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LSU delivers Kelly statement victory with thumping of Ole Miss

Raise your hand if three weeks ago you expected Alabama and LSU to both be ranked entering their Nov. 5 matchup?

LSU’s resurgence under first-year coach Brian Kelly continues with the Tigers basking in the glow of Saturday’s 45-20 beat down of previously unbeaten and seventh-ranked Ole Miss. To borrow a basketball term, LSU closed the game on a 45-3 run. Impressive performance all the way around.

With the win, LSU improved to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the SEC, good for a tie for first with Alabama. The Tigers returned to the national polls after the win over the Rebels, jumping in at No. 18. But more importantly, the Tigers are now in control of their destiny to reach Atlanta and the SEC Championship game. 

As hard as it may have been to believe LSU would contend for anything other than a minor bowl game this season, Kelly is already proving why athletic director Scott Woodward showed great faith in Kelly when he hired him away from Notre Dame for $10 million annually. 

Kelly is one of the best collegiate football coaches not named Nick Saban. He has won at an elite level at every level he has coached, from Division II Grand Valley State to Notre Dame. 

At Grand Valley, Kelly won back-to-back national titles. He won at Central Michigan and led Cincinnati to an undefeated regular season. He did the same with Notre Dame in 2018 and is the Irish’s career wins leader. 

There was zero reason to believe LSU wouldn’t win under Kelly, no matter his accent or how hard he may have tried to fit in when he first arrived in Baton Rouge. 

The best thing Kelly did was hire two competent coordinators in Matt House (defense) and Mike Denbrock (offense). 

House served in the same position under Kentucky coach Mark Stoops before moving the Chiefs and winning a Super Bowl, while Denbrock and Kelly reunited after starting together at Grand Valley. 

Top-shelf coordinators have been the key to sustained success for LSU coaches, dating back to the late 1990s and Gerry DiNardo. 

DiNardo’s fortunes went south when he entrusted the defense to Lou Tepper. 

Saban enjoyed great success thanks in large measure to Jimbo Fisher and Will Muschamp. 

Les Miles’ tenure ended because he wouldn’t fire his friend Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator. 

Ed Orgeron struck gold with Steve Ensminger and Joe Brady, along with Dave Aranda. When Brady and Aranda left following the 2019 National Championship, their replacements were nowhere near as competent and Orgeron is now out of football. 

Should Kelly find himself needing to replace either House or Denbrock in the coming seasons, don’t expect him to follow the same path as DiNardo, Miles or Orgeron. 

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