NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Brian Kelly stumbled out of the gate last season long before he knew all the names of his new players at LSU.
At media days Kelly, who had never lived south of the Mason Dixon line, put on a fake southern accent that was really, really bad. Think yours truly trying to speak French.
Not long after that he filed for divorce from his wife, Paqui, a two-time breast cancer survivor and founder of the Kelly Cares Foundation, but they apparently patched things up.
Then he lost his first game 24-23 to Florida State when an extra point to tie the game was blocked.
Even some of the most faithful Tiger fans were wondering if they had hired another Ed Orgeron or Les Miles.
Kelly admitted it was a rough start during last week's SEC football media days.
Then the Tigers beat Southern, Mississippi State, New Mexico and Auburn. The two conference games were closer, 31-16 over the Bulldogs and 21-17 against the Tigers, but they climbed to No. 25 in the country.
In Baton Rouge they trailed Tennessee 37-7 going into the fourth quarter and lost 40-13, giving up 505 yards of offense and put up only 55 yards rushing.
They got back on track with a 45-35 win in The Swamp, downed Ole Miss at home 45-20 and then got a critical week off before hosting No. 6 Alabama.
Led by quarterback Jayden Daniels' 95 yards on the ground the Tigers ground out 185 yards rushing against the vaunted Crimson Tide defense and won the game in overtime with a two-point conversion pass from Daniels to tight end Mason Taylor, 32-31.
Daniels, who was sacked six times, completed 22 of 32 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
The Tigers squeaked by Arkansas 13-10 and beat UAB before falling to Texas A&M 38-23, but the win over Bama put Kelly in the SEC Championship game where the Tigers fell to eventual national champions Georgia 50-30.
They bounced back with a 63-7 win over Purdue in the Citrus Bowl and Kelly seemed like the second coming of Nick Saban.
His first season ended 10-4 and that was after a rough start.
Now, Kelly is looking to improve.
Last week the Tigers were picked by the media to finish second in the SEC West behind Alabama, but had three players chosen first team on both offense and defense and another four players on second or third team.
Kelly said Georgia, who was picked to win the East and the SEC Championship, and Alabama are the gold standards of the SEC and they have won the last three national championships, but before those it was LSU who was wearing the crown.
The Tigers have 13 starters back and a goal of winning the SEC with hopes of having a shot at the national championship.
When Nick Saban won a national championship at LSU in 2003 he had 17 starters from the state of Louisiana. Kelly wants to keep the home grown products, but he hit the transfer portal hard in hopes of improving and filling in six spots on defense.
"We're excited about what we've done in a very short period of time," Kelly said. "The foundation of success is built on consistency. Alabama and Georgia continue to hold that mantle of consistency in terms of playing for championships, and that's what we'll be looking to be at LSU, is playing for championships consistently, year in and year out."
Kelly mentioned he thought his southern accent was naturally progressing and apparently he's not looking at any more distractions. He's got an early chance to prove that, the Tigers once again open against Florida State.