Ed Orgeron’s road to being named LSU’s permanent head coach just got easier

When LSU lost to Alabama on Saturday, many (myself included) wondered if it ultimately cost Ed Orgeron his chance to be named the Tigers’ full-time head coach. Granted, no one could blame Orgeron for losing to the Crimson Tide. But the Tigers only put up 125 yards of offense in a listless 10-0 loss to Alabama. If Les Miles got fired in large part because he lost to Alabama five times in a row and didn’t put up much offense in doing so, how could Orgeron not be hurt by doing the exact same thing?

And when you added the loss to Bama with the Tigers' loaded back-schedule — at Arkansas, vs. Florida, at Texas A&M — it seemed certain that Orgeron would be coaching somewhere other than Baton Rouge next season. At least if he wanted to be a head coach.

But as the conversation continues to evolve about Coach O’s future, a major piece of news broke Tuesday that could indirectly help Orgeron keep the LSU gig long-term. Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin announced that Aggies starting quarterback Trevor Knight could miss the remainder of the regular season after suffering a shoulder injury in Saturday’s loss at Mississippi State.

On the surface, the Knight news and Coach O’s future don’t seem related. But dig a little deeper, and it’s easier for the stars to align.

After the Alabama loss, we knew that Orgeron would need a spectacular finish to remain LSU's coach. Considering the Tigers are a touchdown favorite against Arkansas, a win against the Hogs – even if LSU has lost two straight against them – wouldn’t be enough. Neither would a win over Arkansas coupled with a victory over Florida a week later. Yes, the Gators are a good team, but considering that their best wins are over a pair of 5-4 clubs (Georgia and Kentucky), it’s hard to know just how good Jim McElwain’s team is.

So, Coach O’s best chance to make a big splash was always against A&M. The Aggies are flush with NFL talent, and with remaining games against an equally banged-up Ole Miss team and Texas-San Antonio, it seems certain that Texas A&M will enter its matchup with LSU at 9-2. Obviously, that game – and a potential win that would come along with it – will lose quite a bit of luster without Trevor Knight on the field. It is, however, still a hell of an opportunity for Orgeron to make a stand.

That’s because, as my colleague Bruce Feldman recently reported, a 3-1 record in Orgeron’s final four games could be enough for him to keep the job. And even without Knight on the field, that 3-1 run would be a pretty solid statement. Arkansas is a fringe Top 25 team that will likely finish 8-4, and Florida is a definite Top 25 team that could still win the SEC East. An A&M win would be a cherry on top of it all.

Again, the Aggies’ would be 9-2 entering the game, it’s a showdown that will come on the road and it will be in a short week because the game is being played on Thanksgiving night. Speaking of which, what better way to make a final statement than in front of a national TV audience when there are no other college football games being played?

There isn’t one, and assuming that happens, it gives Orgeron a pretty air-tight resume to hand to his bosses at LSU. At that point, he’d be 7-1 since taking over for Miles (who went 2-2 to open the year), 5-1 in conference and 3-1 against ranked teams (Ole Miss was ranked at the time LSU played it), with the only loss coming to the No. 1 team in the country.

Would that be enough to get Orgeron the job? Who knows, but it’d be about as strong a statement as he could provide.

And it could come thanks in large part to the injured shoulder of Trevor Knight.