LSU head coach Les Miles leads his team out of the tunnel
If we learned one thing about the first month of LSU's defense of the 2011 SEC Championship, it's that the 2012 version of the Tigers doesn't seem to dominate teams in the same fashion that it did last season, when its closest wins outside of the "Game of the Century" win over Alabama were 13-point wins over Mississippi State and Oregon.
Those two teams went to bowls and, in Oregon's case, won the Pac-12 title.
After blowouts over North Texas, Washington and Idaho, LSU has posted a two-point win over 1-3 Auburn and a sluggish 16-point win over Towson from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
That's not exactly reassuring, especially considering that LSU's schedule gets much tougher moving forward, starting this week when the Tigers travel to Gainesville to take on No. 10 Florida.
So, what's the problem?
The current Tigers don't look as confident as they did last season, when cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was leading them to the SEC Championship.
Mathieu brought an edge to the team that has been severely lacking this season with his playmaking ability and attitude.
Is Mathieu's absence the reason that LSU doesn't have the championship swagger?
I don't think so.
LSU stepped right out on the big stage last season in the Cowboys Classic against an Oregon team that played for the BCS National Championship the previous season. That forced the Tigers to be focused on Game 1 much longer than it did this year.
Nothing against North Texas, but the Mean Green isn't as intimidating as the Ducks.
Because of a relatively easy early-season schedule, the coaching staff held back a lot of the offense, which showed two weeks ago when the Tigers couldn't get anything going against Auburn after the first two drives of the game.
Is the absence of Tyrann Mathieu the reason LSU has been sleepwalking this season?
This team looks like it's sleepwalking because it is sleepwalking.
That's going to have to change this week versus the Florida Gators, a team that is on the brink of joining the national championship discussion. They would jump into the thick of that discussion with a win over No. 4 LSU.
The good news for head coach Les Miles and the rest of the LSU football program is that the Tigers have been able to successfully navigate the early part of the season and post a 5-0 record. Even though they've dropped to the No. 4 spot in the USA Today coaches' poll, they still likely control their own destiny in the BCS.
It isn't the absence of Mathieu that has caused LSU to lose its championship swagger, it's been the doldrums of September.
They better find it quick, though, because after Florida this week, the Tigers still have South Carolina and Texas A&M, before taking a week off prior to the Nov. 3 showdown with Alabama.