The game in 2004 takes its name from the extra point by Auburn in the waning minutes that was initially missed. The officials flagged an LSU player, Ronnie Prude, for violating a new rule restricting attempts to block a kick. The Auburn kicker, John Vaughn, took advantage of the mulligan and put his team ahead by one point, which ended up be the deciding one in a 10-9 outcome.

The next contest at Jordan-Hare Stadium also involved a late-game controversy regarding an interpretation of the rules by the officials. On fourth down late in the fourth quarter, the officials threw a flag for defensive pass interference against Auburn. Soon afterward, they picked up the flag. That enforced penalty would have given LSU a first down inside Auburn's red zone, only needing a touchdown to grab the lead.

Suspicious calls late in games cannot solely explain LSU's weak record at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Twice, LSU lost there to the eventual SEC champion. On two occasions, Auburn blew out LSU by 24 and 34 points respectively. However, the margin of defeat has averaged only 11.6 points. Five nail-biting losses have been by single digits. It seems that somehow and someway, the Tigers from the Plains have usually managed to pull out a win in tight contests on their home field.

Formidable Foes on Florida’s Field

LSU has ventured into Gainesville 12 times since 1992. On just four occasions have Tigers left with a victory. Superb coaches and a plethora of talented players have greatly contributed to the struggles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The margin of the eight defeats is a whopping 21.1 points per game, with six of those by double digits.

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When Steve Spurrier roamed the sidelines in Gainesville, his teams very rarely lost at home. Darth Visor won all five home games versus LSU. In fact, during his tenure at Florida, his team lost only once in his 12 contests versus LSU, a seven-point defeat in Death Valley in 1997.

Urban Meyer returned the Gators to dominance. The Urbanator only lost one of his three home contests when the Bayou Bengals visited. The lone loss occurred after a controversial ruling late in the fourth quarter. The officials declared a ball tossed by the holder during a fake field goal that had hit the ground was a lateral. Therefore, it could be advanced by the kicker for a first down. That allowed the drive to continue for the winning touchdown with less than 10 seconds remaining.

Finally, the Gators have fielded some powerful teams to face LSU. During this span, the Tigers have lost to the eventual SEC champion in The Swamp five times during this span. Three of those defeats came at the hands of the team that would go on to win the national title.

Problems with Pork After Turkey Day

Arkansas is the most difficult opponent to explain when it comes to LSU’s road woes. Losses have occurred by an average of 12.7 points; four have been by double digits. Only two of LSU's losses came at the hands of the eventual SEC Western Division champion.

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The difficulties seem more related to intangibles than superior opposition. All but the last two contests occurred on Thanksgiving weekend. Nine times, LSU played in Arkansas on Black Friday.

Maybe the Tigers had still not recovered from their tryptophan-loaded dinners in time for the early afternoon kickoffs? Did they prefer to be hunting for bargains at the crack of dawn? Were they distracted by the gaudy Golden Boot trophy, which was created in an effort to boost this game into a true rivalry? Were they wondering why Hog Nation considers them as their archrival while LSU and its fans do not? An explanation for the losing record at both venues seems elusive.

If LSU will live up to its lofty preseason rankings this season, these Tigers will have to make history. The path to the SEC Championship Game and the College Football Playoff has daunting yet familiar obstacles in Auburn, Gainesville and Fayetteville. Can Les Miles lead his team past these biennial pitfalls?

— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.