Within the past couple of years, LSU won college football's 2019 national championship, Florida won the Southeastern Conference's 2020 Eastern Division title and Texas A&M finished last season ranked No. 4 nationally.
Now each is having to play catch-up, and from further and further behind.
Ed Orgeron's Tigers, Dan Mullen's Gators and Jimbo Fisher's Aggies are coming off upset losses last weekend and are a disappointing 3-2 overall entering the midway mark of the regular season. LSU has only last Saturday's 24-19 loss to Auburn as a league blemish, but Orgeron's Tigers haven't been ranked since dropping their season opener at UCLA.
Unfortunately for Orgeron, he has some experience refocusing the goals of his players, with last year's team having struggled to a 5-5 record.
"I think the challenge is just looking at it and fixing the things and just getting real — these are the things that we have to fix," Orgeron said. "When you look at it like that very constructively, pointing out the things you're doing well and the things you have to fix, and give them a solution, that's when I think you have a shot."
LSU may be playing the rest of the year without junior cornerback Derek Stingley, the team's top talent, due to a foot injury. The Tigers are in a stretch of six consecutive games against current top-20 teams, having fallen last week to No. 18 Auburn and with No. 16 Kentucky, No. 20 Florida, No. 17 Ole Miss, No. 1 Alabama and No. 13 Arkansas next in line.
"It's been like that almost every year," Orgeron said. "The year we won the national championship, we beat six out of the top 10 teams, or something like that. That's what it takes to be in the SEC, and that's what it takes to be a champion. We know that, but we've got to look at it one game at a time."
Florida broke Georgia's three-year stranglehold on the SEC East with last year's win in Jacksonville, but this year's Gators are off to a 1-2 league start, while Georgia and Kentucky are both 3-0.
"You get into, 'Are we going to be better this week than we were last week?'" Mullen said. "If you're worried about too many other things, you're going to lose sight of what is the reality of the game, which is how you get better from one day to the next and one week to the next and one game to the next. If you're focused on anything but that, then you've got no chance."
Texas A&M, meanwhile, is 0-2 in SEC play with Alabama coming to town. The Aggies began this season as the nation's No. 6 team but are unranked and potentially facing their first 0-3 league start since joining the conference in 2012.
There is no playoff conversation this season for LSU, Florida and Texas A&M, only irritable fan bases wondering what went wrong from their recent success.
"Our guys, especially our older guys, understand that it's about six inches between a pat on the back and a kick in the rear end when it comes to the fan bases and everybody outside of the program," Mullen said.
Arkansas at Ole Miss: The time has come for Lane Kiffin to stop tossing headsets and to start addressing his 1-5 record with the Rebels against the SEC West. Rebels 27, Razorbacks 24.
Vanderbilt at Florida: Will both of these teams be 3-3 after Saturday? No. No, they won't. Gators 49, Commodores 6.
South Carolina at Tennessee: The Volunteers are undefeated against the Gamecocks when wearing black jerseys. Vols 26, Gamecocks 13.
Georgia Tech at Duke: Former Dalton High School standout Jahmyr Gibbs had 125 receiving yards in last week's loss to Pittsburgh, the most by a Georgia Tech running back in more than 50 years. Yellow Jackets 26, Blue Devils 24.
UTC at VMI: These two teams were scheduled to play at a winterized Finley Stadium back in February before COVID-19 caused a cancellation. Mocs 31, Keydets 22.
Georgia at Auburn: The Bulldogs lead this series 61-56-8 because of their 17-12-2 mark inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Bulldogs 27, Tigers 10.
LSU at Kentucky: The Wildcats are seeking their first 6-0 start since 1950, an eventual 11-1 season that Paul "Bear" Bryant capped with a 13-7 upset of Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Wildcats 23, Tigers 19.
Alabama at Texas A&M: One of these programs appears to be getting a little more bang for the buck with its $9 million football coach than the other. Crimson Tide 34, Aggies 13.
Coastal Carolina 38, Arkansas State 15
Cincinnati 45, Temple 22
Missouri 49, North Texas 38
Oklahoma 34, Texas 27
Ohio State 41, Maryland 16
Louisville 32, Virginia 31
BYU 26, Boise State 19
Wake Forest 23, Syracuse 20
Liberty 30, MTSU 13
North Carolina 27, Florida State 24
Iowa 31, Penn State 28
Michigan 22, Nebraska 21
Notre Dame 17, Virginia Tech 10
Memphis 36, Tulsa 29
Michigan State 25, Rutgers 14
Wisconsin 20, Illinois 17
UCLA 28, Arizona 23
Winners — 15
Popcorn spills — 10
Pasquali is 91-34 overall (72.8%) this season.
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