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LSU photo by Chris Parent / Jontre Kirklin had two touchdown catches last Saturday night as LSU rebounded from its opening loss to Mississippi State with a 41-7 win at Vanderbilt.

LSU made history last college football season by becoming the first Southeastern Conference team to win the national championship with a 15-0 record and with a quarterback who threw 60 touchdown passes on his way to the Heisman Trophy.

It's been very different in 2020.

The March arrival of the coronavirus immediately halted the celebrating in and around Baton Rouge, and a virtual NFL draft in April included LSU setting an SEC record with 14 drafted players. The team's top offensive threat, receiver Ja'Marr Chase, announced in August that he was opting out this season, while the September arrival of a shortened 10-game season resulted in the absence of top defender Derek Stingley for the opening 44-34 loss to Mississippi State.

What has October brought our reigning national champion? Hurricane Delta and the relocating of Saturday's game against Missouri from Baton Rouge to Columbia.

Given that coaches tend to cling to their routines, LSU's Ed Orgeron could only laugh Wednesday when asked about all the adjusting he has encountered.

"Losing the first game provided a challenge that next week, I can promise you that," Orgeron said. "It was something we didn't expect. We didn't play very well, and I had to take the responsibility for that. We saw a tremendous improvement on this team from week one to week two, and I think the challenge of losing 19 of 22 starters and getting our guys to play to LSU standards is the biggest thing that we want to do.

"This is a new team, and we're still taking it one day at a time."

LSU had Stingley back for last Saturday's 41-7 hammering of Vanderbilt in Nashville, but this week's switch will result in Orgeron's Tigers playing three consecutive road games, with Florida being next week's locale. Orgeron is staying in good spirits, mostly because the original kickoff time of 9 p.m. Eastern in Baton Rouge has been shifted to a noon start at Mizzou.

"It would have been very difficult to play an 8 o'clock (Central) game and come back Sunday morning at 4 o'clock," Orgeron said. "It typically takes two days to recover from that. Now we're coming back to Baton Rouge around 6 or 7 o'clock Saturday night, and our players and coaches will get more rest. I think that's a big advantage for us."

Mizzou counterpart Eli Drinkwitz was happy the shift in time could occur as well and offered his thoughts and prayers to those along the Gulf Coast who have dealt with multiple weather systems amid this pandemic. Drinkwitz added further perspective by saying, "We have an opportunity to compete in a game, whereas eight weeks ago we weren't even sure we were going to get to play college football."

Saturday's Alabama at Ole Miss contest also could be moved to either Friday, Sunday or a shared open date of Nov. 7. Wednesday marked the five-year anniversary of the 2015 LSU-South Carolina game getting relocated from Columbia to Baton Rouge due to excessive flooding from Hurricane Joaquin.

It's another hurdle that 2020 has provided, and another step in adjusting routines.

"There is nothing routine about it," Vandy coach Derek Mason said, "and I just look at it as starting a day and then being thankful to finish it, and then I do it all over again. Every day presents different challenges, and for me it's been about staying in the middle and not getting too high or too low. That's what I always tell our guys.

"We can't see around corners. We're trying as best we can to do so, but in the midst of it, we've got to be able to deal with change to where we can hopefully get ourselves from where we are today to a better tomorrow."

 

Pasquali's Pix

Louisville at Georgia Tech: Freshman Jahmyr Gibbs from Dalton High School is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, 14.3 yards per reception and 27.4 yards per kickoff return for the Yellow Jackets. If only there were more of him. Cardinals 34, Yellow Jackets 27.

Florida at Texas A&M: Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts will continue their stellar seasons at Kyle Field. Gators 33, Aggies 28.

South Carolina at Vanderbilt: The longest losing streak the Commodores currently have against an SEC East foe is their 11-game skid against the Gamecocks. Gamecocks 27, Commodores 16.

Tennessee at Georgia: The Volunteers have lost 33 consecutive games against top-10 teams, which is the longest active streak nationally. The Vols did defeat a No. 11 South Carolina in 2013 and a No. 12 Kentucky two years ago. Bulldogs 24, Vols 16.

Arkansas at Auburn: Tigers first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris was the head coach of the Razorbacks the past two seasons, losing to Auburn by a combined score of 85-13. Tigers 31, Razorbacks 24.

Alabama at Ole Miss: Nick Saban has defeated all of his former assistants not named Kirby Smart by at least 17 points. Crimson Tide 48, Rebels 23.

Mississippi State at Kentucky: Mike Leach's Bulldogs already have set SEC records for passing yards in a game and quickest bandwagon campaigns. Wildcats 30, Bulldogs 27.

LSU at Missouri: Tiger Stadium would have been interesting this weekend, given that LSU officials were ditching temperature checks and resuming alcohol sales. Orgerons 33, Drinkwitzs 20.

Other picks:

Clemson 35, Miami 24

North Carolina 26, Virginia Tech 23

Virginia 28, N.C. State 21

Pitt 21, Boston College 12

Notre Dame 34, Florida State 9

Syracuse 27, Duke 20

Texas 40, Oklahoma 35

BYU 42, UTSA 17

FIU 33, Middle Tennessee 26

Navy 29, Temple 28

Army 45, The Citadel 6

TCU 31, Kansas State 30

Iowa State 24, Texas Tech 19

Last week:

Winners — 19

Boomer Sooners — 6

Pasquali is 40-8 overall (83.3%) this season.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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