Defending NCAA champion LSU has fallen on hard times this season, a factor that might have started when longtime defensive coordinator Dave Aranda left to take the vacated head coaching job at Baylor University last winter.

The falloff of the Tigers is of massive proportions, especially after a blowout 55-17 loss against Alabama one week earlier. A 37-34 win over No. 6 Florida was a nice recovery for head coach Ed Orgeron’s team.

It drew plenty of attention earlier this month on ESPN legendary College Game Day, hosted by Rece Davis, who was surrounded by Desmond Howard, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit, each considered high-profile college football commentators.

Departures of LSU’s coordinators was a major factor, they told their audience, in the Tigers’ 4-5 season to date. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady, whose lone season in Baton Rouge coincided with Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow.

Then there’s Aranda, the Redlands High product on his fourth season as Tigers’ defensive coordinator, who has delivered a couple handfuls of NFL prospects from the Baton Rouge campus.

Howard, the one time Heisman winner, broke down the Tigers’ misfortunes during last Saturday’s pre-game show from West Point, New York.

Great players still at LSU, he said, but it went much deeper than that.

“Big problems in the future for LSU,” said Lee Corso.

“I agree,” said Howard. “It starts with the coordinators they lost.

“People talk about the players, that’s fine,” he said. “But you had the brain trust that put the players in the right position and you had the coaching that understood where the guys were supposed to be.”

That LSU would resume its championship form was not going to happen, though, especially when they lost Brady and Aranda.

Commenting that LSU still “has the best players,” said Howard, “that their second string is better than everyone else’s first string …

“It doesn’t happen that easy. It’s hard to replace a brain trust. It’s hard to replace a Dave Aranda.”

It’s much deeper than an off year, said Herbstreit.

“They’re not supposed to fall off like this.”

LSU lost all its veteran players, said Corso, who might expect big changes in Ed Orgeron’s coaching staff this off-season.

“Hire right this time,” said Corso.

Orgeron, like Aranda at Baylor (2-7), is looking at a non-bowl team this season.

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Jaelan Phillips’ recent red-hot play at Miami was halted in the tenth-ranked Hurricanes’ Orange Bowl hopes in a 62-26 blowout loss to No. 17 North Carolina — an embarrassing 35-3 at halftime.

Phillips, the ex-Redlands East Valley star defensive end, had half a sack and two solo hits in allowing the Tar Heels a massive 776 total yards.

Phillips, incidentally, finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference balloting for Defensive Player of the Year. Such a high finish in that category did not help Phillips make all-ACC first team defensive honors.

Notre Dame LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was tabbed ACC’s top defender.

Pittsburgh DE combo Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver garnered 138 and 127 points, respectively, in tabulations collected from coaches and select media.

Phillips got 123 points.

Clemson and Notre Dame, part of the four-team chase for this year’s NCAA championship, are the top two ACC teams.

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